Parawaiting: Waiting time before ideal conditions kick in and you soar.
What it actually means,
Wait for your time, wait for your turn, wait for your favourable conditions to soar. While you are waiting for use that time to prepare yourself for that amazing experience you are waiting for.
Check your harness, check safety belts, clear entangled lines, tiniest bit of distraction and comfort can take away your moment of glory.
I guess, waiting for the right wind conditions is the learning one needs to practise in real life too.
Also, that eagle in the tee is always watching our attempt at being a bird like. “You guys are funny”, he says!
I had my verbal exam pending from my last course and I thought this is the best time to wrap it up, so studying weather, wind, airflow, air topography etc were on my mind right from the time we woke up to aroma of Maharashtriansambhar!
Post a real quick breakfast we had the debrief of previous day’s flying, a couple of questions answered, some doubts cleared, some standards being set for the day’s flying.
Moved to the verbal exam with Ankush sir, and with him it is always a guessing game unless you are sure of your answer, harrowing 20 minutes later I came out of the exam a little more aware of wind and glider movement!
Had a kickass biryani in lunch prepared by our 3 star Michelin chef kaka!
A quick nap post that heavy biryani, it was FLY time.
Typical to Pawna conditions, strong winds from the West were hitting us with full intensity, with dark patches being formed over the lake indicating gust movement.
I was the lightest on the glider among all the pilots today, I was asked to wait up before the wind conditions get better and they did get better, or at least we thought so.
All decked up to fly, almost on the verge of taking off and a big mad gust comes and takes us all down, I scrape my knee a bit and we settle down for the wind to get stabilised
10 min later, conditions look favourable and I limp my way to the take-off zone, within minutes of flight clearance check, I fly.
A good 35 min of RIDGE(hill) SOARING and I am already extending my right ridge limitation by 400mt. Enjoying the view from 1000+ft up and above, it’s mesmerising.
The adventure camera is going on and of as I am struggling to get a good capture, though I am hoping it is ON and capturing all the beauty this flying spot can offer.
In between, Radio conks off mid way and surprisingly I don’t panic, I coolly switch it off and press squelch instead of switching on!
Squelch basically sends out a loud distress signal and it is painful especially if it is placed right next to your ears! I act quickly and set it right!
WOW, that took some time and patience!
Finally, as expected Ganpat sir asks me to leave the ridge and head into the wind, this is an indication to go out and land.
I leave the ridge but not the height(avoid long figure of 8 turns) and magically Ganpat sir knew what I want, he radioes Avi sir “Doesn’t look like Ashish wants to land, please make him do some 360’s and take his test”
And there it was,
I took position flying over the lake, cold breeze hitting me all over and then It begins.
Test: 360degrees in 16 sec.
Attempt 1: Everything goes wrong in this one!
I go right a bit late, the push from weight shift is not enough and in AVI sir’s words, “you took forever” and yes indeed I took 33 seconds! #disgrace
Attempt 2: Got more control, determination and grit in place.
Took a sharp right, threw my weight a bit more than the previous one and took 24 sec to complete the turn. Seeing some potential for completing the task, AVI sir checks with me and asks me to be ready for one last attempt at it!
Attempt 3: Deep breath, tighter grip, locking the visual of the mountain top on the right of the lake, feeling the adrenaline rush and the right amount of nervousness.
And on command of Avi, I hit left and I go crazy doing the 360’s, facing a surge of G-force and before I realise I hit the starting point from my right and hear the magical words from Avi sir on radio, “well-done-mate-well done, you took 16 sec which is exactly what we wanted, very well done”
Swear to god, I had goosebumps high up in the air and a thrill of finishing a task which takes lot of effort and guts.
Independent landing approach played my 8’s really long to be in the line of the “Spot” and landing right in front of it but not on it, a miss I hate.
Fortunately, the adv-cam was able to capture the entire flight-360 and the radio conversation. chechk it out below.
Quick packing of the glider on the ground and the most delicious Poha chai to sun setting view.
I remember, the beautiful part about joining school after a long summer vacation is that nervousness of my friends not going to recognise me, will the peon uncle smile at me giving me an assurance of familiarity or NOT. This and other fear can make any young heart go dub-lub-dub, it is the same feeling I get when I go back to my paragliding alma mater at Temple-pilots, the place where I picked up this beautiful sport!
That fear couldn’t even last for 3 min as when I entered I met long lost people from novice piloting days and a friendly banter ensued followed by the friendliest of faces of the instructors here and the cutest SPIKEY or as Neenad (@mumbai__streetphotogrpaher)
calls, “SPIKEYAAAAA” to which there could be a flying sandal on the way by the ever caring Anita, co-owner or should I say Co-nurturer of this beautiful setup!
It would be unfair to the entire flying fraternity if I don’t mention the uber suave and someone who can rival Dhoni in the coolness quotient, presenting
*drum roll* Avi Malik *drum roll*
With the initial chitchat between the instructors and old story narration, we settle down with a cup of chai for the de-brief session headed by Sr Instructor and chief prankster Ankush, he takes on the session like a boss, rampages through earlier day’s mistake learnings as they like to call it here.He introduces me to the bunch of pilots who are going to be there with me for another 9 days of the course and these are actual pilots, they fly aircrafts and then I ask myself what are they doing here and then I chuckle at the thought of “what am I doing here?” we are seeking something “beyond the usual.”
Anyways, we hit the simulator practice and I ace it, I am killing it when instructor Vikas the shelar boy makes me feel like shite when he points out my straps are not plugged in, embarrassingly I fix it and he gives me the nicest smile of “it’s okay” if it exists. Ankush pulls a prank on P1 students with me in the play and it falls flat with the students(thank god for that)Post the simulator practice, I sat down for the most amazing “home cooked Indian food” I have had in a very long time, simple food with so much love does become delicious anyways that’s what my mom does when she cooks for us! 🙂 With a quick nap, we rush to pick up our glider bag ensuring I have my helmet in place, I double check and ask Akash(Instructor) to check for me again! 😀
We dump ourselves into this hot tin traveller, start moving to this lakeside spot for which I have been waiting for since I have seen pictures of it plastered all over the base.
After a quick stop at the very famous eatery with the paragliders of Kamshet, and a refreshing sugarcane juice we head to our site.
SITE: Words are not going to be enough to present the beauty
Showcasing Exhibits below :B
Exhibit1: Can you feel the wind?
After an hour taking in this beauty, we decided to get the ground handling activity going as I was coming back after 3 months of a gap, the most painful and rewarding aspect of paragliding is getting to know your glider a lot, Kiting and ground handling session gives you the opportunity to do the same.
After a 90 min of gruelling ground handling session and looking at spikey taking a cool dip, Instructors decided I was good enough to do a top-bottom here at Pawna,
Reaching the top, the view was mesmerizing, a fairy tale set up. Absolute scenic or as the film buff in me pointed out, this could be a YashRaj movie location.
The top to bottom was absolutely mesmerising, with green-blue-orange hue all over the place and AVI sir playing with my alertness throughout the flight over the radio.
And before we realised, we were ready to pack up and head to the base.
Sunsets like these
This place is a beauty bomb, waiting to explode with its template, I just hope it never gets discovered more than it has already been!
The final meal of the day makes me smile, thank you chef Kaki at the base.
The day started with everyone murmuring in unison, “It’s Ganpat sir’s birthday”!
Ganpat sir is one of the most assuring voice you will hear in the skies of Kamshet, a voice you would know has it in control, not only himself but you and your glider is also under his control such is his understanding of the sport. Highly regarded in the fraternity by old and new and it was his BIRTHDAY!
Today’s de-brief was packed and was termed “Sunday houseful”
I crashed into Akash sir’s class for P1, always fun to sit for a class you have already done because clearly you haven’t.
Jeetu sir took our capsule 5 which included sessions and understanding on,
Mechanics of flight
The session was interrupted by Spikey crashing in with his wagging tail and absolute cuteness!
Post the session a bit of chilling with the team and a heavy Sunday lunch we headed for a quick nap.
The brief was given and I was more than happy to know my ridge soaring schedule and tasks at hand.
1 360degree turns
2. Speed bar
3. Big Ears
On reaching the site, the wind conditions looked great albeit, with a hint of crosswind, we decided to wait for a while and then launch the experienced club pilots first as they would be our test dummies!
Once they were in the air and we had an idea of how things are going on, Instructors planned our launch and there I was, excited to soar in the skies next to majestic Fort Tungi and over the scenic Pawna lake.
I took off smoothly and was in air for a couple of seconds when I was radio to check a knot on the brake line, a risky proposition in this sport but the tangle was not much and I was able to handle it well, post which I started soaring in the figure of 8 following the ridge rules.
The view was usual magical, green grass blue skies, green swimming pool bottoms and a setting sun. Absolute stunner!
After a long flight of 50 min, I was asked to head into the wind as P1 pilots were taking off and they needed clearer traffic to handle their first flight ever!
I was being guided by the Avi sir, I was about to overshoot the landing spot, though I knew what was happening I didn’t take any action and was hovering and gliding past the spot, to which I was asked to take a swerve and go behind and create space for me to be able to land perfectly, eventually I did a perfect landing with some soundings from the chief. Phew!
At the landing area, all you will hear is excited voices and uncontained happiness.
Sat down with a cup of chai and Poha to end my evening with a smile.
Over the course of my stay on this planet, I have seen Leh Ladakh emerge as one of the most coveted travelling experiences in India. It is a dream destination for many while others may describe it is an adventure of a lifetime. For me, it was a mere accident.
Spread over a solid ten days, the journey was as exciting as jumping off the cliff for the first time. So much so that if I were to write about every experience of mine, I would rather take an hour of yours!
The road trip began from Delhi leading up to Jammu. After a quick pitstop, we made our way to Srinagar. A travel of nearly eight hours seemed easy, owing to the sleek roads and the Herculean mountains around. There was no off beat in this nature’s cacophony. After spending a night at Srinagar, we were to head out for Kargil the next day. But would not it be a crime if leave without visiting the Dal lake in Srinagar? As cliche as it sounds, there is nothing dull about the lake. Once you get accustomed to seeing the clutter of plastic and waste on the lake, the smooth ride on a shikara makes it all easy.
Tucked in neatly like pillowcases on bed, a parade of Victorian era houseboats on either side may lure you into humming any of the chartbusters from Shammi Kapoor starrer Kashmir ki Kali. A sunrise on the horizon, chants of vegetable vendors in the background and a kahwa to sip on makes for an instagram-worthy moment! (if only I would have remembered to capture the moment. Damn, got too lost in the real-life experience!)
There are no points for guessing the highlight of our next stop, Kargil. The memorabilia of the 1999 war spread across the foothills of Tololing in the war memorial is a visual treat. It is hard not to be inspired by the legend of the war and its martyrs. From every brick to pillar, there are unforgettable stories in every nook and cranny.
Legend has it that when two magnanimous personalities collaborate, the climax is bound to be grander. Such is the case with Confluence of Zanskar and Indus rivers in Ladakh. Also known as Zanskar valley, words would fall short to describe the spotless jugalbandi of the sister rivers.
Monasteries to Leh are what oxygen is to living creatures. One can easily locate age old monasteries at every 10-20 km from the main town of Leh. It would not be wrong to say that it is the beating heart of the cold desert. Be it the grandeur of Shey Palace, vibrancy of Thiksey or the magnanimity of Diskit, each monastery has something different to offer. Besides a plethora of monasteries, Leh is also home to Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, one of the most revered gems in the vicinity.
As we made our way through it all, the anticipation grows steadily for the pinnacle of this trip. For many, that was Pangong Tso (tso means lake). For the ones who did not believe in love at first sight would probably reconsider their belief after witnessing Pangong.
With well painted mountains in the backdrop the clean blue waters of this endorheic lake are a perfect protagonist of this dream-like reality. While your skin could feel a slight burn from the sun, one dip in water could freeze you for a week. The apex of this trip in form of Pangong is every bit worth the hype.
After such a blockbuster view, everything seemed underwhelming till we were back to the grind (read: Delhi). One may call this travel soul stirring, while some may say it is as good as they come. I even heard some of the fellow travellers saying it was the ultimate dose of adrenaline. Well for me, it was just a happy accident!
Plummeted into the Connaught place inner circle pillars
Waking up like that woman in those awesome coffee adverts.
Face smashed like those waves at marine drive in July.
Content like in those last shot of every sportswear commercials. Basically, balancing the entire awesomeness of hard work and appreciating the madness of hard luck. Magic is somewhere in between. Go find yours.
************** On 1st Jan: Finished Advanced open water diving course with templeadventures.com in Pondicherry. Was staying with Kipak stays which I found on Airbnb and was a beautiful place to crash. It had 3 dogs, 2 hens, and a freewheeler jungle cat! Unfortunately, that place does not exist anymore for homestays. Feb 10th: Finished Goa Olympic triathlon in 04:20:23 hrs. Feb 11th: Dived with Dive-Goa at three multiple locations. Details here.
Moved cities with couple of bags and lot of baggage! Discovered the joy of wings and flying with templepilots.com Earned my first taste of breeze at 500ft. Earned my first real paragliding experience at 3000 ft from the tower hill.