Normally, I plan my flights in advance, looking in detail to the weather forecast and planning the route to check the best lines where to challenge myself and seize the day. I like to go for big flights!
I fly cross-country a lot in my home country, Portugal. In most of our flying spots, we go across the border deep into Spain. In some of these areas, there are lots of big soaring birds like eagles, storks and vultures among others. They are very curious and gregarious animals as this helps them to optimize their energy by scouting a big area and taking advantage of the natural conditions in the atmosphere without having to spend much energy. They do so by soaring the rising columns of air that come from below on the heated surface of the land. Exactly the same way with paragliding as we learned from them!
During one of my flights, I met with a big flock of vultures and they came really close. I could count at least 60 of these huge, majestic birds. They are so elegant moving through the air effortlessly. One of them came really close and took a good look at me - which felt a bit intimidating because they are really big birds at up to 3m wingspan! The huge claws and beak are impressive and for sure can harm you if they use it against you. I could see him scanning me from head to toe and even checking my paraglider. "What a strange bird this is" I could imagine him thinking. Eventually, he realised I was no threat (and not good food haha!) and joined me circling the same thermal up to the cloudbase at 3800m. We were just helping each other finding the best lift and cooperating like good buddies into getting higher and higher. We then glided out in the vast sky, side by side finding the best line to keep going. It just struck me! The bird and the whole flock accepted me! I felt like one of them - a real bird.
We kept on going for some time and flew 40km together eventually splitting later on. They got back to their nesting place and I kept on going, focused on my goal to fly far. I flew 280km that day and I was just elated, for the flight itself but mainly for the close encounter with such magnificent birds that showed me I was one of them. I felt like I had feathers growing!
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