I’m used to the sun. I work in Oman, where there’s no shortage of the stuff and pasty-faced Europeans usually know the pitfalls of getting too much. Nevertheless, awesome thermo-dynamic conditions and an open face helmet on my final day as a relatively low-airtime visiting pilot in Kamshet put me off guard, resulting in the pain and embarrassment of a badly sunburned face to balance the euphoria of one of the best days of flying I’ve ever had.
Free flight in Oman is impossible so it made sense to capitalise on the long break after Ramadan by crossing the Arabian Sea to link up with Nirvana Adventures and explore paragliding possibilities in the Western Ghats in early November. Despite short notice, smooth administration by Sanjay and Astrid meant a swift transfer to Golden Glades, a tasty lunch and a ride up to Tower Hill launch just a few hours after arriving at Mumbai International Airport. During this post-monsoon period Tower Hill is the only viable site, taking a consistent Westerly wind. During my stay the wind was always bang on the hill, with speeds building up gradually during the mornings and dropping off in the mid afternoons, giving two satisfyingly lengthy flying windows each day.
It may have been the only site working at the point in the season, but Tower Hill was perfect for my requirements. Soaring the lengthy ridge above an authentically rural Indian landscape presented surprising challenges as the lift band shifted and contracted, and the sky turned ‘on’ and ‘off’. Top landing practice was easy and forgiving due to the flat, wide open ridge top, and in the afternoons the sky became thermo-dynamic, allowing me to core thermals and gain enough height to take me above the top of the tower. While the winds were gratifyingly smooth they were often stronger than I was used to. Local pilots were more at home launching in these conditions than I, but Sanjay & Ravi, who together made up Nirvana’s highly competent and knowledgeable instructor team, offered patient advice and encouragement, as well as physical assistance on more than one occasion, and I soon found myself redefining what I was comfortable with as skills and confidence grew.
At the end of each flying day fellow pilots habitually headed to Rangoli Restaurant on the outskirts of Kamshet for some cold Kingfisher beers and to shoot the breeze with other pilots from all over the world at what is clearly becoming an increasingly well known and correspondingly cosmopolitan free flying location. Back at Native Place we enjoyed great evening meals, courtesy of the skilled and tireless kitchen staff, and even the odd impromptu party. I couldn’t have asked for more.
My longest flight at Kamshet was over two and half hours, a personal best, and the reason for the red face. If you want to increase your airtime in a friendly, culturally authentic but surprisingly accessible part of India with some like-minded, easy-going people, Nirvana Adventure is highly recommended. But bring your suncream.