Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Wednesday 26 June 2013


Walking in mountains develops a split focus in attention, switching between the grand panoramas and detail of tiny Alpine flowers (of which more later). On thing you can't fail to notice in a grand panorama is people flinging themselves off the top of a steep slope, relying on their parachute to glide around and gently (one hopes) down to the valley floor.

Not something I'd care to do, but you have to admire the skill and grace of those who do. Not that there's much sign of that at first, with the parachutes laid out on the ground and looking like plastic litter.

Then there's the checking of the cables to make sure there are no tangles, consultations about the wind and contact with some distant control point before the take-off is cleared.
Eventually, a helter-skelter run sees the parachute pick up air, and then lift the pilot off the ground as the slope falls away beneath.

Then, they're flying way out over the valley - and in the heat that settled over Stubaital, like so much of central Europe, last week, the thermals were carrying the paragliders very high indeed. As you walk through the meadows and woods, the sun may suddenly be replaced by a shadow as one passes silently over; or you may suddenly spot one gliding through a grand vista. It's a magnificent sight - but I still wouldn't care to do it myself.

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