Italia Prega (Due)

Lake Garda. What a place!
Eh.. I loved it!

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It was sunny, pretty, italian and very accomodating for anyone keen to pratice acrobatic paragliding.
Lake Garda is a gigantourous (yes thatis a word now) lake stretching across from south to north inbedded in tall rolling mountains with the occational peaks here and there. Malcesine is a quaint little spot of a town that starts right on the lake and has expanded alongside the lake and up the hill with olive gardens and parking garages everywhere.

We arrived in the middle of the night.
A little worried about Fritz, as the sounds coming from the engine had been getting louder. We set up camp, on what we were told the last weekend of the season, and decided that we were going to ride out the storm in some cafe the day after.
Happy to be in a well known paragliding spot with internet and good coffee, we spent the day in the corner café. Catching up on blogposts, checking our emails, watching videos and getting more and more concerned that our camp might have involuntarily changed location in the gusty winds and side-ways-rain. It might have been the stickers on out laptops, our gear spread across the tables or our body language (or a combination) that caught the eye of Alice from Chamonix. Alice beacame our introduction to Lake Garda, apparentently we hade timed our visit perfectly with an acrobatic paragliding event that was taking place over the weekend. We felt that maybe our luck had changed (except for the weather)!

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The next morning, after a pint of coffee, we walked down to the landing on the lakeside, just down from our campingsite. The well kept landing of the paragliding club of Malcesine showed the next level of dedication. Right on the lake with its own bar and shuttle service set up for the weekends event, perfect! Up to this point i think we all felt the same. Beautiful place, good access and lots of people to share it with. However, my point of view changed slightly when i got on the gondola.
I can handle some hights, but the first flights from the main takeoff (after an hour and a

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the para-waiting game

bit of waiting for the rain) made me absolute terrified. Petrified. Why? It was bloody high! I had a lovely takeoff, the first row to a spectacular acro show, right in mid air. But just as I flew in the box it was like my litte fear of hights knocked me on the shouder and asked me what the hell i was doing. And I had no good answer. 1500m over the lake with no real flightplan other that ”flying out there and feel how high it is”, I spent the next 15 minutes trying practice some 360s and not freak out. When i had checked the landing in the morning it had felt spacious and unworrying but once in the air it felt like a tiny tissue of a landing. The flight went without problem and i landed safely.

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busy landing, no problem for crazy acro people

I was in no way hurt, except for my mindset. I managed to push myself into flying a few more times but it was absolutely exhausting. I flew a handful more times but that little devil on my shoulder kept on flying with me. However, there was some sweet moments,  when you fly in clouds like this.
My uncomfortable feeling might have somthing to do with the tandem flight I did with Tzak.
It almost made me cry. Here you go, watch the video!

The other side of the Malcesine story is the one told by Tzak and John. Tzak loved every little bit of it, the people, the flying, the beers, the gondola and the alpacas on the top. John had a good time crusing inversionlayers, drinking local beer and chasing thermals. 14924015_10154478109267254_577734753_oThe weather just kept on getting better and we made some good friends and got to hear some good stories from some local legends.
We also managed to take Fritz the car to the local doctor. After visiting the friendly but way-too-busy-mecanics (we met Luigi irl) we got sent to the don’t-go-to-those-guys mecanics downtown. The challange we stood in front was 1. Not get ripped off (as we had been warned about) 2. Make sure they fixed what needed to be fixed.
It might have been a challange since the mechanics did not speak any english, just Italian and a little bit german, but this did not discourage Tzak who set out to solve this problem. With his best Spanglish (spanish/english) with a hint of Svorsk (swedish/norwegian) he managed to lure a smile out of the mecanics and both get a diagnosis and get a part ordered for the next day for a reasonable price. Victory! 14914521_10153837790827175_362765528_n
On the way back we bought 4 bottles of good wine and invited our new friends  (3 badass french acro chicks) for hangout in our very italian appartment we rented for the night.
Life is good! Thank you Malcesine!

-Suss

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Italia Prega (Uno)

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After an cold night in the van (Gideon was getting well aquainted with his new Troll Hole sleeping arrangement by now) we packed up our hastily made camp spot next a gas station on the autostrada (highway) close to the Austrian/Italian border. Our plan was set for the day: Drive to Mestre, take the train out to Venice, explore for the day, pick our good friend Jon from the airport in the evening and drive north again into the Dolomites.

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I dont selfie often, but when I do……

After finding parking near the station we hopped on a train 14787079_10153800197052175_1863079351_oout to the canal city of Venice. As to be expected it was busy with tourists and other sightseers even at this late time of season. We spent the day wondering through the winding streets and canals. The narrow streets and quaint canals were perfect example of a city powered by tourism but if you looked hard enough you could still see signs of the everyday life. Washing still hung out on clotheslines hanging over the canal, young men moving rubble into work barges as they renovate an ancient looking building and older men conversing passionately over an expresso in café tucked away in a quieter corner of the city. All in all, a beautiful place wrapped in culture and history and good Italian food (if you move out of the touristic center). I recommend the Free Walking Tours if you get the chance!

 

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That guy

That evening we arrived at the Venice Airport to pick up our friend Jon who had just arrived from a season of rafting in Japan. We had been making loose plans of when we might meet up and it was great that we were in the right place at the right time to pick him up. So now we were 4 people, 7 wings, 3 tents and all our luggage piled into Fritz. It was a tight fit to say the least but our trusty van rose to the occasion and took us up the next 1400m elevation towards Canazei and the Dolomites. Arriving in a hidden little spot next to a powerstation late at night we set up camp only to realise that we had were missing a few key camping items. We only had one sleeping mat and sleeping bag betweent Gideon and Jon so they decided to share.

 

Jon received the sleeping bag as he was alone in his tent and Gideon the mat for his Troll Hole under the bed. Gideon then proceeded to put on every piece of clothing he owned + our down jackets while jon attempted to use Suss’s paraglider as a sleeping mat. Every time he rolled over Gideon would end up suffocating himself in a hood of a jacket or some other part of the 10 layers of cloths he was wearing which would lead to a 30second claustrophobic panic attack under the bed waking everyone up.

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Morning camp.Coffee required….

 

Awaking in the freezing daylight to find IMG_8361.jpgourselves in beautiful deep canyon in the Dolomites was exciting for everyone. I eventually managed to lure everyone out of bed with the smell of fresh coffee cooked on our little makeshift kitchen. The view was spectacular.

After we were all properly caffeinated we continued our drive to Campitello di Fassa in the heart of the Dolomites. Finding breakfast one of the local cafes we tried to find some other pilots to fly with. After some very helpful advice over the phone from some of the local pilots we drove up to the Sella Saddle to check conditions. From there we hiked up to the top of Col Rodella, an incredible take off located at 2400m above sea level.

After assessing wind for over an hour we finally decided to launch. Taking off into a strong thermal I was shaken and had to work hard to keep my wing under control. It was fairly exciting first flight of the trip as I ascended the turbulent thermals until I was high up over the peaks at the cloud base.

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#nofilterrequired

Traversing the 3 local peaks of Col Rodella, The Sellar Towers and Cole de Tena I struggled to get comfortable under my wing in the strong conditions, and with no preplanned flightplan I decided to just enjoy the flight and not try any long distance flights. Getting clouded out (too much cloud cover to create good thermal lift) and fighting against a turbulent valley wind I decided to join Jon at the landing and had an exciting few minutes batteling the changing wind direction and turbulence on landing. Feet firmly back on the ground and hands frozen from the cold and altitude, I realized that flying here in the Alps was a whole new game for me which both excited and scared me. All I knew is that I needed to return to Col Rodella again once day once I have more airtime and confidence under my wing.

After Suss had had a brief and exciting flight from one of the other west facing take offs near Belvedere we decided that it was time to find somewhere to stay for the night. Finding out that all of the campsites in the area had closed for the season we decided to take an Air B&B in Bolzano, about 1.5hrs away (the boys were not so keen to re-create the same camping conditions from the night before). With a storm predicted for the next few days we left the beautiful Dolomites with the promise of return on day soon.

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Suss above Campitella di Fassa

After a pleasant night in an apartment we decided that we should check up on a strange sound that had started down in Fritz’s engine. A kind of flapping sound that sounded like a loose belt. We dropped my brother of at the train station as he was heading back to Vienna to catch up with some friends and then tried to find a “meccanico” somewhere in Bolzano. The language spoken in Bolzano is an intricate combination of Italian and German which also made communication a bit of a challenge.

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Working hard to get my point across

3 different diagnoses from 2 different mechanics (and a lot of hand signals, pointing and making of car sounds) we decided to try our luck further south near Lake Garda and Verona and hope that Fritz could make it. Arriving in Malcesine we found a campground and set up camp and prepared for the approaching storm…….

– Tzak