Friday, April 16, 2010

14. So, how’s the paragliding going?

Dharamasala, Himachal Pradash, India


The last time I mentioned the paragliding, I’d just gotten the hang of reverse launching from the top of Solang Nala in Manali. I posted a video of my second ever flight and received some good feedback on it from you guys. That was Lesson 6.

I spent 2 more days doing the same thing – walking to the top, launching off and flying down. I’d only do about 5 flights per day before I’d be stuffed from walking back up the hill, or before the wind direction would change (note: you must take off and land a paraglider into the wind). In the beginning Bruce was supervising my take offs by making sure my lines were untangled and then telling me what to do during launch (”hands up, left, etc”) but I was soon able to do it all by myself while Bruce watched from below.

Bruce was pleased with my progress and so was I. Other observers remarked that I was doing well too. I’ve got the hang of taking off so now the next step in my training is a longer flight, so that I have enough time and space to play with the paraglider in the air. For that I will take off from somewhere high, and Bruce will be at the landing site on the radio talking me down.

At Manali there are plenty of high flights, but at the moment the wind is strong so it’s a bit risky for a beginner like me. More advanced pilots and tandem pilots can fly though.

So we decided to head back to Bir, and that I would do 'my first high flight from Billing – yes Tim, “the big guy”. You might remember that Billing was where I did my tandem ride with Bruce, and that I found it a bit scary. But that’s cos it was quite a rough day, I would only takeoff from Billing if the conditions were just right, i.e late in the afternoon.


We were all set to head back to Bir so that I could do my first high flight, when we got word that paragliding was banned in Bir for ten days. Why? Terrorists. Apparently intelligence agencies received reports (months ago) that Al Qaeda terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taibar has bought a bunch of paragliders and there’s a possibility that they could use one to deliver a suicide bomber. Nearby Dharamsala is set to host two IPL cricket matches on April 16 and 18, and it’s possible to paraglide from Bir to Dharamsala. So as a precaution they banned all paragliding from Bir for ten days before the cricket! Just like that.

So with paragliding banned in Bir, and the strong Rotang wind blowing in Manali, there’s nowhere for a beginner like me to have my first high flight.

So for the last 6 days I’ve been playing a waiting game – either waiting for the wind to die down in Manali, or waiting for the cricket to finish in Dharamsala. It’s been nice though – Bruce lent me his motorbike and I’ve spent the last few days in Dharamsala hanging out with other backpackers. Tonight I’m going to watch the cricket here – Punjab Kings XI vs. Deccan Chargers, which you can apparently watch live for free on youtube. More on Dharamsala later…

Still, a 6 day break is a bit too long and I’m itching to get paragliding again before I lose my fitness and/or get rusty.

PS. Thanks for the feedback by email and on Facebook, that helps to keep me motivated to write this. Even better is if you post a comment here right below.


Slag said...

Cracking up cos I just watched your appearance on One News on youtube!

Deano said...

Offer your services as the anti-terrorist unit and fly commando airways versus the terrorists. mid air bourne ultimatum kung fu fights. yeah - bring it! D

afraid said...

"appearance on One News on youtube"

sauce pls

mattyboy said...

afraid - here's your sauce:

It's exciting!

afraid said...

Okay... that's the funniest thing I've seen this year.

You're capturing the India experience really well here I think - it is indeed fascinating as Slag says. Crazy that we're in the same country. Himachal Pradesh sounds and looks so different from here.

mattyboy said...

Thanks barns, that's nice of you to say since you've been in India so long. I'm intrigued by your comment - that h.p sounds different from where you are. Have you been to Himachal Pradesh? The tourism board here markets it as "Himalaya country" or something similar

Sent from my iPhone

afraid said...

Never been to HP or anywhere, really, apart from Delhi, Bangalore and Kerala. Here is like Fiji or something, all coconut palms and a tropical climate, with an entirely different cuisine than the north. The people look different and live differently. I think this would be the case if you compared HP to many places in India - it really is a nation of mini-nations and so many different peoples. Sometimes I wonder if it should even be a single country, or if it would be better off splintered up...