Living in a bustling city like Mumbai, where time is money; it is easy to wear out and not realise that you need a break. I was working in a reputed ad agency but the job failed to thrill me. I knew I needed a change and this was the best time to do it. A dear friend of mine calls me a maverick because it’s hard for me to settle into something and she is probably right. It’s just the way I am! If work seems to involve very little application of mind, very little discovery in day to day routine, there is a good chance I’ll get tired of it. It’s in such situations where I need to break out and unwind. It’s all for the best I said, found a job which I thought would really challenge me and decided to take a short break before getting into action.
I had 3 days to spare and I wanted to escape every semblance of urban civilisation. The first instinct was to look at remote places in the Himalayas but that plan was quickly shot down. I really wanted to learn a new skill and so the idea of learning paragliding came up. I’ve heard a lot about paragliding in Kamshet and I really wanted to give it a go. In a few days, I made my bookings and was ready to go.
If you are travelling from Mumbai, it is very convenient to drive all the way to Kamshet since it’s just a few Kilometres away from Lonavla.
I really wanted to do this on a budget, so I pre-booked a sleeper class ticket Indrayini Express from CSTM to Lonavla costing INR 110. There are local trains from Lonavla to Pune that stop at Kamshet station. It’s just 2 stations away & the local ticket costs INR 5.
From the station walked a kilometre to the market chowk & get on to a bus for Uksan Village. The fare was INR 18 & drops you right at the doorstep.
Course & Stay Experience:
If you don’t have strong arms & shoulders like me, it is advisable to work them out a bit, before the trip. Paragliding is really easy to learn but it really works your upper body out.
Day 1 – Ground Handling.
This was the toughest day of the entire course. Ground handling involves learning the basics of paragliding and trying to control the glider as it tries to blow you away. Oh I should mention, better pad up your waist because it will hurt like a bitch when you are learning to control the glider. Picture this, we spent the entire first day bending forward, raising our arms high at the back and looking like chickens that caught some flight!
At the end of day 1, we were sore, bruised, tired and yet so damn happy! The vast open field, the prospect of going airborne tomorrow, simple yet delicious meals and the fresh air all contributed to a happy bunch of people.
Day 2 – Bunny Hops
Waking up at 7am doesn’t seem so difficult in such a beautiful place! At 8.30am we were off to another site, practicing what we learnt the day before. Muscles warmed up, we arrived back at the dorm and hogged on some good food in preparation for the bunny hops later in the evening.
Bunny hops are 3-5 second flights that you take from a slightly elevated ground. It’s a stepping-stone to jumping from 200ft on the last day. This gives you the feel of flying the air and what it’s like to fall on your ass. Trust me, it’s fun.
Day 3 – The Final Flight
The entire grind, the chicken flights, ass landings you did is towards that one flight from 200ft on Day 3. We taken out for a practice session in the morning, however the wind wasn’t party to it and so we trekked the jumping hill.
You wouldn’t believe me if I said, my legs were like jelly by the time we got to the top. Exhausted more by acrophobic paranoia than fatigue, I scrambled to the very top to this view. It was all worth it. We headed back to camp and fuelled up for the big flight in the evening.
After a few practice bunny hops we were given permission to head to the ledge at 200 ft. on the hill. After a quick briefing and pre-flight checks, we were ready to take off, one after the other. I was honestly petrified by the idea of jumping off a ledge. I wasn’t sure if I’d really be able to do. I shared this candidly with the instructors who just said this – “ Run hard, look at the horizon & the glider will take care of you even before you reach the edge.” It was true, when my turn came, having got the glider in control; I sprinted towards the edge, looking straight at the sun in the horizon. Before I knew it, I was up in the air, leaning back on my seat, feeling a gentle breeze on my face.
It was a surreal feeling. We all soared in the air like a bird, saw the horizon in a way we’ve never seen before. It really felt good to be flying and seeing the ground below where everyone is ant sized and the patches of farms look like well set Lego pieces.
It was an amazing experience, which lasted a good 2 minutes. I had fairly good landing and I was thrilled to have done the whole flight really well.
At the end of the day, there we were, 7 long faces going back home and to ‘real life’. I had a long journey ahead of me. I hitched a free ride to the Kamshet Market Chowk and walked a kilometer to the station. There’s an 8pm train that takes you to Lonavla. Don’t miss it because the next one is at 12 a.m.! You can buy a Kamshet to Kalyan ticket that costs INR 30. This ticket is valid on Mail Trains that halt at Lonavla. From Kalyan Station you can hop on board a local train to CSTM in just INR 15.
Cost of this experience:
|Getting To The Paragliding School|
|Paragliding Course (3 days)||INR 14500|
|Train: CSTM to Lonavla||INR 110|
|Train: Lonavla to Kamshet||INR 5|
|Kamshet to Paragliding School||INR 18|
|Getting Back Home|
|Train: Kamshet to Kalyan||INR 30|
|Train Kalyan to CSTM||INR 15|
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