PARAGLIDING at Kamshet Wedding anniversary was approaching and it was decided that we would do something different this time. We had enough of romantic dinners and extravagant gifts (not that I did not want those) but this time felt like doing something more adventurous. The initial plan was to go Paragliding, there are a couple of Paragliding places around Kamshet, near Pune which take adven-tourists like us for what they call Tandem Flights. This basically means you are a buggy along with the pilot and not flying alone. A few calls to them we realised that most weekends are booked and 27th Jan (anniversary day) was not possible to accommodate us. Sigh… they asked to try next week, however as it would have been Adi and I both were tied down for next few weekends till it was February 27th – now this was special day too, as yours truly was having her birthday and she made sure that this time the high flying plans were well set. It was decided to meet the team of Temple Pilots in afternoon of that Sunday near Pavna – Kamshet Road. From there we were to head for the actual flying site which was either the Tower or Shelar Tekdi. As was expected and what we were warned, Paragliding is an extremely wind dependent adventure sport and it has to make for perfect conditions to enjoy this. Unfortunately it was not a good day for us, inspite of waiting for more than 3 hours we had to go back, only to double up the appetite for this sport. I am almost considering doing the pilot training, but more about that in later post. The ride to Kamshet and back was beautiful and i got the opportunity to make great use of the camera. GLIDING at Hadapsar Soon after mis-adventures, I was told about gliding center which was within Pune city at Hadapsar by a dear friend PK, she told me you only had to go register your names there before 9am on any Sunday and it had minimum fees for it to. This was super exciting, so close and so cheap – the following weekend on 6th March we decided to go. Left from home packed with all anti sun gear and lots of water and fruits, we reached the site around 9.00 am. The sign in register already had 18 names before us and we were numbers 19 and 20. In the hangar we saw the glider planes parked. They were 6 in number, as usual the counting in my head began, I assumed that if all 6 were out, we would be in the 3rd round of flights that will happen. Much to my amazement, although “Strictly No Photography here” signs were all over the place, careless onlookers went all out with their cams, I did not, atleast not withing the hangar. Around 10.30 am we were asked to move towards the airfield while planes were getting ready. It is a huge task to move the gliders from the hangar to the take off zone. The glider is trolleyed behind a van while someone has to walk the length of the road holding up one wing. As this too is a wind dependent activity, it is absolutely necessary that wind is in opposite direction of the take off. These gliders are all motorless and flown with help of a wench, the wench is connected to the nose of the glider and long rope connects it to a vehicle like a jeep etc which a few hundred Mts away. The vehicle pulls the wench rope and launches the glider skyward.
The pilot’s capabilities of managing this machine in air are put to test when the wench disengages and glider goes into a free fall for 3 – 4 seconds, it is most awesome feeling you get, till you are back to normal again. The gliders are only 2 seaters, for obvious reasons the controls for the co – flyer i.e Me in this case are removed. After we settled into the skies, there was no sound of the motor and a pristine silence which echoed inside the planes pit. As land below began to fly by, I could actually guage the speed at which we were going, it was quite pleasant ride. Its a different flying experience when you can see the ground, the one man space inside the plane is hardly a comfort zone and more like free flying. Ariel view of Pune was extravagant. Landscape marked with buildings with Sahyadris completing the backdrop.
My Joy ride lasted about 7 – 10 minutes. The landing was bumpy but smooth and for the first time I realised the meaning of the phrase “Brace Yourself” – the descend was super and for me the highlight of the entire experience. There is real skill in maneuvering these planes since they are all on manual control. No fancy gadgets to guide you around and pilot cannot put this machine into Auto mode. Being able to read the controls, familiarize yourself with geographical conditions and identifying landscapes are critical for being safe Up in the Air. On the whole a super experience and worth every bit of waiting in sun and praying for wind God’s to make this happen.