Nothing special today… the predicted rain happend at night (before I woke up). Caught a bad sunburn when riding yesterday and was intelligent enough to buy ready made spaghetti for dinner. Of course I visited my love again today and made another amazing video which I have to cut at home before publishing. Been to Stari Grad which happens to be another amazing harbour town and visited the barber there – only machine :(. Enjoyed an amazing sunset :).
Next morning the sky is blue and hardly any wind, I look up to the cedar take off which is a 1.5 hours drive away but visible from the rooftop. I can’t wait, take my stuff and leave direction Bcharre at around 7.30. Alan is flying at Miziara which is a little further than Bcharre so I call him to get me a clearance for cedars to make one flight there on the way to Miziara where I want to meet him. The view to Bekan Valley is beautiful and I enjoy being alone for the first time for a week a lot. At 1850m above sea level patches of snow appear next to the road. At 1990m the road is blocked by snow! Fuck! It’s April 14., and I’m in Lebanon!
I turn around and go to the next mountain pass further south – Tarfaya. Alan suggests Beirut which one more further south. I am horrified by the traffic of Beirut and think when Tarfaya is blocked too I will not fly today. Fortunately Tarafaya is open. It’s like starting in Pakistan (people spak arab and are armed – honor counts more than law), passing Austria (the skiing regions up in the mountains) end ending up at the French Riviera (French is spoken and the landscape looks a lot like Cote d Azur, Ferraris are a little less than in France but visible on the streets – churches instead of mosques).
Jounieh take of is empty when I arrive. It is incredibly amazing and I can’t wait to fly down to the Mediterranean Sea. There is a gentle lift close by the mountain and the flying conditions are perfect for a nice flight enjoying the fantastic view. Alan had suggested to come here as Miziara is at least another hour driving and its past 1pm already. I have to be back for dinner at Alis place at 7pm – we are invited. I am in contact with Farah because of my Army clearance for the flight – Alan is flying and Farah asks me to wait a little as there are problems with my clearance. He promises to keep calling them while I wait. Suddenly a few cars arrive. The first guy jumps out of the car towards me and asks me what I do here. I’d like to fly I answer. He asks me whom I asked for it, if I have a cellphone and If I am in contact with somebody… “Secret army”? I think when he recognizes my face and starts laughing. He shakes my hand, kisses me and introduces himself – “Omar, acro pilot”. I give him my phone and tell him about the situation: no clearance yet. I watch them take of twice and at 4pm I give up.
I write a message to Alan and leave. Alan texts me back and invites me for coffee to his place which is not far away – of course I go. Alan is a very nice guy and tells me about the current situation. The army is very strict about flying at the moment as there has been intelligence reports about terrorists who want to attack using paragliders! I wonder what the Austrian air force should do in Lebanon and how they should get there – but maybe there are other groups using paragliders who have more than rocks to throw. Alan is very sorry that I can’t fly today and invites me for dinner. I would love to stay but have an appointment at “home”.
The situation about flying will probably change again very quickly and I consider what happened incredible bad luck. Lebanon is just amazing to fly and at the moment all military restrictions find an end it will be possible to travel the whole country by paraglider. Where else can you do something like this?
Within five minutes the greenish spot becomes a strong stripe and the show begins. I put the camera out, turn on engine and heating and enjoy. After a while I change the place… several times until I finally find a spot on a hill full of trees, a place where they put the snow from the street, enough place to park and a perfect place to put the camera on one of the snow hills. There is a little fog rising between the trees and when I am just about to prepare the camera the Aurora becomes extremely strong! All the sky is shining green, much stronger than the moon, with patterns that move very quickly. As I am on a hill the Aurora seems to be even below me shining into the fog between the trees where the dancing of the sky is reflected. “They are finally here to pick me up!” I think for a second.
This is astonishing and scary at the same time – psychedelic and unbelievable. Green, dancing fog all around me and green dancing light all above me – it feels like a hallucination as the things I know and have seen in this reality before become very little at this moment. I am paralyzed and do not manage to take only one picture of this. The fog disappears then but the Aurora continues and goes crazy all night. Its incredibly cold – outside of the car. But to be honest I the quality is much better outside so I spend a lot time outside, probably 5 minutes every half an hour!
Tonight I fall asleep a little before 4 am and wake up freezing when the display is still going on. Checking the camera I realize it to be totally covered in ice crystals. Battery out and get it warm – ten minutes later its out working again with a fresh battery. I enjoy one last time and properly say good bye to the Aurora. Tonight I will be so far south that the chances to see her again there are really slim.
When dawn is really breaking through around 6 o clock its 7 already – Finland is one hour later so the (only) petrol station (near or far) which is 17km back will already be open…. I guess….
Bad luck – opening hours 10am-10pm – damn!
So no coffee and lets head south! Its 270km to Rovaniemi only and I have all day. Sky is blue! When the sun rises at 7:49 (local time) I am in Muonio already. I go down to a little lake to shock some people who live there when making pictures of the lake from their property. The gate has been open and I did not feel bad to park there at all and as the guy turns out to be a photographer I am very welcome. We have a little chat and he tells me where I can find the next car part shop to refill my power stirring. Its incredibly cold when I find that swiss café in the village where I get an amazing cappuccino and real Vienna Sacher Torte! Yeah! And the owners are really from Switzerland!
The low sun makes an amazing light and I am really slowly – sometimes I drive less than 500m between the stops to just enjoy and to take pictures. When the sun sets at 16:40 I feel the tiredness and I am way too late in the evening to meet Miro in time. I was supposed to be there around 6pm and now its already passed 7 and I still have 40km to go on the snowy road. Suddenly I see a strange looking cloud in the front to my left. No way, I think – I am looking towards south and into the moon, and I am almost at the Arctic Circle now.
The hole in the clouds is expected exactly between Sommaroy and Tromso tonight – so I don’t need to chase, I just need to wait… And I do so drinking free coffee in the lobby all sunday morning doing internet and writing the whale blog. Chatting with a friend from Helsinki she gives me a contact to stay at in Rovaniemi just a little before I leave. I am already ready to go so I am pretty straight with Miro after he confirms my friendship request and ask him if I can sleep at his place at Tuesday. He is pretty straight too and says yes. I am a little confused because not having expected this but very curious and looking forward to meet him. In the afternoon while it is still light I drive to Tromso to get Petrol, a Pizza and some supplies for tonight.
The sun sets at 15:36. Aurora forecast predicts nothing while waiting at the Pizza shop but still I leave around 7 o clock to go to a nice viewpoint at a Fjord which I had found hours ago. The weather is nice, blue sky and pretty warm at around 0˚C. As I find out the temperature here is hardly ever less than -10 because of the gulf stream… even though I am way further north than Abisko where it had around -30 in the coldest nights I have experienced.
When I arrive the half moon is out and shining strongly. I curse it because it blinds me so much I hardly see the northern lights at first… but suddenly they become stronger…. and stronger…. and stronger forming one of the most amazing Displays I have ever seen. I have seen pictures of pink and purple Displays in the last days and strongly hope for one… but in vain. Still the mirroring effect in the Fjord is just incredible and I stay until the moon descends behind the summit of a long hill a little before 2am – still more than two hours until it will be below the horizon but the blinding effct is much less and the Display too – until the moon comes out again at the side of the hill. I leave to another place in a valley where I guess there will be less light pollution. I arrange the camera and fall asleep.
Waking up I am not really freezing, it feels a little chilly but the sky is blue – I start the engine, pack the camera (missed not too much) and hit the road. Before the sun rises at 8:18 I pass Tromso quickly heading along more amazingly beautiful Fjords and enjoying the beautiful weather. Approaching the finish border the population gets visibly less. While along the Fjords there are pretty well populated villages every now and then 50 km before the border I see the last petrol station. And then it gets cold. The border is kind of a “mountain” pass – at 500m elevation a little above tree level and situated in an amazing landscape.
Another tiny village at the finish side – mostly two hotels of which one is closed, one petrol station and a shop – no more houses and this will be the biggest town for the next 200km. The landscape is empty – just the road, the sun, the nature and me. A little before sunset I suddenly notice a huge elk to the right side of the road. Krkrkrkr – the same noise like always when I hit the brakes and then I slowly roll out – hardly any grip here I go back and there they are standing in front of the setting sun! An incredible view of these crazy animals. I quickly take some pictures and then just enjoy the view. They really seem to enjoy the sun and it looks exactly as funny as in the Disney movies I have seen as a child when these huge animals start to jump around in the deep snow and go crazy for the sun! When the sun sets at 15:35 (norwegian time) I arrive at the next petrol station and ask for a place to spend the night – the rooms at the petrol station are full and the hotel behind either – next hotel 60km but no guarantee for a room.
The forecast says the cloud hole will be here tonight and not 60km east… The Aurora forecast is pretty bad for tonight so I decide to get a Reindeer steak and wait a little at the restaurant of the petrol station. Outside its around -25˚C again and the sky is clear. I am used to trust the clear sky more than the Aurora forecast and the decision to spend the night outside again was made before ordering the food already anyway. The Restaurant closes at 10 – I head back towards northwest around 7. After 10 minutes driving I recognize some clouds at the horizon in the direction I am heading to – but not a glimpse of an Aurora! I stop and watch the situation for a few minutes, the clouds are slowly moving towards me so I turn around heading where I need to go anyway – southeast, away from the clouds and the Aurora.
A little before passing the petrol station I recognize a very weak greenish spot in the sky – just for a second. I accelerate, quickly pass the light pollution and stop maybe 5km after the village. Is an amazing place, a flat and beautiful ice desert. I have always loved deserts: Jordan, Sahara, Balochistan, Thar, and many more. The similarities are astonishing, the clear skies, tiny population, life threatening but amazingly beautiful nature – the loneliness and the dependency on and responsibility for yourself. Here you can die within minutes and nobody will be near enough to help you in any way. I love this place! I stop at a small parking lot in between walls of snow next to the street having an incredible overview of the flats to the north and the moon being in the south – not being supposed to set before 4:30am – at 5:30 dawn is starting.
The next day it snows… all day and all night. Time enough to enjoy my cottage at the beach, update my blog and learn a little more about lightroom… Friday its still too windy so I make a trip to Tromso to go shopping and have a look at the take off Arlid, the guy from the Paragliding club Tromso, suggested. An amazing place and I really have the feeling I have to come back here to fly more – maybe when its warmer.
When coming back from Tromso the wind has calmed down and I decide to make another attempt at night. When I walk up at dark the wind is pretty strong but I know the way pretty well by now and the conditions have been just like this at my first flight. Arriving at the take off there is no wind, some clouds and no northern lights.
For about five minutes. As soon as I have prepared to start a cold and stiff wind from the north blows into my face. I am just at the right take off but that wind is just too much for me. I know pilotes who would easily do it, but not me, not at night and not out in the North Atlantic…. And not if there is no Aurora! I walk back down, I need some sleep as I have arranged a whale safari tomorrow morning.
I try to see some wildlife on all of my trips and here it seems to be an amazing opportunity to watch whales which are here even though they should be in the south right now, but well, temperature at daytime is around 0˚C now…. Orcas and Humpback whales are here. I have seen Humpbacks in Husavik in Iceland but have failed to take proper pictures then. Orcas I have never seen in the wild before.
When we go out the wind is calm and the sea pretty flat, sun is shining and its an amazing day! Soon after leaving the harbor on the small boat (7m only) we see the first Orcas. But let the pictures speak for themselves!
When we come back the wind is still calm. While resting a little I prepare for another flight at dusk but wind is getting stronger again and I am actually too exhausted to run and down the rock again. I rest, enjoy an amazing sunset at the balcony and wait for northern lights in the evening – but fall asleep before they come.
Sunday morning I check out, forecast for tonight predicts a geomagnetic storm and clear sky above Sommaroy. I check out in the morning and prepare for a night outside between Sommaroy and Tromso.
Monday morning! According to the forecast tonight is the last chance to have an Aurora flight for several days. I need some help to collect my camera after I started and to illuminate the landing area. Anders is of duty today and the staff of the hotel is incredibly busy with thousands of guests who came by the weekend. I try to find somebody all day but not really successful. At the evening its windy and cloudy so I go towards Kiruna with some other guests where we enjoy a pretty nice show in the sky. When we come back later the sky is clear at Björkliden – but no Aurora. A little later the Tirolean guys who came yesterday arrive, we have a short chat, they help me and we go to the upper end of the skiing slope between reception and camping area – 100m elevation only – but enough in a pitch black night.
When we arrive at the launching area there is a light breeze from the back coming down the mountain, hardly any Aurora visible…. I wait until the wind is a little less and start. Its an amazing flight in the dark, no problem at all and I feel totally secure. The landing site is full of light and I come down without a problem – I am only unsatisfied because I hardly saw any Auroras while flying.
Next day morning I check out. I start to really love this place but I’ve been here too long already. Arriving people believe I am hotel staff which is a proper sign to go. I contacted some paragliders in Norway who helped me a lot finding better chances than last night. Especially one guy in Tromso was very helpful and told me a site about 25km west of Tromso – without light pollution and far away enough from any airport to make it perfectly legal to fly there at night.
All the way it snows a lot, all is white and there is nothing else but white. No shadows, no contrasts only red sticks make the side of the road visible for much of the way. When I arrive at Tromso I am done. First choice of lonely planet is full and another hotel recommended by them either. Staff of the smart hotel in Tromso is very kind and tries to find a place for me. “Do you have a car?”. A little later I drive to the west, to a small island called Sommaroy where they have a room for one night. Approaching I unexpectedly see the first stars.
When I arrive at the hotel I quickly move into an amazingly beautiful room with huge windows. I test the bed but as soon as I switch of the light I see Auroras dancing in the sky. Time to explore the Island. Being maybe 500m in square Hilleroy the neighbor Island where I am when I step out of the hotel is pretty easy to be overviewed. The flat north part is protected from the light pollution of the village by a mountain, a hill, actually by a huge rock rising out of the north Atlantic. Just water between me and the North Pole!
Its totally dark but there is one small road with strong street lamps on the island – straight for about 200m leaving a flat space of maybe 20m to the sea – perfect for landing at night. The hill seems to be flyable either… Before I go to bed I have a little talk with Evva, the kind receptionist and tell her about my planes, asking if there might be a possibility to stay more than a night (“I have a Yogamat and a sleeping bag, I just need a warm place”)– she promises to check until next morning and I go to bed.
Wednesday morning the flag in the garden is hanging down 45 degrees, it seems to become a sunny day and after a little breakfast I check out my room and make ready to fly. Before I leave Evva tells me she has found a solution, one of the fishing huts for two days, same price. Its an amazingly beautiful place I move in, I just don’t really recognize at this second because in my mind I am in the air already.
The rock seems to be perfect with starting possibilities to all directions. 200m elevation are possible to be done as there is a rope to handle up all the way, still only for people who have alpine experience. Up there I see the low sun to the south and the cold, clear, blue and beautiful sea to the west. Wind is NNW so I start pretty much towards the open sea. The flight is just beautiful! It is February, I am 350km north of the Arctic Circle and paragliding at the edge of the continent, the low sun is shining in my face and I don’t feel cold at all in my 7 layers of clothes.
After landing I meet Gökay who is here from turkey and made an amazing slow motion movie of me flying. Tonight is the night and I ask him if he can make a movie at night too – he can. In the afternoon I talk to Kjell who seems to be a manager here – we have kind of the same hair style and travel habits, we like each other immediately. When chatting with him in the afternoon I miss the time and am late to get up the hill.
At this point the contact details of this place as it is for sure one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! It must be an amazing place to soar the rock in the midnight sun of summertime as well as to fly in the northern lights… and for sure it is for fishing, hiking, kayaking, whale watching, … even diving in summer time between colorful coral reefs of a crystal clear sea! Ah the contact: www.sommaroy.no and of course they have a facebook account!
Little wind, clear sky, Aurora is starting to dance. When I arrive at the climbing path next to the tunnel for the military to drive up the Aurora is dancing in the sky. I hurry and when I arrive at the top a stiff and cold wind from the south is blowing in my face. I didn’t look for southern starting possibilities at all but manage to find one. Wind from the south means its blowing out to the sea….hmm.
At the first attempt to get out the wing the wind takes it and several lines get tangled. I have taken wood with me but think the wind will be less very soon so I don’t make a fire. I am busy to untangle the lines anyway which keeps me warm. When I make a break I take a drink out of my bag, drink half of it and by then the other half is frozen. All over my stuff ice crystals are forming and everything turns white.
Above me the Aurora is dancing while the wind keeps blowing, I should have made fire! I keep in contact with Gökay via phone and tell him every now and then how the things are. Around two hours after my arrival on the hilltop the wind calms down, The Aurora is dancing beautifully and I put my headlamp in my pocket as the batteries suffer a lot from the cold, the Gopro remains an ice block doing nothing but some beeps like crying for help. I will be in the warm car in 5 minutes is pretty much all I can think when making last preparations to start and two minutes later I’m airborne to enjoy the most incredible flight ever!
Its even more magic than I have imagined, I don’t feel cold at all anymore, as soon as I am away from the mountain I switch of the head lamp which is getting already lower again by the cold and just enjoy the unbelievable scenery! Much too quickly I am landing but this experience I will for sure never ever forget. I am done but overwhelmed, get the stuff together and go to the hotel.
At the reception I meet Gökay who seems to be a little shocked because he has lost sight when I switched of the headlamp in the moment he dropped a battery. I try to calm him down, fortunately all the others were not so shocked as I had appeared pretty quickly. What can I say…. YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES! DID IT!!! YEAH!
This flight is dedicated to the starman – David Bowie (before watching the pictures please click the name)
Two days pass quickly in the shared room of the youth hostel in Kiruna and at Saturday I continue direction Abisko/Norwegian border. The Hostel in Abisko is fully booked so I go further to the next hostel at Riksgränzen. Also fully booked and I can get some use of my Arabic skills. The refugees are extremely kind but cant help me – and of course its not allowed for me to sleep here. But I get a hint to go to Björkliden-Fjällby, in between the border and Abisko. It has already been dark when I passed there but I had seen it and go back.
At the Gåmmelgarden I move into a tiny but beautiful single room. Symptoms of a flu become undeniable by now so I go straight to bed and only leave it at night when the sky is clear in the days to come. I experience several amazing Aurora Displays at temperatures well below -20˚C. When I get better I discover beautiful common rooms, a sauna, kitchen a real cozy place all around me!
Many people come for 2 days to see the northern lights and then leave again. Often they miss the best because of the cold and a lack of patience. A few days later when the forecast is god for Norway in the first half of the night I put two Turkish guys I made friends with in the car and we go. It takes a long time until we reach the first fjord on the snowy roads and we go on to another one for less light pollution. Unfortunately there are villages along the fjords everywhere so the light pollution just gets a little better. Finally at the bridge after Sandstrand I see the first Aurora of the night and show it to Emre and his brother. We try several spots, have some nice views and take some great picture of a relatively weak aurora.
Soon we go back to Björkliden and when we arrive there around midnight the sky is clear – but no displays all the way. The guys go straight to bed and in the hallway I meet Seth who has seen the weak Aurora from Sky Station in Abisko and is on the way to bed too. I warn all of them to stay awake because my guts tell me the best is about to come. Five minutes later when I go out to smoke and check the situation I meet Seth starring at the sky… It dances! I run back in, wake up Emre and Can and tell them to be ready in 10 minutes.
10 minutes later we all go down to the lake where we spend the rest of the night watching an incredible show in the sky. I cant resist to turn on some Psytrance and dance in the freezing night until my flu forces me back into the car. Its unbelievable amazing what nature shows us here!
Friday I have to go to Kiruna. The power stirring doesn’t work sometimes and sounds like Chewbacca. I am afraid it was damaged in my accident and hope I can do it until the Baltics where I hope to find cheaper mechanics. When I stop at the Mechanomen, the company the fixed my car in Sala, they tell me they don’t even have time to look at it before Wednesday and they recommend not to drive until then…. After some discussion they tell me to go to another mechanic who might have time. I like the guy at the QT8 petrol station near the Kiruna Forum immediately. He refills the stirring liquid (no I did not open the bonnet at -20 while having a flu) and all is fine. I give him a bottle of Jägermeister I had taken for occasions like this and he refuses any further payment.
By Saturday I feel healthy enough to think about flying. I had mentioned it at the reception several times and the seemed not really to understand what I want. Today I talk to the ski teachers and they get me immediately. Well it was my fault as it took me a few days to find out I am in an amazing little skiing area as I was awake usually at night and the days are very short and sometimes white out. At the moment there is a Blizzard pulling up but for tomorrow the conditions seem to be better to do a daylight flight at least. The guys are really interested and motivated to support me. I am really glad to be here.
In the evening I find out about the “Bastu”, the sauna. As ours is broken at the Gåmmelgarden we are welcome to use the hotel sauna. As I find out this is the social place in Sweden where to meet people and make friends. Like the hot springs in Iceland. I love it! (And it seems to help with my flu either!)
Sunday morning I meet Anders and one of his colleagues to make a first daylight flight. Conditions seem to be perfect so we get dressed, get the snowmobile and up the mountain. The sunrise is absolutely stunning and I cant wait to get up into the air. Unfortunately we got all permits and are up on the hill there is wind from the back – I can’t start up here.
Back at Gåmmelgarden I look for Katharina and her friend, the two Swedish girls who have never seen the northern lights before. Its Katharinas 60s birthday today and I recommended them to get up early as the forecast predicted clear sky in the morning. It had been clear when I got up but unfortunately not before and for the coming night – their last one here, it was predicted to be cloudy again. They seem to be not here so I go back to bed to rest and get healthier.
Sleeping until 5 I go out to smoke around 6pm. I look up and see stars and an incredible Aurora hardly visible because of too much light pollution. I run inside, tell everybody, find Katharina and her friend in the piano room and put them in the car. I am really happy to have found them, even more when they tell me they haven’t seen nothing last night. When we arrive at the lake a special birthday show starts and I am extremely happy to share the experience of the first Aurora again. Its just such an amazingly wonderful planet with such an incredibly beautiful nature!
Published on: Dec 24, 2015
For the first time for 8 years I will not be abroad during New Year (dont worry I am about to leave soon) so I thought about a Christmas special this year. I started this blog in 2011 when I drove to India but how did I get there?
Actually it all started when I was a child. Two different channels to choose from on the TV and all I was interested in were documentaries about wild animals at faraway places. Not much time in front of the screen and a lot out in the nature… Later in school I was bored very easy – I just couldn’t manage to stay in a room all day and listen to stupid stuff when outside the sun was shining. I am glad not to be too stupid so I somehow managed my way through most of the time. Soon my best friend below the desk became my Atlas. I figured out how to read it soon and on rainy days I visited places at the maps in my mind. English I spent in the colonies and while math I calculated how long it would take me to walk there. While everybody else in class was learning biology I was dreaming about rowing down Ghambia river watching hippos and bee eaters. Needless to say I loved geography! (Biology either but I had usually read the book for the year before Christmas and was bored then…)
Needless to say I dropped out of school at the age of fifteen. I tried other schools and different apprenticeships but nothing really attracted me. (Tough I learned a shitload of really important things). At this time I met a guy living in a farm in Carinthia with his family who had travelled india. I was very impressed – mostly by his clear eyes. At this time it was not so much of a problem to make some money and I was still living at home! That has been my first decision to travel to india.
Even though it was not so much of a problem to make money then it took time so my first journey was to become a short one. I just wanted two weeks of and grabbed a last minute ticket which had been pretty cheap then. Teneriffa it said and La Gomera I decided. And what a perfect first trip it was! I had a room for the first three days and then slept on the beach feeding a dog who would warn me when police was looking for people who sleep on the beach each evening. Later I moved to a little bay a stonecast away from valley Gran Rey but only to be reached when the tide was low. There were caves and a crazy old guy – I loved it!
When I came back I soon met Dagmar – my first girlfriend. I really love her but unfortunately she is not into travelling at all. She broke up with me 10 years later, I really needed some time off again, and I remembered about India. Fortunately I had finished university by that time and time was rather an issue than money. It must have been November 2007, when I met another girl who asked me if I want to come to India with her in two weeks. Why not, I replied and two weeks later we met at the check in counter at Vienna airport. Vienna to Mumbai via London is quite a detour but the flight from London to Mumbai was overbooked anyway – at least the economy section of it! We traveled first class!
So I was in India for the first time of my life, well Goa actually – but a nice arrival zone to India at least. By that time in my life I had given up hope for humanity. I had accepted that we are are all cursed to run after a carrot we would never get and most important to always feel unhappy! In Austria, where I come from I see too many people obviously having all you can get (for money) still being totally unhappy AND still continuing what they are doing!
In India I suddenly met a billion of people who have nothing but…. nothing but a smile in their face! I immediately fell in love with this country! Having five weeks only I wanted to leave Goa and explore the country, see it in all its beauty and stunningness (word correct doesn’t know India obviously)!
Within 5 weeks and by public transport I went the route: Anjuna – Hampi – Hyderabad- Vijayawada – Puri – Bandhavgarh – Agra – Pushkar – Rishikesh – Delhi (!!) (to see it on a map click here)
More than 4500km by train and some of them by bus. Given the average speed of an indian train at 30km/h at that time (not joking) I spent one of the five weeks on trains!
Of course I had not seen enough, I had made amazing experiences and for the first time in my life it felt real. I was depending on myself responsible for myself – nobody to blame for nothing! (The girl I had come with stood in Goa most of the time)
At my second visit to India one year later I met Lina from Sweden. I was in love like never before, and she too. We spent an incredible year together and I still have feelings for her like for the first flower I see in spring.
Our relationship ended one year later in India again. I extended my stay and went straight away to a yoga ashram in Pushkar where I stood the months to come. I bought “Om Tat Sat”, my third love – a 1982 model 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet! Soon it was redesigned and on the road and it was to become and amazing trip – my first overland trip on my own wheels by the way. I simply loved it. You will find it documented on my youtube channel looking up the videos titled “Gods own country on gods own bike”. The map of this trip you can find here and here (not possible to put too many places in one routing)
When I flew home after that extended stay the sky was clear, I had a window seat and I am pretty sure there is still a cast of my face on that window. I wanted to see all of this close up – on the road! One of the last times I talked with Lina I told her about the idea going to India by car. “Impossible” she said to me – the Capricorn.
This Blog I started for my mother to let her know I am fine. Let’s all send her best wishes, she is at the hospital at the moment recovering from a knee surgery.
I know there are loads of mistakes in the blog, sometimes even sentences without an end. Please be aware that I am writing this while travelling, mostly in the evening after a wonderful exhausting day. Sometimes I fall asleep while writing but, and I am sorry for this, I never read it a second time. Simply because there are better things to do at that moment. I know its shit and I am sometimes ashamed of myself when I read what I wrote years after. So please keep this in mind and show mercy.
By now travelling has given me a seemingly infinite lot of joy, amazing friends and stunning experiences, beautiful relations, incredible Visions – moments of pure happiness and bliss…
Now go and get a ticket! (I got mine and I’d love to meet you on the road!)
September 20. – September 27.
My flying school offers a flying trip to the flying mecca Castelluccio di Norcia. Tomas, a friend with whom I´ve been flying a lot and I decide to join. I have a little doubt because I am used to travel alone and going in a group of 9 (8 guys and Silvia, the girlfriend of Hans who is running the school). Its an incredible opportunity to experience one of the flying meccas in Europe. 9 people in the vw bus with all the luggage is thight from the beginning but the ride passes quickly over night and we arrive in Castelluccio Monday early morning. We are tired like hell but “fortunately the weather is shit and the wind to strong so we can rest most of the day.
Tuesday morning looks way better and we are out early morning. Clouds are covering the valley of Castellucio making it an amazing sight, the little village just sticking out of the sea of clouds in the morning. Soon the clouds rise and we can do our first real flight here. In the afternoon the conditions are even better – hardly any thermals but a nice laminar wind which is lifting us up the surrounding mountains making it harder to get down than up. Unfortunately I miss the top landing because of a wing collapse which cost me about 20m in height while approaching for landing. I turn around and land at the car ten minutes later – no second try to land up there…
In the afternoon we go soaring the exercise hill – a height difference of less than 70m between top and landing…. I ground handle my wing up the hill and then keep soaring in the laminar winds on the hill for nearly three quarters of an hour. Soaring, sometimes so close to the hill that I can even touch the ground if I stretch my arm is neverending fun – and even though its the most dangerous way to fly (if something happens ten meter above ground there is no chance to react or throw the reserve so you would fall on the ground like a rock) it feels way safer than hundreds of meters up. I love it and its the most fun flight I do in here.
The group is amazing – even though I find myself being rather alone sitting somewhere and watching the scenery than with them when we can´t fly my concerns prove to be nonsense. Even though we have a shared room for all of us everything works out way better than I had expected. Unfortunately the weather turns worse again after those amazing flights on Tuesday. Thursday afternoon when looking at the forecast in a little restaurant while drinking cappuccino I find out the weather is predicted to become even worse in the days to come.
Now that is one of the points why I love travelling alone so much. I would pack my stuff within seconds under these conditions. I show the forecast to hans and he makes an unsatisfied face. Until the evening we decide to leave and a little after midnight we are sitting in the bus heading to lake Garda. This group is amazing – most of them are no travellers at all but from me they all get the traveller honour medal. Awesome guys, with that decision you really surprised me – I wouldn’t have thought this quick decision is possible in a large group like this!
We arrive at lake Garda early next morning. The conditions are great, the landing area looks like a lost stamp between lake and bank and everybody is required to wear a life jacket as strong winds parallel to the lake make the landing a hard challenge on such a tiny piece of lawn. The view at the take off site is stunning – once started it takes about ten minutes until I am above the lake. Height difference between top and landing is about 1800m making these flights quite the opposite of soaring the practice hill in Castelluccio….. and even though its way saver because you have several hundred meters to react if something happens (and you would fall in the lake where safety boats are waiting) its quite scary.
Markus (Silvias son) and Jakob ( a great photographer and friend of Markus) are experienced Acrobatic pilots and show several fast descending techniques like big ears and steep spiral. Doing my first steep spirals is really spooky. In fact the wing is vertical and I am circling around it being exposed to quite a lot of G force. Tomas who is sports student and has a lot of experience in jumping out of planes and from rocks and bridges with parachutes and bungee ropes makes a very good progress while I try to get confident with the steep spirals – I have to admit I am a little jealous with him! On the other hands I am a little more relaxed and do not so many flights as he does – the landing area is nice to chill and take pictures and I don’t want to hurry all day long.
Evenings we spend at the very touristic Malcesine, very beautiful place, great food and way cheaper than Castelluccio. I love this place.
That was really an amazing trip and fortunately my concerns had been nonsense! Thank you, Hans, Silvia, Karl, Kurt, Wolfgang, Tomas, Markus and Jakob for this amazing trip!
Enjoy the pictures!
Learning to fly!
Soon after coming back this year I am sitting at home being pretty bored…. I need a new challenge! In the recent years I met several people who are paragliding. I have already been fascinated by this sport since I saw people flying in the alps when I was a child plus one of my best friends has been doing it all his life. I asked him several times already to show me how to do it not knowing nothing about it. This time after seeing so many paragliders in Nepal I am kind of hooked. And, honestly, we all have been dreaming about to fly since we were children, haven’t we?
After doing a little research I find a flight school not too far away from my home. I call them and immediately like Hans, the owner of the school I am talking with. A few days later the weather seems to be perfect and I go to flying school for the first time. I spend a very exhausting day “ground handling” which means trying to control the paraglider standing above you in the wind – not even coming close to take off.
Second day I am way better, and try the first short flights at the practice hill. I never go higher than maybe 20m and don’t fly further than 200m but I love every second from take off to landing. When you start you lay down the glider behind you – then you pull the “A lines” to fill it with air and rise the wing above you – you break it so it will not overtake you then make a few steps down the hill to accelerate. Your feet lose ground and slowly you are lifted into the sky – its incredible!
After some more days at the practice hill I do my first altitude flight in Plankenstein with a height difference of 340m (which usually takes about 5 to 7 minutes). My first flight was in the evening with the air being very calm but enough remaining thermal to keep me up pretty long. I just fly into the setting sun and enjoy – this is definitely one of the best things I have ever done.
From now on I spend every second I can flying. Soon I learn how it is to fly rough conditions. In thermals rising me with more than 5 m/s I get my first front collapse. Still I am trying, everything is new and its very hard to control the glider. I have to think about every action I take and it reminds me a lot of learning to drive a car. You need to think about thing like clutch, gear, brake,…. Before you do something. Flying rough conditions is exhausting and scaring but I learn very quickly. I fly many different spots and soon experience conditions when it is harder to sink than to rise.
Hohe Wand in the south of Vienna is a place like this. It’s a 400m tall, several kilometers wide rock wall facing the flats to the southeast. Another place I fly a lot is Oetscher mountain in the Mountains of lower Austria. Another amazing place where one time I share a thermal with an eagle flying next to each other eye in eye for several minutes.
After around 80 flights I slowly get a feeling for the paraglider. Like when driving a car I do not feel so much separated from the glider anymore – we start becoming one step by step. I slowly start reacting without thinking and during my best flight yet I make 40km (circling and soaring in a laminar wind which blows up the hillside) for a little more than an hour and then land for a break on the spot where I started! And all this within less than 3.5 months after my first flight. By now I own my own wing of course and go flying pretty independent. Though its always scary to be the only one starting out I enjoy exactly these moments most: alone or together with a good friend up in the air and getting blown away up!