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Restoring a vintage German sawmill
Restoring a vintage German sawmill
For some perverse reason, at this time of the year there are few compelling kite events in warm and sunny parts of the world. So I've been stuck here for the most miserable months of our winter- with only a brief break flying Toothless through London's Tower Bridge in July.

But a few months of not having to drag kite bags through airports and across kite fields has given my damaged (buggy crash) right shoulder time to heal - it's nearly 100% now.

And I've been diverting myself by reading Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" which I'd unaccountably missed somewhere between Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov.

And I'm restoring a vintage German sawmill that previously belonged to the Hoberg family from Nordleda (near Cuxhaven) in lower Saxony. The connection is via Volker Hoberg, a member of the notorious "No Limits" kite team. The saw is a Wehrhahn Brothers "Roland" reciprocating horizontal saw frame- which weighs around 4 tonnes .

Originally steam powered (now diesel but with guest appearances by visiting Bulldog tractors and steam traction engines), it was made in Delmenhorst (near Bremen) probably in the early 20th century.

The almost complete absence of brass in its construction suggests to me a date after WW1- during which the protagonists used up all the brass there was for shell casings.

It sure must be surprised to find itself on the other side of the world at this stage in its life.

Target date for re-commissioning is December (if I don't go to too many kite events between now and then).

New Toy New Kite
New Toy New Kite
And of course I've now had to acquire a largish 4wd tractor, with front end loader, for lifting logs - which has also led to many fun days moving heaps of dirt around- improving access and clearing more area for kite flying. Elwyn, in some mix of the pejorative and affectionate tells visitors, "he's down the back playing in his sandpit".

Just visible in the far background is Simon's latest new kite - and what is it? My lips are sealed.

But Craig Hansen and Gavin Mulvay have found a much better winter diversion.

They've gone kite buggying in Mongolia.

"Interesting" place Mongolia, bleak treeless windswept grasslands, inconveniently located between Russia and China, and birth place, around 1162, of Temujin - later called Chinggis (Ghengis). Temujin is the most successful warlord the world has yet known. Son of a tribal chief, he was cast out at the age of 9 when his father died, but somehow survived. By 1206 he had substantially united all the warring steppe tribes and set out to conquer the known world.

In this, he and his successors succeeded to an extent that has not since been matched.

Their basic tactic was the blitzkrieg - but their armour was leather and plate, their weapon the horn bow and their mobility the wiry steppe pony. They moved so far and so fast and in such atrocious conditions that those they attacked rarely had time to prepare defences before they were surrounded and defeated. In 1237 the residents of Moscow went to bed one evening unaware of imminent threat and secure in the knowledge that the severe winter precluded any attacks until spring.

By morning they were conquered- and mostly dead.

Subsequent attempts by Napoleon and Hitler to take Moscow famously failed, and the first rule of war then become, "Don't March on Moscow".

Afghanistan has defeated everyone since- but it didn't slow the Mongols- and there is a significant residual Mongolian genetic stock there to this day.

They were ruthless to a degree that makes Islamic warriors of the Syrian/Iraqian caliphate seem beneficent, but most of all they were masters of strategy and tactics. Masters of war, their battlefield organisation was flexible and resilient with clear signalling and contingency planning that has probably not yet been surpassed.

Temujin died in 1227 but by 1242 his successors had taken half of China (they had it all by 1279), and were in Hungary eying up Austria, Germany and France (having already defeated the best that Europe could put against them). News then arrived of the death of the Great Khan, (Temujin's son/successor Ogadai) and they left for home to choose his successor - delaying only to put captives to the sword.

Which is one of those great "what ifs" of history - but not really, because the Mongols were always going to be a transient phenomenon. They were 'takers' not 'makers', as soon as they ran out of wealth to plunder their empire collapsed. Like Rome, and the Ottomans, and Spain and even the Brits to some extent.

Actually the modern inheritor of the Mongol's approach is the political left, the only way they get money and power is by taking it off someone. Like the Mongols they don't have practical ideas for generating wealth- nor any inclination for the work that this entails. But if the left is ever again ascendant- in contemptuous disregard of the 100 million already slaughtered by Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot in pursuit of this failed ideology (Temujin only did for 10 million at the most) - then it will again be transient. The left always runs out of makers to plunder, then turns to repression and violence.

Which is apposite because there's an election about to happen here in NZ and it's not looking hopeful- the 'takers' are close to having an electoral majority - aagh, barbarians at the gates!

But I digress!
I doubt that Craig and Gavin have any intention or inclination to conquer and plunder half the known world. But they are intending to move fast.

Temujin's warriors could manage 80km/day with just 3 horses per, while Craig and Gavin are, rather cheekily, aiming for more than 90 km/day - 2800km in just 30 days- unsupported.

But they do have a secret weapon.

Which is latest generation single skin traction kites.

Michel Dekker ('foil kite designer for the Peter Lynn brand at Vlieger Op) has kindly shared the plans for his latest single skin kites with us here in NZ- and with sewing support, in particular from Perrin Melchior in Auckland, a range of sizes were ready - but untested - just in time for Craig and Gavin to take. Generally, "last minuting" like this is a recipe for failure, but single skin kites are so broadly functional and so forgiving that maybe this time it has not put the expedition at risk.

And these kites are fantastic - unbelievable even- especially the most recent simplified 'Trainer' model. They have all the standard single skin virtues.

Weigh almost nothing, are unburstable, unluffable, and ridiculously easy to fly, turn on their tips, and have more pull for size while requiring less wind than any other type of traction kite.

And, this is new, they also seem to be as good upwind as some specialist buggy foils.

Too good to be true?

Mongolia will be a perfect test for them in real world conditions.

Watch this space.

And follow Craig and Gavin at:

Peter Lynn, 1st September 2014.

Playing in my sandpit here in Ashburton, New Zealand.

Peter Lynn Kites Ltd
105 Alford Forest Rd
Ashburton 8300
Ph: +64 (0) 3 308 4538
Fax: + 64 (0)3 308 1905

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