It was one of the 4 day vacations I decided to stay home.. well actually work helped decide for me. There was a group of girls going to Belgium, which is where I would have been headed if I hadn’t decided to stay. There was an Amphib pulling into town, a big deck Amphib, on their last leg of deployment. A deployment that has already been extended twice and is now almost 10 months with little to no port visits.
Since it was my first operational assignment I got to meet them on the pier when they pulled in and go onboard to help give the security briefing (This time I didn’t really say much and got to observe more than anything).
As the ship pulled in I looked up at the faces of the sailors that were standing at the rails, and they just looked haggard. I’m pretty sure that’s how we all looked on month 6 of our 7 month deployment. A reminder of what we do every single day and a testament to the stress of sea life.
After my job was done that day, everyone that was traveling had already hit the road so I headed home and looked at my options. If I wasn’t going to leave Italy, then I better think about a day trip because I don’t like wasting four days.
Originally I was planning on going paragliding and hiking a ridge with a friend but she decided to join the group of girls heading to Belgium which turned out to be an awesome trip! Asking her for some advice I decided on Thursday that maybe I could go by myself and still paraglide, camp out, and do a day hike from Saturday to Sunday.
The company I used to go Paragliding in the Abruzzo Mountains which is located approximately 2 hours North of Italy and 1 hour to the east of Rome was Fly Abruzzo. There’s just one little thing though… they don’t speak any English, only Italian. Their costumer service, as mostly everything I’ve come across in Italy, was rather poor and after trying to contact them a couple of times and them hanging up on me because I couldn’t speak any Italian, I decided to just google translate a few sentences and email them.
Then I heard nothing back. Nothing all of Friday and Saturday. After I had fully given up on them I received a very encrypted message Saturday night around 2200 that said “Sunday okay meet at this pin location 1100 Sunday morning.”
Deciding to just go with it, I packed all of my stuff for hiking, camping, and paragliding the night before and the next morning woke early and was ready to leave between 0700 and 0730. It was actually a very pleasant drive. As soon as I hit the highway headed toward Rome the windows came down the music was turned up and I arrived at the GPS coordinates they sent me about a half hour early.
The GPS coordinates happened to be a gas station. I bought a snack, fed the stray dogs most of it because it didn’t taste very good and around 1100 they showed up in a land cruiser and told me to follow them.
We went a little farther down the road from the gas station, made a right, and then headed onto a few dirt roads. After a few minutes of windy curving roads they told me to park my car off to the side of the road and get in theirs.
That’s when we began the climb up the mountain. There were 7 of us total, all of them regulars except for me, and none of them English speaking. I just sat back for the very bumpy, windy ride, laughing along the way.
At the top of the hill they kept pointing to this castle and shaking their hands furiously. I’m pretty sure they were trying to convey something to me so I launched into an impromptu game of charades to try to figure it out. Unfortunately I’m having trouble remembering and am not having any luck with google. I want to say this was a film location for “The American” with George Clooney, but can anyone out there help!?!
When we stopped we all got out, put packs on our shoulders and hiked the rest of the way to the top of the mountain so that we could set up the gear and get ready to run right off the mountain.
I would be going with the lead instructor and we would be flying first so we got set up a little below everyone else. He told me to get ready to run and I prepared myself. When he shouted for me to go, Vai Vai Vai!! I just listened and took off.
The parachute immediately caught and it was hard to move but I kept pushing and soon enough my feet left the ground and we were soaring up into the sky. I like it up in the sky. The wind was whipping around, but paragliding does not come with that initial rush after you pull the parachute once you have jumped out of an airplane.
He even did a few tricks as we glided along way up over the hills.
This article appeared first on Dynamic Soarer.