We were longing to have a family holiday where all four of us could go and spend some time together. We quickly rejected the thought of going to some beach along the Konkan coast and chilling out – and chose to do a “taster course” in paragliding.

We had heard of paragliding activities in Kamshet which is just a few hours away from Mumbai, but never really got around to doing it all these years. We were all very excited about it, and were waiting for the weekend to arrive. Unfortunately, we found out that Rohan had football (soccer) selections over the same weekend. So he had to stay back with a friend and the rest of us three went ahead to the course.

The course is conducted by Nirvana Adventures, the oldest and the most experienced paragliding organization.

Getting There

The camp site is located on the banks of the Uksan lake. You have to turn off the Mumbai-Pune old highway – NH4, at Kamshet, and then follow the small barely paved road to the camp site.

As usual, if you need to ask for directions, ask for the way to Wadivale. The route passes through some quaint villages. After Wadivale, you start to see the lake, and you follow the road along the shore till you reach the Nirvana Adventures camp site called Native Place.

The entrance has some lovely red flowers dangling from creepers that run over the passage way. And as one enters, the tastefully designed and decorated place welcomes you.

Day 1: Ground Handling

We were assigned tents that are pitched in the garden outside. After a sumptuous buffet lunch we were given our first briefing where we were taught the basics of how the glider is constructed, and how to use it. We learned that the modern paraglider is extremely safe – in fact it is safer to fly it than drive your car in a place like Mumbai!

Then it was time to head out for some ground handling practice. We were driven to a nearby site, where we carried our respective gliders into an open space. We were taught how to hook the harness to us, and the glider to the harness. Then we learned to lift the glider up – called flaring the glider – and run with the glider.

After each run, we had to collect the glider ties together into a “mushroom” and take it back to the starting point. During the rest break, the instructors showed off their skills in handling the gliders like kites.

After the first day’s ground handling training, we got back to the camp and had a second theory session where we are taught the basics of controlling the glider in mid-air. We then enjoyed a tasty dinner and retired early for the next morning.

Day 2: Bunny Hops

On the second day, we drove to Shinde Hill, which is near Vadgaon, a few kilometers towards Pune. This is a perfect location for beginners, as it has a gradual slope, and a hill that is about 150 feet in height.

We prepared our gliders and were taught how to do “bunny hops”. We started from midway up the hill and made low flights at not more than 10-15 feet, just learning to take off, control the glider and land properly. See Shimul doing her bunny hop in the video below.

This was really exciting and I got to do 8 bunny hops. Sharmila and Shimul are much quicker, and managed to do 10 bunny hops with almost no breaks!

We packed up at around noon and headed back to camp. After lunch, it was time to relax and enjoy the camp site. I walked to the lake and enjoyed the serene calm of the countryside, then walked around to admire the garden.

Saturday night dinner was special, arranged on the terrace with a barbecue and an opportunity to interact with everyone. We also managed to learn a few tricks of rope walking and juggling from Michael, a student visiting from the US. But we were quite excited about the third day, as we were due to do our first solo flights!

Day 3: First Solo Flight!

We woke up early the next morning, and prepared to go back to Shinde Hill. This time, we had to trudge all the way to the top of the hill with the gliders on our backs.

After unpacking the gliders and strapping on the harness, it was time for our first solo flights! The gilder is spread out and the instructor leads us to take off from the edge of the hill!

Luckily I had carried my helmet camera, and managed to shoot in-flight. Check out the video below.

This was one of the most exciting adventures – the idea of actually flying solo was completely unexpected, and such a great experience!

Before leaving, we posed for a final photograph with all the students and our chief instructor. This was an experience of a lifetime for us all, and we are really looking forward to coming back for the next level course!

For more details of Nirvana Adventures, please see:

http://www.flynirvana.com

For more info about paragliding, check the Wikipedia page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paragliding