Indian Chai in Lebanon

The last day in Lebanon has begun. Our Peshmerga friend (just joking) Ismael leaves early in the morning. Its very windy outside and we have electricity most of the day which is very unusual.

In the afternoon we visit Abu Saleem who shows me the water collecting system which I have already admired at my first visit – but higher up in the mountains. Down here it is a concrete tunnel with more than 2.5 square meter cross section holding for sure more than 5 cubic meters of water per second at the moment. It’s the drink water for most of Baalbek and about 15 villages around as well as the irrigation for the fields. Reminds me a lot of the “Hochquellwasserleitung” in Austria which transports the drink water for Vienna more than 200km from springs that are also around 2000m above sea level. Here the way is much shorter…

In the evening I use the last dried sindshabil (ginger) and hel (cardamom) to make indian chai for the two of us. Ali loves it like everybody who has tasted it – maybe I started a new trend and there will be chai wallahs at every corner when I come back – what a nice idea!

I want to leave at ten but don’t make it before 10:30pm. My plane starts at 4 in the morning in Beirut and in Beirut you should be at the airport three hours before start as there are more security checks than on a usual airport. Taking the road via Tarfaya which I like much more than the direct big road with its many army check points I drive comfortably and including two coffee breaks arrive at the airport two and a half hours before take off. I get a window seat to finally sleep a little and manage to do all the checks just in time for the boarding. In the plane a five year old child sits on my seat with his mother next to him. I can’t sleep while people are falling over my feet so I insist on my seat. At the end the little fucker keeps kicking me with his feet for three hours while his stupid mother tries to calm him down by repeating his name permanently…. At the security check in Belgrade I am asked to take all cameras and computer out of the bag – I do so and put all on a tray to get the rest of the camera bag emptied bottom over top out on the other side – of course I am pissed more and ask for the names of the guys which they refuse to give me….

Next day morning I arrive at 8:30 at Vienna.
I hope you enjoyed this winter’s stories and to see you again in autumn.

Paragliding Lebanon NOT

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?

Visiting the refugee camp

Wednesday, the weather is still not good for flying so we visit one of Alis daughters in the morning and print some of the pictures I made for him and his family. In the afternoon we visit a friend of Ali who is currently a refugee. The tents look at the inside pretty much like the houses or more like the nomadic tents I have seen before. Not uncomfortable at all but I guess Alis friend being not one of the poor refugees. And here the people do work illegally a lot. They get paid probably not as well as locals but by this many people can suddenly afford to build houses and things like this. I wonder if the non-existing “garbage problem” here is connected with the cheap workers too…

In the evening the clouds start to look better and stars are appearing from the south – I finally hope for good weather to fly tomorrow!

Rain in the desert

Ali is happy that I am back. Even though his family had an eye on me and let me in the temple for free as well as gave me the chance to take the poppy flower picture at a prohibited location he was still concerned. I still don’t know if he is just a little over protective… the only place I was a little concerned at happened to be in front of a beautiful mosque which was full of people. Hussein just quickly picked up money there. At the temple there where only Arabic tourists except of one east Asian couple… It’s a real shame there are no tourists at such an amazing place.

Surprisingly the little Arabic I learned yet comes back very quickly as soon as I always here the language around. I learn more about this culture and become more accepted within Alis friends and family. The girls whom I hardly saw last time now sit with us, are having eye contact and even smiling at each other no problem. Opening the door in a Pyjama to let us in and then cook tea for us without getting properly dressed – no problem.

Another thing that changed is the close season. This time I hear birds singing in the morning instead of gunshots. All seems to be much more peaceful now and the only gunshots I hear this time are during a celebration Friday afternoon. Making party shooting in the air – no problems. And way less people with military guns than on Vienna airport for example. Still I wear a scarf and look rather like a Taliban than like a tourist whenever we go somewhere.

Monday afternoon takes Ismael (our Peshmerga friend (just joking)) and me to a huge roman pillar which is located in the middle of a field with the crops growing directly to the rock. Its an amazing view with the snowy mountains in the back ground. Ismael is a chef and has taken over the food supply, he grills amazing sea bass we got from the sea and we enjoy food in the kitchen while the storm whistle loudly around the upper storage of the 2 storage building in the middle of the fields.

Tuesday morning black clouds pull up in the valley and while we go to the village for shopping it finally starts to rain heavily. The fields are totally dried out by now so everybody is happy. We spend the day inside with the guys playing and me writing the blog and learning Arabic while joking with each other.

Being in contact with Alan and checking the weather forecasts I hope to be able to finally fly tomorrow – I really hope so as there is not much time left now.

Between roman temples, refugee camps and Al Qaida Taliban

In the morning a bird who went inside by mistake wakes me up when landing on me. I get up quickly and let him out. Ali is sitting outside and ten minutes after I come out it starts to rain, for about 2 minutes.

After breakfast we visit his son Hussein who was supposed to pick me up from the airport today. No power at Alis house at daytime so I take the opportunity to recharge some devices. On the way to the village I recognize the change since I’ve been here for the first time. Outside the villages where no houses are blocking the view it is impossible to find a place in the valley where I can’t see refugee camps. When I ask Ali about the situation with the refugees he keeps telling me “no problem no problem” smilingly – the same feeling I get when asking other people. The language barrier doesn’t allow me to ask further but either the locals and the refugees seem to be much more relaxed than at home – even though in this area of Bekan valley there are more refugees than locals at the moment. In Austria we consider 1% of the local population to be a problem – what a crazy world. Even the garbage problem which tortures half of Lebanon due to the government problems has long been solved by the municipality over here.

Luchtime we spend at Alis house and like always I sit in front of a full plate of amazing food and never manage to empty it half. When I am full Ali nearly forces me in his very cute way to eat at least two more plates. I will be so fat when coming home….

In the afternoon we visit Ali Abu Saleem, a good friend of Ali whose family owns a valley west of Balbek. At the entry to the valley there is a checkpoint again. Three boys between maybe 13 and 14 are playing soccer on the street which makes everybody stop and say hello – a few meters further there is one more boy with a rifle. Sophisticated! Minutes later we sit between flowering and buzzing apple trees (loads of yellow/black striped insects are flying from flower to flower – I don’t think we have them in Europe), enjoying tea. Ali Abu Saleem speaks a little better English than Ali and I enjoy his crazy stories from the 70s again. He also explains me a lot of the conflicts in the area and I slowly start to understand the conflict between shia and sunna. I don’t think that anybody in Europe knows that the Hezbollah is actually Christian friendly for example. I also start to admire the understanding of family the people here have. For example I never heard anybody say “my land” its always “my families land” and the oldest of the families are always the ones who are most respected, asked for advice and responsible at the end. But its no one way street, they seem to be always laughing, nice, generous, and full of love. The children are very well educated and very disciplined while having a lot of freedom to play not with a phone but together in the dirt. However the social system here seems to be much more functional than in Europe even tough (or maybe because?) having no functional government (whereas I wouldn’t say Austria has one but that’s another story).
The next day morning we first visit Alis daughter where 5 other men in Alis age are sitting and drinking tea. We join them and a little later breakfast is served. It sounds like they are discussing important things but I don’t understand enough to get more than fantasies of what they are talking about. However they laugh a lot and if there are any issues they are talking about they solve them amazingly well. A little later an amazing breakfast is served and again I have to eat too much.

In the afternoon Hussein, Alis first born son, takes me to the temple of Balbek. Last time Ali considered this to be too dangerous so I am very happy to get the chance this time – and it is an amazing site at an amazing location. Unfortunately it is too cloudy to take pictures that show the snowy mountains in the background and the green valley in between but the view is really amazing! Usually I am not a lot into temples and old buildings but this one is really an exception of the rule (like the Taj for example). Please read the history of this temple on WIKIPEDIA – its really worth it! When we come back home to Alis place his Kurdish friend who he has been waiting for has arrived. When I ask him where he is from (Iran, Syria or Turkey) he answers Kurdistan with no room for misunderstandings. I like him!

Lebanon VII Back at home

November 21. 2015

Our last day in Lebanon I want to spend shanty. After we have breakfast I shoot firearms for the first time in my life. Unfortunately I am not even able to hurt a tin on the field. Either I can’t hear nothing for nearly half an hour after – a terrible experience all together – but still funny enough! Later we visit friends and I go to the barber. I need a new passport so I want to look harmless on the picture I will have to take on Monday. I figured out many people here cant read our letters so all they can verify in my passport are visa from Pakistan, Iran and so on….

We do the rather dangerous road to Beirut (along the Syrian border) in the middle of the night as I want to spend as much time as possible with Ali. Our farewell comes out pretty emotional for me then so at the end I just jump in the car and we go. Not without promising to come back soon! I really started to love Lebanon! It’s a country for experienced travelers – you should know what to expect and at least speak a few words in French. If you are though enough you will experience incredible hospitality in the Muslim parts and loads of great people too in the Christian ones. Even though many people told me there is no difference I felt like Lebanon is divided in the Muslim and the Christian part – at least in rural areas.

Even though Lebanon is incredibly tiny I have the feeling I have only seen a small part of the country. Even though I was there only a little more than a week I made friends for a life time.

The way to Beirut was no Problem at night. Again we were searched pretty though at a military checkpoint which made us a little nervous after yesterdays experience. But at the end all went fine. Toms plane was earlier than mine so after dropping him at the airport I got a coffee on the road towards Beirut. By chance I met a friend of Ali there and again I was invited – what a great farewell from Lebanon!

I am back in Austria now – but not for long! I will start my next journey well before christmas Inshallah!

Ali and I in the living room drinking tea

Lebanon VI – Arrested by the military for Paragliding!

November 20. 2015

Beautiful weather again today. Its less windy so we can start from the top – there are no clouds coming from the sea! We quickly make two flights each in the warm sun and get a coffee then. When we have coffee we notice a truck parked in the direction up the mountain. You can take us up? Achlanuasachlan – you (we) are welcome. Half way up to the intermediate we see another pilot walking up the road. The truck driver stops and takes him too. We all go up to the Top and Tomas and I enjoy our first flight together. No ascending still so its not lasting forever but still amazingly beautiful under the blue sky. There is a Video of this flight if you CLICK HERE.

In the meantime a friend of the other pilot has arrived who would take us all up again – so finally we have our amazing day and the possibility to fly together. We wait for them to pick us up for maybe 20 minutes. As they don’t arrive we decide to proceed like before so it was on me to take Tomas up. When we approach the military checkpoint between start and landing we see the car of the Pilots friend and stop right behind him. I didn’t even see the guard pointing me the way to stop. We have been passing this checkpoint maybe 20 times by now and today have been joking all morning. We expect the other Pilot to be chatting with the guards when suddenly one of them asks me for my passport. At the first moment I believe he is joking and smile at until he repeats a little less kind.

I still think it is kind of a joke or like one time they want to check who we are but after waiting for nearly an hour they tell us that they will take us to an army base – one of them driving our car. Two guys with hand cuffs have arrived which makes me a little nervous. The only guy who speak English only keeps telling us “no problem in 5 minutes you go”. We can’t think of anything we have done wrong. I have called the Lebanon embassy two weeks before I left Austria asking them if it is safe to fly at Bcharre and they told me it was no problem. At the immigration the officer asked me what I want to do in Lebanon and I told him “Parapente – Paragliding in Bcharre” – “You are welcome”. We asked people in Bcharre, same answer, passed the military checkpoint many times while one of us flew above them – always smiling faces! So what the fuck?

They take our phones from us (which usually is a very bad sign for me) and then we go. There is an Army Base just around the corner where I believe they will take us but they don’t stop there. We are placed in the back of a Pick up, the two of us, the other pilot and his friend and four guys with Kalaschnikows. We finally stop at an army head quarter half the way down to Tripolis. There is a safety warning out for Tripolis which scares a little – big cities always seem to be more scary for me. In a Muslim country at the moment somebody invites you, you will most of the times be perfectly safe – but to guarantee that is easier in a village where everybody knows each other and has the same religion than in a city like Tripolis. However the Officers here are very rude with us. They completely search our car and ask not only for the driving license and the passport but also for the Paragliding license. Austrian driving license is valid without the international one. Paragliding license isn’t. In the car I already said I want to call the embassy.

I get my cell phone back and call them. A very nice and helpful lady picks up the phone. She sounds extremely concerned but still it feels good to talk to her and calms me down a lot. She asks me where I am but she does not get a clue when I try to repeat what the army guys around me are saying. They tell me not to be allowed to talk to her which she says is bullshit. I believe her. Somebody said we have been arrested by order of ministry of defense because of Paragliding (?). Still we have no clue what really is the problem. While I talk to Mrs. D. at the embassy they suddenly say they will bring us to Tripolis to a huge army head quarter. Mrs. D promises to do everything she can do and ask me not to turn of my phone. After talking to her I try to just put the phone in my pocket and I am lucky – nobody notices it.
So the journey goes on to Tripolis. I slowly start to worry if we will be able to catch our planes in maybe 36 hours. At the moment, and because of the rudeness of the people here I am afraid this might take a few days.

After maybe an hour drive we arrive at a huge army camp somewhere in Tripolis. After arrivel we are led into a room where on one side there is a kind of a fish tank with a guy who is writing down our names and our time of arrival. On the other side there is a huge cage which is locked with a padlock and many people inside. We are put in the cage too. By now both of us are really impressed not to say a little scared as you probably can imagine. Some time later they open the cage for us and ask us to wait in a tiny garden. (I believe this is probably because Mrs. D cleared the situation for us a little bit. Much more comfortable than in the cage but here we see how they treat the people who will stay. Not nice – everybody has his shoe laces and belt removed and they put it into an envelope with all their other stuff. The guys have to stand in a row facing the wall and wait for their names to be called.

We have been told that some intelligence officers will ask us a lot of questions but we are only asked for our names and our parents names again and again. Everytime it seems to take one hour before they are able to write them properly down. They take fingerprints and shit but I feel lucky they don’t check the millions of pictures on my computer for any pictures of military whatever. I don’t take pictures like this as a matter of principle but searching for them would probably take days. One of the guys who took us here gives me a sign that we will be free to go today. It still takes an hour before we get back our passports and as soon as I got mine I become a little more honest. I keep asking myself if people who put us in a cage are joking when they ask how we like Lebanon… What kind of answer do they expect? After we got back our passport it takes more ages because they need them again to make more copies blabla.

When we are finally free to go we still don’t have a clue what we did wrong and nobody can tell us. Even the local Pilot who was arrested with us seems not to know. Its just crazy but this is the middle east. On the way out we get lost inside the army village again before we finally find the exit. Nothing than away from here we think. I have promised Ali to come back today to spend another day with him before we leave so I put his address into the GPS.

Once we are away from the military place I take the first opportunity to stop and call Mrs. D to tell her we are out. I either tell her that we still don’t know what was the problem and she explains there is a sensitive area and an army offence somewhere. She ask where we are and where we are planning to go. We are planning to go back to Ali in Balbek and when I tell her this she is laughing like I just made a good joke. I ask where the offense had happened as I don’t want to run into it on the way to Balbek but she tells me it is happening in Tripolis.

We are in Tripolis it is night time already and we never had the feeling this is a good place to go. Mrs. D asks me why the hell we are coming to Lebanon for paragliding. I tell her because its beautiful, she replies “Indeed, very beautiful”, and both of us laugh. She wants us to go to Beirut but I had promised Ali that I would be back by Friday and its late and we are far away. Either Alis place is the only place in Lebanon where I feel 100% secure and after this day we want a cosy place to sleep. She tells me that if they go to Balbek it will only be possible with a tank escort but some people say its no problem. Guess I am one of those who think its no problem. I never had real problems with locals – if I have real problems in foreign countries its usually with the authorities like today.

Anyway Alis place is not directly in Balbek but a few kilometers before so we don’t need to pass a real critical area between Bcharre and Balbek. We finally arrive at Alis place around 11pm and there were no problems on the way. At the army checkpoint where we have been detained the guys are smiling again and apologize for what happened. It feels like they are really sorry for everything but they had got a phone call with an order to detain us. Never mind it is your job guys.

When Ali opens the door I see the worries in his face because of us not coming yet. But just for a small part of a seconds as his face relaxes and starts to smile immediately. He is as happy as I am to see me again. I really love him!

Lebanon V – flight with an eagle

November 19. 2015

Again the sky is perfectly blue when we wake up (a little later than yesterday). We go directly to Cedar Top at above 2700m – well at least we try too. There is snow on the road this morning and the bug gets stuck. Sun has just began to shine on the street so it might be a matter of minutes. The summer tires are running out of profile but a little later we enjoy an amazing view! Everthing is frozen up here and a strong wind is blowing into our faces. We stand between two summits so it is supposed to be strong here.

I walk down a little to find the actual launching pad but still the wind is too strong. Tom is chatting with birdhunters at the top who would interrupt the sound of the wind with a noisy BOOM every now and then. I walk further down where the slope is becoming steeper, the rocks bigger and the wind less. I try to put out my wing but either the lines get stuck between the rocks or the wind would just tangle everything. Its freezing cold – the humid wind comes from the sea and is forced to go up along the mountains. The humidity condenses all around me and clouds arise around me. I am at around 2700m, got a cold and a strong and cold wind in my face – the wing is tangled and every move is a pain in the arse. Half an hour later I manage to get my wing together and move further down. Same shit happens there but another half an hour later I am surprisingly ready to start.

I pull up the wing and take off immediately. The wind is strong, I go up AND back. There are not many things that are more dangerous than being drifted into the Lee of such a mountain like this one – well maybe the Syrian border which is just on the other side of the valley below… But don’t worry, big ears and accelerator get me out of the situation quickly. Unfortunately the accelerator gets a little tangled in the hectic actions and little later at the soaring hill I wonder why the wing is so unstable and the ascending is so bad. Approaching the landing I find out about the problem but can’t solve it quickly enough. Fortunately the wind is strong enough even down here so accelerated landing causes no problems.

Tom tries to start from the Top too but within minutes after I leave him the whole summit is covered in clouds. I pick him up again sounding the horn all the way up to let him know I come and where I am. All the other flights today we start at the intermediate again – clouds being sometimes less than 100m above us. Toms flight is either fine, strong ascending sometimes (the clouds suck) but again, like yesterday the clouds are too low to really benefit from it. Surprisingly, even though there is strong as- and descending all day and the clouds look really scary some of the time the air appears to be pretty calm compared to where we usually fly.

After a coffee we go up again. My turn. The wind became stronger making it a challenge to start (again). Without the help of Tomas it would be impossible: After a little accident when the wind caught my wing unsuspected, he takes my wing, holding it together (and down) so only the 3 chambers in the center can get air. I look at him skeptical but behind him there are some locals taking pictures. Looks fine I think and give him the signal while pulling the A – lines. In a part of a second the wing unfolds and I brake a little to prevent him from shooting in front of me.

Same second I make a jump back but don’t touch the ground anymore. I go straight up! Again, ears & accelerator – no problem and with all in its place I can play a little at the soaring hill before I start to freeze. Going down very slowly I suddenly see an eagle close in front of me – ascending. I fly there and suddenly am sucked up by a dark cloud! Enough now – again e&a (even though ascending more than 1m/s for a short time) and just a little later I come down at the landing site. What an amazing flight – I love it when eagles fly together with me!

Tom has another go but goes down as soon as he is up. No soaring so I just make it to the landing site before he is there. Spirals, up, down, ears, accelerator…. Finally he reaches the ground and we decide to take a brake to maybe have calm gliding conditions for a nice descender towards evening. During this brake the clouds look really bad. It seem to be crazy to even think of flying. But maybe one and a half hours before sunset the clouds suddenly look a little less scary. The wind has calmed down noticeable so I give the sign to quickly pay and go.

When we arrive at the intermediate take off the wind has nearly stopped and as this has stopped humid air from approaching the clouds have nearly totally vanished. Surprisingly I have to make a few steps before I take off and then I enjoy an amazingly calm flight in perfect evening sun. Definitely the best flight of today! After landing I hurry up to get Tom up one more time too. He enjoys his flight as much as I did. The sunset here is just unbelievable incredibly stunning!

Lebanon IV – Take off at cedar mountain

November 18. 2015

When we see the blue sky this morning nothing can stop us. We have coffee, take our stuff and leave well before eight o clock. At the landing site at the Bcharre side (north of the mountains) all is frozen and there is not a bit of wind. We decide to get another coffee here and then have a look at the south side where we expect thermals early in the morning already.

Up on the mountain pass we find out there is a nice wind blowing from the north. South side looks challenging but is too dangerous obviously. Even though it would be nice because in the south the clouds seem to be about 1000m lower which would give us the chance to fly above them – from the north there are more clouds coming and the base is between intermediate and top launching site. We decide to do our first flight at the intermediate facing north.

There is hardly any traffic on this (main!) road connecting Muslims and Christians so hitchhiking is out of question. So there will always be only one able to fly while the other one has to drive the car down the hill. Never mind – the air is cold and our first two flights are just calm descenders. Tom takes his second flight from the top launching site as the bas is lifting for a moment. Again a calm descender. Next turn is mine again and the clouds have sunk again.

I start and in the second I am in the air start ascending. Within second I take the ears in not to be sucked into the cloud above me. I go a little down and then up again – its perfect! I just play around under the clouds – sometimes up sometimes down – everything under control. The only disadvantage is the freezing cold. After 20 minutes I cannot feel my fingers anymore and land – what an amazing flight in this incredible scenery!

Unfortunately the bug (that’s how we call our rental “car”) finally runs out of petrol for the first time since I picked it up at the airport. We quickly go down to the village to get some and then up again. After one more awesome flight each we are freezing and besides pretty tired already. We could do one more each but decide to let it be for today. On the way home we stop at the pharmacy. We get the oil heater turned on and relax in the soon to be warm living room. Life is amazing!

Lebanon III Arrival at the flying area!

Nov. 16. – 17. 2015

We leave Ali just after coffee and hit the road towards the highest mountain of Lebanon. 60km by road and less than 20 if you would fly there straight. In fact I was able to see the launching place from Alis rooftop. At the military checkpoint they just check our papers and wish us a pleasant journey. Soon the appearance of the villages totally changes as we arrive in a Christian area now. Houses are a little more like in Europe and there are churches everywhere!

Soon we climb up more than 1000m in altitude via just a few serpentines. You will be easily able to spot them if you check out the map. If you are a Paraglider you will certainly become nervous when taking a closer look at that map. At the mountain pass at about 2700m above the sea we could easily either see the sea and the border to Syria if there were no clouds. The mountains surrounding us are up to more than 3000m high. After coming down the other side we soon arrive in Bcharre. It is some kind of a middle eastern St. Moritz and now its absolutely off season.

We spot a big sign post which has seen better days offering room, food, wifi for just 28$ per room. That sounds worth it so we decide to have a look. The room is as huge as the empty hotel and looks luxurious. The hotel is called Hotel Alpine and tries a lot to copy Austrian style – for us it feels more like in “the Shining”, empty, huge and endless hallways. Even though the price is so scary we ask for the price. 125$ per night plus $28 per person if we want food.

While searching for a room a thunderstorm happens. Two hours before we were thinking about to maybe fly today. Well done we didn’t.

The second place we look at was recommended by the guy at the first place: Bauhaus Hotel. Once in Bcharre it is hard to miss the Bauhaus and we can get a little room with three beds for 31$ per night. But wait, its off season. Our room, and four others enter into a big living room, kitchen and bath attached – 24h wifi, electricity and hot water and an oil heater on demand (we are at 1500 above sea level and its below 0 at night). We rent the room and use the whole floor – what an amazing deal!

It takes us some time to find a place where we can eat. There are restaurants all over but…. Off season. We find a place where we get a kind of Pizza, get some more food at the supermarket (got a kitchen) and soon go to bed. Both of us have a bad cold!

Next day in the morning its rainy as predicted. We discuss a second if we try to fly at the sea or take the day just to explore this perfect looking place here. Minutes later we are on the way to the launching place. Clouds are low and there is fresh snow at the tops of the mountains around us. We stop at possible launching places and explore landing sites we could use. Watching the clouds rising up the mountain sides looks scary – its raining every now and then. We don’t even think of flying in these conditions but we get quite a good idea of the area. In fact the bad weather was good luck for us and tomorrow its predicted to be a perfect day to finally take off!