So over the weekend Josh took to the air and tried his hand at gliding! Last July he turned the big '3 0' and I finally surprised him with a voucher to go gliding. I've never managed to surprise Josh on his birthday...he enjoys guessing his pressie, ruining any potential surprise and bursting my, "you'll never guess this year" bubble. Unfortunately due to work, holidays and weather he has only now (eight months later) managed to fulfill his pressie. Any fellow Northlander will understand how fickle the weather can be across our skinny patch of New Zealand. The day started a little blustery, verging on the chilly spectrum but quickly bucked up it's ideas and turned into glorious, perfect conditions! We were accompanied by our fabulous pals Gayle and Sam. Gayle and I had the joint idea for gliding presents for both the men so today would be a belated birthday and Christmas celebration for the boys. We arrived at one o'clock crossing our legs after the trek from Whangarei, assuming we're visiting an 'airport' with facilities. However in lovable Northland style, we arrived at a ENORMOUS airstrip with a tin shed and not much else in the most idyllic surrounds. We squinted into the sun to notice five gliders at the end of the airstrip.
After trundling across the grass airstrip we encountered these beautiful creatures up close. I've never understood the compulsion to fling oneself into the sky with no engine and the hope of finding thermal updrafts, but then the first glider took off... almost silently. Growing up in a sailing family I can only compare gliding to sailing in the sky. The silence...oh the silence is the largest draw. Josh and Sam spent the first few moments ogling the gliders,
their hands clasped excitedly behind their backs and paying upmost attention to Dave (the guy in charge).
I don't know if it's all men, but Josh can buzz with excitement without moving at all. I seem to fizz all over, occasionally leaving the confines of earth to jump and squeal but not Josh...he's very calm...very collected...but buzzing. At Kaikohe the gliders are launched via a winch launching. Because these gliders have no engine...that's correct NO engine! They are launched via a tow rope attached to a winch.
Gliders stay in the air via thermals (hot air rising from the earth), ridge lift (wind blowing against and up off one side of a mountain) and wave lift (wind blowing over a mountain).
I learnt all these geeky fun facts from Josh on the giddy ride home. Each of the boys were up in the skies for over an hour!
A massive benefit of coming at the beginning of winter is that they were the only two waiting a turn. Dave reported in poorer conditions or with a long line of visitors the boys may have only had 10 minutes. In fact their flights finished when it was getting dark rather than any other factor. Kaikohe gliding club is an example of what makes New Zealand great. A group of people passionate about their sport who get to fly with enough restrictions to make it safe but without all the health and safety nonsense one might encounter in other parts of the world. So what did Gayle, myself and my 6 month old friend do?
Enjoyed a picnic and a yarn in the beautiful silence of Kaikohe airstrip.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) I feel another hobby on the horizon for Josh. At least if he gets a gliding license I can play at cabin crew in the sky and perhaps write another blog from first hand experience! Contact Dave 09 407 8454 on either a Thursday or Sunday to plan your own gliding adventure. Or find them on facebook https://www.facebook.com/Kaikohe-Gliding-Club-Inc-663236720383432/ You will potentially be able to contact Josh shortly too if he pursues a gliding license!
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