I’ll spread my wings…

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I can’t particularly label myself adventurous adrenaline junkie. I like exploring new places and traveling but that’s it. I do occasionally have my encounters with various adventure activities that I love to brag about. Latest such encounter was paragliding.

On that day, I learnt that we were booked with one of the best paragliding school in Maharashtra and the activity was held above Pawna Lake, Lonavala. Actually there are two sites for paragliding there – one above Pawna Lake and the other one at Kamshet. But the Pawna lake site is more experiential and safe for novice flyer. The Kamshet’s spot requires hiking to reach a take-off ground, moreover it is very steep. Compared to Kamshet, Pawna Lake in Lonavala is safe and paragliders haven. The site is a truly a natural bliss with crystal clear water body surrounded by hills on all the sides. More over the hills and cliffs there are quite suitable for paragliding as they provide big and easy takeoff areas and have gentle slopes.

View from the take-off point

View from the take-off point

The entire group of about 45 people which was a mix of experienced gliders, trainers and novice, met at the decided meeting point, and we started heading towards the activity site. As we drove closer to the point, the soothing energy of greenery around gripped me. As soon as we reached the spot the entire surrounding was buzzing with tangible energy, as the guest present their discussed about the sport. While few were elated with the thought of what they were going to experience, they were some others who were biting their nails off in panic and nervousness.

All of you please settle down, and hear our instructions clearly, said our paragliding instructor. Further he went on to explain the types of flights they offered. The instructor informed, first was a classic Tandem which was a basic flight in the air for 20 minutes. The second type was instructional were the instructor would introduce us to the workings of the glider and last 5 minutes of the flight the glider will be controlled by us. And the third one was acrobatic flight, where the flight is full of scary turns, drops and screams. As we signed our declaration forms, the excitement in my group suddenly seemed to decline. After the much cliched formality, we finally saw the first Tandem take place and to everyone’s disappointment it failed to stay in the sky due to a sudden drop in the wind.

After this fiasco suddenly everything came to a standstill, to which informed that we were parawaiting – waiting for the wind conditions to be spot on. Finally the wind took mercy on us and we successfully started our flights. Waiting for my turn in the glaring sun, I tried my hands at photography and captured every possible scenic frame. At last after waiting for good two hours my turn finally arrived.

As I get ready to fly

As I get ready to fly -safety gear and helmet –

When they called out my weight range (by the way the flying is done calculating your weight, your trainer’s weight and the strength of the wind current). The instructors secured a helmet on my head and quickly buckled me into a harness. As I got dressed in the gears for the flight my knees went weak, but my flight instructor made sure I was at ease and comfortable. As we ran towards the edge of the cliff, the glider caught the wind and we were lifted off the ground.

And in a matter of seconds, I was flying. What an experience it was! In no time, I got over my fears and immersed myself in the spectacular view around. It felt like an eagle, as we rose higher and higher above in the sky until everyone below me looked like small miniatures. In no time I was flying over the pristine Pawna Lake. In the backdrop were the hues of setting sun already scattered in the blue sky! As I reached new heights the picturesque view of Western Ghats welcomed me with tranquility. The view from above was a perfect blend of untouched, serene beauty bounded by hills and the lake.

I remember singing “Aaj kal paon zameen par nahin padte mere” before clicking this one

I remember singing “Aaj kal paon zameen par nahin padte mere” before clicking this one

And if I thought that was adventurous, my flight trainer said, get ready for some real actions. Imagine doing acrobatics high in the sky and that to over the lake!!! It was then when I experienced actual fear. First it was a wingover. Wingover is an aerobatic maneuver in which the glider makes a steep climb, followed by a vertical flat-turn, which produced an extreme rocking motion followed by swinging widely from side to side in huge arcs. But the finale was ultimate. We went spiraling downwards in a disorientating dive and saw the ground spinning. I could hear my heart beating faster than ever, as my entire body was full of adrenaline rush. After which I safely landed back on the ground on my two feet.

After a few minutes of landing, I wanted to fly high again. But since it was nearly Sunset it wasn’t a possibility. Since nearing sunset the wind had gone weak, we wrapped up the activity and returned back with a blissful smile and an unmatched energy.

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