DIGITALITIS - Travels With Pixels DIGITALITIS - Travels With Pixels

Not only flying

Not only flying - Josefina Menendez's watercolors Paragliding in the Alps, June 2015, South Tyrol, Italy

One of participants of our trips has another type of talent. Josefina paints beautiful watercolors depicting the sport she loves – paragliding. This one she painted in Pusteria valley in the South Tyrol in the high Alps of Italy where we flew last summer. Her watercolors is a great gift which will always bring great memories of days we shared together. Thank you Jose!

Photo: Josefina Menendez’s watercolors Paragliding in the Alps, June 2015, South Tyrol, Italy

Abra del Acay

Ruta 40 toward Abra del Acay pass, Argentina

Going toward the highest road pass in the world in Argentinian Andes – Abra del Acay – at almost 5.000m. It lies along the magic Ruta 40 – the road which spans the whole Argentina along the Andes from the desert North to Patagonian South.

Photo: Ruta 40 toward Abra del Acay pass, Argentina

White with tone of cactus

White with tone of cactus - Vineyards in Calchaqui Valley near Cafayate, Argentina

Torrontes. They are from an Andean valley which is 520km (320 miles) long – unbelievable scale by any means – and surrounded by 6300m (20,000ft) peaks. Calchaqui valley – the only place they grow. White wine with fruity notes ideal for hot summer afternoons. Torrontes for me are one of the symbols of Argentina I know: the high mountains, endless horizons, and big blue skies. So when I sit down and talk about Argentina there is always a bottle of Torrontes on the table.

Photo: Vineyards in Calchaqui Valley near Cafayate, Argentina

Photos from the 2014 Argentina paragliding road trip

Photos from the 2014 Argentina paragliding road trip

I am picking up the slack of processing of photos from our trips. This time Argentina. We flew in four distinct regions ranging from the lush rainforest to the desert. Condors flew with us, too. This year’s Argentina trip starts on 30 of November, 2015. See our Argentina photo album.

Photo: Paragliding under perfect cloud streets in Cuchi Corral, La Cumbre, Cordoba, Argentina

Photographs from the 2014 Iquique tour

Photographs from the 2014 Iquique tour

Finally I found some time to go trough photos from our last November’s paragliding tour to Iquique, Chile. Thank you guys for being such great flying models. Enjoy the slideshow. This year’s tour is already in the making: November 3-10 and 10-17 of 2015. See you flying over the Atacama Desert.

Photo: Paragliding at Palo Buque, Iquique, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Towards Atacama

Towards Atacama - Paragliding over the Atacama Desert featured in Sidetracked magazine, Chile

Sidetracked magazine featured my photo and story summarizing ten years of my paraglider exploration of the deserted coast north of the town of Iquique, Chile in The Atacama Desert. It is an area of spectacular beauty only a handful of pilots had a chance to experience due to extreme remoteness. Sidetracked magazine is a renown adventure and photography magazine. Each issue is a high quality photo album on its own rights. I highly recommend subscription to the magazine. My publication promotes responsible Atacama desert paragliding.

Photo: Paragliding over the Atacama Desert featured in Sidetracked magazine, Chile

New Years over Patagonian Andes

New Years over Patagonian Andes - XC Paragliding over the Andes, El Bolson, Patagonia, Argentina

My New Year’s XC present on the first of January 2015. What a great day of paragliding. The conditions were just right to get high over the ranges of Patagonian Andes and jump the valleys. I was not prepared for such a blast and dressed way too thin. But the views made me forget about my frozen hands and shivering body. While I was flying my camera was working constantly so I will remember where to come back for more great flying next season. I wish myself and everybody the whole 2015 like this flight – simply awesome.

Photo: XC Paragliding over the Andes, El Bolson, Patagonia, Argentina

A day in Iquique

A day in Iquique - Paragliding over Iquique, Chile

We had a relaxing cross country flight today: high cloudbase, wind just right, some clouds, and landing on the beach.

Photo:Paragliding over Iquique, Chile

Dolomites under my feet

Dolomites under my feet - Paragliding above the Dolomites during a long cross country flight in South Tyrol, Italy

When I am in Europe, while checking the flying weather forecast first I check the weather for the location I am at and then I always click my “secret” button bookmarked “Pustertal”. And if the weather is good for Pustertal I drop everything and go. Even if it means driving 1000 miles. I just go. I have never had a flight there which would not leave my jaw hanging below my knees. The mountains are huge and wild, the air is big, the beauty is amazing, and when the place turns on the flying is otherworldly. And if you do it right, there is a dessert at the end of a long day in the air – the Dolomites. And seeing those mountains from the cold air 4000m above the ground is like … hard to explain … Try it for yourself.

Photo: Paragliding above the Dolomites during a long cross country flight in South Tyrol, Italy

Smiling faces

Smiling faces - Smiling faces of participants of the Austria and Slovenia paragliding tours 2014 organized by Antofaya Expeditions

The most rewarding part of the job is when pilots land with wide smiles across their faces and start to share their flying stories. Guys and gals, I am so happy to show you all those wonderful places I am so fortunate to fly at. Thank you for your continuous support and see you in the air.

Photo: Smiling faces of participants of the Austria and Slovenia paragliding tours 2014 organized by Antofaya Expeditions

Calendar 2014

Calendar 2014 - 2014 Polish Paragliding Association calendar including Jarek's two photos from Iquique, Chile

Every year Polish Paragliding Association publishes its beautiful wall calendar which is send to all members. This year two of my photos were included – for months of May and July. So for two months in more than a thousand offices and homes of pilots there are going to be displayed posters of Iquique’s panorama and Mystic Dunes flying. It is great promotion for the free flying in the Atacama Desert.

Photo: 2014 Polish Paragliding Association calendar including Jarek’s two photos from Iquique, Chile

Marbella

Marbella - Paragliding above Marbella resort town near Mantencillo, the Pacific coast of central Chile

Since Christmas I have been constantly on the road going from the barren Atacama desert to the lush green Patagonia. On the way I stopped at the central coast of Chile to do some ridge seaside soaring. Being a thermal XC pilot I haven’t done ridge soaring for years and at the beginning flying felt suspiciously smooth – like something was about to happen. Well, nothing happened and we had two days of the New Year’s full of easy beach flying.

Photo: Paragliding above Marbella resort town near Mantencillo, the Pacific coast of central Chile

Epic in Iquique

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I was always drawn to the desert north of Iquique, to its remoteness. I flew there at many desolate places. But I always wanted to make the big flight. And then the forecast for yesterday was very promising so we gave it a try. We took off from Alto Hospicio heading north. High above Marinero Desconosido we said good bye to the safety of the city of Iquique and we continued farther north. What followed was one of the most unforgettable flights of years of my paragliding in the Atacama Desert.

The views were beyond spectacular. Deep canyons. Vertical cliffs crashing into Pacific. Dry meandering rivers. High rock faces. Unbelievable colors. Hardly any place to land and no roads or access for miles. Absolute solitude and wilderness. A really epic flight. The desert at its best. After four and a half hours of flying we climbed in the last thermal and went on the final glade across the big bay of Camarones. We landed together at the beach of Caleta Camarones. 123.47km in a straight line from Alto Hospicio. It is a new open distance record of Alto Hospicio.

More photos here.
My flight track is here.

Photo: Paragliding across the bay of Camarones, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Pinzgau Walk

Pinzgau Walk -  Paragliding along the main spine of the Alps in Grossglockner area, Pinzgau valley, Austria

Looking back at my paragliding season in Europe I cannot forget excellent flying in Pinzgau, Austria. The flying, the landscape, the logistic are all so different there to what I am used to. You get to the takeoff by a cable car designed by Porsche. The takeoff is an enormous green meadow at over 2000m (6,500ft). Thermals are sparse but wide and strong. Altitude gains are big. And the views over the main spine of the Alps are amazing. You can almost touch Grossglockner 3798m (12,461ft) and fly over its glaciers. Flying in high alpine environment of sharp snowy peaks with steep rock walls and deep valleys is my favorite type of European adventure.

More photos of paragliding in Pinzgau here.

Photo: Paragliding along the main spine of the Alps in Grossglockner area, Pinzgau valley, Austria

Patagonia the Beautiful

Every time I am looking at my photos from my Patagonian packrafting expeditions my hart skips a beat. You must know this feeling when you want you eat more than it is possible of a great meal because you are not sure if it will be there for you next day. Patagonia is so beautiful that I am afraid if such a beauty and treasure can last in today’s crazy world. I am afraid that it will disappear.

So if you cannot come to this unbelievable land please enjoy Patagonia thru photos from my February/March 2013 Expedition Explorers. We immersed in this virgin land for 40 days. The trip took us from a tiny fjord village of Caleta Tortel thru Fjordo Pulpo, Fjordo Julian, HPN3 glacier and Valle Acodado, across Bahia Kelly and San Quintin glacier to Istmo Ofqui and Laguna San Rafael. Our Alpacka packrafts did not let us down. I am stunned how durable those little boats are.

Life on such a trip has different dimension than a day of urban life. A simpler dimension. And things like dry bed, hot tea, shelter and worthy boat are simple things which make you feel happy. We as humans were design to cross forests, climb mountains, and hike across plains. And those things make us fulfilled. I learned it in Patagonia. Give it a try. It does not matter that the backpack is heavy and your feet are wet.

Movie: Slideshow of packrafting in Patagonia during Expedition Explorers V, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aisen, Chile. (http://www.vimeo.com/73016799)

Why do I do it?

Why do I do it? - What I see when I fly, South Bohinj range, Julian Alps, Slovenia

I do it for the views. I am a male who likes to look at nice things. And what I see from up there cannot be compared to anything or even remotely substituted with anything. So I go flying and I take my camera with me. Afterwards I show it to those who have never experienced cold air high above snowy rocky peaks. And then, I hope, they will understand.

Photo: What I see when I fly, South Bohinj range, Julian Alps, Slovenia

Packrafting Rio Palena – Rivers of Patagonia

Packrafting Rio Palena - Rivers of Patagonia - Packrafting rio Palena with volcano Melimoyu in the background, Patagonia, Chile

We packrafted 170km (105miles) of crystal clear turquoise waters of Palena river. Right from the Patagonian Andes to the Pacific ocean. The river winds trough canyons surrounded by snowy peaks and volcanoes. The river beaches have white sands and plenty of space for camping. Sometimes it felt like the boat was suspended in the air. The water was so clear that you could see every single pebble deep at the bottom. I believe it is the best multiday river run in Patagonia. It was an excellent warmup for this active Patagonian summer.

Photo: Packrafting rio Palena with volcano Melimoyu in the background, Patagonia, Chile

On the podium

On the podium - Paragliding at Loma Bola during CAP 2012, Tucuman, Argentina On the podium - Paragliding at Loma Bola during CAP 2012, Tucuman, Argentina On the podium - Paragliding at Loma Bola during CAP 2012, Tucuman, Argentina

Antofaya’s Jarek Wieczorek takes the 1st place at the sport category at Argentinian Paragliding Nationals 2012: It was fun to fly over the mountain jungle in Tucuman, Argentina. As my regular flying location is the Atacama desert you can imagine how different it is from the rain forest. Around fifty pilots took part in the competition. Three out of four tasks were flown. The lesson from the competition is that while having good equipment is important the crucial thing is good tactics and piloting skills. I flew AirCross UCross paraglider.

Photo: Paragliding at Loma Bola during CAP 2012, Tucuman, Argentina. Photos by Jarek and Boga

Slovenian delight

Slovenian delight - On an XC flight from Soca valley in Slovenia toward Gemona in Italy, Julian Alps, Slovenia and Italy

This trip exceeded all my expectations. Slovenian Julian Alps delivered more than I could wished for. We hit the perfect flying weather at the end of June. There were some personal bests. There were a few 100km flights. There were classic Slovenia-Italy-Slovenia out and return XC flights. There were Italian pizzas galore. Everybody at our group of 13 had fun.

I am already planing the next year trip. And here are the daily photos from our paragliding in Slovenia. So if you could not be there with us this year then you can see what you missed – Slovenia 2012 daily photoblog.

Photo: On an XC flight from Soca valley in Slovenia toward Gemona in Italy, Julian Alps, Slovenia and Italy

The Salar

The Salar - Salt and mud mountains at the North-Eastern Salar Antofalla, Puna de Atacama, Argentina

Lost in the high Andes between two long ranges of remote volcanoes. A hundred miles long jewel. A place of eerie beauty and colors I thought nature cannot produce. A place of an endless horizon where Earth is still forming. A place where you never stop smiling. My visit to Salar Antofalla – a place of unbelievable landscapes.

Photo: Salt and mud mountains at the North-Eastern Salar Antofalla, Puna de Atacama, Argentina.

Docking Station

Docking Station - Aerial paragliding tour of Iquique port, the Atacama Desert, Chile

The very first sign of ending summer is the better flying weather. Of course it is not that good as in high October-November season but we were able to get very high and have an aerial paragliding tour of Iquique port. And the glide of modern high end wing is something you would not expect. It feels like you could fly them to Japan on the other side of Pacific.

Photo: Aerial paragliding tour of Iquique port, the Atacama Desert, Chile.

The legend continues?

The legend continues? - An off-road racing truck crossing the coastal mountain range at Pampa Perdiz during Dakar 2012 rally, Iquique, The Atacama Desert, Chile.

The rally purpose build custom cars cost around one million dollars each. They are driven by celebrity drivers who do not shy from insulting other competing drivers in instant worldwide tv coverage, dumping those stranded in the desert without help or even driving over other competitors. The judges involved in politics. Promotional ball-pens and hats. Sponsored teams with multimillion budgets. Fenced off bivouac camps guarded by platoons of armed police and security. Wounded desert with wrecked landscape. How far did Paris-Dakar go from his legend of epic passionate trans Saharan rally for adventurers?

Photo: An off-road racing truck crossing the coastal mountain range at Pampa Perdiz during Dakar 2012 rally, Iquique, The Atacama Desert, Chile.

Expedition Explorers 2012

Expedition Explorers 2012 - Jarek Wieczorek exploring in his packraft one of the northern arms of San Quintin glacier - the largest glacier of Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Patagonia, Chile

Summer is coming to Patagonia and this year Antofaya Expeditions will continue exploration of uncharted fjords, valleys and glaciers of this pristine land of unheard beauties. We will hike, paddle, and camp in places where no other explorers got before us. We are preparing our fifth month long expedition to unexplored parts of Western Patagonia. If you want to join us on this very anticipated trip or just read more about our plans please visit the Expedition Explorers website.

Photo: Jarek Wieczorek – the host of this blog exploring in his packraft one of the northern arms of San Quintin glacier – the largest glacier of Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Patagonia, Chile.

Final Glide

Final Glide

Iquique is the only place in the world where you can flight right above the town. Every paraglider flight in Iquique ends with a final glide from the mountains of The Coastal Range toward landing on one of the Pacific beaches and takes you right above the city, above a square pattern of streets, above swimming pools and a stadium, above a shipping port, above a bay full of fisherman boats and above high-risers lining the coast.

Photo: Leo Andrade on a final glide above city of Iquique, the Atacama Desert, Chile.

Lemon Air

Lemon Air - Carlos Curi flying his paraglider over lemon tree plantations in Tucuman, Argentina during Argentinian National Loma Bola Paragliding Championship

It is spring in Tucuman. It means it is the time when thousands of hectares of lemon plantations are in bloom. Every single thermal is filled with nice sweet smell of flowering citrus trees. You do not want to stop circling. It is a paragliding aromatherapy.

Photo: Carlos Curi flying his paraglider over lemon tree plantations in Tucuman, Argentina during Argentinian National Loma Bola Paragliding Championship.

Desert Wings 2009 – Paragliding poster calendar

Desert Wings 2009 - paragliding poster calendar“Desert Wings 2009″ wall calendar, featuring 12 striking images of paragliders in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile. Great souvenir for pilots who have visited Iquique and flown the Northern Chile desert. Simple, elegant column-format calendar makes each month’s poster-size image easy to frame. Large A3 format (30cm × 42cm / 12in × 16in). Available from Antofaya Expeditions and Jarek Wieczorek. US$29 plus shipping. Contact Jarek.

Dirty job

Toyota Land Cruiser FZJ80 front axle Birfield CV jointAfter tens of thousands of kilometers on South American gravel roads and off-road tracks my truck needed some tender loving care. It got a front axle service. Which means grease, oil, bearings, rubber seals, bolts and nuts. If you ever venture this way have a big 54mm socket ready.

Photo: Toyota Land Cruiser FZJ80 front axle Birfield CV joint