It was a Saturday with no plans again. The weather was too good to be wasted, so we had to come up with something. Luckily Waffle had been checking out some flying clubs beforehand so we called to one of them, the best of them probably, and made an appointment for flying.

We drove to the east, to Limburg, through dune lands and found ourselves from a closed military area. After driving past a few “Do not enter” signs and gates and cannons we finally saw the airstrip. And half a dozen of gliders on the ground. The flying club was hiding in the middle of a pine forest. On such a hot day the smell of the pines is incredibly strong!

But enough of the forests. We arrived at the head quarters of the club, it seemed to be really a relaxed environment for the hobby of a family of flyers. Then we saw the first plane slang up into the air. There was a knot tightening in the bottom of my stomach. “Really? You are gonna shoot me up like that??” After a bit of wandering around, small talking and almost buying a plane, yes, they really were going to sling me up.

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So I walked across the runway towards the parachute that was there, waiting for me to step into it. I was hoping I would not have to use it. A moment later I found myself climbing into this small jar with wings, in front of all kinds of meters and switches and gadgets. At this point I was scared. Right in front of my nose, there was another plane just dragged up. The climbing phase looked scary, the plane is in so steep position that  you can almost see the toes of the passengers through the roof.

Then I heard someone snapping the rope onto the bottom of the plane I was sitting in.

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Suddenly the roof was shut and the rope started to tighten, the plane crawled forward, until it shot up. They told me it reached the speed of 80 kmh in about 3 seconds.

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And then we were flying. First steeply up, the G-force pushing me to the seat, until it suddenly ended, slowing down rapidly and I heard the rope being dropped off, then followed a nice sensation of floating. The pilot, a very very nice chap, started the search of thermals, they  let the plane soar higher. So we turned, and turned, switched to another spot and turned again. There were 5 planes doing exactly the same thing, just like dancing together. It is a beautiful experience! Only the sound of the wind is following you and you are surrounded by the blue sky! Occasionally, a hawk visited the same thermal, rotating with the planes. Just beautiful!

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Came the time to land, the pilot brought us down smoothly and we dragged the plane up to the starting point, so that Waffle could step in and be thrown up.

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He did look really happy to see all the meters and widgets, he is truly fond of flying and was soon bonding with the pilot. The wind was picking up so Waffle had to be brought down quite quickly, but at least he got to feel the takeoff.

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That was a Saturday well spent I think, it was time to return home and get to bed. You guys, don’t go to sleep, but see more pics over here: Flickr!

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The Excitement of Gliding!

Back to the Beginning

The day finally came! Me and the Waffle boarded a plane to head for Finland for the first time in 6 months! This was one of the trips we actually had to plan. I mean really, make a schedule and route plan and all that junk. We only had a week to spend in my home country and many, many people to see in 3 different cities.

We landed in Estonia, hurried to the boat and sailed off to Helsinki. Finally home, breathing the crisp air of the night and getting slightly lost with a bus somewhere in Espoo. We stayed at a friend of mine, she took us in, sleepy but bursting with joy and giggles! Soon we were seated onto a table full of “small evening snacks” with cats purring under the table. We felt so welcome.
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For Helsinki, we budgeted 2 days. Two days of meeting people, eating well, visiting relatives and eating a bit too well. We were on the move constantly. Hectic I’d say, but wonderful time when you meet all those you missed, after so much time had passed. Helsinki showed us it’s best face. Perfect weather and happy people. We spent two long evenings with friends, surrounded with laughter and joy.

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After a lot of fun, we had to leave Helsinki behind and head for Tampere, where we would meet our Armenian friends. We had met them previously in Scotland on the side of a mountain. No mountains this time. Only blood sausage, sauna, night swimming and some more sauna. We got to the taste of the real Finland over there.

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A view over the Pyhäjärvi lake in Tampere

The amount of relaxation you get, when you take a dip into a chilly lake after a hot sauna. The freshness tingles into your muscles and mind. You can feel all the stress dripping out of you. Just gotta love sauna.

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We ate, we drank and we talked, until the morning came and time for goodbyes, the time no one likes.  But we had one last destination; My home in Siilinjärvi, and my parents were already waiting. So off to the road again for a few hours and we could dive into the peaceful countryside postcard.

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We found out, that my dad had turned into a Joulupukki and mom had prepared to feed a whole army. Also my brother was coming over, had not seen him in ages.

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My childhood happened there, in the middle of nature, on the side of a lake. Now that Waffle has been with me, I see it all with fresh eyes. On a beautiful summer the place is a paradise.

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The peacefulness is something you cannot imagine. There is only greenery and calm waters around you. Waffle is completely in love with the place. It is so much different compared to Belgium.

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Lake Kallavesi

The emptiness and vastness of things apparently makes an impression on him.

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We enjoyed to the full, picking berries and mushrooms. Rowing across the lake to skinny dip from a rocky shore. Fishing a little. During the nights we admired the Milky Way that  comes out once the sun has set. Waffle even saw his first Aurora Borealis!

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Footsie, no shoes.

All good things come to an end, so did our holiday in Finland. Early in the morning we packed our car and headed for Helsinki, to board a ship and sail to Tallinn. We were slightly late. I was stressing like hell, as I always am and we were both starting to snap at each other, especially after we realized, that there is no such thing as a gas station in the center of Helsinki.

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Manneken Piss – large

On the last minute we boarded while ending an internet subscription on the phone and arrived in Tallinn 2 hours later. The harbor of Tallinn is full of Finns. They go there to buy cheap alcohol, since the booze taxes in Finland are ridiculously high. Walking away from the harbor and alcohol stores we pretty fast reached the old city.

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Tallinn is beautiful and inviting small capital city. All the houses are painted in pastel colors and the street plan of the city seems to be formed pretty organically. Making funny scenes of decorated churches appearing from someones back yard. The people are friendly too!

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This holiday was full of leaving. So we also left Tallinn, took a plane to Düsseldorf and went home. Germany waited for us with a splash of rain ready to wash away all the happy memories. It failed. Finland left behind a slight home sickness. It made the plan of returning home even more clear. My roots are there and they do call me every now and then.

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Go look for more pictures by clicking this one!

I am leaving you all again for a while. Searching for new exciting things to write about, so see you next time!

Life in a Buggy

The first meters. Moving to Belgium brought a lot of changes into my life. Among them a new hobby. I have been studying the fine art of kite buggying for a while now.  It all started after spying on the Flickr account of Waffle. There were plenty of photos of buggies on a beach and people attached to kites. I wanted to be one of those people too!

So, when we were thinking about seeing for the second time, before we actually had met even for the first time (post Karhunkierros), we were thinking Denmark, since it is conveniently in the half way. There was also a famous buggy beach on the island called Rømø. Waffle packed his car with a few kites and a tiny little thing of a buggy. I hopped on to a plane and in Copenhagen we met.

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Note the sliding tracks on the sand. The kites, they pull!

That weekend I got to hold a kite, a mere 4.9 meter, for the first time. The wind was gusty, and the kite was pulling me along the beach basically where ever it wanted. I was scared and excited. Pretty soon also exhausted. But I guess that is the name of the game. The next day I could not lift a glass of water to my lips. My arms were completely killed.

Next time with a kite came during our Christmas trip.  I had entered Belgium for the first time in my life, and there was a light winter storm upon us. perfect time to visit the Zeebrugge beach. Waffle gave me a tiny thing, that looked rather much like a shopping bag. After Denmark and having the first experiences with a kite of 4 meters bigger, I was thinking that Waffle was kidding. I quickly found out that he wasn’t. That little piece of plastic over powered me completely. I sat on the sand and got dragged down wind as soon as the kite got up in the air. That was apparently rather a comical sight.

The winter passed, I was living here in Belgium already and it was finally time for the first real buggy session of the year. We collected the trailer, holding all the gear we need at the beach, and headed for the Les Hemmes, Oye Plage at the shores of English Channel. I learned some essentials on the handling of the kite, using brakes and power lines. And of course tasted some speed in our tandem buggy. I think I was sold, loving the speed, and the adrenaline.

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The will of the Wind. At the beginning, just like in every beginning, with buggying there are a lot of trials and errors and trials and errors again. When you are trying to move your first meter on wheels, you are always going either too much down wind, and eating the power out of your kite, or pointing too much upwind, when there is no changes to actually get moving, except for upwards and out of your buggy.

And the misery of finding the windshield. You would imagine that that is easy if anything. But no. Especially if the wind decides to turn, I was completely lost. Now I start to notice it a bit better, but while driving it is still sometimes a mystery. The beauty of the sport is that you truly are on the mercy of the nature and the weather. There is always a danger that the wind picks up while you are driving and  suddenly you have too big kite in your hands, trying to kill you the first chance in gets. Or then it just decides to die, go tease someone else and leaves you there, a few kilometers down wind from your gear plantation.  Basically, before you start buggying, you kinda need to know what you are doing. Otherwise it is a complete misery.

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My Bug!

The direction of the wind. That is important. Everybody who lifts his kite up in Les Hemmes preys for north-western wind. There are two reasons for that. North-western is smooth like a baby’s bum and it allows you to follow the coast. You do not have to drive up and down the beach, you can just set off from one end of the beach and head for the other. Just one straight, fast line. I have yet to experience that, must prey harder I guess.

Thought by the Waffle. Oh Waffle, he is a wonderful teacher. He is patient and thorough, demanding at times. He pushes me forward when I am scared or doubting. Hooks me onto bigger kites that I am mentally prepared for and shows me that actually, they wont kill me. He got me driving in no time, making my turns and emergency brakes and I haven’t yet even injured myself or any of the outsiders!

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When there is almost no wind, this thing comes out.

This was a sneak peek the the buggy world and my life in a buggy continues. I am only a beginner out there on the beach. I will keep you posted every now and then about the happenings in the windshield.

P.S. You never should forget the people. There is a nice group of slightly insane, and amazingly funny people gathering around the buggies. After the heavy day on the beach there is always a nicely tired and relaxed bunch of them having a BBQ at the camp. 

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