DIGITALITIS - Travels With Pixels DIGITALITIS - Travels With Pixels

Europe 2016 Paragliding Trips

Europe 2016 Paragliding Trips - Antofaya Expeditions' European paragliding trip schedule 2016

Our European Alps paragliding season schedule is here. All the trips’ details will follow. Time to start planing ahead your holidays and search for good plane ticket deals. Last euro season we were overbooked for the Southern Dolomites trip. So do not wait until the last moment to reserve your spot. Below the dates and airports:

      in airport: Venice
1-10 June – South Dolomites: Piave Valley, Italy
      out/in airport: Venice
10-19 June – Slovenia: Soca valley
      out/in airport: Venice
19-28 June – South Tyrol: Speikboden and Puster valley
      out/in airports: Innsbruck or Zurich
28 June – 7 July – Swiss Alps: Interlaken, Grindewald, Fiesch
      out airport: Zurich

Photo: Antofaya Expeditions’ European paragliding trip schedule 2016 (photos taken at the trips’ locations)

The other face of the desert

The other face of the desert - Paragliding along the coastal mountains near Pabellon de Pica during 2015 flowering desert event, The Atacama Desert, Iquique, Chile

Every ten or more years the coast of the Atacama desert receives rain. Then water runs down the coastal cliffs creating new channels. Then after a month seeds dormant for many years germinate and create a colorful carpet of plants and flowers. Seeing it from above while flying my paraglider is a visual experience. It lasts for a couple of months. Then the desert wins again and landscape changes to never-ending sands and rocks for the next ten or so years. If you want to see the flowering desert from the air there is still space at our paragliding tour to Iquique, Chile this November.

Photo: Paragliding along the coastal mountains near Pabellon de Pica during 2015 flowering desert event, The Atacama Desert, Iquique, Chile

Since 2007 – The Tribute

Since 2007 - The Tribute - History of Antofaya Expedition's paragliding trips to Iquique, Chile

Going trough old photos. Guys, without you none of it would be possible. Big compliments to all of you. I hope you had at least as much fun flying as I had running those trips for you. More trips to come!

Photo: History of Antofaya Expedition’s paragliding trips to Iquique, Chile

The Glacier Flight

The Glacier Flight - Paragliding over glaciers of Adamello range, The Alps, Italy

For a guy who lives in a desert flying over alpine glaciers is something to remember. Yesterday I had a chance to do it. The weather conditions were just right. We have chosen an unknown takeoff above Madonna di Capiglio, Italy in Brenta Dolomites and had speculate flight. During the whole flight I was thinking to myself how lucky and privilege I am to experience those vistas. I am so glad to be a cross country paragliding pilot.

I just have checked the global paragliding base and Paragliding Skyways. Apparently there is only six or so flights ever registered in the area. I guess we become accidental explorers.

Photo: Paragliding over glaciers of Adamello range, The Alps, Italy

Back from the land of ice

Back from the land of ice - Packrafting with icebergs in front of Glacier Andree, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Patagonia, Chile

Six glacier tongues, never-ending pristine beach with icefields as a background, unpenetrable green jungle, flower covered meadows, hard to cross marshes, Pacific fjords, snow topped Andes, plenty of rivers and lakes, and Patagonian sun and rain. Three weeks in wilderness of one of a kind. The kind very few ever went to. The kind almost none is left on the planet. It was hard and beautiful. It was the seventh expedition I organized in western Patagonia and I already want to go back there.

Photo:Packrafting with icebergs in front of Glacier Andree, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Patagonia, Chile

Expedition Explorers VII – START

Expedition Explorers VII - START -  Exploring icebergs of unnamed glacier HPN3 during the very first documented visit to the area, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Patagonia, Chile

We are heading toward Patagonian wilderness. For three weeks we will explore fjords, glaciers, mountains, and rivers of the super remote regions of Northern Patagonian Ice Field. Of course we are taking with us our sturdy packrafts – without them our expedition would not be possible. We are starting this Wednesday. The first task: cross the endless marshes of Ofqui isthmus where the biggest glacier of Northern Patagonian Ice Field floats out of the Patagonian Andes. Then 35km of the pristine sand beach with huge waves of frequent Antarctic storms, then Kelly fjord, then…. Keep your fingers crossed for us. You can follow our progress at:
https://share.delorme.com/antofaya

Photo: Exploring icebergs of unnamed glacier HPN3 during the very first documented visit to the area, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Patagonia, Chile

Packrafting in Hua Hum

Packrafting in Hua Hum gorge, Chile and Argentina border

A little known rafting jewel between Chile and Argentina hidden deep in Valdivian rain forest crosses the main ridge of the Andes in the lowest pass of only 600m. The river shaped a canyon of cliff walls covered in vertical green garden of ferns, moss, red arayan trees. It is hard there to concentrate on paddling trough the river rapids while all you want to do is admire the forest and crystal clear water of Hua Hum river gorge.

Photo: Packrafting in Hua Hum gorge, Chile and Argentina border

Between The Andes and the jungle

Between The Andes and the jungle - Paragliding from Loma Bola above Villa Nouges, Sierra de Aconquija, Tucuman, Argentina

The first day on the other side of the Andes above the humid yungas jungle in Argentina. Grassy takeoff of Loma Bola and lots of locals in the air welcomed me back to Tucuman. Nice soft thermals and never ending green blanket of vegetation below me is a change from the Atacama desert. Two hours in the air on the first day combined with great views of the high ranges at the back. Let’s see what Argentina holds for us.

Photo: Paragliding from Loma Bola above Villa Nouges, Sierra de Aconquija, Tucuman, Argentina

Argentina, we are coming!

Argentina, we are coming! - Argentina paragliding tour's t-shirt by Antofaya Expeditions

Everything is ready for the journey. We are starting at Tucuman’s Loma Bola. Then Famatina and then Sierras de Cordoba and Merlo. For the “happy landing” we will have bottles of the famous malbec wine and juicy steaks of bife de chorizo.

Photo: Argentina paragliding tour’s t-shirt by Antofaya Expeditions (designed by Zbyszek Dobosz)

Into the sunset at Tiliviche

Into the sunset at Tiliviche - Bert Kornyei paragliding at the mouth of the Tiliviche canyon near Pisagua with Cerro Toro at the background, The Atacama Desert, Chile

The day began with very strong winds early in the morning which kept us on the ground until afternoon. Once the sun started to lower on the horizon conditions got smoother and the Tiliviche again shoved us its beautiful colors of the desert. Whenever I fly there in the evening the photos come out just right.

Photo: Bert Kornyei paragliding at the mouth of the Tiliviche canyon near Pisagua with Cerro Toro at the background, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Argentina – Flying with Condors

Argentina - Flying With Condors, Paragliding Tour, 3 - 16 December 2014

We are going to Argentina – the land of big mountains and never-ending steppe. The land of warm people, great wine, and gauchos on their horses. This two week trip will take us from rainforest to desert. We will fly famous flying sites like Loma Bola in Tucuman, ridge soar with Andean condors at a little jewel of Famatina, look for convergence flying at the home of paragliding world champions at La Cumbre, and go cross country at Paragliding World Cup site Mina Clavero. And between flying we will stay in beautiful countryside guesthouses, eat grilled Argentinian beef, visit vineyards, ride horses, and splash in thermal waters. Condors as your wing-men guaranteed. Join us. All the details here.

Photo: Paragliding from Cuchi Corral above Cerro Uritorco, La Cumbre, Sierras de Cordoba, Argentina

Summer in The Alps

Summer in The Alps - Wildkogel paragliding takeoff in Pinzgau with the main range of the Alps in front, Austria

The Alps of Europe welcomed us with sun and some rain. And when the weather was good we flew as much as possible. The mountains there are big and the landscape amazing. Annie who flew with us said “It changed my flying. It is a different level of things”. I cannot agree more. The Alps changed my flying years ago, too. Have a look at the photo gallery from our 2014 tours to Slovenia and Austria.

Photo: Wildkogel paragliding takeoff in Pinzgau with the main range of the Alps in front, Austria

Epic weekend in Eastern Alps

Epic weekend in Eastern Alps - Your host - Jarek Wieczorek - taking off with his paraglider from Speikboden, South Tyrol / Alto Adige, The Alps, Italy

Four thousand registered flights during a single weekend! Almost a thousand flights over 100km. Eighty over 200km. And two world record beating triangle flights over 300km! Paragliding went crazy last weekend in the Eastern Alps. The cloud base was at 4500m / 15.000ft and you could takeoff as early as 9am for a twelve hour flight. I was lucky to take part in this flying bonanza. The otherworldly views of the Alps from up there will stay long with me. The lesson I learned: If you are going to spend any time flying your paraglider over 4000m / 13.000ft you better have good winter goretex gloves with you because it is way below freezing up there even with scorching summer heat in the valleys.

Please see more photos from this paragliding weekend in the Alps.

Photo by Boga: Your host – Jarek Wieczorek – taking off with his paraglider from Speikboden, South Tyrol / Alto Adige, The Alps, Italy

Patagonia 2014 Photo Story Part 1

Patagonia 2014 Photo Story Part 1 - Packrafting at Lago Guillermo, Aisen, Patagonia, Chile

This year we were lucky to experience beauty of remote glaciers of Northern Patagonian Ice Field. When I look at the photos I took during that trip one moment always comes back to me. It is the evening when we were paddling between icebergs along sky tall cliffs of Lago Guillermo and more than a dozen of Andean condors were circling above us in seemingly motionless dance. Later that evening I found out that there is a big colony of these majestic birds high on those cliffs. Well … just another day in the land of my love. Please see the photo story from this expedition here.

Photo: Packrafting at Lago Guillermo, Aisen, Patagonia, Chile

‘da Baker

'da Baker - Rapids of Rio Baker near confluence with Rio Nef, Patagonia, Aisen, Chile

The greatest river of Patagonia. Electric turquoise so clear that you can see pebbles at the bottom. Full of salmon and trout that big that fishing here is a dream of every fly fisherman in the world. Waves which can swallow rafts in a second. Lambs grazing at the banks. Fed by melting snow and ice of the Ice Fields makes its way trough canyons and valleys before it reaches Pacific Ocean at the fiords between the Patagonian Andes. The river in danger of disappearing. I see turquoise, galloping horses, snow caped mountains, fish jumping up the rapids, cabins, infinite waterfalls, wooden boats, and gauchos sipping mate. For some in offices of New York and Madrid it is an obscure geographical name from encyclopedia and billion dollars resource extraction investment opportunity. Which side are you on? Will you take your grandson on a float on this mighty river in this land at the end of the world? Or all what will be left are stories of times long gone and old photo books from grandpa’s closet?

Photo: Rapids of Rio Baker near confluence with Rio Nef, Patagonia, Aisen, Chile

The curse, the blessing

The curse, the blessing - Packrafting on lake Gillermo in front of glacier Pared Norte, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Patagonia Chile

It is a curse, it is a blessing, it is an addiction, it is a berry. Once you try it you will be coming back to Patagonia forever. So consider yourself warned before you pick up a calafate fruit from its thorny bush and put it in your mouth. Nobody warned me. So I find myself again wet, tired, hungry, and mesmerized in front of big walls of ice between wild peaks of Patagonian Andes. Is it curable? I do not know but I am way beyond point of addiction when it can be cured.

Photo: Packrafting on lake Gillermo in front of glacier Pared Norte, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Patagonia, Chile

Urban Daddy gets his wings at Antofaya Expeditions

Urban Daddy gets his wings at Antofaya Expeditions - Paragliding over The Atacama Desert, Chile

Urban Daddy wings our Atacama Desert adventure: “An off-the-grid, cross-country paragliding journey. You’re basically living out the sequel to Lawrence of Arabia. You know, the one set in northern Chile, where Lawrence says to hell with trudging across colossal sand dunes, straps on a state-of-the-art personal flying contraption and soars over them instead. Hmm… maybe it was direct-to-VHS. Anyway, that’s you…”

Full story here.

Photo: Paragliding over The Atacama Desert, Chile

Direction South – new flights in Chilean Norte Grande

Direction South - new flights in Chilean Norte Grande - Paraglider pilot's view while flying along The Atacama Desert coast in Northern Chile, Punta Arenas north of Tocopilla, Chile

Traditionally all longer XC flights in northern Chile are made in Northern direction. It is due winds which blow always more or less from the south and turn even more south as the day progress due to the Coriolis force. During few days with northern winds usually flying is not good at all. But this November was very unusual. For more than a week a very unusual strong center of low pressure set of the coast of southern Norte Grande and changed traditional weathern patterns of the area. This resulted in very high cloud base (1300m), light northern winds, and cloud streets over the coastal range.

On both weekends we flew south from San Marcos toward Tocopilla. Although I know very well the stretch between San Marcos and Chipana flying there was totally different than previously since locations of thermals were very different and the rotors zones you normally avoid in that case were the places to fly at. The deep and colorful Chipana bowl (traditional rotor) was the area of the highest and strongest climbs. After Chipana comes Rio Loa canyon with usual for this place canyon suck extending for over 15km. Weather at the Loa litoral is always govern by the canyon. Every time I fly there regardless of the general wind pattern the Loa winds are exactly the same. It does not matter where the general wind comes from south, north, west – at Loa it always blows toward the canyon. The wind there changes like in a Swiss machine – exactly above the river it turns 180 degrees. Crossing Punta Arenas (the most dreaded rotor for pilots flying north from Tocopilla) was uneventful – again no rotor because of the northern wind.

That day we had very high cloud base of 1300m (the highest I ever experienced in the Northe Grande). This allowed us to cross all the points by flying above them, as opposed to going around them. Not only it is faster but also much safer since the rotors were avoided all together and the altitude loss was minimal. Approaching Tocopilla tunnel I had to remind myself that I am at work and all my clients already landed. So I left the mountains toward the ocean pretending the never ending cloud street of beautiful cumulus clouds leading south does not exist. Anyway it was 87km – probably the longest flight in the southern direction made in Northern Chile. All my clients I guided that day made their personal bests. It was a flying day to remember.

I hope those new flights will contribute to developing the XC paragliding zone in Northern Chile and will rise local and foreign pilots appetite for interesting flights. The desert has so much more to offer than Alto Hospicio to Cavancha sled ride.

More photos here.

Photo: Paraglider pilot’s view while flying along The Atacama Desert coast in Northern Chile, Punta Arenas north of Tocopilla, Chile

Evening Session

Evening Session - Paragliding over the Desert Plateau south of Iquique, The Chilean Coastal Range, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Takeoff 18:00hrs. Landing 20:30hrs – half hour after sunset with strong thermals still kicking. High cloudbase over the Atacama plateau with beautiful orange light for aerial photos. Desert views to remember. Perfect Monday to start a flying week.

Photo: Paragliding over the Desert Plateau south of Iquique, The Chilean Coastal Range, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Still blowing from north

Still blowing from north - The Coastal Range between San Marcos and Tocopilla, The Atacama Desert, Chile

If last weekend in San Marcos was very unusual this weekend in San Marcos was very unusually great. Similar unusual conditions with northern wind, high cloudbase, and abundant lift. Everybody in my group made their personal XC records! I flew up to the Tocopilla tunnel when I had to remind myself that I am at work and have to land. It is the longest flight in Chile going South.

Photo: The Coastal Range between San Marcos and Tocopilla, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Into The Desert

Into The Desert - Paragliding over mountain dunes near Cementerio 2 south of Iquique, the Atacama Desert, Chile

Yet another spectacular day of flying in the Atacama. This season is nothing but great. I am so fortunate to have this place in my backyard.

Photo: Paragliding at the mouth of Tiliviche canyon, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Tiliviche

Tiliviche - Paragliding at the mouth of Tiliviche canyon, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Just some fun flying with the setting sun at Tiliviche Canyon followed with The Vulture Ridge soaring until dark. It is a lovely location at the the deserted coast 60 miles north of Iquique. I think it is the nicest and the most inspiring place to fly in northern Chile.

Photo: Paragliding at the mouth of Tiliviche canyon, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Iquique in reverse – the marvelous

Iquique in reverse - the marvelous - Paragliding south of Iquique above Punta San Marcos, The Atacama Desert, Chile

I wonder what more miracles will the weather serve us in Iquique this season. So far it is the best season I remember with almost every day bringing excellent flying conditions. Today was not only superb but very very unusual. It was a rare day when you can fly far south. It happens here in the desert as often as rain in the Atacama. So we flown south from San Marcos past Chipana, past Loa, and almost to Punta Arenas and then back to Loa. It was something never attempted before. Not only that. It was unusually high cloud base – almost 1300m. This is higher than the permanent Atacama inversion. Today I had a chance to see spectacular desert panoramas as never before. Definitely a day for a record flight. It does not meter that I had to land early. Smiling faces and excited stories of participants of the trip made up for given up miles. Iquique and the desert at its best!

More photos here.

Photo: Paragliding south of Iquique above Punta San Marcos, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Virgin Patagonia

Virgin Patagonia - Iceberg calved from San Rafael glacier, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aisen, Chile

When busy city life gets on my nerves I turn on my photo gallery. It calms me down and serves as a therapy. It is a proof that out there there is a world which makes me happy. Where life is simpler and landscape is gorgeous. No stress, no rush, and every morning you have your breakfast with a view no money can buy. Try it. Dim the lights and watch the photos from our last summer Expedition Explorers V to virgin Patagonia:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/69723152@N03/sets/72157636642358245/

Photo: Iceberg calved from San Rafael glacier, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aisen, Chile

Iquique Paragliding Adventure 2013

Iquique Paragliding Adventure 2013 - Paragliding over mountain Mystic Dunes, Iquique, The Atacama Desert, Chile

As the desert flying season approaches I am preparing another paragliding adventure for this November. It is going to be our sixth flying trip in Iquique, Chile. We will visit desert flying sites nobody else go – flying sites of spectacular beauty and great XC potential. And above all the flying weather is guaranteed. Seriously. We fly every day for the whole day over the vast Atacama desert. That is the chance to score more flying hours than for the rest of the year. Come and try yourself. To learn more about the trip and sign up visit the trip page.

Photo: Paragliding over mountain Mystic Dunes, Iquique, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Fly There

Fly There - Paragliding over Gruppo di Fanis range, The Dolomites, South Tyrol, Italy

Everybody at the takeoff was telling me to fly there, to fly there if I have a chance, wherever I fly today remember to fly there, and fly there when the sun is setting, just go there. I must admit it was not easy. It started with a two hours hike to the takeoff. A breakfast of cheese and schinkenspeck. Switchy winds during the launch. Then seven hour XC flight along spines of the South Tyrol Alps and then the sun started to set.

Every pilot has flights he always remembers: the first time your feet leave the ground, your first thermal flight when you get above a takeoff, the first long cross country… and then there is the first time the wingtip of your glider touches the vertical limestone walls of the Dolomites.

A mini-photo gallery here.

Photo: Paragliding over Gruppo di Fanis range, The Dolomites, South Tyrol, Italy

Desert longing

Desert longing - Paragliding cliffs of Tiliviche canyon 200km north of Iquique, The Atacama Desert, Chile

It has been many months since I left my desert home. I miss the endless horizon, the browns, yellows, and pinks of the desert mountains. I miss it even more because I just have finished working on a gallery of photos from Iquique flying season. I miss getting up in the morning and going flying – no parawaiting, no hours of studying weather forecast. In Iquique it is always flyable. It works like a Swiss watch. The new Iquique gallery is here. Enjoy.

Photo: Paragliding cliffs of Tiliviche canyon 200km north of Iquique, The Atacama Desert, Chile

The other side of glass

The other side of glass - Your host Jaroslaw Wieczorek flying his Aircross USport2 paraglider over large inter-mountain valley of Zywiec basin in Beskid Mountains, Poland. Photo by Kinga Konieczny.

They say that shoemakers are always the worst shod. I have been taking travel and adventure photos for 20 years now but you can hardly find any photo of me. So it was a great surprise for me when I got this gift from Kinga Konieczny. It is a selection of aerial photos of me flying my wing. Now I can self-indulge in vanity by changing my computer’s wallpaper.

Photo by Kinga Konieczny: Your host Jaroslaw Wieczorek flying his Aircross USport2 paraglider over large inter-mountain valley of Zywiec basin in Beskid Mountains, Poland

European XC season is open!

European XC season is open! - Flying over Kobala looking West toward Kobarid and Italy, Soca Valley, Julian Alps, Slovenia

Spring came late to the Alps this year and winter left lots of snow in the mountains. So when the spring sun heats alpine valleys there is plenty of color and temperature contrast to make thermals strong. For me the first longer XC flight this spring was along the classic Slovenia-Italy route. Starting from Kobala and flying to Gemona along the Stol range and back. Almost 100km. I am waiting for more.

There is more photos from the last weekend in Slovenian Alps at the trip page here. Enjoy: https://www.facebook.com/events/397867623640892/

Photo: Flying over Kobala looking West toward Kobarid and Italy, Soca Valley, Julian Alps, Slovenia

Over Krn

Over Krn - Spring paragliding over Krn - the highest mountain around Soca Valley, Julian Alps, Slovenia

The weather forecast was predicting excellent flying weather in Julian Alps and I was hungry of big air. So I drove the whole night to get at the takeoff at eleven in the morning. The cumulus clouds started already to develop high above snowy peeks and I knew it is going to be fun. And it was. I flew high above Alps’ peeks still covered in deep snow. You can imagine what an experience it was for somebody who lives in a desert and usually flies over sand dunes and sunburned rocks.

Photo: Spring paragliding over Krn – the highest mountain around Soca Valley, Julian Alps, Slovenia

Long way home

Long way home - Proglacial lake of unnamed HPN3 (only number) glacier of Northern Patagonian Ice Field chocked and fully packed with icebergs and pack ice after the glacier tongue disintegration, Patagonia, Aisen, Chile

I planed it as the longest unsupported expedition I organized. It was even longer than that – almost 40 days in untouched Patagonian wilderness. Life has different peace during trip like that. We achieved all the planed goals: packrafting long and narrow remote Fiordo Pulpo (Octopus Fjord), the first recorded exploration of the most remote glacier of The Northern Patagonian Ice Field – glacier HPN3, opening a land & water route between Tortel and Laguna San Rafael. We have not seen any humans during the expedition and going trough Patagonian jungle tired us but the prizes were worth all of it: riding packrafts between a group of dolphins, seeing leopard seal leaping into the air at an arm distance, witnessing disintegration of HPN3 glacier tongue, playing with gigantic icebergs, being an explorer. Western Patagonia is still a place where a human is an unknown visitor, where forest stands untouched for thousands of years, where everything obeys nature’s natural laws.

More photos, video and a writeup will follow soon. Stay tuned.

Photo: Proglacial lake of unnamed HPN3 (only number) glacier of Northern Patagonian Ice Field chocked and fully packed with icebergs and pack ice after the glacier tongue disintegration, Patagonia, Aisen, Chile

Can’t wait for Slovenia!

Slovenia - The Joy of XC -Chuck Savall from Colorado paragliding along Stol and Mursi ranges on an XC flights from Slovenia toward Italia, Soca Valley, Slovenia

I simply fell in love with Slovenia, its mountains, and above all flying there. Those who went there with me last year know what I am talking about. I could not resist and we are going back to Slovenia this year, to the European Alps. The dates are 20-29 June 2013. Last year we had excellent flying time with XC flights of over 100km. I can honestly say that it is one of the best flying location in the Alps and in Europe. We had in our group of 13 an international mix of male and female pilots from Chile, Peru, USA y Poland. I simply cannot wait to get there and if you want to join us please let me know. All the details of the trip can be found here.

Photo: Chuck Savall from Colorado paragliding along Stol and Mursi ranges on an XC flights from Slovenia toward Italia, Soca Valley, Slovenia.

Antofaya XC Sky Challenge 2012

Antofaya XC Sky Challenge 2012 - Antofaya XC Sky Challenge will happen on October 28th. We will try to fly 200km to Iquique from the

Antofaya XC Sky Challenge  Level 2 takeoff on the highest sea cliffs in the world, Tocopilla, The Atacama Desert, Chile

This year Antofaya XC Sky Challenge will happen on October 28th, just a couple of days before the Iquique Open competition. We will try to fly 200km to Iquique from the “Level 2″ takeoff at the highest sea cliffs in the world near Tocopilla, Chile. Last year, half of the participating pilots beat their personal records with the longest flight of 190km. More info here and here.

Photo: Level 2 takeoff on the highest sea cliffs in the world, Tocopilla, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Flying The Atacama Desert – By Ned Israelsen and Chuck Savall

Flying The Atacama Desert, By Ned Israelsen and Chuck Savall - Paragliding over Toro plateau near Tiliviche Canyon, Pisagua, Iquique, The Atacama Desert, Chile

A must read for any paraglider pilot who wants to come to Chile and fly above the Atacama Desert:

“I bailed first as the thermal weakened, and found myself above an amazing plateau of a hundred undulating little peaks and dips stretching half a mile north and west. The late afternoon sun emphasized the colorful, jagged texture. The plateau sat atop a point that jutted west from the mountains all the way to the sea. I circled slowly, entranced by the beauty below. As I gained altitude bit by bit, an idea began to form. Could I go up the coast by flying over the plateau? Did I dare? What if I had to land in the middle of those badlands?” … read more

Photo: Paragliding over Toro plateau near Tiliviche Canyon, Pisagua, Iquique, The Atacama Desert, Chile

100km in The Slovenian Alps

100km in The Slovenian Alps - Jorge Rivera on his 100km XC flight spanning Slovenia and Italy, Monte Musi range, Parco Regionale delle Prealpi Giulie, Julian Alps, Italy and Slovenia

Jorge Rivera joined Antofaya Expeditions’ Slovenian trip and he writes about his memorable 100 kilometers flight:

“It was a total of 100 kilometers flying along high mountain ranges of which some rise over 2,500 meters in altitude with impressive and imposing rocky walls. A wonderful show that one can only see in great sport video documentaries.” … read more

Photo: Jorge Rivera on his 100km XC flight spanning Slovenia and Italy, Monte Musi range, Parco Regionale delle Prealpi Giulie, Julian Alps, Italy and Slovenia

One flight, three countries

One flight, three countries - Paragliding over Carpatian Beskids mountains, Czech Republic

The flying season in Europe is full on. A few days ago I had an XC flight, which spanned three countries! It would not be possible a few years ago but now there are no more borders in Europe and flying between countries is effortless. The cloud base was at 3,000 meters and green hills of the Carpathians extended far past the horizon. Flying here is very different from flying in the desert of Iquique. Technically it is a mix of mountain and flatland flying. If you are low you look for thermals along the ridges and sunny mountain faces. If you are high you use cloud streets and jump from one cloud to another.

Photo: Paragliding over Carpatian Beskids mountains, Czech Republic

Antofalla, cheers!

Antofalla, cheers! - Approaching the snow line while climbing North-westerns slopes of volcano Antofalla, Puna de Atacama, Andes, Argentina

The very first ever solo expedition and ascent of Antofalla volcano 6440m (21,130ft) – the North-western summit – one of the highest and most remote volcanoes on the planet. It was on my to-do list for years. Two weeks of acclimatization and warm-up climbs, 220 liters (60 gallons) of gasoline loaded in my truck, GPS with all possible planed routes, 30 liters (10 gallons) of water, plenty of pasta and tomato sauce, crampons, and beer from Tierra del Fuego. Then I was screaming from joy running down on pumice gravel on the steep slopes with endless view in front of me. I climbed Antofalla, cheers.

Personal advise from my own experience: Be very careful while opening your beer at the 4700m (15,400ft) basecamp to celebrate.

Photo: Approaching the snow line while climbing North-westerns slopes of volcano Antofalla, Puna de Atacama, Andes, Argentina

My Atacama in Thermik

My Atacama in Thermik - Paragliding over the Atacama desert, Chile

The largest paragliding magazine on the planet – Thermik – features a portfolio of my photographs showing the beauty of flying over the Atacama desert in Chile. “Thermals, soaring, and record in Northern Chile – The desert wind”, photographs by Jarek Wieczorek, text by Tim Mayer. Highly recommended. If you haven’t been to Iquique yet this may just convince you to plan your next paragliding destination. You can buy the magazine in electronic format here or in print here.

Photo: Paragliding over the Atacama desert, Chile.

Volcano Tuzgle – The warm-up

Volcano Tuzgle - The warm-up - Summiting Volcano Tuzgle 5530m (18,140ft), Puna de Atacama, The Andes, Argentina.

160 times per minute – that is my hart, 80 times per minute – that is my lungs. A life more intense at 5500m (18,000ft).

Photo: Summiting Volcano Tuzgle 5530m (18,140ft), Puna de Atacama, The Andes, Argentina.

The Attempt

The Attempt - Winter view of volcanoes at Chilean part of Puna de Atacama, The Andes, Chile

It looks like the universe never wanted me to get there. For years I tried but it did not happen. Next attempt is in order then. Volcano Antofalla 6440m – very large, very remote, at the hart of Puna de Atacama on the shores of Salar de Antofalla. So desolate that you can hear echo of your own thoughts. Perfect place to meet my old friend Mephistopheles, isn’t it? The date is set. I am already on my way in the Andes. Some info here.

Photo: Winter view of volcanoes at Chilean part of Puna de Atacama, The Andes, Chile.

Slovenia – XC trip to the Alps

Slovenia - XC trip to the Alps - Paragliding toward Bovec valley from the Stol range, Kobarid, Julian Alps, Slovenia

This June we are going to celebrate the joy o cross country flying. Flying in beautiful Alps of Slovenia. After spending in Slovenia my European summer last year I simply fell in love with this place. I fell for its grand wild silver mountains, its spectacular flying, its emerald rivers, its green valleys, and people who smile a lot. Slovenian Alps were simply created for paragliding. Yes, they were. You will be telling me the same while laughing when you land on a green meadow deep in the Alps after a long XC flight. I dare you because I know. Come, I am taking you with me to Slovenia to have lost of fun while flying. Learn more about the trip here.

Photo: Paragliding toward Bovec valley from the Stol range, Kobarid, Julian Alps, Slovenia.

Real Pilots

Real Pilots - Paragliding Tiliviche camp at The Vulture Ridge, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Real pilots sleep in their wings. Sleeping-bags, tents, pillows and girlfriends are redundant. I love watching men with a passion. They push boundaries, they do not care about daily comforts, they always walk looking at the sky thinking about being there, and their faces light up when they talk about flying. Actually they hardly talk about anything else. So what do you do when you are not siting in your office? You kite-board? Do puzzles? Run marathons? I fly.

Photo: Paragliding Tiliviche camp at The Vulture Ridge, The Atacama Desert, Chile.

Fly Atacama – daily photoblog

Fly Atacama - daily photoblog - Ned Izraelsen flying over Toro plateau near Tiliviche Canyon, The Atacama Desert, Chile

It is the season in the desert and we have been flying every day for hours. We barely have time to sleep and eat. Both the familiar and the remote desert flying sites give us the best possible weather this year. I bet you wished you were here flying with us. Not sure? See the photos from our daily photoblog and you will jump on your next airplane heading to Chile.

Fly Atacama 2011 daily photoblog

Photo: Ned Izraelsen flying over Toro plateau near Tiliviche Canyon, The Atacama Desert, Chile.

4th annual Antofaya cookout

4th annual Antofaya cookout - After Landing - a free bar at the dunes of Palo Buque, The Atacama Desert, Iquique, Chile

The 4th great annual Antofaya BBQ at the dunes of Palo Buque is taking place Tuesday, November 15th and is featuring grilled fish and sea food plus plenty of Chilean wine and cold beers. All pilots present in Iquique are very welcome. If you miss it you will have to wait a whole year for the next one. We will start lighting up the charcoal and open the free bar at 5PM. Send me your RSVP.

Photo: After Landing – a free bar at the dunes of Palo Buque, The Atacama Desert, Iquique, Chile.

Level 2

Level 2 - Sunset view from the highest sea cliffs in Chile and the highest paragliding takeoff of Northern Chile - Level 2, Tocopilla, the Atacama Desert, Chile

Another addition to Project Colorada. This time our desert off-road exploration took us to the highest sea cliffs in Chile. It is a 6.000ft (1800m) vertical drop straight to the ocean! And yes, we are preparing a brand new takeoff there – Level 2. The views are breathtaking as it is way above the permanent Atacama inversion layer which means it is often high above the clouds. It should make paragliding XC flights from Tocopilla toward Iquique much easier. We will be testing it very soon.

Photo: Sunset view from the highest sea cliffs in Chile and the highest paragliding takeoff of Northern Chile – Level 2, Tocopilla, the Atacama Desert, Chile.

Crossing The Andes

Crossing The Andes - Camping in the hart of the high Andes between Tilcara in Humahuaca Valley and San Francisco in Calilegua, North-Western Argentina

Antofaya crosses The Andes – on foot. It took us five days of strenuous trekking along ancient Inca paths to cross the spine of South America – The Andes. We trekked from a desert village of Tilcara on the Western side, climbing various ranges and crossing deep valleys. We ended in a hamlet of San Francisco in lush jungle on the Eastern side of this longest mountain chain in the world. The maximum altitude we reached was 14,000ft (4300m) asl and minimum 3,300ft (1000m) asl. It is over 2 miles (3 kilometers) vertical climb. And we had to do it multiple times summiting each range! I wish we could do it as easily as condors do it – our only companions during this adventure.

Photo: Camping in the hart of the high Andes between Tilcara in Humahuaca Valley and San Francisco in Calilegua, North-Western Argentina.

Sidetracked in Patagonia

Sidetracked in Patagonia - Playa San Quintin, Istmo Ofqui, Patagonia, Chile

Sidetracked magazine publishes a story about Antofaya’s exploration of remote corners of Patagonia.

“Our eyes are not used to this land of contrasts. Standing on a white sand beach in hot summer sun you see snow and ice-covered mountain peaks topped with lenticular clouds. Glaciers that descend from those ice fields do not flow through barren, rugged mountains but instead crash into rain forest—jungle filled with ferns, moss, bamboo and layers of fallen trees and colorful insects, into meadows covered in blankets of flowers.” …. read more

Text by Jarek Wieczorek. Edited by Rianna Riegelman “Patagonian Explorers”
Photo: Hiking along remote Pacific beach, Playa San Quintin, Istmo Ofqui, Patagonia, Chile

Fly Atacama with with us in 2011

Fly Atacama with with us in 2011 - Steve Torgesen flying over Tiliviche Canyon and Cero Torro plateau, The Atacama Desert, Chile

As every year this November is going to see lots of colorful paraglider wings flying over the driest desert in the world – The Atacama Desert in Chile. We are getting ready for our annual adventurous pilgrimage to Iquique – the most consistent flying destination on the planet. And again we will cover countless XC miles and again we will fly from down to dusk and again we will host the famous desert BBQ for all pilots. So what are you going to do this autumn when it rains outside? Join our flying tour to a place where it never rains. Details here.

Photo: Steve Torgesen flying over Tiliviche Canyon and Cero Torro plateau, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Chasing weather in my cockpit

Chasing weather in my cockpit - Piave river flowing trough vineyard covered foothills of the Alps, Bigolino, Treviso province, Northern Italy

I am a spoiled brat. I am a spoiled pilot who lives in the Atacama Desert where we have 360 flyable days in a year. Now I am traveling in the Alps and learning meaning of word “para-waiting”. It means checking weather daily, choosing location, driving hundreds of miles, siting on a take-off for long time, and then it is raining anyway. Or worst, snowing like in Chamonix a couple of days ago. And it is the middle of the summer! All of it is so foreign to me. I am a spoiled brat and my European paragliding friends make fun out of me.

Photo: Piave river flowing trough vineyard covered foothills of the Alps, Bigolino, Treviso province, Northern Italy

Patagonian glaciers photo story

The great San Quintin glacier splits into two creating Ventisquero Andrees and then spreads its huge piedmont lobe into the marshes of Ofqui isthmus. Beyond that are the uncharted fjords of Western Patagonia. Even farther into the Patagonian Andes there are valleys, rivers, lakes and glaciers never visited before. Expedition Explorers IV 2011 took us into this hidden mysterious world. See it for yourself here.

Movie: Expedition Explorers IV 2011 – The Great San Quintin, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aisen, Patagonia, Chile. (http://www.vimeo.com/21908794)

Ceske Beskydy

Ceske Beskydy - Lysa Hora range and Sance reservoir and dam, Moravian-Silesian Beskids, Czech Republic

I am spending my austral winter far away from the desert. It is very green here and flying is great. Mountains are covered with forests and valleys are full of small villages. There is plenty of paragliders here and take-offs are big grassy fields. It so different from what I am used to experience and see from the air. It is Czech Beskids.

Photo: Lysa Hora range and Sance reservoir and dam, Moravian-Silesian Beskids, Czech Republic.

Casa Hexagon version 2.0

Casa Hexagon version 2.0 - Constructing a new house of Casa Hexagon, Lago General Carrera, Aisen, Patagonia, Chile

We are rebuilding what was taken by erupting volcano Chaiten. We are rebuilding Casa Hexagon – farther south in the hart of Patagonia with views of the ice fields and the lake with waters bluer than skies. Stephan, the owner of Casa Hexagon, is full of positive energy. I am sure the version 2.0 will be even better than the original Casa Hexagon. Don’t miss it during your next Patagonian adventure. You can find it outside of Puerto Guadal.

Photo: Constructing a new house of Casa Hexagon, Lago General Carrera, Aisen, Patagonia, Chile.

Still daydreaming

Still Daydreaming - Packrafting near one of the northern arms of San Quintin glacier, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aisen, Chile

How do you come down from the land of your dreams to walk on the solid ground? How do you accept earth after visiting heavens? It has been days since I came back and still I cannot neither talk about it nor think about anything else. I guess this year you will need to wait a bit longer for a story about what happened this austral summer in Patagonia around The Northern Patagonian Ice Field.

Photo: Packrafting near one of the northern arms of San Quintin glacier, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aisen, Chile.

Sol Survivors

Sol Survivors

Another article by Rianna Riegelman a member of Antofaya Expeditions is featured by South American Explorer Magazine in issue #94. This time about endemic flora of the Atacama Desert.

“Some corners of the Atacama report no recorded rainfall -ever- and support no life. Other parts of the Atacama receive regular seasonal rainfall and support a variety of vegetation, some wildlife, and even human agriculture. Believe it or not, the Atacama Desert hosts more than 1,300 native plant species. Approximately 60% of those are believed to be endemic to the region.” …. read more

Text by Rianna Riegelman “Chile: Sol Survivors”
Photo: Cactus from an endemic genus Copiapoa at Southern coastal Atacama Desert, Llanos de Challe National Park, Chile

Over the desert

Over the desert - Flying a brand new competition paraglider over the mountain dunes on a long XC in the desert, Iquique, The Atacama Desert, Chile

I get many questions from people who never been here or never been at any desert. How is flying here? When is the best time to come? Paragliding in Iquique is very different than what you have experienced anywhere before. It is not ridge soaring, it is not extremely hot here and logistics are complicated. The rewards are just unbelievable. And if you are a person who is inspired by what you see you will be coming here every year. Or maybe even you will come and settle here as I did. The desert is simply stunning but it takes dedication to see this beauty. Beauty which is beyond words for me. So I take photos and share them with those who want to watch.

Photo: Flying a brand new competition paraglider over the mountain dunes on a long XC in the desert, Iquique, The Atacama Desert, Chile.

San Chango

San Chango - A pilot flying his competition paraglider MacPara Magus 6 from the new XC takeoff Chango, The Atacama Desert, Chile

This new XC takeoff will become a hit. It is the best XC takeoff in the greater Iquique area. It has everything: big, safe and flat launch area facing prevailing winds, enormous sandy landing in front, high altitude difference of 600m, easy access even by a car, spectacular desert views 360 degrees, perfect XC distance to Iquique. We have opened it a few weeks ago and been flying there at every chance. It simply rocks. Check it out for yourself.

Photo: A pilot flying his competition paraglider MacPara Magus 6 from the new XC takeoff Chango, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Alpacka Packrafts in Chile

Alpacka Packrafts in Chile - Alpacka Packrafts at the proglacial lake of Benito Glacier Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aisen, Patagonia, Chile

Alpacka rafts got us to places in Patagonia where nobody was able to get before. We love these ultralight and super rugged boats so much that we decided to make them available for all Patagonian adventurers. We sell Alpacka packrafts in Chile and Patagonia. Get them at Antofaya website.

Photo: Alpacka Packrafts at the proglacial lake of Benito Glacier Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aisen, Patagonia, Chile

Arenal

Arenal - Cloud covered Cuesta de Arenal plateau and Tiliviche Canyon near Pisagua, The Atacama Desert, Chile

Project Caleta Colorada continues with establishing the highest paragliding take-off in the greater Iquique area – Arenal. This easily accessible in a car take-off at 900m a.s.l. should make cross country flights between Pisagua and Camarones more attainable. That area is getting more and more popular with pilots looking for desolate desert experience. Multiple XC flights have been already flown there but existing Junin and Tiliviche take-offs pose distinct challenges for an XC hungry pilots. The Arenal take-off is located so high that on days with a lower cloudbase you actually take off above a cloud layer and above the permanent coastal Atacama inversion layer – see the photo.

Photo by Rianna Riegelman: Host of this blog – Jarek Wieczorek – looks over cloud covered Cuesta de Arenal plateau and Tiliviche Canyon near Pisagua, The Atacama Desert, Chile

South American Explorers

South American Explorers

South American Explorer Magazine selects Antofaya’s packrafting Expedition Explorers as the feature trip for their edition #93.

“There is a valley in Southern Chile called Valle Exploradores – Valley of the Explorers in English. It is an enticing valley with an inviting name – a fantasyland of dramatic granite peaks, thick green Patagonian rainforest, glacial blue lakes and a milky gray river that joins a wide channel called the Elephant Fjord.” …. read more

Text by Rianna Riegelman “Chile: Packrafting in Patagonia”
Photo: Pakrafting in temperate Patagonian rainforest on Upper Rio Sur, Aisen, Patagonia, Chile

Colorada

True off-road flying at one of the most remote Iquique paragliding sites. Past weekend conditions at Caleta Colorada were nothing short of great. We flew almost to Iquique and back. And the views over the Atacama plateau are to die for.

Movie: Off-road paragliding, Caleta Colorada, The Atacama Desert, Iquique, Chile. (http://www.vimeo.com/13710141)

Power of faith

Dancers during religious feast of Fiesta de La Tirana, La Tirana, ChileEvey year a small oasis of 500 inhabitants in the heart of The Atacama Desert gets besieged by pilgrims and religious dancers. Two hundred thousands of them! It is a spectacle in its own rights with dancers coming from all over Chile and neighboring countries. They dance continuously for a week twenty four hours a day as a tribute to their holy virgin. During the day they dance in scorching desert sun and in the night they dance in temperatures well below freezing. Christian religion mixed with Aymaran beliefs. It is all there.

Photo: Dancers during religious feast of Fiesta de La Tirana, La Tirana, Chile

Los Coihues Navy

A packraft and a kayaker at the put out at Rio Manso de Frontera at the border between Argentina and Chile, Patagonia, Argentina.Now I know why in Barliloche people do not make big eyes like everywhere else in Patagonia when I say “a packraft”. Because they know what it is. I met fellow packrafters here. They have been introducing the sport to Patagonia for a couple of years now, the same way as I have been. They had some amazing adventures with their packrafts, too. And of course once we met we had to go packrafting together – four packrafters and five kayakers. We went to Rio Manso de Frontera. The river gave me all I asked for. I wanted to swim and yes the biggest rapid of the river bit me and I went swimming down some rough whitewater, mostly underwater. As Bicho said “I saw his head spinning down in an eddy”. I guess it was my baptism to be a member of Los Coihues Navy.

Photo: A packraft and a kayaker at the put out at Rio Manso de Frontera at the border between Argentina and Chile, Patagonia, Argentina.

The road to Cushamen

Aerial view of easternmost Andean ranges near El Maiten and Cushamen, Patagonia, ArgentinaIn my previous life I was driving my truck looking for a forgotten road from Fofo Cahuen to Cuchamen, getting lost in the dark, spending a night at the top of the hill, and in the morning dreaming about flying above those remote ranges of Argentinean Patagonian steppe. In this life a friend takes me to his secret flying place. A place so stunning and shiny in the setting sun that you never want to land. And then I realize that these are the mountain ranges of the road I saw long time ago. This is the road to Cushamen. Thank you Martin, Laucha and your newborn Lorenzo for your hospitality. Thank you for taking me on the road to Chushamen … again.

Photo: Aerial view of easternmost Andean ranges near El Maiten and Cushamen, Patagonia, Argentina.

In the gardens of Jeinimeni

Packrafting trough rapids of Jeinimeni river, Aysen, Patagonia, ChileThe very first descent of Jeinimeni river. Yes, we did it! It is sixty kilometers of rock gardens and rapids. There is no time for rest on these turquoise clear white waters of Andes mountains. First we scouted multiple canyons of the river for a few days and then we jumped into our unbeatable packrafts at lake Jeinimeni for three days of exhilarating rafting. The river at its end at lake General Carrera left us aware of every skeletal muscle of our bodies and smiling and happy after a great adventure.

Photo: Packrafting trough rapids of Jeinimeni river, Aysen, Patagonia, Chile.

Seba de Vizcachas

Sebastian Alvarez flying his Niviuk Artik 2 paraglider over Las Vizcachas, Santiago de Chile, ChileSebastian is a new and dedicated pilot in Santiago. An Argentinean living in Chile. He is a great friend and a fun person to fly with. We spent most of the summer flying together in Las Vizcachas. Our highlight flight we had was a competition race to Chacabuco way past Colina. He wanted a photo session wearing his new and beloved Artik 2. Judge yourself how well he looks in it. See it here.

Photo: Sebastian Alvarez flying his Niviuk Artik 2 paraglider over Las Vizcachas, Santiago de Chile, Chile.

Patagon Austral

Aladdino Varga and Jarek Wieczorek (the host of this blog) getting warm and dry in a cold Patagonian morning in a settlers' house, Steffen Fjord, Aysen, Patagonia, ChileI am a desert rat. So why do every summer I go to this cold and wet land at the end of the world? Because beauty of Patagonia is beyond any words. Because Patagonia shows everybody what you are made of. Because nothing else smells like Patagonian cypress wood. Because Patagonia shows you what really matters. Because nowhere else rivers are more crystal blue. Because harts of Patagonian people are hotter than anything else. Because no other mountains are sharper than Patagonian Andes. Because in Patagonia you learn more about yourself in a week than you learned earlier in your whole life. Because no fjords are deeper than uncharted fjords of Patagonia. Because Patagonia heals your soul and body. Because once you try Patagonian calafate berry you will always be coming back here. Because Patagonian salmon runs up the creeks like there is no tomorrow. Because Patagonian glaciers still have no names. Because Patagonia is magic.

Photo: Aladdino Varga and Jarek Wieczorek (the host of this blog) getting warm and dry in a cold Patagonian morning in a settlers’ house, Steffen Fjord, Aysen, Patagonia, Chile.

Incidental summer

Niviuk paraglider flying over Las Vizcachas, Santiago de Chile, ChileIt was supposed to be a short stop in Santiago on the way toward Patagonia. Then the universe conspired and I stayed two months. There was lots of flying, lots of asados, lots of friends and our laughs. And of course lots of photos. Endless saludos for all my friends in the air an on the ground for the great time I had in Santiago. My summer would not be the same without you gals and guys. Special thanks to Carlos and Mathias. And yes, for some cool photos click here.

Photo: Niviuk paraglider flying over Las Vizcachas, Santiago de Chile, Chile.

Into the ice

KSZ paddling her packraft into an ice cave created by melting ice of Glacier Steffen - Southernmost glacier of Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aisen, Patagonia, ChileThis year I went even farther south. We explored in our packrafts southern end of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. Patagonia served us the usual: wild rivers, enormous glaciers, rain and sun, impenetrable forest, clear lakes, lots and lots of ice and icebergs, ancient cypress trees, misty fjords, and a great adventure. Soon I will post more photos and a write-up of the trip. For now I am getting warm by a fireplace and watching boats passing by in the fjord.

Photo: KSZ paddling her packraft into an ice cave created by melting ice of Glacier Steffen – Southernmost glacier of Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aisen, Patagonia, Chile.

Kicking

Your host of this blog unloading his packraft on the shores of a proglaciar lake of Steffen glacier, Aisen, Patagonia, Chile. Photo by KSZO yeah! I am still kicking. And kicking well at the end of the world in Patagonia. I have been busy with fun. No time for updates, no Internet at the end of the world and I love it this way. Autumn is coming to my cypress house on the edge of a fjord and we need more and more firewood to keep us warm at nights. Time to head north, toward the desert. Time for the annual migration. Migration from the ice to the sand. To my other house on a dune overlooking Pacific waves. Friends are waiting. In the meantime some slated blog updates will follow.

Photo: Your host of this blog – Jarek Wieczorek – unloading his packraft on the shores of a proglaciar lake of Steffen glacier, Aisen, Patagonia, Chile. Photo by KSZ.

From desert to jungle

Carlos Curi flying his Niviuk Artik 2 paraglider over Loma Bola, Aconquija Range, Tucuman, ArgentinaOn one side of the Andes there is the desert, on the other side the jungle – Yungas. In summer it rains there every day. These landscapes are so different that it is hard to believe that the mountains can have such a great effect on environment. On my way south toward Patagonia I stopped in the jungle to recharge my depleted green batteries. Once the summer is over I will not see anything green for the rest of the year. So I flew over misty mountains of Tucuman and enjoyed grassy takeoff and landing.

Photo: Carlos Curi flying his Niviuk Artik 2 paraglider over Loma Bola, Aconquija Range, Tucuman, Argentina.

On assignment with BBC Top Gear Bolivia Special

BBC Filming crew and presenter Jeremy Clarkson on the slopes of Guallatiri Volcano shooting BBC Top Gear Bolivia Special, Altiplano, ChileI had great time in October working with BBC Top Gear team on the upcoming Chile Bolivia Special as the location manager. I was glad to share with them all my local knowledge of the Andean Altiplano and the Atacama Desert. It is going to be a road movie about three cars and their drivers starting their journey deep in the Bolivian Amazon jungle, crossing the high Andes and Altiplano, driving trough the driest of all deserts and finishing at Chilean Pacific coast. The show is going to air tomorrow (December 27th, 2009) around the world for millions of avid watchers!

Photo: BBC Filming crew and presenter Jeremy Clarkson on the slopes of Guallatiri Volcano shooting BBC Top Gear Bolivia Special, Altiplano, Chile.

Big old man Sajama

Nevado Sajama volcano (6542m), Sajama National Park, Altiplano, BoliviaEvery time I look at Sajama I think about an old big man. I do not know why. It rises to over 6500m from a wind swept eastern side of Andean backbone. This is where the highest forest on Earth grows. Trees of this forest – Queñua trees – look like old people, too. Do llamas look old? Noooo…!

Photo: Nevado Sajama volcano (6542m), Sajama National Park, Altiplano, Bolivia.

Expedition Explorers III

Packrafting in front of Ventisquero Benito glacier, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aisen, Patagonia, ChileAnd again for the third time for February 2010 Antofaya is preparing an expedition which will find us among the astonishing beauties of southern Chile’s wild lands in the region of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. We will paddle between icebergs, do first rafting descents of rivers, sleep in the shadows of enormous Patagonian mountains and trek in spectacular wilderness and explore enormous San Quintin glacier which eluded earlier attempts of exploration. Visit Antofaya for more info.

Photo: Packrafting in front of Ventisquero Benito glacier, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aisen, Patagonia, Chile.

Acclimatization

Cerro Milagro, Putre, Altiplano, ChileThe highest part of Andean Precordillera and the opening gates to Altiplano. A remote mountain range dividing two worlds. On one side the driest desert on our planet and on the other side a volcanic plateau where air is thinner than humans can breath. And above all Cerro Milagro is a visual feast and a gorgeous outback camping spot – just how I like it.

Photo: Cerro Milagro, Putre, Altiplano, Chile.

Iruya

Iruya village in the mountains of Sierra de Zenta, Salta Province, ArgentinaIruya is an old village lost in the mountains of Sierra de Zenta and perched on a cliff. It has this relaxing “end of the road” feeling. From here many Indian trails start going even deeper into the mountains toward small settlements and high pastures.

Photo: Iruya village in the mountains of Sierra de Zenta, Salta Province, Argentina

Hornocal

Serranía de Hornocal (Hornocal Mountain Range), Jujuy Province, ArgentinaSometimes when I do my research before a trip I find a remote place which seems to be interesting but there is not much info about it because it is too hard to get to, too remote, or simply nobody took interest in it before. And then sometimes I come to the place and there is nothing else to do but just stare for hours with your mouth open. No, it was not me who painted the colors with Photoshop. It was nature.

Photo: Serranía de Hornocal (Hornocal Mountain Range), Jujuy Province, Argentina

Miranda

Cuesta de Miranda, La Rioja, ArgentinaAll the colors of the Argentinian countryside in front of my eyes. My annual Argentinian winter trip took me this year farther South than usual but winter this year is surprisingly warm. As far as central Argentina temperatures of 32°C were recorded. Now call it winter! Back home in Europe we call it hot summer.

Photo: Cuesta de Miranda, La Rioja, Argentina

Return to Ofqui

Rianna Riegelman packrafting between icebergs of the proglaciar lake of Ventisquero San Quintin glacier, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aysen, Patagonia, ChileThanks to a cozy cottage of Zapato Amarillo it took us much less time this year to prepare a write up about our last expedition to glaciers of Northern Patagonian Ice Field – Expedition Explorers II – Return to Ofqui. And once again Alpacka rafts allowed us to go where it was not possible to go before. It was our biggest adventure yet with first descents of glacial run-off rivers, visits to five very remote glaciers, some visited only by a handful of people and two that may never have been visited by anyone and are yet unnamed. You can read about it here.

Photo: Rianna Riegelman packrafting between icebergs of the proglaciar lake of Ventisquero San Quintin glacier, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aysen, Patagonia, Chile

Emerged from the wild

Rianna Riegelman looking down on unnamed HPN1 glacier (Ventisquero Hielo Patagonico Norte 1), Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aysen, Patagonia, ChileYes, we did it. We went into the one of the very few remaining true wildernesses on the planet, where no human footprints can be found – Western Patagonia. It is a remote land of ice, rock, and jungle where rivers, mountains, and glaciers still have no names. We endured a 35-day unsupported packrafting expedition of two people into the unexplored areas in the region of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. We reached unnamed HPN1 and HPN2 glaciers, we did the very first descents of a few rivers, we survived three consecutive storms with gale-force winds, we hiked in the Patagonian rain forest, and we paddled between icebergs. We had the adventure of our lives.

Photo: Rianna Riegelman looking down on unnamed HPN1 glacier (Ventisquero Hielo Patagonico Norte 1), Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Aysen, Patagonia, Chile

Flying inland

Leo Andrade on his Niviuk Icepeak paraglider during the final glide toward Playa Brava after a successful flight over inland mountain ranges, Iquique, Atacama Desert, ChileTogether with Leo Andrade – one of the best local Iquique pilots – I have been playing with the idea of leaving the known safety of the Pacific facing megacliff and flying inland toward many dune covered mountain ranges. We determined a bunch interesting areas: the big mountain range of Cerro Oyarvide North of the Airport, a small hills North of Alto Hospicio, and plains of Cuesta Arenal near Pisagua. Let’s see if the next paragliding season in Iquique brings new flying zones.

Photo: Leo Andrade on his Niviuk Icepeak paraglider during the final glide toward Playa Brava after a successful flight over inland mountain ranges, Iquique, Atacama Desert, Chile

Expedition Explorers 2008 writeup and photos

Shores of Istmo Ofqui and Laguna San Rafael glacial fjord, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Patagonia, Aysen, ChileNot bad. It took us only nine months to publish an account of our exploratory packrafting expedition in the area of Northern Patagonian Ice Field. Rianna Riegelman wrote the text, I threw in some photos and here it is. What I remember the most from that expedition is this great feeling of discovering unknown. It was a great adventure! Read the full story at Antofaya Expeditions website.

Photo: Shores of Istmo Ofqui and Laguna San Rafael glacial fjord, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Patagonia, Aysen, Chile

The Vulture Ridge

Paraglider pilot Niki from Italy having fun at The Vulture Ridge, Tiliviche, Pisagua, Iquique, ChileAfter over two weeks of hard work we went for a weekend of play and fun. We flew for fun, we had a big campfire on a deserted beach for fun, we made tasty BBQ for fun, we drank good Chilean wine for fun, we laughed with friends from all over the world for fun, and we slept under stars for fun. We had lots of fun at The Vulture Ridge.

Photo: Paraglider pilot Niki from Italy having fun at The Vulture Ridge, Tiliviche, Pisagua, Iquique, Chile

Winter lagunas

Laguna Helada and Cerro Curutu, Pampa Loyoques, Puna de Atacama, ChileI really did not think that we would beat last’s year record of night camping temperature. But we did. It was -21°C near volcano Cerro Granada. But days were relatively warm, which gives daily temperature amplitudes of well over 30°C. And many of the remote lakes of Puna de Lipez we visited were not frozen at all due to their very high salinity and the hot springs which constantly feed them.

Photo: Laguna Helada and Cerro Curutu, Pampa Loyoques, Puna de Atacama, Chile

Camanchaca

Paraglider soaring inland mountain dunes covered by incoming camanchaca mist, Atacama Desert, ChileIt never rains in Atacama desert but sometimes evenings are misty. Dense cloud banks form in front of the coastal mountain range and then move inland.

Photo: Paraglider soaring inland mountain dunes covered by incoming camanchaca mist, Atacama Desert, Chile by Rianna Riegelman

Hot in the water (I wish I was)

Hot springs of Termas Geometricas, Conaripe, ChileSo it is winter in Iquique. It means it is around 15 degrees Celsius during a day. Nevertheless I dream about hot springs full of vapor. Especially after my recent expedition to the land of cold where marrow of my bones froze – well almost. More about it later.

Photo: Hot springs of Termas Geometricas, Conaripe, Chile

My friends of air

Parglider pilot flying his wing at Vizcachas site in Cajon del Maipo near Santiago, Chile“My name is Jarek and I am a paraglider pilot.” – A magic phrase with power only other pilots are aware of. It opens hearts and makes instant friends. Sometimes high in the clouds in your radio you hear a voice of somebody you have never met giving you courage. sometimes when you land an unknown person comes and hands you a beer. I have thousands of friends who would go an extra mile for me and I do not even know their names. Saludos for all my friends in Santiago de Chile. It was great summer I spent with you. See you in Iquique … My name is Jarek and I am a paraglider pilot.

Photo: Parglider pilot flying his wing at Vizcachas site in Cajon del Maipo near Santiago, Chile

Faces in the Sand

Desert driver, Jebel Arkenu, Sahara, Libyan Desert, LibyaI sit by a warm fire in a wooden house while Patagonian autumn brings more and more rain. I sit by a warm fire in Chaiten and try to recall my memories from lands I have visited a long time ago. Memories full of Faces in the Sand.

Photo: Desert driver, Jebel Arkenu, the Sahara, Libyan Desert, Libya

Scouting the land of flamingos

Flamingos over Salar de Pedernales, Cordillera de Domeyko, Atacama Desert, ChileOn my way from the desert town of Iquique to the glaciers of Patagonia thousands of kilometers south I could not resist scouting Southern Atacama Desert and Altiplano around Nevados Tres Cruces, Ojos del Salado, and Lastarria volcanoes. It is a spectacular area I must come back to, but my agenda for a few lifetimes is already full. So what do I do now? Should I start planning expeditions for my grandchildren? I will let them see these pictures first.

Photo: Flamingos over Salar de Pedernales, Cordillera de Domeyko, Atacama Desert, Chile

Packrafting in Patagonia

Packrafting in Patagonia, Glacier Gualas, Northern Patagonian Icefield, Patagonia, Aysen, Chile34 days, 2 people, 1-person tent, 294km paddling and hiking, 60kg of equipment, 6kg body weight lost, no food drop, no logistical support. Three beautiful glaciers, unlimited icebergs, stormy fiords, peaceful lakes, deep valleys, whitewater rivers, wind, rain, subzero temperatures, mud, impenetrable forest, marshlands, gigantic salmon, playful dolphins, wild ferrets, leeches, vultures, campfires, isolation, tranquility, places without human footprints … Patagonia.

Photo: Packrafting in front of Glacier Gualas, Northern Patagonian Icefield, Patagonia, Aysen, Chile

Fly Atacama Desert Paragliding Adventure Tours 2008 Iquique, Chile

Cross country paragliding near Punta Batuco, Iquique, ChileFor November 2008 I am planing a great adventure for every paraglider pilot. I teamed up with rewarded USHPA instructor Ken Hudonjorgensen and US paragliding champion Bill Belcourt to organize a pilgrimage to paragliding mecca every pilot should do at least once in their lifetime. To the famous Atacama desert flying location – Iquique, Chile. Come and join us and have lots of fun. More information about the tour here.

Photo: Cross country paragliding near Punta Batuco, Iquique, Chile

Day 11 – Expedition Explorers

GoogleEarth screenshot of San Quintin Glacier, Istmo Ofqui, Northern Patagonian Icefield, Patagonia, ChileWe are up to some ass kicking stuff this austral summer. Destination: Northern Patagonian Icefield with twelve calving glaciers, deep uncharted fiords, wild mountain rivers, places without names untouched by human presence, no trails, crazy Patagonian peaks, one month of hiking and paddling. We have adventurous plans and plenty of brand new equipment. I already want to be there. Check out our planed camping spot on day 11.

Photo: GoogleEarth screenshot of San Quintin Glacier, Istmo Ofqui, Northern Patagonian Icefield, Patagonia, Chile

High altitude December

Vizcacha, Las Cuevas, Lauca National Park, Parinacota, Altiplano, ChileI spent almost whole December on gravel roads of Altiplano, contemplating views of ice covered volcanoes, and soaking my but at hot springs while watching star filled sky. December is a good time to go there. Just before rains start. It is warm and days are long giving you lot of time every day for exploration and photography. Have a look at new Altiplano photos here.

Chipana

Paragliding at Playa Chipana between Tocopilla and Iquique, Atacama, ChileA big white sand dune climbs high on a mountain. It is your takeoff. It is tricky. You need to wait for a tiny thermal or a bit of sea breeze to take you up the first couple of hundred meters up. Sometimes you wait very long watching huge deserted beach three kilometers in front of you. If you timing is wrong there is a long, steep, and hard trek with your paraglider on your back in front of you. But if your timing is right and once you get high up, Iquique one hundred and twenty kilometers away is your destination and you will see a lot of Atacama desert broken by maze of dry river beds. Just get high and enjoy.

Photo: Sand dune of Playa Chipana between Tocopilla and Iquique, Atacama Desert, Chile

The happiest guy in the world

Cono de Arita, Salar Arizaro, Tolar Grande, Puna, ArgentinaIt is December. Time to sum up the year. This year was simply the best year of my life. Why? Just look at the previous pictures below. And it is just the tip of the iceberg called “Year 2007 in life of the happiest guy in the world”. Yes, I am a lucky guy who lives his dream. It will be hard to beat this next year but I am planing to do so. On my plate for year 2008 you can find:
- Expedition Explorers – Patagonian Northern Icefield circumnavigation along rivers, fiords, glaciers, virgin forests and mountains,
- Argentinian Puna III expedition – volcano Antofalla here we come,
- Southern Chilean Altiplano expedition – more volcanoes and salars,
- Great Bolivian salt flats,
- more Atacama desert exploration,
- flying my paraglider wherever it is possible or not,
- Atacama-Patagonia overland trip.
So now, once I disclosed my plans, I will have to do all of it. Otherwise people will think I am a poser.

Photo: Cono de Arita, Salar Arizaro, Tolar Grande, Puna, Argentina by Rianna Riegelman

Backyard

Cerro Dragon dune, Iquique, ChileIn my search for a perfect dune I actually started to live on one. It is my backyard and my landing zone.

Photo: Cerro Dragon, Iquique, Atacama Desert, Chile

Pisagua – Don’t drink it

Paragliding Tiliviche Canyon, Pisagua, ChileTiliviche canyon has already a permanent place at Project Caleta Colorada. It is a beautiful afternoon flying site at the mouth of a steep desert canyon with Palo Buque style take-off, endless deserted beach in front, high cliffs of the coastal range at the back, space for exploration, and perfect Pacific sunset every evening.

Photo: Paragliding in Quebrada Tiliviche, Pisagua, Atacama, Chile

Altiplano air

Volcanos Parinacota and Pomerape above Lagunas Cotacotani, Altiplano, ChileDoes anyone actually know what is hidden in the extreme North-East corner of Chile? High above 4500m there is a plateau of vistas not from this world. And you need to take it slowly, slowly meter of altitude by meter or your head will explode. Gods made it on purpose this way so if you do not crawl there on your knees they punish you for lack of respect for the great beauty.

More photos from Altiplano here.

Photo: Volcanos Parinacota and Pomerape, Lagunas de Cotacotani, Parinacota, Altiplano, Chile

Tiliviche sunset session

Tiviliche paragliding sunset session, Pisagua, ChileFour pilots, four gliders, will to explore uncharted areas. It is a recipe for great rewards: pristine beaches, deep canyon, desert mountains seen from above, and smiles which last for days. And lots of great photos. View them at Tiliviche sunset session gallery.

Rivers of Atacama

Lifeless, sterile and beautiful – absolute desert. Last time these dry riverbeds of the costal range north of Iquique saw water was 120.000 years ago. Since then no rain at all. It is the driest place on Earth. Many ask me how I can live in a place totally devoted of vegetation and green color. Either they are blind and cannot see the great beauty or I am mad.

Project Caleta Colorada

Objective: discover new flying zones of Northern Chile and fly where nobody flew before. It is an essence of adventure. It is not true that everything was already discovered and that there is no more space left for pioneering.

Next Page »