Flying high @ Castelluccio di Norcia & Lago di Garda (Italy)

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!

Innsbruck – Monte Carlo

 November 30. 2013

Km today: +-700

N43˚44’31” E007˚25’33”

Today I wake up early even though it was late yesterday – I promise myself to properly sleep for the first time in a week in Monte Carlo. A friend of mine lives there with her boyfriend and I ve been planning to visit them for a long time. Unfortunately they went to make honeymoon surprisingly. Ursi was very kind to leave their key for me at a neighbor so I am now in their apartment only 4 minutes walk from the place Ayrton Senna died so dramatically… Well, but how did I get here?

Weather is bad today and there is snowing heavily. I try to find somebody who can help me with the computer problems because it will be easier to solve with german speaking people. All the small companies who offer help are closed on Sunday and the only guy I reach sound so ill on the phone that I feel bad for even calling him… With very little hope I call Ditech, a company who sells cheap and good quality hardware mostly by internet. They have a retail shop in Innsbruck and as I explain my problem and what I am doing they tell me to come.

Quickly I pack my stuff, give a hug and say good bye to Noemi, her flat mate Ilka who is busy moving out and the other guys who help her and bring my stuff down. Fortunately snow had stopped falling so I clean it of my bike, fix my luggage and go. At Ditech they test the wifi which is actually working…. Awesome! For the big SD cards they try several cardreaders and finally find one that works! 5 euro and all problems are done. The day before a guy at Hartlauer, who should have good service at the shops sold me a cardreader for 15 euro that does not work… Never mind, all is well and I leave Innsbruck heading south well before lunchtime!

On Brenner Pass I see the sun several times and when I ride down to Italy (nice gopro movie btw) the surrounding turns from white to green again. I am freezing again as the view makes me feel like it should be warmer. It’s around 700km for today so I have to keep going! Stopping only when I need petrol having quick cappuccinos then my ass and my hands start hurting. The grips are really hot (they are heated) but it is comfortable because otherwise I would probably freeze.

After the first stop it starts raining again until sunset. Fortunately it stops when I make the second petrol stop because at this time all turns white again. A little after dark the flat turns into mountains again as I approach the sea. Riding down the hills near Terrarossa it becomes warmer but a very strong and sudden wind makes riding dangerous! At the last petrol stop I change the sd card of the gps to get the French map and find out it does not find the address ursi gave to me. No problem, it’s around 7 pm and I will find it before it is too late – only 50km to go to Monte Carlo and I can’t wait to get a real hot shower there! The view at San Remo at night from above is amazing and soon I arrive in Monaco.

The first people I ask for the way, speak French only so I hand them the cell phone with the message in which I got it. The first guy is very friendly and sends me the right way, second one is tourist in a very fancy car and sends me to a local on the next corner. The guy is a little drunk, takes my phone, deletes the message and tells me he only speaks French…. Fuck you, that was my only note of the address! I exhale and decide to stay calm. I said the name of the street a few times already so I just have to keep repeating – first find the street then we will see. 1 minute later I am there. It’s a very small boulevard, Ursi first said she will leave the key at a pharmacy, which I am glad she did not because it is Saturday night now! Ursi said there is a motorbike park just in front of the house and I remember the first name of Ursis neighbor….  That should do it. I find a motorbike park right next to a pharmacy and stop the bike. I go to the door in between and read the doorbells… HARIOM! First I see the name of my friend and then, not the first name of her neighbor but I immediately recognize her family name. It’s an old, French speaking lady and she is a little confused because I am so late – she expected me days ago!

YES! For a moment I was really afraid to be stuck at one of the most expensive places in the world (at least it looks like) after a ride of 700km in the freezing cold and no place to go…. I quickly put my stuff in the apartment and then go out to find some food. It’s a really crazy place, people here are very rich, very styled and all look like from the cover of a fashion magazine. And in between me! Dressed like a Nepali…. Food is pretty expensive in the most places but somewhere between the famous Casino curve and the tunnel where Ayrton Senna died I meet a rich Indian guy and ask him in hindi for a place to get food. He smiles and shows me the way to a fast food place – not what I wanted but it’s one of the cheaper ones here which does definitely not mean “cheap” by western standards! I recognize that all the people I asked for the way were extremely friendly even though I rather look like from the cover of the rolling stone…. I really appreciate this. I like Monte Carlo – it’s this crazy glitter and glamour world, nothing seems to be real but everybody very important, and very nice!