Paragliding Weekend

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    I’m home, Its mid morning on Saturday, the phone rings I answer it - my meeting for the day is cancelled. Darn it! if I knew earlier I would have gone to Kamshet for the weekend. Sanjay has been there since the beginning of the week Paragliding, and me, I’ve no plans for the weekend. The phone rings again, Its Pikoo on the line, one of Sanjay’s paragliding cronies I’ve spoken to him on the phone but we’ve never met. He calls to say he and Doc are catching the 1 o'clock bus to Kamshet and do I want to go with them, suddenly the aimless morning becomes a flurry of activity and I’m rushing around trying to organise a 10 minute departure.

    We meet at Dadar TT, Pikoo, Doc and me board the AC bus to Pune after informing the conductor that we want to get off on the highway at Kamshet.

    On the 3 hour journey they jabber non stop about their precious flights. I can’t keep up with this conversation as I’m ignorant about paragliding so I look out of the window.

    Kamshet arrives and we hop out of the bus and head for the market looking for a rickshaw to get us to the flying site. We hop into the first rick and we are on our way. Pikoo and Doc are nervous about not getting there in time to fly. They keep hurrying the driver and soon we figure that nobody knows the route to the site. We stop at a turning and ask a few villagers about those colourful wings in the sky. We get an immediate response and speed on in the right direction. The rick driver is intrigued, he lives in a village on the other side of the hills and has heard all about this strange phenomena. Pikoo proudly asks him to stay a while to watch him fly.

    As we turn around a bend we see this huge fluorescent rainbow patch on the hillside. Doc yells "that’s Vikram’s glider, he is about to take off". We half run half walk the short distance to the site and they abandon me under some trees and quickly scurry uphill. I sit under a shady tree and quietly take in all the action.

    Vikram was still airborne. It was such a beautiful sight. There he was, under this canopy of fluorescent green and orange, soaring as they call it, just like the eagles in this amphitheater of hills. Watched him glide from one end to another turn around and do it again and again. I was spellbound.

    Soon voices began to filter through my reverie and I began to notice the rest of the activity. Another glider took off and I could hear the instructor barking instructions to the student pilot on the radio. Binny was not so lucky it seems. She rose up and seemed to go really high but missed the lift band and gently floated downwards, soon there were shouts from others on the hill and I figured that she was heading straight for a tree.

    She managed to manoeuvre out of it somehow but the thorny karvanda bush got her. Much to the delight of the little village kids who ran eagerly clapping and giggling all the way. I watched them help her fold the glider, they were so adept at it. Observant little kids. Saw a car in the distance, a couple of Nirvana Adventures club members have come for an evening flight, watch them stop by (the local farmer) Shelar’s hut, where the windsock hoisted on his roof promises good winds. I looked up again and now there were 5 gliders in the air colouring the sky in bright patches, a few eagles had joined in to add to the traffic, they squawked away making me wonder how they felt about these multi- coloured wings intruding their airspace. Binny joined me and introduced herself. We chatted a bit and then she wandered off to help Pikoo who had landed in the field nearby.

    And so the evening went by, it only got better with the approaching sunset, more takeoffs, more landings, more trudging back uphill, more cheers, laughter and fun. It was a visual treat. The colours of the gliders vied with the sunset, Sanjay had a good landing, but Vikram’s flight was the highlight of the evening. Dusk, wings folded for the day. Everyone helps to clear the area of all traces of city life - plastic bottles, snack wrappers etc. and head for a debrief near Shelar’s hut. The instructor still seemed to have a lot to say and so does everyone else. Shelar joins in and makes some expert comments. He seems to have a surprisingly fair idea of the going on’s of the evening’s flying, and is full of smiles and compliments for everyone.

    We slowly walk back to the two vehicles, load in the gliders and then pile on ourselves. Some of us are heading lakewards for a moonlit swim and a game of water polo, and some go on to the cottages. But first we make a stop at the village square for a drink. We share a couple of cokes spiked with the local brew while sitting under the huge pipal tree in the centre of the village square, while Sanjay makes arrangements with the family who runs the tiny convenience store to send up some supplies.

    A good splash in the tranquil waters of the huge unending lake and everyone is refreshed. We stay awhile to enjoy the quiet night and the moonlit water.

    Dinner at the cafeteria, we tuck into a traditional village fare of Bhakri, til chutney, sheera and varan bhat . The conversation is centered around flying again. The staff at the cafetaria have watched the evening flying and keep describing ‘the circus in the sky’. Rajesh the site manager joins the table, he wants to learn how to fly. Gyaneshwar the kitchen attendant scurries about serving the meal, he comes to the table with hot (bhakri ) Sanjay has promised him a tandem flight.

    Sleep comes easy in a place like this. Stroll down to the canteen for breakfast, everyone looks fresh and bright. The general lookout is towards the sky, predicting weather conditions taking clues from the clouds and the birds. Someone spotted an eagle at the morning site, Eagles soaring indicate good flying conditions, the gang will soon ready their wings and make their way up hill to the take off site.

    I head out to the lake. The calm waters shimmering in the sunshine cannot be ignored. My agenda for the morning is a lazy, quiet swim away from the excitement on the hillside, a good vantage point to watch the gliders from a distance and to think about learning to fly .

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