Saturday, August 21, 2010

First "Real" Flight in Monte Grappa

Friday, August 20th

I awoke to blue skies but it didn’t take long for the haze to set in. Nonetheless, after a nice breakfast I walked to the landing zone and saw that they shuttle was about to head up the mountain. I sat in the very back, with the wings with a German guy named Iains (not sure if I have the spelling right). We chatted on the ride up and everyone got out at the launch area that I had used the night before with Paolo and Mauricio. There were a lot of pilots there and with only two, maybe three, able to set up at any given time, it was going to take a while. A couple of Swedish pilots and Iains decided to head to a lower launch, about 150 meters lower and I decided to join them. It was just the four of us at this spot and it was a nicer grassy slope instead of the steep astro-turf one.

I was the last to takeoff and it was fairly easy to find some thermals to the right of launch, over the switchback road. I followed Andres, one of the Swedish guys, to another ridge to the west as I saw that he barely lost any height getting there. It was just the two of us most of the time over there although the odd pilot came over to join us. We both got up to cloud base at different times and I tried to follow the ridge back to the north but sank down and had to reclimb the invisible ladder in the sky. I spent almost an hour over this area that was dotted with houses, trees and a few big antennas. Eventually I headed back to the launch hill (or is it a mountain, not sure what the technicalities are). There were at least 15 other pilots in the air circling around. I hoped to bench up above both launches to try and head east. I failed on my first attempt but did eventually make it. There was probably only 100 meters between the top of the ridge and the clouds and as I completed the semi-circle I found myself entering more clouds than I wanted but I simply flew away from the ridge and all was good. I then headed over the flatlands to a big waterpark, just to check it out from above and then headed towards the LZ. I decided that I wasn’t quite done with the flight, now 2 hours into it, and worked the switchback road ridge back up. Some large, nasty looking cumulonimbus type clouds started to head our way and many pilots, including myself, headed out to land. There started to be lift everywhere, and in this case, you don’t want this lift. I decided to do some spirals down even though the situation wasn’t desperate...yet. I landed and met up with the two Swedish guys, who had both had two flights in the time that I had my one so I was pretty pleased with my flight.

Checking out the launch from above:

Looking down the range:

Groovin' in flight:

Looking north down a valley:

Some kind of waterpark:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Arriving at Monte Grappa, Italy

Thursday, August 19th

Yesterday the weather in Greifenburg wasn’t terribly great, really low clouds, occasional rain and just generally not good paragliding weather. It didn’t prevent some people from flying but they were all just sled runs. I decided to have an “administrative day” which started off with walking into town, going to the post office and grocery store and getting my haircut. I walked back to the campsite and contemplated hiking up to the lower, student launch for some exercise and a short flight but then Ines told me that you have to go all the way back into town before you can start going up the switchbacks...hmm, I could do it, or I should do the responsible thing and tackle some desperately needed laundry. I hand wash most of my clothes (yes, on a regular basis) but it’s pretty difficult to properly wash a sleeping bag , comforter cover and towels in a sink. The campsite only had two washing machines and one dryer so the ordeal took me about 3 hours to complete but I’m sleeping on fresh linen again! So sadly, hanging out in probably the paragliding capital of Austria, I did domestics all wasn’t my choice though, Mother Nature made me!

The morning of the 19th didn’t look much better so I decided it was time to get out of Dodge. I spoke to Ines about some of the options in the Dolomites and she thought that some of the places I wanted to hit were too active at this time of the year, they were better to visit in October. Perusing a map, she suddenly said, “Mount Grappa, you should go there, it’s beautiful!” How could I not take that kind of recommendation? I hopped in Betty, tried to start her and the battery sounded a bit low to properly crank her over. I looked at my window and saw Ines giggling as she had seen me in the same predicament just two days prior in the campsite near Sillian. I begrudgingly popped the hood, pulled out my can of magic spray and shot some into the air intake and got Betty to fire up. Ines laughed even more as I waved and pulled least Betty does provided some entertainment.

I backtracked my way through Lienz and back by the Dolomites where on the roads I had driven to arrive in Austria but then trusted Miss SatNav to take me to Bassano del Grappa, a city near my destination. The air was hazy so I didn’t get the best view of some of the mountains but it was still a nice drive, although I did notice that I was entering more and more urban areas. I realized that the GPS was taking me a slightly different way than I had expected from consulting my map and thought I’d have to head into Bassano and head slightly north (back towards Austria) to get to my destination. However, I suddenly saw one...two...three... no eight paragliders in the sky. Must check this out... I drove closer along the main road to where I saw a wing setting up for his landing and then saw not just a sign for a paragliding landing zone, but a campsite too! I found the LZ and approached a couple of guys packing up their wings and asked whether they spoke English. The one guy didn’t and the other said just a little bit but he actually wasn’t bad at all. Paolo lived nearby and is a member of the local club as is his friend Mauricio. Paolo offered to take me up to the launch as they had to retrieve his vehicle with Mauricio’s...sweet score. It was close to 5pm so I didn’t expect much more than a sled ride but that is often the best way to have your first flight in a new place, so you can suss out the launch and landing.

Paolo was such a nice guy that he insisted he take the uncomfortable spot in the back of Mauricio’s small SUV. We chatted a bit on the ride up the mountain that was a lovely paved road but had 16 switchbacks to get up to launch. The parking lot was a 100 meters past the actual launch and as I walked, with my wing on my back, the other two accompanied me to make sure I got off alright and/or give me a briefing...very nice of them! Paolo then said “We would fly too, but we have to drive our vehicles down.” Well dude, c’mon, I can bring you back up in Betty so we can all fly. It took a little bit of convincing and Paolo must have asked me four or five times that I will for sure bring them back up and I ensured him I would.

Paolo in the back of the car:

The launch had green Astroturf nailed in on a steep slope, so steep that it was very easy for your wing to slide down as you set up to launch. I was the first one off, forward launching but the other two were right after me as there weren’t many cycles coming up and you didn’t want to get stuck there once the wind turned catabatic (when the wind starts to flow down the mountain which usually happens near the end of the day). We did just have a slightly extended sleddie but it was a fun little flight and I thanked the guys profusely for making it happen. I felt a little bad, but it was only after we had packed up our wings and we were walking across the field to Betty that I told Paolo about her starting issues. I figured I had water to cool the fuel pump, option 2: two guys to help me push start her, and option 3: the magic starter spray. He did giggle and relayed the info to Mauricio in Italian. They might have wondered what they got themselves into... But Betty did start and we slowly chugged our way up the mountain. Great guys, and a nice way to end a day of driving.

Mauricio on launch:

Set up on launch:

Me with the two other new friends in the background:

Mauricio in flight:

The view of valley below:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Groovin' in Greifenburg

Tuesday, August 17th

I woke up to fairly cloudy skies, not terribly promising but I’d decided that I’d head to Greifenburg . I figured it was not much more than an hour’s drive so I should check it out as my paragliding friends Annelies and Reto suggested I go there. I did the same crawl through Lienz (it must be like that at any time of the day) and then cruised some lovely countryside with big treed hills on the north side of the valley and dynamic rocky Dolomites to the south. I love the biking infrastructure that Austria has...awesome paved cycling paths that seem to go everywhere and I’ve seen a number of trains with passenger cars and some cars specifically for loading your bike into...sweet.

The beautiful Dolomites...if you can believe it, I took this one going 80 km/hr down the highway!

I passed through the little sleepy village of Greifenburg. Ines had given me instructions not to stop at the first campsite I saw but the one just on the other side of town. There were many paragliders in the air and it was easy to find the place. The campsite office was closed for lunch so I decided to hop in one of the taxis that were heading up the hill. It cost only 6 Euro to go up and these vans departed on a regular basis, whenever they had enough pilots to deem it cost effective for them. One has to also pay for a day use ticket (4.50 Euro) for flying, which isn’t bad considering the infrastructure which includes a cafe at one of the launches that even has spiffy toilets! (I’m used to porta-potties or nothing at all)

The taxi driver took us to the upper, upper launch which is on a ski hill. There were tons of wings laid out in two or three areas but no one seemed to be launching. Then a guy announced on a bullhorn that the starting gate was opening in two minutes...ahhh, a cross country competition of some sort. When the bell went, only one guy quickly took off but within ten minutes there were many wings in the air, creating a merry-go-round in the sky. Once they cleared out a bit, I wandered up to a small launch area that was hardly being used. After a few botched launch attempts in minimal wind which was a bit cross, I finally forward launched off and boated around for a while. The views were gorgeous but my heart, or more likely my stomach, weren’t that into the flight (I hadn’t had any lunch yet and a small breakfast). After about 40 minutes I was at the landing zone starting to set up to land. With so many fliers, they have a system where you circle around in a clockwise fashion before heading on your downwind leg, base leg and then your final approach. I couldn’t help but feel like a commercial jet coming in to land at a busy airport! Great introductory flight to Greifenburg...and my first flight ever in Austria!

After getting a camping spot and eating some lunch, I hopped back into a taxi for another flight. By the time I was up on launch, ready to go, it was close to 5pm and the skies were completely overcast and there was no lift at all. I had a nice 10 minute sled ride down, performed a few wingovers and a deep spiral by the LZ and then landed. Not a bad day at all!

The view from launch:

Competitors taking off:

The merry-go-round in the sky:

Looking down the valley while in flight:

Another paraglider in flight:

The village of Greifenburg:

The campsite:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I've got gas...

Monday, August 16th

It’s been almost a month since I’ve had, not that kind...camping gas - for cooking in Betty and also running the fridge when I’m stationary and have no electricity. If you’ve been reading my blog (which I’d be impressed if you have as I do go on at times...I’d just be looking at the nice pictures), you’ll know that it was a fateful day in Montenegro I believe (see, I don’t even read it!), where I mentioned to Garth and Holly how long my one take of butane gas had been lasting me, for a month and a half, since I left England...and then the next day or so, it ran out! All through the Balkans we searched in vain for the same type of tank, or even someone who would refill mine and eventually we gave up. Even in Slovenia, the only part of former Yugoslavia to be a member of the European Union, their propane industry was still faithful to the old Communist ways. Well today, that was going to change. I asked the campground guy where I might go and he said to Lienz, a city about a half an hour away with a place specifically called “Camping Gaz”. How could I go wrong? Well I didn’t. Lienz is a beautiful city in a valley (like pretty much all of the cities in Austria I think) but it seems as they only have one road going through town as it did take the better part of 15 minutes to go about 3 kms. I pulled into the Camping Gaz place and thought I`d gamble with stopping Betty. I turned the key, pulled it out, and she kept purring (as best as she can purr). Okay Betty, you don`t start when I want you to start, and sometimes you won`t stop when I want you to stop...I just can`t win! I locked her up and just let her idle, sans key. I showed the guy the blue tank that I was trying to replace and lo and behold, he had one! Super! I`ve been almost a month without butane and finally...I`ve got gas!

I crawled back through Lienz, although in this direction the traffic was a bit faster. I stopped for some supplies at a grocery store to fill up my hopefully now functioning fridge and headed back towards the town of Sillian where I was camping. I had a local map of hiking trails of the area and hoped to go for a walkabout but the clouds were looking a bit menacing and in fact I drove through some rain on the way back. I decided to head towards a town called Obertilliach where I saw some marking for paragliding launches. I didn`t expect to fly but thought I`d check it out. The turnoff was right by my campsite and it began with a few switchbacks climbing out of the valley. As I plateaued, I couldn`t help but think “Wow, a lot of Austria looks the same...with mountains on both sides, a grassy sloping plains lined with small huts, the odd little town with a small church steeple and stereotypical mountain lodge houses with their colourful baskets of flowers hanging off of their upper balconies.” This place looked a lot like the drive I took on my way to Kosovo to meet up with Garth and Holly where there were people cross country skiing on wheels up the ascending road. Wow, real déjà vu here...well, turns out it WAS the same road that I had driven on my way to the Balkans! I was using a different map from that time a month ago and just hadn’t clued in that I was in the same area!

The city of Lienz:

I arrived in the cute town of Obertilliach and eventually found the parking lot for the chairlift. I paid my 8 Euros to head up and only had a little more than an hour to go up, hike around and catch the lift back down before they closed for the day. Half way up the chairlift, I saw a few paragliders fly by, in a slight bit of rain. I briefly kicked myself for not bringing my wing up but then reassured myself that I didn’t want a wet wing with nowhere to dry it.

Up top, it was above the tree line with some fantastic views. I hiked towards one of the paragliding launches as another wing flew over me. The rain had subsided so now I was kicking myself for not bringing my paraglider with me...oh well. I high tailed it up to a summit, soaked in the views for a couple of minutes before having to descend to catch the chairlift, with about five minutes to spare. The ride down was nice, aided by the cold beer I had brought up with me.

Looking down from the chairlift:

Gorgeous mountainside:

Envious of a PGer:

Looking down from the peak:

Clouds in the valley:

I crush Betty (you "Kids in the Hall" viewers will know what I'm talking about):

Back down, I wandered around the town for a bit. I was surprised by the number of houses that had an upper level, covered walkway that traversed to another building, equal in size to their lodging that was in fact their barn...right in town. Urban farming I guess.

The urban farm - an overhead walkway from the house to the barn:

The local church in Obertilliach:

A beautiful Austrian house:

I returned to the campsite and a nice VW California campervan pulled up in the spot next to me (yes, I had van envy). The driver was a Swiss woman, Ines, who was a paraglider pilot too. I spoke to her briefly about the conditions and the local sites. She also hadn’t flown today...but hopefully the weather will change for tomorrow...

Heading to the Dolomites

Sunday, August 15th

Today was the starting of the Dutch National Paragliding Competition, which due to their lack of mountains, they have to hold elsewhere and this year it’s in Kobarid. I awoke to rain...good start for their competition. I checked the forecasts and it was going to be a few more days before any chance of something good here. I had hoped to go to a place called Greifenburg in Austria (on recommendation from my paragliding friend Annelies and Reto in Victoria) but the weather was looking as bad if not worse there (it’s north from Kobarid and the system’s heading that way). So I decided it was time to head towards the Dolomites in Italy. After getting Betty and myself ready for the day, I did a bit of research on the web and then head off...well, eventually headed off. Betty wouldn’t get going at first and I thought I’d run her battery down just a bit too much recharging things in the cigarette lighter. It took 3-4 tries and I think I just scared her with the jumper cables as I got them out, but then she started. Ah Betty, you always keep me on my toes...

I cruised by Teja’s Bar to say thanks and good-bye to Mateka. I started on the road and picked up a young woman, Maia, hitchhiking. She was heading to Bovec, a town just in the next valley that I had driven past with Garth and Holly when we went to Lake Bled. She was fun to talk to and full of life, heading to Italy next year for some more university. I continued on into Italy and drove on some pretty narrow roads through the mountains. It was quite a pretty drive and got better as I approached the Dolomites. There were some very quaint, and busy (with tourists) towns. I was heading to a town called Sesto which is by the mountains called Tri Cime de Lavaredo (the three sisters) which was recommended to me by a Dutch pilot I was speaking to in the morning. Now in Italy, Miss SatNav is back to being helpful and I asked her to point me to a campground. The first one was unbelievable big and overcrowded. There must have been 3 feet between each camper and a few hundred of them...yikes. I pressed on to the next one, which just happened to be in Austria. It turned out to be pretty decent so I stopped there for the night. Gotta love Europe, you expect to stay in one country and half an hour later you end up in another.

The lovely and friendly Teja:

Cruising along an Italian road:

Random waterfall by the highway:

The Dolomite mountains in Italy:

Gotta love these Dolomites:

Betty hanging by the Dolomites:

Great views:

A Surprising Sledder

Saturday, August 14th

I first woke up, looked outside and it didn’t look pretty. Not raining but lots of dark clouds. I figured I might as well sleep in a bit and perhaps I would leave town and head into Italy. I woke again at 9:20, looked out, blue sky! Well some at least. Okay, got half an hour to get ready and see if the Parataxi comes by. Sure enough he did, albeit a bit late. The vans they use have three rows of seats and technically should only seat 9, 3 in each row. Well, being a capital driven company, of course they put 4 in each of the back two rows and 2 plus the driver in the front, so 10 paying customers. Garth and I learned early on that during the morning stop at Teja’s, it’s wise to position oneself close to the door to hop in and get the best seats. The front is good, or the first person in the back two rows gets a window but the last person for those rows usually has half their butt half hanging off the seat...not comfy for an hour ride, half of which is on dirt road switchbacks. Well today, finally the cops decided to crack down on all of the paragliding vans. We were pulled over and Wolfgang was given a lecture, a ticket and one PGer had to get out and stay behind (not sure how the policeman does his math but technically 2 pilots should have gotten out). Wolfgang was told that every person has to have a seatbelt, not that I ever saw a seatbelt in the back rows, nor did the cop check). I wonder if Wolfgang and the other van operators will now change their operating does equate to a comfier ride for the pilots!

Once again I decided to wait up on launch, hoping for better conditions but as luck would have it, they actually slightly deteriorated. I took off and hoped to glide to Kobarid. It was looking promising for the first half of the flight, having only lost 200 meters in 5km glide but then I hit massive sink coming around a corner and soon realized that I wasn’t going to make it. I decided that I’d press on as a few other wings had where I should have turned back to land in the official alternate landing zone. I watched as a couple of wings landed in a field that had already had its hay cut...what harm can there be in that. I landed, packed up, and although the other pilots there were happy to just hang out, I figured it was only a couple of kilometres to town. I got half way there when a car slowed down to give me a ride and one of the pilots that I was talking to up on launch was in it so I hopped in. The driver gave us a lift right to Teja’s...perfect. It wasn’t a great flight, but a flight’s a flight.

Woken up by Thunderstorms

Friday, August 13th

I didn’t even clue in until I started to type this entry (a few days later) that it was Friday the 13th...not that I’m the superstitious type. Today was an off day (off from paragliding) as I was woken up at 5:30am by some nasty loud thunder. I can’t recall the last time that I was woken up by thunder. Well the rest of the day it rained, and rained and rained. So I slept in a bit, read my book, had a late breakfast, early lunch and eventually decided to head into town to check out the local museum which Holly had visited when she was here. It was mostly dedicated to the WWI battles fought here and they certainly had an amazing collection of photographs. I couldn’t imagine what those soldiers went through. It was super cool to see the pictures of them up on Krn, having just flown over it two days prior.

After the museum I had a beer at Teja’s and then headed back to camp. A number of campers had left but those who remained filled the covered areas in the restaurant, eating, drinking or using the WiFi (as I was). I actually didn’t mind having this non-flying recharges the batteries.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Flying to Italy

Thursday, August 12th

It wasn’t looking terribly promising up on launch when we first arrived, and just as bad an hour later. I expected just a sled ride (where you just go from top to bottom with no lift) and hoped that I would at least make it to Kobarid which is about 10km away so you actually do need some lift as I get about a 7:1 ratio with my paraglider (which means with no lift, for every meter I go down, I should go 7 meters forward...that’s with no wind too). Well, as is with this sport, and life in general, what you expect is not always what you get. I ended up flying for over 2 hours!

Initially there were a number of wings to the west of launch, over the grassy ridge that has some kind of tower on the top of it. I decided to follow this Japanese woman that I knew from previous days was a decent pilot. I eventually hooked a good thermal and was close to the cloud base which was only a couple hundred meters above the ridge. Ten minutes later I was sharing another thermal with 8 other winged friends...three of the human kind and the other five eagles! I was kicking myself for not putting my HD helmet camera on my helmet as I had assumed it would just be a short boring flight.

I decided to head further west than I have since I’ve been flying here. Technically I flew about 5 kilometers into Italy. You can continue further to Gemona but I did have the kahunas to do it today although I saw some other pilots do it. The skies were mostly overcast so there was no promise of big thermals. One had to trust that you could ridge soar for about 10 kilometers along some terrain that only appeared to have forests below, and no landing options. Hats off to those pilots who did it. When I decided to turn back, I watched a blue wing who was 2-300 meters lower than me, below the ridge, just putter along and eventually he popped above the ridge 5 kilometers down the All in all though, I was very pleased with the flight.

The ridge heading towards Gemona, Italy:

Near some clouds:

Happy in flight:

Looking towards Krn, the tallest mountain in the neighborhood and the one I flew over yesterday:

A few paragliders returning from Gemona:

Trees look like broccoli once you get high enough up:

Grooving to Santana:

The Big Payoff!

Wednesday, August 11th

Finally, the big payoff! Today’s weather was perfect for flying...a higher cloudbase, next to no wind and lots of thermals. I flew for over 3 hours and only came down to land because I had to pee! I heard of a few people flying six hours and one over seven. How did they do it? Bladders of camels? No... one woman wore an adult diaper and the guys use some sort of condom hooked to some surgical tubing that runs down the inside of their pant leg and simply cause their own little local rain shower. I can’t say that I’ve had the feeling that I needed to go to this length and I always think of a story that a fellow PG pilot from Victoria told me (he shall remain nameless). He was at a cross country competition and was all “hooked up” but while waiting an hour or two for the launch window for their task of the day to open, he got sick of the end of the tube dragging around in the dirt so he just tucked it into his boot. Well, three hours later into his flight, nature called, he responded, and then felt the lovely sensation of warm wetness inside his boot!

Back to this day. Two things I’ve been wanting to do in this area were to fly to Tolmin (about 10 kilometers east, 20 km from the launch) and back, and get above the hut on the biggest peak around called Krn (“cur-en”)...and I checked both of them off my list with this flight. The views were stunning as I gained about 950 meters above where I launched which was about 2 kilometers above where I landed next to Teja’s Bar! I had a view of Mt. Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia, which supposedly to become a “true Slovenian”, all the locals are supposed to summit it. I also saw many caves from the World War I conflict fought here by the Italians against the Austro-Hungarians. I can’t believe they went to such heights (2300 meters above sea level) to try and kill each other!

The main Stol ridge:

Cruising along the high ridges (where they fought in WWI):

A lonely paraglider with Triglav and other mountains in the background:

A beautiful little cirque:

Triglav and me (sounds like a movie title doesn't it?), it's tough to see but it's under the big cloud:

Arriving at Tolmin:

The ridge where the sheep got zapped:

Hanging out over a small town:

The Kobarid Ossuary where many Italian soldiers' bones ended up:

There were tons of smiles back at Teja’s Bar. Everyone had fantastic flights and I heard that one guy flew 100+ kilometres (the seven hour guy). Why can’t everyday be like this?!?

Ground Hog Days in Kobarid

Sunday-Tuesday, August 8-10th

Back to groundhog days... The daily routine was wake up before nine, get ready and meet the Parataxi at 9:50, up the mountain by 11, parawait, paraglide, have a beer or two at Teja Bar (pronounced “tay-ya”), cook some dinner back at camp, do a little blogging and/or emailing and go to bed. Can’t complain with the routine.

On Sunday morning I was ready at the usual time for the Parataxi. The other driver for Wolfgang should up first and said it would be tight as to whether they would have spot for me. As we waited for Wolfgang, he pointed out a helicopter that was high up on one of the nearby mountain ridges. He told me that a few days earlier when they had a bad thunderstorm that a lightning strike made instant roasted mutton out of 100 or so sheep! Imagine seeing that happen...and the lovely smell ;) So they were in the process of removing the carcasses...expensive way to do it!

Up on launch, I took off early, concerned that it was going to overdevelop early as the clouds were gathering around the vicinity. I was the first one working my way along the 7-8 kilometer ridge of the Stol which made me wonder what the others knew that I didn’ seemed to be working okay, what were they waiting for? A few wings caught up to me and I then crossed to this knoll that can be a hopping point for heading further east to the town of Tolmin, another 10 km away. It wasn’t working for me, and others today and I scratched long enough (no I didn’t have an itch, it’s a flying term for staying as long possible on a ridge hoping, praying to find some lift) that I didn’t make the regular landing zone by Teja Bar. I landed in a field where I saw another PGer land and noticed a gravel parking lot with lots of vehicles for white water rafters so I figured it must be somewhat friendly to extreme sports. I was actually probably equidistant from the regular LZ back to the campground, just on the other side of the river. I returned to camp and then decided to hike up to some nearby waterfalls call Slap Kocjak that Garth and Holly recommended. They were quite lovely although they were tucked around a corner that you could reach on a wooden platform but due to the mist, there was nowhere to sit and really soak them in...without getting literally soaked.

Nearing the waterfalls:

The falls:

The river:

On Monday I decided to be more patient on launch and “parawaited” for an hour and a half and was one of the last ones to huck off...but it didn’t help much. I flew for just over an hour, which back on Vancouver Island I’d be ecstatic about, but I pretty much followed the same route as the day before and got flushed out in the same spot, this time however I made sure I had enough height glide to the proper landing zone.

Tuesday, I increased my patience even more, waiting until 2:45pm to launch and again was one of the last to go. It didn’t seem like I was waiting for too long as our van broke down on the way up (overheated but then the latch to the hood release was also broken (related to Betty?!?). I have also gotten into the habit of bringing up a book to read while sitting up on launch. It was a more exciting flight today with some cloud action (not right in them but in some wisps and also being beside them). Oh well...try again tomorrow. I hung out at Teja’s Bar for a few hours and met a few locals. Teja is actually the nickname of the owner, whose real name is Mateka (I don’t think I got the spelling right...sorry Teja) and she works very hard and is super friendly. Roman was a 68 year old retired guy who just took up paragliding last year, hat’s off to you sir! There was Simon (pronounced “See-mon” here) who was a former tax collector and a good friend of Teja’s and the last guy, Eric, was an interesting guy to talk to about local politics and the general state of Slovenia. Really starting to feel at home here...

Playing in some cloud: