Flying Fox and a Quest for a Bicycle
Week 5. 23rd – 29th June
It was a cracker of a weekend, full of fresh air, adventure, a good dose of adrenaline and a flying fox.
One of the biggest changes that I’ve had to accommodate into life in Austria, is to let go of routines and planning. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had to learn to embrace a more spontaneous life because the weather makes planning a hopeless task, but I’ve also come to accept that even without considering the weather, I need to wake up and be ready for anything. Saturday morning is a case in point. I had no idea when I woke up that I would be quite literally flinging myself into the unknown.
I woke to an invitation from Max to join them at an end of school leaving party for their youngest son, held at the local outdoorparc. Sure thing, I thought, and headed over and piled into their bus. On the drive over their son asked ‘will Rebecca be flying?’
This wasn’t a mistranslation, it indeed turned out that I would be flying, because the outdoorparc is a zipwire course ‘the flying fox’, involving plenty of high rope obstacles and opportunities to zip across the lake. Before I quite knew what was happening, I’d been given a harness and helmet and was climbing up the pole, fumbling with clips and carabiners and being told to jump.
'Will Rebecca be flying?'
Hah. I was not ready to jump. It went against everything I knew to just jump into the air, and I launched myself like a baby bird leaving the nest for the first time. (Gracelessly). I held onto the rope like my life depended on it and swung around in the air so I hit the netting at the end like a sack of potatoes. I was teamed up with Max and Anni’s sixteen-year old, and he scoffed when I told him my legs were shaky and it felt high, telling me he’d completed this course faster when he was nine. There was really nothing to say to that, other than to pitch myself off the platform and pretend that I wasn’t even slightly scared.
A few zips later and I was no less inelegant, but was thoroughly enjoying flying. I trusted that the safety kit was actually safe and managed to let go of the rope. I had this massive cheesy grin on my face that wouldn’t disappear, and the coup de grace was a 140m zip across the lake and a crash landing. I was up laughing and shaking the woodchips off, and wondering how blue my ass would be next week.
My delight continued when I found out we had day passes and could keep zipping. We went round the course a few times before moving on to a giant swing. Here you’re pulled up 12m high by your team, before they let go. Yes, they let go when you’re 12m up in the air. You plummet fast. It was exhilarating (and terrifying).
Obviously the rope saves you from death, but gravity swings you out over the lake. An appropriate metaphor for moving to another country, equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.
Remembering how to ride a bicycle
Sunday was exciting for a whole different reason, I got myself a bicycle! I was so thrilled, I’d been looking for a few weeks now for a trusty steed that would take me on adventures further afield. We visited two bicycles for sale, one of which was on a farm with kittens. (We came veeery close to coming home with a kitten). My quest is complete now and I have a bicycle which will take me from A to B via a random C (my favourite way to explore – the end goal isn’t the important part, it’s what happens along the journey). Max and Anni took me along to pick it up, and then they pointed me in the direction of Tamsweg and let me take it for a spin.
I wobbled precariously the first few kilometres and on the roads I had to repeatedly chant in my head ‘right side of the road’, but I made it back in one piece grinning ear to ear. It felt like I was flying, I LOVED it.
So Monday dawned and I parked myself back in the office, ready for whatever the week wanted to throw at me. I wasn’t at my desk for long before Anni called and asked if I wanted to go back to the Wilderness Camps for more pictures with different school classes, and then pick up a visitor at the station. I didn’t have to be asked twice. A scenic drive, and then over the mountains to Salzburg where we picked up Garry Oye, retired-wilderness director from America, who would be visiting for the next 10 days.
Whilst waiting for Garry to arrive I had time to squeeze in a (very) quick walk along the Salzach, the main river that runs through Salzburg. I ogled the Baroque architecture, and kept an eye out for any Sound of Music references. The streets were narrow and winding, and I nipped in between a few passageways that bizarrely cut through the buildings, shortcuts known as ‘Durchhäuser’. It was impressive, but I thought fondly of Tamsweg’s quiet streets where everyone you passed said hello, and you didn’t have to fight through a throng of tourists to get anywhere.
The week flew by. With Garry visiting, and Vlado Vancura in the office (who’s normally based in Slovakia), there were lots of discussions about contrasts between the USA and European Wilderness – policy, legislation, wildlife, tourism. I soaked up all the knowledge I could fit in my brain.
The evenings I had dinner at Max and Anni’s home with the team, and also took my bicycle out to see what I could find. Full points if you guess mountains, forests or rivers… I would pick a direction and set off – it’s hard to get lost in the Lungau so I would just cycle wherever I fancied. When my legs got tired or I got hungry (normally hunger came first!) all I had to do was reorientate myself with the mountains and cycle back. Cycling makes me feel like I’m flying, it’s that combination of speed and balancing that I’m probably only noticing because it’s been years since I’ve actually cycled. Why didn’t I get back on a bike sooner?! There’ll be many cycling adventures in future weekends now for sure!