Karaman – The first of XC Paragliding Tour 2010

Karaman – The first of XC Paragliding Tour 2010

On a Tuesday morning in the hot September season of Alanya, we took off to witness a few days of the internationally participated (Pal Takats, world champion in acrobatics, Mads Sydergaard, editor of Cross Country magazine, Olivier Laugero, world renown xcmag.com photographer, Fredegar Tommek, Fabrice Sibille) great sports event of paragliding shows in its first leg at Karaman.

Even the road to Karaman gave us the opportunity to discover some areas that we were not aware of until then. As such, we had planned to travel on Taşkent and Hadım route. We were to follow the course of Dim River first, pass the region named Kuşyuvası “Birds nest”, climb up to Toros' and follow on over Gümüşkavak and Alacami. We drove at an altitude of 1800 meters in a superb mountainous terrain through the uplands until almost Taşkent. The road from Hadım to Bağbaşı was closed due to road works. From there on we had two choices; we would either continue towards the direction of Konya or find our way through a secondary road in the direction of Karaman. We opted for the second choice and headed towards Habiller through Gaziler. As can be expected, soon we began to loose track but luckily, the ever helpful locals saved us with their instructions about the topography. Such occasions also provided us with new tips about the places to be seen. One of those is the Yerköprü Waterfall near Göksu and we just needed to have a glimpse of it before loosing time. The new asphalting works leading to picnic areas prevented us from getting there quick. So we followed a dirt track. We had not heard the familiar sounds of waterfalls as we drove but soon we were awakened to the powerful hum of the water cascading from high above. There it was nature, once more so sudden in exposing a hidden treasure. No doubt, it is definitely worth coming here for a daily excursion starting at the shore. 
Unfortunately, we had to continue on to our destination. We arrived at Karaman through roads that run at up to 1900 meter altitude.

We were constantly in touch with Murat Çakmak, the organizer of this all important sports event, which we were happy to participate in, all through our journey. Thus we were able to catch up with the participant group who was doing a Binbirkilise tour. A warm greeting and brief presentation was sufficient to harmonize with the group. Accompanying the group was an official from Karaman City Directorate of Culture and Tourism who after briefing the group on the history of the ruins of Binbir Kilise (1001 Churches) trotted to the remains of other churches about. Later, a truck loaded with Rock melons and Water melons was hailed to crush the thirst of this group of people on a cultural tour of Madenşehri village near Karadağ. Surely enough, the participants of XCTurkey witnessed yet another side to Turkish Culture as they happily consumed the fruit offered on this coffee break!

As the night drew closer, we arrived at the common stopover point in Karaman. Spacious rooms had been reserved for us at Karaman Teachers Lodges. Some of the participants were to be hosted at Karaman Police Lodges. Of course, we knew the hospitability of both the institutions from our experiences in the past in other locations. 

Dinner had been arranged in the city center for the participants and we were to get going at 19.00 pm. A truly enchanting time it was to chat with the group members and the officials who have contributed to promotion of the city. A surprise mini concert by an instrument maker with his “Ney”’ (A wind instrument widely associated with Sufi sect) could be said to be one of the highlights at the diner gathering. Another interesting event was the presentation by Mr. Rıza Duru, Assistant Director of Karaman Chamber of Commerce and Industry of his book on Gertrude Bell, a secret agent who lived in Karaman in the 19th century. Having his book as present was indeed a humbling experience. In retrospect, that was a successful night in terms of getting to know each other in this sports event to take place. 
Following a hearty breakfast the next morning, we climbed up to Karadağ, a dormant volcano of 2.288 meter height. We were informed that the organizers of XCTurkey, officials from the Governorship of Karaman and City Directorate of Culture and Tourism (Mr. Cengiz Orta, the Director) had worked in cooperation to designate various start off and Access points. A short while after, all of the active athletes, accompanying persons and various other support staff, gendarme and ambulance were present and ready. Following a brief complementary information session, the pilots set for flight preparations. In addition to normal flight equipment and devices, each carried a satellite and a navigation device. Simplus cards, .php codes and the software developed specifically for XCTurkey organization and distributed by XCTurkey organizer free of charge would enable the organization team to locate exactly where the pilot has landed after completing the flight many kilometers away at a town, village or a roadside!. This way, such extremely functional arrangement ensured quick pick up of the pilot from the point of landing and back to Karaman.

The slogan that dominated the whole organization was to fly +300km, therefore breaking the European record and wining 5.000 Euro, the largest amount of award ever offered. Karaman region is also known to be the paragliding heaven where 2 pilots (German Burkhard Martens and French Patrick Andre) from XCTurkey team have broken the Turkish Cross Country records on 19th June 2010.

We had the opportunity to talk to some of the pilots as they were making their final preparations. We therefore learned step by step the world of a paraglide pilot. We were introduced to the parachute, the different colored ropes attached to the load bearing system and their function, contents of the back pack and technical devices carried, which definitely is subject worth further investigation.

Murat Çakmak, the organizer of XCTurkey gave his final briefings prior to take off and gave the pilots GPS coordinates for the flight Restricted Areas (RA), which is the Karapınar zone. Entry by a pilot to restricted area for a distance of 0.5 radius nautical miles would mean that the pilot gains zero points fort hat day and if the breach is repeated, disqualification was unavoidable.
Russian Pilot Dimitry Charnyak, who was to become third in the events, had one breach recorded and was considered to have zero points, although he had flown 134km.

Different talents and level of education of pilots were clearly visible at the point of take off even by us, the untrained eye. Some preferred to run and jump over the cliff face and others, such as current world champion Pal Takats, waited for the wind to fill the parachute and lifted off vertically as if a helicopter and start the race on a horizontal line following a few maneuvers. Such were mind stopping images we observed. An eagle that had been circling above must have had similar thoughts for they too know how to use the thermal air hanging above Karadağ terrain. Today’s winner was Fabrice Sibille from France, who had flown 91, 7 kilometers and landed in the plains near Kızılkaya.

The lift off spot for Monday the 27th was to be Beyşehir. We shall be there and continue with our report.

Please read as well:

Pal Takats - most skilled acro-pilot

Beysehir - Second phase of XC Paragliding Tour

Life | Outdoors