After a six-hour drive through France and Northern Spain beneath low cloud and many showers of rain, I passed Pamplona and the weather changed. The cloud broke up and the sun shone from a blue sky. The weather improved over the next 50 miles to Santa Cilia.
Met with my colleagues who sadly had not been able to fly as the wind was blowing at 27 knots across the runway with gusts up to 40 knots. Landing in those conditions would be considered very sporting.
The next day was still windy with sun and clouds suggesting thermals so my friends flew for two and a half hours. After landing one of them dashed off to the ferry home.
My friend and I decided to fly even though the wind had picked up to a 20 knot northerly. This makes for take-off and landing on an East West runway a bit of a challenge.
Furthermore the air that is squeezed over the Pyrenees descends on the Spanish side so it was no surprise that we found some vigorous thermals countered by even more vigorous sinking air and we lost height at over 10 knots.
We have a variometer that tells how fast up or down we are going. It is only calibrated up to 10 knots and the needle was on the stop. It was a short but exciting flight.
Nearby Santa Cruz is a compact and cosy little village with a large Romanesque church called Santa Cruz de la Seros. Its windows are slabs of translucent alabaster rather than glass.
A very good local restaurant overlooks the square. They served us cured ham with white asparagus followed by shank of lamb.
4th May 2014：Observing vultures
Sunny today with no wind and we are waiting for the thermals to develop. There is one weak thermal over the airfield and 28 vultures are lazily circling in it. Even they are not gaining much height so there is no hope for us humans yet.
The vultures have had a hard time in recent years because farmers are no longer allowed to leave dead lambs and sheep on the mountains; it is an EU regulation. Now either the farmers are like Nelson (I see no sheep) or there are other sources of carrion.
When we did get to fly, the thermals were weak and we joined a flock of vultures. They soon rose to our level and had a good look at us and then went higher. Suddenly they were gone.
Birds are a good clue to where the thermals are. Several gliders launched but we managed to stay up longer than they.
We slowly lost height and eventually had to run for home. I was pilot in charge today and was pleased with relatively smooth landing.
Post Series: Gliding Holiday in Spain, by Mike Sedgwick: