04.05.2017: They fly and explore various places around Malaysia with their engine powered wings during weekends, public holidays or special events. Being an adventurous spirit, I frequently join them for cross-country (XC) flying trip around Malaysia. Exploring and gliding through the airspace and seeing Malaysian’s landscape from a different perspective.
My alarm went off at 5 am that Sunday morning.
Earlier than usual as I needed to rush to the pre-planned take-off site of my next flying adventure. I had my quick shower, grabbed my camera bag and my flying equipment then drove for an hour to Antara Gapi, Serendah, Hulu Selangor.
Our take-off site was a public area. An open area up on top of a small hill in the middle of Antara Gapi’s town.
Heart of the eagle
A small group this morning, 6 paramotor pilots and me as a tandem passenger to one of them. They seemed to have something in common with me, an explorer spirit and I labelled them as my explorer PPG friends. They glided gracefully through the airspace exploring our Malaysian tropical landscape with their motors neatly tucked behind their back and their wings on top of their heads.
Riding on a paramotor tandem trike is different from riding pillion on a motorbike or on an aeroplane, as the passenger sits in front while the pilot sits at the back as he needs to control the glider and the throttle. So, passengers have a first class view of whatever in front of the trike.
We were heading to Sungai Tinggi Dam, Hulu Selangor, 33 km away from our take-off site. It would take approximately 45 minutes of flying hours to reach the place and another 45 minutes to fly back. As usual, I would be riding tandem with PPG pilot Tazza. I tagged along with them whenever they need a photographer to help capture their flying adventure.
Tazza would check on his pre-flight checklist while I would get into my seat; reorganized my cameras and my radio; set my prayers and wait for the clearance to takeoff.
A flock of bird
The clock was pointing at 7:30 am and morning lights started to rise from the horizon, pilots would take their turn to spread their wings, fire their motors and take-off safely from the ground. The air tends to be calmer early in the morning and as the light hiked up higher on the horizon, thermal heat could rock their gliders. So, they need to be fast because the air could be unpredictable.
Our adventure started when every pilot has successfully airborne, as they would glide out of Antara Gapi in one group. We were heading to Selangor river, approximately 6.3km northwest of Antara Gapi, and we would trail along the river.
We flew above small towns, some housing areas and lingered around hundreds of fishponds along the river bank. Hundreds or maybe thousands of birds loitered around the ponds probably looking for early breakfast and as the pilots glide through the area the birds ran berserk fearing the sound of their engines. It felt so good flying side by side with the birds, you could almost feel that you were part of the flock.
We were cruising along the Selangor river until we reached the North-South Highway and we then headed up to the North, flying parallel along the highway for about 10km. Once we reached near Bukit Tagar, we then crossed over the highway heading northwest to Sungai Tinggi Dam.
The view was way beyond words. I have travelled and witnessed countless beautiful landscape around the world but I have never expected to experience such rich and mesmerizing views from a place just 1-hour drive from my home.
Such peace and serenity filled the air and the landscape right beneath was such an amazing sight. I could see layers by layers of hills with a sign of thick mist in between the gaps.
Immersed in nature
Hulu Selangor area has a very diversified landscape. The area is relatively unspoiled, surrounded by mountains and secondary tropical forest. Flying with paramotor over the area is another option for the adventurous explorer who wishes to experience a variety of landscapes in 1 hour and 45 minutes.
When you are flying above at a certain height, your brain may get a bit lost on trying to figure out the right direction. It was a free highway up there hanging on the air, as there were no physical road and signboard to guide the way. It is critical to be 100% sure on the direction as ppg pilots could not refuel gas while they were on air. Getting lost was not an option.
So, it is crucial for them to depend heavily on GPS, altimeter and whatever mobile app that could track their flying routes and location.
The mystery island
As the pilots glided forward, I noticed a change in the atmosphere around me, the air felt much colder and windier. And, as I turned my head to my right I saw the mesmerising view of Sungai Tinggi dam. Dramatically, at that time the morning light was super golden.
The place felt mysterious. I understand now why the pilots called this place the “Mystery Island”. I had the urged to scream, not that hysterical scream but a delightful scream.
“What is this place? What is all this?” I screamed through the radio and my pilot friends were screaming and cheering at the same time too. What a beautiful moment. Honestly, the view from high above has yet to disappoint me, amazing experience.
Each cross-country flight that I tagged along was always a unique experience and it never felt the same to me. I blamed it on the character of the air, the moment of the light and the altitude of our location. We spent another five minutes hovering around the dam before the leader decided that it was time to turn back to Antara Gapi.
Time to hit the ground
We followed a different and shorter route on our way back, as we needed to save on our fuel.
The flight back was as smooth as I could remember like a breeze. We were all in a joyful mood as we have once again achieved our target for the day. Once we reached Antara Gapi safely, we flew a few rounds above Antara Gapi’s town and successfully landed back on the take-off site. To be able to experience flying especially via paramotor is a true blessing, a privilege and addictive too.
Flying cross-country requires detail planning on both the route and the safety of the journey. Of course, they have to comply with certain rules and regulation before they could start their trips. Proper NOTAM needs to be requested from the authority and if the rules stipulated that they could not fly exceeding a certain height, then they need to adhere to the rules.
For those who yearn to experience a different way to explore the surrounding of Hulu Selangor, Malaysia you can always try a tandem flight via paramotor from this group of explorer PPG pilots. They can be contacted at https://www.facebook.com/janjifly.janjifly.
Thank you for spending your time reading my experience and journey. Till we meet again.