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Flying in Cuba with my paraglider

I have been in Cuba from the 28th  of January until 12. Of February. The tour was in Germany organized by a German Pilot who is married with a Cuban lady. He is always collecting donation as gifts to the Cuba pilots, one time he had 25 wings with him. This year, he was not able to go with us, so, we had only 2 wings, 3 seats, some shoes and one second chance to give. Everything in Cuba was managed by Chris our german friend. We were 5 pilots, my wife Bärbel and a girlfriend of another pilot. We rented a 23seat bus with driver, it was much too big, but its cargo department did not take all our language, we had to put some inside.

The program: We had to book the flight to Holguin by ourselves. The bus were waiting for us at the airport and we drove to Santiago de Cuba arriving in the evening. Next day, ground handling competition for Cuban pilots in the middle of the town, place de revolution. They had to run a specific distance with the wing above and the time was measured. Was not so easy, the surrounding buildings caused a lot of turbulence. In the afternoon and the two next days competition flights from the mountain range at the edge of the town, take off to the south. Cuba has normally the north-east-Passat wind. Santiago is on the lee side of it and normally during day time you have a south wind from the sea. These 3 days, it did not work and so we had a lot of time for sightseeing. Thereafter we drove via Gatanamo to Baracoa. In Guatanamo was a sightseeing point where we were able to see the US part of Guatanamo. It was far away and we saw only the buildings and the airport, but they had also some picture of it too. There is one picture I will never forget. There was a cage made by iron construction bars, a little bit smaller than a man is toll. In in was a prisoner, his head and face covered by black fabrics. 

The location was so, that the whole day, they were in the sun shine. The sun is really bright in Cuba, you may imagine, what that means to the man. Baracoa is a nice town, we stayed there 2 nights with sightseeing. Thereafter drive to a national park in the mountains, 500 meter high with 2 nights. Here we visited the second's high waterfall of Cuba and had a whole pig grilled for lunch. We went further via Biran where Fidel Castro was born to Holguin for 2 nights. Here we tried once more to fly with some other Cuban pilots. They were really funny guys. To reach the take off site, we had to walk a longer distance and finally climb up a steep hill. A man with a machete was in front cutting sometimes branches and even threes. The wind was once more not from the right direction and very strong. One Cuban pilot took off, but no one else wanted to do the same, so we walked down again. Our wifes visited in this time a famous beach seating in one of this old American car from 1950 to 1960 which you found a lot in Cuba. Next to Bayamo, where we stayed 3 nights. We tried to fly on a site 1 hour away, you have to walk 1,5 km and then climb up 90 meter, but the wind was too strong. Next day they tried it again, wind was too weak, just gliding down. Next going to Pilon for 2 nights. The flight site is on a Met-station. 

When we arrived there, it was raining. We waited, the rain stopped and we went to the take off site, walking down 60 meters, easy. Ernesto tooke off at first, had good lift, finally he flew nearly one hour. The next pilot crashed into a tree, we need some time to got his wing free. He, I and Richard took off, but the lift was not so good any more. We flew ca. 20 minutes. Landing field was bigger than big. When our wings were packed, some drizzle started. A farmer allowed us to put our wing and ourself under his his roof. It was our luck, because it was raining cats and dogs. The street was a river. Without these shelters, we were unable to move our wings, the rucksack would be heavier than 60kg. The farmer told us, it was not raining the last 4 month. Next day was relaxing day on a nice beach. This was the end of our journey, in the morning, we drove via Bayamo back to Holguin for the flight to Germany.

The currency: In Cuba are two currencies, the peso and the peso convertible called Cuc. 25 pesos are one Cuc. The Cuc is similar to the $. Mostly you are able to pay with Cuc, but there are some accommodation were you need pesos and also in some shops. Peso shops are cheap, one coffee 1,3 cent, one cigar 4 cent.

About the prices:

The flight from Frankfurt to Holguin was between 700 und 1400 Euro depending the booking time. Accommodation: We were mostly in private houses. Cuban people are allowed to rent up to 3 rooms. We were often nearby, but not in one house. A room up to two people is 25 cuc plus breakfast 3 to 5 cuc per person. Beer 0,35l, 1 cuc if state organized otherwise 1,5 cook. Dinner 10-20 coc, it is big, I couldn`t eat all. 20 cuc is for really big lobster tail. All of us had more or less problems with Montezuma's rage in English jet spray. I had a special and another one coal pills. We needed it, but it was not bad.

Flying sites: Most of same, it is walking to reach. The take off site is nothing for forward take offs. One of our pilot was not able to do so, he did not fly the whole trip. Landing sites mostly wide and ok. If you do backwards take off, no problems . 

Flying in Cuba is an adventure. The military is restricting a lot. There are flying sites were you are only allowed to fly 5km away from the site , max is 20km. Therefore, 
Cuba is nothing for cross country flights. They are dreaming of their first 100km flight.

Santiago nice soaring mauntain 250 meters, landing field big, take off near the street.

Holguin 130 meters, long walking, landing everywhere possible, pick up nearby.
Bayamo several sites about 100 meters, moderate walking.

Pilon, nice site, ca 200 meters, for take off walking down 400 meters, easy, landing direct beside the street.

About the people: Cuba is a loud country. In Santiago, second biggest town of Cuba, starting 4 o clock the cock is crowing. At 6, merchants with their trolleys, the wheels are normal ball bearings, whistling and shouting what they are able to sell. You may see a chicken, stringed to a nail at the green part of the pedestrian path. The radios are always playing music , the life is on the streets. Every town has a lot of music shows, were you are also able to dance. On some days during evening a street is closed for music and dancing. 

Language: It is difficult if you do not speak Spanish. Only few people speak English.

Management: It is not easy to manage in Cuba everything by yourself. For example, accommodation is not so easy. But: when you arrive somewhere, one will join you and will manage your next accommodation, how you will come there and so one. He does not get money for this, because on another town, someone will do the same for him. Without this help, your are lost.

Buses:. There are 3 ways, with a taxi, is expensive. Next is a public bus. They are only going short distances, and are overcrowded. For us only practicable are special buses like gray hound.

According to the pilots, best time for flying is March, beginning of April.

Conclusion: For flying, we were unlucky with the weather, I did only fly for 20 minutes, but never less Bärbel and I were glad do did it. It is another world. It was more syightseeing then flying. 

I put some pictures in my drop box, I hope you are able to get in.

I have also some videos in youtube : Flying site Holguin:
Flying in Pilon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ps9IpyvOTh8