I have just gotten back from an amazing two week trip to Dune du Pila! It is a truly amazing place to go for low-hours pilots who want to up their experience and confidence with their wings.
We left the Hague bright and early, although not quite early enough to catch the train. So we quickly decided to grab an Uber to the train station! Our train left from Rotterdam Centraal, switched in Disneyland Paris before heading on to Bordeaux. It was a very pleasant and relaxing trip all the way down.
When we reached Bordeaux the trains down to Archachon had all been cancelled for several hours. We thought a large lunch and some time would fix our problems for us so we set off to the nearest restaurant that looked like it could scrape together some un-creamed vegetables. With full bellies we returned to the station, hopped on the train, then proceeded to not move for the better part of two hours! A fully loaded (in fact, marginally more than fully loaded. Think more standing-room only, with that too in short supply) train, marginal at best air-con and going on 10 hours of travel. It was not the best combination.
The last leg of the journey was still an unsolved problem when we set off that morning. We knew where the campsite was, about a 40 minute cycle from the trainstation. We also knew that neither of us wanted to walk that distance. Keeping this part brief, It was the first bus-route that I have come across that didn’t exist in Google Maps (within northern Europe).
We finally arrived at Pyla Camping tired, hungry and ready for an early night. We grabbed a bite to eat, dropped our stuff off at our new home for the next two weeks then went straight up to the dune for a sundowner and assess what we had gotten ourselves into for the next two weeks.
The Accommodation (and the sand)
We stayed in one of a few campsites called Pyla Camping. It was a pretty decent, if fairly basic campsite with a single, sometimes open, supermarket to-hand. Super being a bit of a stretch. We opted for a bungalow option for our stay as we weren’t very excited about the prospect of carrying tons of gear down to live in (Tents, cooking equipment, sleeping bags, mattresses). It was a pretty simple affair, two tiny bedrooms with mdf walls and a construction which looked like it would take 4 hours to piece together like a large puzzle but it served its purpose and did so admirably. It even went as far as to be fitted with electricity and a gas oven! It was fitted with most of the mod. cons.
The next two weeks consisted of lots of sleep whenever the wind wasn’t good, and trying to bring as much of the dune as we could back into the bungalow. All in all we had a fairly respectable dune of our own by the end of the trip.
The Food (Being Vegan)
I’m going to start this off by saying I am definitely 50-100% at fault for the diet that I sustained during this trip.
Listed is a comprehensive list of all the many and varied meals I so carefully planned:
- Jam sandwiches
- Vegetarian Pizza
- Pasta & Tomato Sauce
Only in France can you fully appreciate French cuisine, and we made a concerted effort to fully delight our taste-buds with the refined flavours that are so well known to the French.
There were definitely options down there! I saw lentils, soups, several different canned beans and a pithy selection of vegetables. Next time I plan to go with a healthy selection of spices and stew up some large curries with planned multi-day meals!
Alright, so you’ve trawled through the journey, the accommodation and been shocked by my diet, now let’s see why I put myself through this.
This is me ground-handling a 1986 glider on the dune! It was such an awesome experience to be able to fly one of these! And quite a thing to think about how much gliders have changed in the last 25 years. It is definitely way easier to ground-handle and launch, but I did a few 3-5 second flights and it didn’t feel like the most safe wing. It felt more like a parachute than anything else.
The flying was really nice and easy, a lovely ridge with decent space and a nice wide lift-band. On the high-wind days it was tons of fun to mess about on the dune, swooping down on the ridge, dolphins, 360s. It was such a great experience for really playing around and getting familiar with flying. I flew so much that I was getting phantom surges of lift when I was lying in bed, an interesting experience that just makes you want to fly even more!
There was a ton of flying, loads of ground-handling and just generally a lot of fun! I really think it’s a great place to go with a wing and just mess about, learn more about flying on an intuitive level all with the increased safety of doing it over sand!