Euro 2011 - Dan's Diary

Friday 1st July - Day off in Sondrio let's go exploring

We awoke the next morning to the local church bells. How charming I here you say but these bells were unbearable; in fact, they made Rob’s snoring sound tuneful! It was just noise, no tune, for 4 minutes at 7am, and then they started again at 5 minutes past. Anyway, after a lengthy bit of cursing it was time to get up and wander over to the airfield.

There were no security searches required, no fees to pay and no security guards to persuade. The glider was towed to the end of the runway, and after watching two overweight Robin’s scrape off the end of the runway 27, 13 was launched without an issue.

The day looked good for a lengthy flight so I had to find something to keep myself entertained. After a couple of jobs on the trailer I decided to try and find the ‘Snow Zone’ in Valmalenco, just up the mountain from Sondrio. The drive wasn’t too bad but there wasn’t a specific address or any sign posts, so as I tried to find it I took the wrong turn and ended up some residential street which was about a foot wider than the Shogun with houses each side.

Eventually I came to the ‘main’ road which was a pass up the mountain. Thankfully no trailer on the back was a bit of a godsend as there would have been no chance of getting that up there! The roads were pretty wild, thin and constant chicanes with an enormous shear drop to one side, and it was the first time I have actually got a small dose of vertigo.

Having given up at finding the more than likely closed snow zone I went up a road signposted ‘national park’. Despite seeing no one walking around there was cars all up the side of the road. As a result I kept going to a very rough, very narrow raised track. I was pretty convinced that the wheels of the Shogun were touching the edges of the track tittering over the side; I was glad that no one came the other way. I bravely decided to reverse and turn around and make my way back to the main track.

Continuing up the main pass it became more and more like the ‘death road’ featured in the Bolivia edition of Top Gear. At one point, and quite ironically, on top of a waterfall, I passed another 4x4. The road at this point was just about wide enough to fit both cars through.

Unfortunately I was on the outside, in a right hand drive vehicle, looking straight down the drop at the valley below. I was beginning to know how Jeremy Clarkson felt when he was virtually in the same position. Being brave again, I decided to let the other car pass through and I stayed put. Eventually we were separated and I unhurriedly continued on my trek.

A couple of hours relaxing back at the airfield in the sun and the Binder returned. I could tell it had been a good flight due to the size of the smiles on their faces and due to the way which they were staggering due to freezing feet! I took hold of the wing and took the aircraft to the parking point, wiped the bugs off and put the canopy cover on for the night.

Whilst consuming a couple of beers I was viewing the photos of the days flying, most of which were amazing, including a beat up of some climbers on the summit of Mont Blanc! I can’t really describe them myself so check out the photos for yourself.