Flying in Asturias, Northern Spain
In last month's 'Nova' I mentioned that I was going to northern Spain for two weeks family holiday. Well, we had an excellent time and I even managed to abandon Lisa and the kids for a couple of days to get some flying in. I met up with some really friendly Spanish pilots (based in Gijon (pronounced 'hi-hon'), Asturias), who took me under their wing so to speak. Making plans to meet on the Saturday over the phone wasn't easy, but amazingly we did meet up eventually. Speaking face to face was much easier - expressions and gesticulations certainly helped to overcome the language barrier!
Yours truely with some local pilots - (L-R: me, Jose Ramon, Javier + others)
I'm not going to go into a thermal by thermal account of all the epic flying I had, because it wouldn't actually take very long! The sum total of two days flying was two five minute glides down! But that didn't really matter (who am I trying to kid!?), since it was the friendship and generosity of the Spanish pilots that I will really remember.
A coastal site to the west of Gijon
I was given a guided tour of five different sites in spectacular scenery (coastal and mountains), and flew from two of them. I was bought numerous beers and ciders (this region produces and consumes huge quantities of cider!), and treated to a delicious hillside barbecue on the Sunday.
Jose Ramon demonstrating precision 'sidra' pouring
Actually it was all this eating and drinking that prevented us from having an epic day on Sunday - we went to a wonderful looking site in the mountains about 2.5 hours drive from Gijon, but unfortunately the wind shifted through 180 degrees, after the barbecue had been lit, which meant that we had to finish the food and drink before we could pack up and go to a more suitable hill no more than 5 miles away. We arrived at the second site at 5pm to watch a local pilot sky-ing out above us, but by the time I took off, no more than ten minutes later the conditions had totally switched off resulting in an 800' descent rather than a 3000' climb - can you believe it?
Great bbq - shame about the flying!
Asturias is a beautiful part of Spain, and a wonderful place to go on holiday (fantastic beaches, spectacular mountains and delicious food and drink), but as for a flying holiday I'm not so sure. You do need local knowledge of course and it's not like Piedrahita or Andalucia where there are always other pilots around, but perhaps more importantly you do need good weather. I'm told we were lucky with the weather during our stay - the local pilots claim the weather is worse than the UK, although I would dispute that - we had fantastic weather! There is clearly alot more rain here than in other parts of Spain though (this area is called green Spain after all!), so realistically you may well be better off going to the more established flying regions.
However I'm sure we will return sometime, and it's more than likely the glider will come too!