Up Above The World So High : My Paragliding Experience

by | Oct 24, 2018

Hard work always takes you to great heights. If you want to learn something in life, the sky is the limit. Let your dreams fly high …

Most of the motivational stuff i have been hearing from family and friends in past 2 decades hilariously came true recently. I took it quite literally and went for paragliding.

I see from the window at Aavishkaar (the non profit i am placed with in Himachal Pradesh as part of my fellowship) para-gliders flying in the sky above the mountains and valleys in cool breeze and snow underneath. From afar, I see them mingling with the birds, playing with the clouds and when they land, it feels like the descend of some heavenly bodies from the sky.

Billing is a forest area which is 2400 m (8400 ft) above from sea level. It is also the 2nd highest peak for paragliding take off in India. It is a 2 hour journey from my place to Bir and from there to Billing. There was a mini adventure even before the actual one. The approach is a one-way narrow road uphill, where there is no space for a vehicle to cross. If you get unlucky, you’ll have to be the one who has to reverse all the way down the hill. And the vehicle we sat in, and the journey to the top, felt like we were being hijacked into the forests. The temperature drops rather suddenly. But hope and excitement to fly kept me warm.

Vijay, my pilot, had 9 years of experience in paragliding; he is 6 ft tall, has long hair, sunglasses on, low waist jeans, Himachali jerkin – basically my knight in shining armour looked like a rock star. He started giving some basic instructions, while we geared up. I shuffled between listening to him and staring at others who were flying away like they are born with those gliders. Most of the people didn’t have a pilot; they were doing it on their own. Then I started aspiring of doing it myself, “Do I really need a pilot?” Sense prevailed and i touch based with practicality as Vijay called me for the take off.

I wore all the required gears for safety and seating. My seat and the pilot’s seat are connected together with some belts, which also has a reserve parachute for an emergency. I had a go pro in my hand which is a camera capturing all the beauty. And the pilot has all the operational equipment in his hand, which decides my airborne adventure. Basically, i was the tourist and he was the hero.

Murphy’s Law, when you want to do something really bad, life always tests your patience. We kept waiting for the ‘wind to be right’. It took nearly 10 minutes. And then suddenly, I could feel the rush of the wind from the mountains, which filled the pores of the glider with air and it started rising up. Now after 3 to 4 steps of run, the wind took me placidly into the air. I got wings, I was flying! I was hysterical, in hindsight.

During the flight, once the initial high subsided, I started asking Vijay about all the technical and beautiful aspects of paragliding. I was curious to know how we are flying. He explained all the technicalities of the sport through my flight. The whole science behind paragliding is all about balancing airlift and air pressure. The pilot has 2 controls on either sides of the glider where he can pull the handles connected to the gilder whenever he would like to turn or increase the altitude. Now for increasing the altitude we require a thermal lift which is only possible at the mountain range. The air which is at the ground will act as a great lift and reach the top in high speeds, so by using that air we can have a lift to the top. But in the plains, it’s a flat surface so there will be no lift. While in the valley regions, we’ll be descending slowly between these 2 extremes. There are also different kinds of lifts like; wave and ridge lift according to different geographic areas. A paraglider equipment has a life of 100 hours, after it finishes its period, it cannot fly high as the wings and strings of the glider gets loosened and cannot take high air pressure.

Finally being in flight for 25 minutes, now was the time to land. I thought landing is a little difficult and was not able to predict how it will be. But Vijay, the hero of course as we need the climax, just nailed it. Pretty much relevant to say “I came out of it with flying colours”. I took a long breath with happiness after the successful completion of my journey of paragliding. It will be a treasured memory. Rita and i, my co-fellow at Aavishkaar, safely and elatedly, were back to pavilion.

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