… in which Ivor becomes a rock star, some kite lines get entangled, we finally do our core business, we drive to a very cold place, and we all realise that for a successful kite festival the wind is optional – and friends are not.
KAP Jasa – kite team Slovenia was invited to the great International Kite Festival Gujarat 2023. From January 6 to January 16 we rode planes, buses, cars, rickshaws, and camels from Slovenia to Ahmedabad and all over the amazing Gujarat state of India. We found old, and made new, friends; experienced beautiful, crazy, and astonishing things; and flew kites in incredible places. Enjoy the fifth instalment in the series, and if you’d like to know what happened before, check out Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and Chapter 4.
“Wooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaa! Ooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”
Hundreds of Rajkot schoolgirls, to Ivor
You organise a kite festival. Once a year for a day a caravan of kite flyers stops in your town; you get them into a nice hotel, feed them, you prepare the kite ground, arrange for artists to spice up the opening ceremony, invite politicians and other VIPs, you give the school kids a day off so they can be there – and then the wind forgets about it and is nowhere to be found.
That’s exactly what happened this year to the IKF organisers in Rajkot.
But while it may seem that such a wind disaster spells disaster, kiters know that the wind is – well, optional, and do come prepared. Apart from general goofiness, crazy antics, soap bubbles and such, we know how to make wind … we just need to break the sacred rule of kite flying:
kiters never run with kites.
Except when we have to. For hundreds of school kids that line the kite ground eager to see the aerial show, you break the sacred rule – and run.
Not every kite is suitable for this barbaric way of getting it in the air; in general, a smaller framed kite will go up sooner than a huge inflatable. But who wants to wait in the scorching sun to see some small deltas wiggling a couple of meters above ground? So you take your biggest kite monster, you lay a long line, two kiters pick up the kite so the airflow can enter the structure and lift it, while the third lucky kiter takes the end of the line and starts running as fast as one can. If everything is done right, the kite will fill with air and rise majestically. Maybe even the wind is hiding upstairs, say 20 or 30 meters above ground, and it will take the flying duties from the runner!
We took our trilobite, Ivor ‘volunteered’, we set everything, Ivor tensioned the line, we gave the command – “Ruuuuuuuun!” – and the trilobite went up, somewhat majestically … and dropped to the ground in a heap of inglorious fabric.
“Wooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” roared the schoolgirls behind the fence.
Again! Set, pull, run!
“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaa!” went the screaming groupies.
“Ooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” thundered at Ivor the rockstar.
It was getting hot, and soon we had had enough – but Ivor got a taste of fame and just wouldn’t let it go. Getting an inflatable to fly by oneself in zero wind conditions is next to impossible, but impossible is nothing to a rock star. He ran and ran, the trilobite was doing its best, the whole show was a bit bizarre – but the school kids were unstoppable: “Wooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Yeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaa! Ooooouuuuoooooooo!” echoed across the kite ground, again and again and again …
Until Ivor could no more …
The old adage that wind is not necessary for a successful kite festival, and friends are, proved itself yet again. People of Rajkot were quite unfazed by the lack of wind, and were more than happy to take selfies with us. A lot of selfies …
But wait! Is that a kite in the air?
In the early afternoon the wind woke up and started to mess around. It was that awful type of high altitude breeze mixed with thermals (there were nothing but turbulences for the first 50 m), but we greeted it with enthusiasm on par with that of the school kids before. Lets flyyyyyyy!
Our kite club is named KAP Jasa. While the “Jasa” part just shows the lack of imagination on our part, “KAP” stands for our core business so to say: kite aerial photography.
Kite aerial photography – using kites to lift the camera high into the sky – is one of the oldest means to do aerial photography, the second just behind the hot air balloon photography. First done by monsieur Arthur Batut in 1889 (and others almost concurrently; the question of who was the first KAPer still rages), KAP evolved and grew up to the First World War; they were using kites for photography, surveillance, meteorological observation and whatnot – until the fixed wing aircraft took over. KAP drifted into obsolescence, and the advent of cheap drones relegated it further into obscurity. Only a handful of enthusiasts still practise this slightly bizarre, yet immensely fun hobby.
To be fair, KAP still has many advantages over drones and other means of aerial photography. A kite can easily lift a couple of kilos of equipment, it has no batteries to drain, is very ecological, and compared to ever stricter drone flying regulations kites are almost free to fly anywhere.
As the wind grew stronger, we looked at each other and said – are we KAPers or not? Let’s do it!
In order to fly a camera on a kite one needs to attach it somehow. And there is no way to put the camera directly on a kite, as it would mess with the stability and general flight characteristics. To circumvent this a special system called a picavet – pulleys and strings that hold a small platform on which the camera is mounted – is fixed to a kite line some 30 meters below the kite. The picavet enables the camera to stay horizontal, pointing in the same direction, and lets the kite fly as unbothered as possible.
The whole procedure is rather simple: let the kite fly into the stable wind, attach the picavet with the camera, set the camera to shoot every 20 seconds or so, and let it go as high as you dare.
When you feel that’s enough photos (no point in having 200 of them showing pretty much the same scene), you pull the kite down, remove the camera, and eagerly check what did you get!
We got this:
And this …
Rajkot in all its Gujarati glory, as seen from a kite flying higher than any other kite! (You can see how we overflew them – check the photos.)
The turbulent wind in the lower layers did mess with the kites. Gregor got his delta entangled with an indian flowform, I got the pirate dog in an embrace with a trilobite – but the greatest googlie mooglie happened to the Indonesian team. Just look at this quantum entanglement:
It took some time and a lot of patience to untangle all the ropes and lines – and then it was back to our crazy red bus, Manoj stepped on it – go Snake Plissken! – and we went on to the most beautiful, and unfortunately the most cold place in all of Gujarat.
As the crazy red bus rolled along the highway – Morbi, Malia, Shikarpur, Bhuj – a huge mass of extremely cold polar air dropped down across the Himalayas and north India went from 30 – 35 degrees to 10 – 15. It was one below zero in Delhi! And we were going to a desert that is famous for its huge temperature difference; cold at night, hot during the day.
As expected we arrived at our destination after midnight. Dhordo tourist village is spectacular even at night, but our accommodations for the night were … a bit unexpected:
It was a part of a huge complex of tents called Rann Utsav Tent City … the tents are luxurious, sure – they have bathrooms and TVs and ACs and whatnot – but heating was not really on minds of its designers. It’s a freaking desert, innit? Who’d need a stove?
We needed it.
We had our Thums Up alright, but unfortunately were out of [redacted] – so it was a cold and shaky night.
But the next day, as the sun rose above the glimmering desert, all was forgotten.
Next time: a white expanse of salt, a mirror made of mud, a lunch on the kite ground that was beyond amazing, a family of trilobites; we break every rule of healthy travel, we try to do KAP again, Manoj drives us back to Ahmedabad, and a sacred village well gets desecrated. Stay tuned!