La Camminata dei Parapendie – Paragliders
November 23, 2014
We are headed to Col a small town in the western part of Slovenia along the road from Nova Gorizia towards Postumia. It is a sunny late November day. For me it is hard to believe it is late November. The fields are still a bright green. The grapevines, in their parallel rows, glow a golden-auburn in the morning light. As we near the town of Col it starts to look more like fall. The dew is glistening heavy on the ground and the autumn mist is rising from the fields.
As I get out of the car it feels cool and damp and it is only 4C. We start out on the trail and the uphill climb starts almost immediately. It is a nice wide trail and we are walking through a stand of shady pines. Then out of the pines and into the sun and an open field. I need to take my black hoodie off as now, with the sun shining and the climb, I am quite warm.
The trail is a bit steeper and on my left I can see Col and the green valley below. But as always with the climbs, I am more focused on needing to catch my breath than on the view! We are on a narrower trail through a deciduous forest. The trees are bare and there are of course a lot of wet leaves on the ground so you have to watch your footing.
The climb takes about an hour and we reach the Altipiano (or Plateau) Otliska. And as always the view is well worth the effort of the climb! On the horizon is a group of snow – capped peaks -Triglav the symbol of Slovenia. Below us the green valley and all around mountains including Nanos with it’s characteristic oval shape.
The trail heads down and we are walking through an alpine pasture. The trail actually follows the electric fence line. The plateau stretches around us covered with – yellow grasses. Here and there are low pine trees. The terrain is not level but has small rises and dips and is scattered with carsic stones. The sky is a bright blue and there is not a breath of wind. It all combines to create a feeling of peace and calmness.
I am a bit behind the others as I have a new camera and I cannot stop taking pictures. But then I start to hear a distant buzz of voices. I look up to the next level of the plateau and see movement. With the camera zoom I get a better look and can see a number of people milling about and what looks to be a lot of tents.
It is now noon and we take a lunch break. Curious about the group of people and what they are doing I ask if we will be headed towards the group and yes we are headed that way. The sun is nice and warm and here in the open pasture it is 15C (according to the Garmin GPS).
We are walking along what in my non-technical terms I would call the lip of the plateau and there is a rock face going straight down to the valley. As we get closer we see that the group of people are paragliders. There are probably about 100 or so people and what I thought were tents are actually the sails of the paragliders all spread out on the ground.
It is now about 12:45 and all of a sudden the activity level picks up. The first glider catapults off the edge of the plateau followed in quick succession by dozens of others.
What an amazing sight. These crescent-shaped sails in every possible color gliding up and down with the air currents and then heading back and forth parallel to the rock face. All this is set against a background of blue-grey mountains on the horizon, a bright yellow sun, and below us the green valley.
Looking up at the gliders, the pilots appear to be lying flat in something that looks like a small kayak. In profile the pilots seem to be enveloped in a tight fitting sleeping bag.
The trail takes us up to the next level of the plateau and we are actually above the height of the gliders. We look down on them and then they catch an air current and in an instant are now overhead waving down to us. We are literally surrounded by what feels like colorful avian creatures flying gracefully about. We are of course snapping pictures non-stop but it is not easy to get a glider in focus. It is surprising how quickly they are moving.
I want to stay and watch longer but we are of course on a camminata and by now it is 2:00 o’clock and the decision is made to head back to the car.
On the drive back, to cap off the perfect day, two large caprioli – roe deer -with their white tails jump out of the forest and bound across the road in front of us.