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Early August 2001 (Day 2)
Day 2 in Vietnam
Just a quick note again about my second day flying in Vietnam. We decided to fly the same spot as the day before, Langbian Peak, 6,400 ft. We headed up the hill with a better program then the previous day. No landing out in "no man's land." Unfortunately my "rumble in the jungle" had escalated to a full on Force 4 warning so breakfast was a light bread and tea with an Immodiam MD chaser. I packed my bag with plenty of fluorescent red toilet paper from my hotel just in case.
Conditions at launch were questionable. Actually looked kind of light so I was concerned I couldn't top land. There was a reasonably acceptable lz just below the launch and then another about 800-1000 ft below with a nasty hike up. We sat for awhile and then decided the conditions were improving.
As usual a crowd of about 20 Vietnamese gathered around and gave me a round of applause before I launched (the people are unbelievably friendly here, by far the best part of traveling). The wind was picking up and I pulled up in a good cycle. I don't think I ever had a "pretty" launch while I was there. Things were always sketchy/turbulent when I pulled up and once off the lip you would start climbing immediately. Reminded me of the Grade.
I felt more confident today so I quickly climbed above launch, got situated in my harness and started buzzing the crowd. They loved it, I could here the screaming and everyone was giving me thumbs up. Once again the flying was good, not great. I'm glad I didn't have to share the air, it would have been tight, but the conditions were definitely different. The crowd all excited, flying over the wooded highlands of Central Vietnam with unblemished farmlands in the valley below were priceless.
I top landed and was immediately swarmed by the crowd. After some hand pumping and picture taking I sat down with my guides. Things had definitely picked up and if they got stronger, I would possibly be in trouble. The TCU's over the valley behind us quickly turned black and we could see rain in the neighboring mountains. I sat down for awhile and took in the scenery. My guides (and one of the guides nieces who decided to come up with us that day) took turns putting on my jacket and helmet for a photo-op.
The conditions were still cycling but the gusts where probably in the 18 mph range. I sat it out but luckily things changed for the better. It backed off and the thunderstorms didn't seem to be such an issue. I decided to launch again.
I had three bad launch attempts before I got it right. At least the locals would get the idea that this wasn't so easy. Once again, I immediately climbed out. The launch was about 100' below the peak. Langbian is actually old volcanoes so it is conical in shape. There's a slightly higher peak to the North and the two are connected by a long ridge that drops 500' below the peak of Lambian. I had told my guide that I might try the jump to the backside and then land on the hill where we drove into Langbian Park. I was soon 100-200' above the peak. I found the sweet lift and climbed as high as I could scoping out the backside as best as possible. I soon found the entrance to the park and the glide looked doable. I was mainly concerned about rotor. I've only seen someone climb out of the SB mountains and jump to the backside and it didn't look fun (Sundowner and Dan K in a tandem doing some rock n' roll). Top landing again didn't exactly sound that exciting so I decided to throw caution, among other things, to the wind and go for it.
I signaled to my guide below, pointing to the other side. They quickly jumped up and ran to the peak. I worked the sweet spot but heard my ever faithful voice in the background say "Don't dilly dally" (everytime I try and stay in a spot to squeeze out another 50 or 100', I invariably loose to much and never get it back). I checked my vario one last time, I must have been a good 200-300' above launch and I cranked it right heading towards the gap. I was moving at a good clip, I would imagine I had a 10-15 mph tailwind (no GPS in Vietnam, that is I brought mine, it just doesn't pick anything up here).
Unfortunately all I could do was sit back and wait. Would I be tossed around like a rag doll? I was getting good ground clearance so I felt if I did I would have plenty of time to recover ( he says confidently with his butt firmly planted in a chair at some internet cafe). I did have a little bit of turbulence and maybe a 20% collapse but everything else was fine. I began setting up for the landing. I had to pass the park entrance and then head back to the mountains. My guide and I setup a little wind sock ( a stick and bag) that we told the little kids to leave there. I setup for how the wind was when we were there last. 200' over the lz I saw the wind had switched 90 degrees so I tried to correct. I setup for the new direction and was getting low. I had to avoid all the tourist gathered below waiting for jeep rides to the top. I was heading right for the empty hill that was the lz but it had a 10' high section at the base that was vertical. I wasn't going to make it above that, it was the road or smack into a wall. I opted for the road did a crosswind, no gear (feet up) landing and came into a skidding stop. Once again, not the prettiest but entertaining.
I was happy to be on the ground. Conditions were looking nasty. The thunderstorm was getting closer and everything was getting ugly. I packed up with the help of the local kids and was ready to call it a day. Looking back it was great, if I had to do it again today... well I'd rather write about it instead.
For now, hope to see you guys soon... in the air of course. I should be back Sunday afternoon. Feel free to stop by my place, love to tell you more and hear about what I missed while away.
As for Vietnam, I'm outta here!
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