Up in the sky, I fly....

Trip Start Apr 12, 2008
Trip End Jun 18, 2008

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

<Brian's brief chronological list of "highlights" (and of whinging)>
- Went to Island in middle of Lake Bled via the pletna... yup, its just a small island with a church in the middle.
- After we got back from the island, we went to the top of Bled castle to see the view of the island and town of Bled... which was nice. The attached (also included in the entry price) museum was craptastic though... "hey, heres a huge room with some random piece of scrap metal we found which we think is important... "... um, no thanks.
- Went paragliding... now this was pretty cool. We were driven over to a small town, then up to the top of a hill and given a 2 minute briefing on how to paraglide in tandem... basically to run downhill toward a cliff as fast as you could and when you go off the end, you'd best be in the air and gliding. Lucky for the both of us, both our paragliding turns went as planned and we got to glide back down to the landing spot...we even got to control the paraglider as well. The view of the valley was nice as well.
- Got really bad hay fever from all the flowers outside on the balcony of our hotel room... may be a good time to utilize my Swiss Pocket Knife to destroy them all... hmm, might be suspicious... need to take out all the neighbour ones too... and the ones across the street... argh... stuff it.
<Lang's Extended Version>
Last night we had a look at all the adrenaline activities that we could do in the area, but was a bit late to book anything as the offices were already closed at the time, so decided to head back there again this morning.
The main thing I wanted to do here was paragliding, since I didn't get a chance to do it in the Swiss Alps and also partly because we had already done canyoning and white water rafting before. Yeah, it was basically for the new experience and I guess we weren't really in the mood for an action packed day that these other activities required - we needed a break after our bike ride yesterday!
So after breakfast we headed out to the Life Trek office and booked ourselves into the 3pm paragliding session off Mt. Krvavec. Like usual, Brian was scared out of his mind and kept telling everyone we'd talk to that we had only so many hours to live... great.. Of course he still wanted to do it...
After paying up and agreeing to meet back at the office at 3pm, we headed back down to Lake Bled. One of the must do things here was too take one of the local gondolas or pletna, as they are called, to Slovenia's only island, so that's what we did.
The return fare was 12 Euro each and took about half an hour to get there. It was so peaceful and just beautiful. The pletna owner gave us 40 minutes on the tiny island, which doesn't seem like a lot of time, but it was enough to go check out the Church of Assumption, ring the wishing bell, walk up and down the stairs and also around the whole island - yes, that's how small it is!
Apparently when a couple gets married, it is tradition for the groom to carry (or try to carry) his new bride up the 98 steps in order to be deemed worthy.. Thank god that Brian and I were already married because there's no chance that I'd let him even try that - nor would he want to.. hahaha...
Anyway, we headed back on the pletna when our time was up and decided to hike it up to the castle after. A few of the other people on the pletna said that it was only a 15 minute walk uphill, so off we went to see if this was the case or not - it certainly looked a lot more than 15 minutes walk!
Well, it took us roughly 10 minutes, so yeah, not too bad.. We were definitely feeling tired and somewhat breathless though.. We actually saw another older couple at the top that was on the boat to the island, they took the easy way out and shelled out 15 Euro for the taxi ride..
The view from the top was spectacular! You could see how blue the lake was and how small in comparison the island and church was. I'm not really sure how much Brian could see though as the last couple of days since arriving in Slovenia, he had been suffering really bad hayfever with itchy red eyes and a constant runny nose..
By the time we left the castle, it was almost time for our paragliding session, but we had to stop by our pension first to pick up a warm top. Primoz, our instructor, took us in his van to the landing site, about an hour away from Bled. We could see a paraglider in the air already and a couple had already landed in the field not long ago.
We waited a few minutes for the driver to arrive to take us to the launch site and during this time we were given a quick 5 minute briefing for the take-off procedure.. Basically the deal was to keep running until you were at least 5 metres in the air - so keep your legs moving, regardless..
Soon we were on our way up the mountain, winding round and round until we stopped by the side of the road - there was no take-off site in sight... We had to walk about 5 minutes until we came across a clearing and 2 other paragliders were about to set off on their flight. We watched them take off, the wind in their faces..
I volunteered Brian to go first - he needed the encouragement.. =P So with a quick reminder of the take-off procedure, he was soon strapped in and ready to run. And run he did until the parachute filled up with air and worked against him in the wrong direction.. Nevertheless, his legs kept moving, even when he was a couple metres in the air (quite hilarious to watch actually) and very soon he was in the air...
The wind blew him and Primoz to the left behind the trees, so I lost sight of them for a few minutes, only to see them again way high in the sky... The thermals had taken them up, before they disappeared from sight again, so I settled in for a 40 minute wait until it was my turn.. During this time, I watched a few other paragliders set out on their trip across the sky..
Sure enough after almost an hour, Primoz was back and it was now my turn to be strapped in and run for my life.. Well actually, I had to wait a few more minutes for the wind to change to the right direction before I could start running.. And run I did.. or at least tried to..
Very soon I was in the air and sitting down on my make-shift backpack seat, the wind in my face and Primoz asking if everything was ok.. It sure was! I was flying in the air!!
The experience was so cool and amazing. Primoz directed the glider to a thermal hotspot for the it to be lifted even higher in the air, reaching to 2000m above ground - we were almost the same height as the highest mountain there and could see miles into the distance..
After about 20 minutes in the air, Primoz even allowed me to control the paraglider for a bit, so I went around and around a few times until he spotted one of his mates doing some aerobatic maneuvers and asked if I wanted to experience it after I said "cool".. Of course I did!
It was totally awesome! He would spin the whole glider around 360, make it feel like you were free-falling for a few seconds and then spin you around again.. It felt better (or more fun) than any of the rides at a theme park - it was literally the real thing!
However, like all good things, it had to come to an end, so soon enough he was telling me to get ready to land. That is, try to get back in the standing position and there may be a possibility that you will need to take a few steps as we hit the ground.. Well, buggered that up - I landed straight on my arse - plop!
We were then taken back to Bled and went in search for some dinner as it was already 7pm when we got back. We ended up at another restaurant recommended by the Lonely Planet guide and followed that up with hot chocolate and the locally invented dessert of kremsnita.. It is very similar to a vanilla slice but way creamier.. YUM!!
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