In Bulgaria, the Rila mountain range's highest peak, Musala, sits just 70km away from the capital city of Sofia, and is a favourite destination for Bulgarian paraglider pilot Veso Ovcharov and friends.
The 2,925m high peak lets the pilots soar high over the well-known Seven Rila Lakes. “The Seven Rila Lakes are sacred,” says Ovcharov. “It's very spiritual for the people of Bulgaria.”
While the route is part of a typical cross-country route for pilots looking to log long distances, Ovcharov and friends used the 'safety net' of the lakes below to turn it into a playground for acro (acrobatic) paragliding, throwing high-risk manoeuvres such as wing-overs, spins, and infinity tumbles (that's the one where the pilot flips over the wing.)
But even when they're not getting inverted, the Rila mountain range offers challenging conditions. “You're flying in powerful conditions,” says Ovcharov. “The contrasts of rocks and lakes create temperature differences that encourage thermal lifts. There's a lot of air moving up and down!”
Since the summer flying season in Bulgaria finished, Ovcharov headed to the Hawaiian islands, where tradewinds and volcanic ridges make for excellent soaring. He's been flying off the Haleakala Crater on Maui, and Makapu'u Ridge on Oahu, with an eye towards exploring Kauai's lush tropical valleys sometime soon. But surprisingly, one of the most intense moments of the trip didn't happen in the air, but in the water.
“In October, we were kiteboarding at Maui's Kite Beach when myself and some friends noticed another kiter moving strangely in the water, ” says Ovcharov. “We went over to check it out, and it turned out he'd been bit in the leg by a shark. We helped haul him out of the water and got medical attention.” The kiteboarder survived the attack with significant but non life-threatening injuries.
So what's up next for Ovcharov? A little bit more flying in Hawaii before he hits the US mainland for sky-diving. But don't worry – there's still one more Bird's Eye video to come next week, where Ovcharov will take you on an aerial tour of Bulgaria's incredible coastline.
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