Tala (Kanzui) ridge faces North East and works every day in winter season with prevailing North Easterly winds for Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Paragliding pilots fly Tala mostly locally. Strong wind produces plenty of ridge lift, but also restricts flying away. Going downwind, towards Nairobi is easy, but only for 30 km because of airspace restrictions. Also, the more you leave the hilly areas of Wote, Nzui, Tala and Machakos, the stronger the wind gets and landings can be problematic. Tala ridge itself is 10 km long and when winds are not so strong it’s possible to do a small triangle reaching the river in front of the ridge.
In January and February the North East wind has a more pronounced northern component, which can be used to make a big cross country flights towards Tanzania, Rift Valley, Natron lake and Magadi. After one attempt on 28th, I’ve learnt the way how to leave Tala ridge and next day I flew through Machakos hills, Konza city and Massai flatlands, landing 30 km before Tanzanian border.
The key elements on this pioneering flight are:
- pushing upwind and staying in front of the ridge to avoid the strong sink and wind at the SE end of the ridge;
- next set of hills E of Katheka are very tempting to check for lift, but there is a good thermal NE or upwind from them, triggering from the hilly lowlands and often indicated by a cumulus cloud. The odd position of this thermal, away from Katheka hills is probably due to “invisible mountain” effect;
- direct downwind crossing of Machakos hills is tricky as they’re too wide and too high. There will be significant downwash, sink and turbulence behind them, towards Katalembo paragliding take off. Even if it works, this direction is not good as the increasing winds will bring the paraglider closer to restricted airspace and Ngong hills. That’s why, more upwind/cross wind push is needed to go further South East, towards Masii on Kitui-Machakos road. Despite the low terrain below the area works well and climbs are visualized by a short cloud street;
- From Masii it is still tempting to go through Machakos hill or at its upwind part (where we explored for another take off several days ago) but it is better to continue further South East and use the lee side line of the group of hills South East of Machakos. These provide shelter from the wind and rear stagnation line of each hill provides blue or cloud-visualized thermals to keep the flight high;
- Logically, in North East winds produce huge zone of heavy sink behind these hills. Wind also speeds up, which helps for long glides and crossing of Mombasa road, near Konza high-tech town. There were two airplanes flying from Nairobi and towards Nairobi along Mombasa road, but they were above the cumulus clouds, probably about 5000 meters. Commercial airplanes don’t like thermals, like paragliding pilots, because for them thermals cause annoying turbulence. That’s why after take off airplanes hurry to climb above cumulus clouds, where there are no thermals. The heavy sink after Machakos hills also keeps the paraglider low, close to ground near Mombasa road;
- The climbs after Mombasa road and Konza are broken and require checking here and there despite the good looking cumulus clouds above. It was the same last year on another flight from Nzui forest to Isinya and Rift Valley. North and North West from Konza clouds started dissapear (either due to coming stability, increased wind or decreasing of moisture). There is a convergence line visualized by denser cumulus clouds starting from hills around Salama towards Bisii and Natron lake.
- Once you connect to this convergence line flying becomes easy. Climbs and clouds are close to reach. The hills near Entorika make some nice congestus clouds. You can see an anvil of a weak thunderstorm cloud above Kilimanjaro. In the beginning of the flight you can see the cloud ring surrounding Mount Kenya. From the beginning of the day there were good cloud developments towards Kitui, Zombe, Mwingi, which we explored for take offs 5 years ago, but cloud bases seemed low these days.
Flight tracklog: http://forum.skynomad.net/leonardo/flight/39500