Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Vollo del Angelo...

Diego showed us an amazing video.. and it made us want to be in the video...

At dinner on the last night we were at Diego's farm talk turned toward where we would go and what we would do after leaving. We'd already planned to visit Kerry's Grandad, Vito's farmhouse in Contursi Terme but thought it couldn't hurt to ask for other ideas.

The woofer who was staying with Diego was called Rossella. She was in her 30's and had stayed with Diego and everyone else at the farm for a whole year! She had told me how beautiful the landscape was around Potenza and Matera where she came from. So when Diego showed us a video of him doing the Vollo Del Angelo, which is smack bank in the middle of the two towns Rossella mentioned, it seemed like the ideal thrill seeker activity and within minutes we'd booked ourselves a space.

Prepare....... Engage!
The Vollo del Angelo means 'Flight of the Angel' in English. It is a set of zip wires that shoot people 1.5km across a large ravine in the Dolomite mountain range at up to 70 miles per hour! There are two routes on two totally separate wires. Both wires connect the two mountain towns of Castelmessano and Pietrapertosa just in different directions.

When booking online it became apparent that their operational season was coming to an end and we booked on the last day they would run that year! Instant regret washed over me as I read the stats back after booking. 1.5km long 70 mph 400 metres up. uh oh.

I'm petrified of heights. I really am. You know when someone says they go weak at the knees. It's no bull shit. I've had it happen and physically had to sit down. I start to shake uncontrollably, even if I'm desperate to do what ever it is i'm at height for.

Getting to the first town Castelmessano was more eventful than we expected. Three Quarters of the van's exhaust system decided to leave us while we were on the motorway. Luckily all of the boxes were on the front part of the system and she doesn't sound or run any different! A small pit-stop had to be made in a lay-by to ensure everything was safe and to recover the hunk of metal off the road.

Save me oh holy helmet
We pulled in to Castelmessano and was inundated with traffic. It's obvious the Vollo del Angelo is a major tourist attraction, bringing people to an otherwise overlooked section of Italy. I say overlooked because the mountain range is really magnificent. Parking was a nightmare but eventually we were walking to the first platform. Kerry, bless her, found the 20 minute walk up the side of the mountain a little strenuous. The air was definitely thinner.

We got to the first station amid a clatter of Italian hollering and gesturing. I don't speak a word of Italian. We were told to wait a bit. After about 45 minutes no one had gone on the zip wire and I was getting more and more scared. All sorts of thoughts were running through my head. The last person to go had had an accident. They'd found a fault in the cabling. A helicopter had hit the wire. A meteor was scheduled to hit the mountain any minute. The world was just about to explode in to tiny space fragments.

What was more likely is that we'd got there just as lunch started and now they'd all finished it was time to 'fly'. Kerry and I were at the top first and so, naively, thought we would be going first. I always prefer to go first. Then I don't get to see the process, watch how it all works, see any of the mistakes that can be made. I'd already convinced myself that every bolt was tight and every weld was good and strong. Now I had to witness everyone who had turned up behind Kerry and I go on the bloody thing before us!

At long last they pointed at me, dressed to the nines in a sort of suspended sleeping bag. God knows what that tiny helmet is there for. If shit hits the fan I'm plunging 400 metres to the ravine floor, a bit of plastic clad polystyrene isn't going to help me.

I got hooked up and instantly felt more scared. They put on a small piece of material to act as a wind break. Dependent on the last riders landing speed and weight they then determine which size 'wing' to put on. I got a yellow one. I don't know what that means. Then with a little 'Enjoy your flight, Ciao' the woman pulled the release and I was set forth to my doom.

Kerry coming in to land
The first 7 or 8 seconds I was flying fairly low over a small field but then the floor literally fell away as I shot over the cliff and in to the ravine. Instantly I felt calm... I was totally removed from the situation. It was as if I wasn't there. I was simply viewing what was going on. As if through a television screen. In a video game maybe? And it was awesome! Every feeling of fear literally dropped out of me. I was able to simply enjoy the whole experience.

I looked in all directions, whizzing along the steel cable with a constant humming noise. To my left the ravine opened out to a vast pasture, to the right the ravine cut deep in to the mountains. Below me were sharp, stalactite like rock formations and then the road, weaving and winding it's way up the other side to the town of Pietrapertosa. Then it dawned on me. I've now got to 'land', and I have no idea how that works! I could see the platform rushing towards me, oh crap!

It was fine. I hit a small break and was sharply, but not violently, brought to a halt.The attendant unclipped me and I walked away, unscathed, unharmed and with a strong desire to do this all day long! Thank god there was the return journey!

The Vollo del Angelo is a spectacular experience. A must see for anyone in the area, and a worthy cause to travel for it if your not in the area. I've heard there is going to be a similar attraction installed on Mount Snowdon. If that's true... I'm there!

Enjoy the video below. It is filmed by Youtube user David Kilpatrick and shows both flights from each of the towns. It gives a good taste for what to expect, but does not in any way replicate the experience. For that your going to have to head over to Italy and strap yourself in! You won't regret it!


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