Para-Nirvana in India

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I only had a week in India, and I didn't have the heart to go to the Himalayas for such a short jaunt, especially if I had to face a week of un-flyable weather (the weather in the big mountains can be unpredictable).

So I hooked up with guys at Nirvana Adventures about 120 km outside Bombay. Their base at Kamshet, with its consistent weather and variety of flying sites has gained popularity in PG circles as a great place to learn how to fly as well as gain airtime and progress to higher levels. Nirvana Adventures train here through the year except for the monsoon months of June to September.

The Climate

The latitude of this place is the same as Mexico City and I thought it had a very similar "look and feel", with steep mesas and arid but paradoxically jungle like at the same time. The mountains are about 1000 meters high and bald on top so there really are potentially launches everywhere. Landing out did not seem to be an issue, there are lots of grassy farms and roads, although I didn't get the chance to try any hitchhiking as I didn't do any XC (cross country flying).

The Sites

There are multiple sites here that get flown in the different monsoon conditions. For our time (November) we were flying the East facing site, Tower Hill. They all look pretty darn good, and it looks like under good XC conditions it would be relatively easy to do some distance as things are spaced out nicely, lots of ranges on easy glide without any tight valleys.

The Treats

I could write about 10 pages on this.

First off, the birds are really something, they are very gregarious, more than anywhere else I have been, and HUGE. They will share the thermals with you and on my last day I just ridge soared till I saw a new kind of bird and then joined him in what he was doing. A large Kite shared a 500 foot climb with me flying about 10 feet away the entire time which was a real treat.

The Bed & Breakfast

Native Place a guest house run by Astrid Rao is very clean, and feels like a retreat center and party house at the same time. I was never wanting for friendly conversation, company, a variety of delicious Indian meals, some cooked up activity or a place to sit quietly alone. Imagine cushions, hammocks, flowers, open air, nice views. It is also set on a very clean lake that serves as a reservoir that I swam in daily.

This area is very new, if not brand new to tourism. So there are no brochures telling you there is a sweet village down the road that has beautiful little temples and children who have never seen white people that will ask you what is wrong with your skin. There are no advertisements that one of the flying sites that we weren't using that week has a 300 foot waterfall, 500 ft vertical rock cliffs with honey comb that is harvested by local people by vine ladders. There are no trail guides that show you the walk around the hills and farms of people that walk barefoot in cobra country and that at the tops of these hills are tribal people that have never left the hill.

Every day there was something new to explore that would often arise in casual conversation, to which I would say "well, can we go check that out?" and next thing I knew we had a driver, or a guide and were on our way. Nobody selling me anything, nobody looking for commissions. Just sweet, sincere exchanges between people.

Our average day consisted of breakfast, a swim, lounge around a bit, lunch, afternoon exploration, late afternoon into sunset flight, BS-ing in the LZ in sign language with the locals for an hour or so, off to the local village bar for drinks and snacks on a cow dung floor outside, and home for another great home-cooked Indian meal.

I should also add that my friend learned to fly with Nirvana Adventures. I found them to be responsible, knowledgeable, and extremely committed. His training culminated with a half hour flight from Tower Hill, something that couldn't easily be done anywhere here other than say point of the mountain. The glide from Tower hill has virtually no obstacles and no rotor.

I think that a P2 or P3 (novice or club pilot) would have a fabulous time here just for the flying.

For me, I really appreciated the flying, as well as the India experience (the people, the farms, the villages, and the countryside) at Kamshet. I also really appreciated being there to see the beginning of our sport in a new country. Sanjay Rao of Nirvana Adventures is the first to try to develop a rating system for India to make the sport safe and he seems very committed to it.

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Jill Nephew

Jill Nephew studies atmospheric science, is a rock climber, runner and skateboarder. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.

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