blog clearly does not have the fluidity of last year. We thought our phones would pair with our computers so we would have internet along the way, not so. We had it paired in the UK, but it disappeared once we reached EU mobile towers. It has not reappeared yet. Even though we spent the extra time in the AT&T store at home who called their international team who assured us we would have pairing – it is not to be. A word to the wise, buy a cheap phone in EU, buy the sim cards and stay connected more affordably. The internet dongles are a bit of a hassle (you need to buy one for every country you are connecting in as the service doesn’t cross borders, even if the dongle company is the same, ie Vodafone UK is different from Vodafone Italy and Vodafone Germany, and so on) until you get the hang of where to find them and get the sim working. Language barriers exist, you just have to stay steady and learn as you go. We’re happy to help based our own experience. Enough on that. we are now hooked back up to internet via dongles and friends’ internet connections. Whoohoo!! Now for some catching up….
We have traveled to specific destinations and toured at our leisure over the past 2 weeks with no jumping involved, so this narrative is mostly holiday related for all of you skydivers/BASE jumpers waiting for the next high adventure installment (coming soon).
It has been a couple of weeks since we set sail from Norway. We both miss it. Norway, although expensive, is a place filled with visual wonders and a population of wonderful, common sense, fun people. It is a very special place. On July 13, we ferried from Kristiansand, Norway to Hirshals, Denmark where we drove south into Germany, our next destination, Frankfurt. It took about 15 hours to get there in the camper van. We slept overnight in a rest area/fuel station that has parking for large trucks, campers, vans, and cars. This is a regular layover stopping type facility for trucks in EU and the easiest quick rest. It is much like the interstate service plazas in the US.
We arrived at Tim Hedderich’s in Offenbach on Sunday, July 15 in the late evening and enjoyed the next 3 days with him. We revisited some of the places we had seen last year, a wonderful restaurant in Offenbach and bicycled again in to Frankfurt. We also spent a great deal of time online catching up on emails, communications and work in general.
From there we went south through Bavaria where we stopped and toured the Neuschwanstein and Schwangau castles. So Beautiful, filled with artwork, sculptures and other historical treasures that are both opulent and awe-inspiring; it’s an amazing history.
We slept overnight in the high elevation of the Austrian Alps alongside a waterfall. So peaceful and restful.
In the morning we continued on to Italy arriving in Nago in the late afternoon.
We arrived as James Boole was getting ready to leave on a BASE course at the Croatian bridge so we had a few extra days to tour Italy. We left mid-afternoon and entered Firenze (Florence) in the evening. Following the brown point of interest road signs we found ourselves on a hilltop overlooking the city of Florence where there is also a beautiful statue of Michelangelo’s. It was a beautiful sunset, and unexpected gift to have found it so unexpectedly.
We continued on towards Pisa and stopped for the night in a local car park in Empoli, Italy. We saw signs indicating a local Leonardo Di Vinci museum which we Googled in the morning. Again, by chance, another unexpected gift, we were only a few miles from Vinci, the birthplace of Leonardo who is an admired inventor for Tony. Of course, we had to go visit! This museum has information and models of many of Di Vinci’s inventions and concepts. We also visited the home where he was born which had a nice video on the chronology of his life. There are beautiful olive groves in the hills surrounding his home.
From Vinci we drove to Pisa where we visited the leaning tower. Neither of us expected the grandeur of it. It is really quite impressive.
On to Rome…we looked for campgrounds outside of Rome with no luck and ended up driving into the city and parking, (again by chance) only a few blocks from Vatican City. We unloaded our bikes and cycled into the city. Amidst cars, buses, motor bikes, bicycles and pedestrians we navigated the streets looking for the ancient Roman ruins which we eventually found using our iPhone map and then a paper map. We audio toured the Coliseum and cycled from there to the Vatican which had closed for the evening. We stowed our bikes back at the camper van and walked to the local restaurant where we ordered pizza. Yummy, very thin crust. MMMMmmmmmmm. We had a nice sleep in our same parking spot and Tony read and lounged the next morning while I toured St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican museum.
After a quick lunch at the same restaurant we headed back to Nago arriving around 9 pm. I have to say camping is great, but 4 days of BabyWipe ‘bathing’ was long enough. The shower at James’ felt soooo refreshing!!
Now, back to BASE jumping…
On June 22nd we left Florida for England. Whew, it was a LOT of work getting ready to leave the shop and Tony especially worked around the clock to get it all done in time. We finally took a deep breath and cocktail in hand enjoyed the flight. It seems like an age ago already.
In the short time since we arrived we picked up our camper van. Big thanks to Rob Colpus and Donna for taking care of her for us!!! We drove to Netheravon and spent a week cleaning, servicing and stocking our little on the road home for the summer trip. Thanks to Mike and Rosemarie Smith for all their help and hospitality. Rosemarie, I LOVE shopping with you and couldn’t have done it without you. Hugs! Then we set out for Norway…
We took a 17 hour ferry from Harwich, England to Esbjerg, Denmark then drove to the north of Denmark to catch another ferry at Hirtshals, Denmark to Larvik, Norway, a 4 hour ferry that landed us on Norway’s shore at 2:15 a.m. We shared the drive to Hellesylt which included an incredible drive over the high country into Geiranger where we caught a ferry into Hellesylt. We were just settling in at the beautiful campground we stayed at last year when Mark Sutton, our friend from the UK and videographer for Gary Connelly’s recent wingsuit landing, arrived and camped next to us. Tony and Mark sorted out their plans to hike to the exit point in the morning for a practice jump and we called it a day.
The World B.A.S.E. race…
The weather in Norway was AMAZING for 4 days in a row!! Clear skies, beautiful sunny temps, perfect low winds, awesome for jumping. What a gift. Tony and Mark hiked up Wednesday morning and had a great test run. Tony had new gear and a new suit and just a bit of nerves which he showed none of as he stepped up to the exit point and flew. Thursday they hiked up again, this time with all of the qualifiers. On Friday morning, the helicopter arrived and the competition began. Sadly, Mark and Tony were paired to race each other in the first round. It was bitter sweet when Tony beat him; it was a close race.
Over the next 2 days, Tony raced Carlos Briceno, Andrey Karr, Frode Johannessen and Espen Fadnes. It was an exciting event with great flights, unfortunately, some short canopy rides led to disqualifying scores. The final races were energy charged. At the exit point the competitors were mentally preparing for their races. Crowds were growing larger near the landing area. A big screen TV was broadcasting to the crowds of Hellesylt visitors there for their annual festival several kilometers away. The whole valley was connected and excited! The exits… the finish line…. and Tony Uragallo became the fastest man in the world for 2012!! Wow, how much better can life get than this? We are savoring the moments.
We had a few days off and decided to visit Wales. We left Netheravon Tuesday mid morning and drove west. By the time we reached Fishguard on the southwest coast we had a serious knocking under the van and needed a professional opinion. We headed to the local pub. It was around 8pm when a local mechanic came in, had a chat and gave us the address for his shop. By the way, have we mentioned how wonderful the best bitter ales are in England and Wales? Smooth, wonderful beer!!
Next morning we found the garage where they couldn’t fix it and went to Cardigan to a Ford garage. It would take one more day to order parts and get it fixed which left us wondering what to do. We got directions to the 2 local golf courses, a 9 hole and an 18 hole.
The 9 hole course was at the Cliff Hotel, Gwbert-on-sea, Cardigan. Here are some shots. sorry Mike, Tony hit two of those balls he borrowed over the cliff – he’s looking for them in that shot🙂 never found them.
This beautiful coastal course cost 6 English pounds for the entire day, as many times round the course as you want. We never made it to the 18 hole course.
The next day they finished the caravan and we were on the road back to England. Today we arrived at Dunkeswell DZ, Skydive UK, where they are having a boogie and good weather! Wingsuiting again🙂
We have been back in England now for almost 2 weeks and have revisited Chris, Jenny and Buddy in Headcorn, spent 3 days in London visiting sites and our friends Housain and Helen while in between having an extended stay in Netheravon. The weather is very English, clear, rainy, and windy with good temps and occasional chilly nights.
This past weekend was the wedding of Sarah Smith and Robin Durie. Sarah is the daughter of one of Tony’s oldest friends, Mike Smith and his lovely wife, Rosemary. We have enjoyed sharing this experience with them so much. They are a lovely family surrounded by wonderful friends. Here are some pictures of the wedding
We are in England for a couple more weekends, Dunkeswell coming up then visit with family before heading home. We are visiting Wales over the next few days, Fishburn and up to Snowden. We also hope to have a day or two in Cornwall before leaving this area. It is so beautiful here.
Firstly, thanks to all of you who have faithfully been checking the blog for updates. My apologies for not contributing sooner, internet connectivity has been spotty at best over the past month and so, this installment covers a lot of territory🙂
…We were in Arco at the north end of Lake Garda with a few extra days to spare before heading to Switzerland. We decided to tour Venice overnight and then travel across Italy to hike the cliffs of the Cinque Terre.
First, to Venice via train from Verona in the late afternoon; seeing it in the evening is recommended by locals – less tourist traffic, more music and ambiance. From the train station along the Grand Canal we took a large water bus to Piazza San Marco (often known in English as St Mark’s Square) – the main tourist attraction in Venice. Along this main canal we saw history in the architecture, historical sites, end of day canal traffic, gondolas, private boats, cargo boats….
With the name of a small local hotel in hand we began our search. If you have ever walked around Venice you know the network of narrow streets, twists and turns; and, although we asked directions at several different locations, we wandered for an hour or more just missing this hotel by one or two streets several times over. When we found it, they didn’t have a room and we wandered on… We found a hotel room not far away and then dinner. FYI…Prices in Venice are double for tourists as a rule of thumb. If you can speak fluent Italian and act local, go for it, or go with a local, even easier. It had been awhile since we slept anywhere but our caravan, which we love; don’t get me wrong. But it is amazing how luxurious a room with a bath and toilet can be. After dinner, we walked to St. Mark’s plaza where there were musicians, classical and contemporary – it was fun and entertaining to experience the layers of culture, sounds, smells, lights, dancing and more. Tired and satisfied we headed back to our little hotel room which although blocks away was easier to find now that we had walked for hours becoming familiar with the city.
The next day we took the boat bus back to the train and headed to Cinque Terre – a train ride that took us across Italy from the Adriatic to the Mediterranean.
Cinque means 5 and terre means land, so it is 5 ‘lands’ or towns. Traditionally they were not accessible by car, only train, boat, on foot or animal transport. There is a unique charm in knowing you have only train and foot trails readily available to reach most of the towns even today. We took the local train to the farthest town, Monterrosso and it was there I put my feet in the Mediterranean for the first time. Everything they say about the clarity, blue and beauty of the Mediterranean, at least here, is absolutely true. It is breathtaking.
We spent an hour or so in Monterrossa then started our hike along the cliffs to the next town, Vernazza which took about 1.5 hours of up and down trail the mountain side. We passed vineyard after vineyard, olive groves, orchards, all terraced on the cliffs. The history here is so very old and their traditional day to day life seems much the same as we imagine it has been for many years. We arrive in Vernazza around 6:30 pm, found water immediately and a slice of pizza, then walked through this old, sweet village until we decided to see if we could find a room somewhere for the night. We hike up the trail that leads to the next town and passed a small sign at a restaurant near the edge of town.
They had no rooms, but one no show and so we dined on local cuisine and wine and waited and hour and a half (9:30 pm) for the small apartment on the cliff, overlooking the sea and a castle, for a fraction of the price we paid in Venice. As we sat on the terrace outside the apartment (way more than just a room for the night) and up on the stone wall overlooking the sea we were tired, happy and felt very lucky for this experience.
Next day we headed out early, hiking to Corniglia which took about an hour. We had breakfast, cappuccino and walked through the village. Again, small, quaint, lovely.
We had to take the train from here to the next town because a landslide had taken out the trail, then we hiked from Manarola to Riomassiore which are the more populated, crowded tourist trails. It was a lovely 3 days; like a honeymoon really :)
Switzerland, Oh del aye hee hoo…
And so, from Brento, we headed to Lauterbrunnen (LB) on Aug 2, arrived Aug 3. A big storm came over the Sustenpass as we lumbered up in our little RV. She was overheating so we stopped for the night at the top, rode out the storm and woke to blue and beautiful skies in the morning. As we came down the other side towards Interlocken we saw beautiful mountains, streams, waterfalls…the clouds were hugging the mountains and the valley as we drove toward Jungfrau.
We arrived, parked and stopped by the Horner Pub, a local gathering point for BASE jumpers.
We saw ‘V’ and a few others, most everyone is off jumping mid-day…so, we drove the valley to Stechelberg, passed the BASE house, checked to see if anyone was around…everyone is out and about. We checked into the Jungfrau campground and settled in.
As people started to filter in from their morning, mid-day jumps we all gather at the Horner, a beer in some hands, glass of wine, cappuccino, tea or whatever suits the mood and stories are told, laughter, music, good friends, good times…
We stayed in LB about 5 days. Tony made a couple of jumps off High Nose in LB
drove to ‘Candlestick’ for another jump before we headed on to “the Crack” in Walenstadt. While he was at Candlestick I took the train from LB to Kleine Scheidegg where I hiked to the Eiger Glacier (north face). As I hiked through the cows and cowbells, beautiful meadows on narrow goat trails I had an overwhelming urge to yodel or burst in song “The hills are alive with the sound of music” :)…
The next day we left for the Crack in Walenstadt, another beautiful drive to this small, child and dog friendly village on a lake in another Swiss valley about 2.5 hours from LB in a regular car, in our little ‘Saint’ it took about 5. She is still chugging along🙂 in these higher mountains she still runs a bit hot so we turn the heater and fan on to cool her off and keep chugging away.
We hooked up with Jeff, Cedric, Filippo, Dougs and Simon who flew the crack with Tony everyday. Jenny, another Mary and I hiked up to the top of the crack to watch their flights several times. It is the most awesome flying I have ever seen, seriously! In this picture the red circle indicates the exit point and the red rectangle identifies the area of the crack. .
To get to the exit it takes 2 regular trains, a bus, two cable cars and a hike along a high narrow goat trail to the exit – one jump a day, cost to exit = 55 euros but well worth it! We stayed a week, between the campground and car park on the lake. We loved it!
By the end of the week we had decided to go back to Italy and meet Filippo, James, Kristina, Roberta, Maury and Noah in the Dolomites.
Tony really wanted to go see these huge hikes and jumps he had heard about, and there was a helicopter available for some of them during this week. So, we experienced another amazing drive and awe inspiring views into the Dolomites which are a unique section of mountains in north western Italy.
We stayed in a campground outside Alleghre.
It’s a quiet, family run site that was so friendly, affordable and lovely. For dinner one evening (for maybe 5 euros each) we had hand picked fried zucchini flowers, salad fresh from the family garden and pasta Bolognese. The red wine was local also, light and lovely. 3 plates with food and wine cost less than one salad in Switzerland. Note: In all our summer travels, Switzerland and Norway were the most expensive, although both extraordinarily beautiful, it is most affordable to pack your own food and drink when possible.
BASE jumping begins with a peak, Quarta Pala (about 2700 ft at the exit point) overlooking the campground. Tony and Filippo had a short drive up to the trail head then hiked 6 hours, one hour of that was steep climb, no ropes. They radioed down and everyone watched as they flew the most beautiful lines along the ridges and opened over the campground to land in front of us all. Awesome!! In this picture, the little red circle at the top just left of center is the exit point.
Tony was also able to make one cliff jump from another location where the Turbolenza team was filming. It was a helicopter lift to the exit on this one. The smoke is Maury, Roberta and James just before exit. Great fun
Near the end of the week the guys decided to jump Ciavetta, this highest peak in the Dolomites and a serious hike/climb. We left for Alleghe at about 4:30 pm, took the cable car and chair lifts as far as we could
(thank God for hiking poles!) and hiked 1.5 hours to the mountain hostel where we spent the night in a room of 22 beds (at least 15 full), had a dinner of pasta (carbs for climbing) and started out at 5:30 am for the Via ferrata (A via ferrata (Italian for “road with irons”) is a mountain route which is equipped with fixed cables, stemples, ladders, and bridges). In this picture, it is 5:30 a.m. and we are hiking with head lamps
then the peak of Monte Ciavetta which is a 2100 meter jump 3212 meters above sea level). I hiked with them for about 40 min as the dawn was breaking – gorgeous – before turning back as the trail climbed steeper approaching the Via ferrata and took my time hiking out taking pics
Tony made most of the climb, including the beginning portion of the Via ferrata before turning back. It took Kristina and Filippo another 4.5 hours from that point to reach the exit. Tony arrived back at the landing area in town about 20 minutes after they landed. Like many of the BASE cliffs, it takes a love for climbing and the whole experience, even if that is hiking out and not jumping. Of all the exits this summer, this one was the most difficult climb of all.
So, it was time to leave Italy, the mountains, and the BASE portion of this trip and head to Gransee, Germany which hosts Tony’s favorite wingsuit competition. On a short side note, we had a flat tire on the camper van in Germany on the autobahn and it was with patience and persistence we got it done. Tony did an amazing job of it!! 🙂
Gransee, Germany – Go Jump DZ
What a great place! We arrived on Thursday in time to get 2 practice jumps in. Friday the competition started with downwind distance (2 jumps). On the first jump I re-injured my knee on exit so was out for the rest of the meet. Tony flew wonderfully and Apaches were in the first 4 places for all the rounds until the last upwind speed event where clouds caused variations with flight headings for competitors, so many zeroed out on that round changing the outcomes. All in all, it is a wonderful event and everyone had a great time! Oliver Furer remained in the lead for the entire event and won it easily – great flying Oliver!! Congrats to all who participated.
Saturday was a rain day so Oliver, Corrine, her mom, Tony and I took the train into Berlin for the day. We started off on a double decker tour bus and got off at the DDR museum on the river. We toured the museum which depicts the communist post war era in East Germany. We then hired a bicycle cab to take us around to the Berlin wall. Along the way he gave us a more in-depth history of this area of Berlin.
He is about 54 years old and said the best day of his life was dancing on the wall in 1989 when the last of it came down. He even let Tony drive for a ways.
We had a wonderful dinner near Check Point Charlie, then barely avoided an anti-terrorist demonstration, grabbing a cab back to the train station. Berlin is a very interesting, historical, cultural city that is well worth exploring.
We are now off to England for the last part of our tour – 2 wingsuit events and a wedding. We are driving as I type this and are almost to Dunkirk, then France, ferry to Dover.
On a side note, stopped off in Antwerpen to see my favorite orthopedic surgeon, Eric DeCoster, who had a look at my knee. Not sure if meniscus is compromised, will let the sprain heal for a couple more weeks and decide on surgery then.
What a wonderful place! There are beautiful villages in this gorgeous valley located at the north end of Lake Garda. Monte Brento is north of the lake just outside Dro. That’s the face behind us. The exit point is just left of the rust colored rock in the center. If you look closely you will see a red triangle which is a climber’s campsite on the face. Tony and Kristina are at the exit point; Kristina’s suit is yellow/magenta and Tony’s is Dk and Lt Blues.
Monte Brento is about a 20 minute drive from where we are staying with James, Kristina and their lovely little girl, Melissa, who is full of personality!
So, we arrived a week ago and Tony went right up the mountain first thing the next morning. He has jumped almost everyday, sometimes both morning and evening hikes, making a total of 9 jumps this week. Although still exhausting to hike with gear, we are getting stronger each time, especially Tony who is getting more hikes in than I am. We bought collapsible walking poles last week which are making the hikes easier on our legs. I’m sooo proud of him! His exits and flights are beautiful. He and Kristina flew a race last week in their Apaches. They both flew very fast although she just edged ahead to finish! Also, Tony made his first proxy flights here this week. He was not near as close as Oliver Furer’s flight last week but is flying more closely than he has before; it’s a start!
Tony and Dieter, a new friend from Austria, went to Thiene, a local DZ on Sunday to wingsuit. They all gave Tony a warm reception and had a great time! http://www.skydivethiene.it
I made my first cliff jump on Wednesday morning, then Friday morning and lastly yesterday morning. Truth is, each time was more frightening for me than the one before. I was having trouble launching a strong exit so got more head down each time. Best launch was the first one, my overall personal best was the 3rd jump, hiking all the way up with my gear to the exit point – no one helping carry part way, including ‘Hell’ hill, clouds opening and closing over the exit point, launching through a nice opening in the cloud, good track, opening and landing. Whew… that will be it for me this year since all other exits will be too technical in the places we will visit next (ie Lauterbrunnen). I’m in training now, stronger legs for next year!
We have shopped, dined, hiked up to the castle and played at the playground this week in Arco, a lovely little town in the valley between the lake and Monte Brento . Today we are doing a bit of site seeing in Cinque Terre and Venice before heading to Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland.