Friday, November 28, 2008

Manali - Day 2

There is so much to do in Manali.

I decided to try para gliding. Para gliding happens at Solang valley which is about twenty kilometers from Manali proper. If you don’t know anyone then this whole affair can be expensive. The drive to Solang valley and back itself will cost you more than 500. Luckily, Anu’s friend Atul was an organizer of various sports.

Me and Atul drove to Solang valley and we reached there by afternoon. The drive offered views of the interesting landscape around Manali – the Beas river, the snow mountains, Devdars, vast open spaces and mountains.

We reached a clearing where there were several food stalls, cameramen, pilots and people.

It was too late for the 14 minute glide and it was expensive. Since I had reached the last lap of my month long tour, I had to be conscious of my pocket. I would go for the 2 minute glide. Atul told my pilot Ram to remain in the air slightly longer.

From the clearing we climbed a small hillock. Some people were already on the top and there were the others who were climbing slowly.

We clambered to the top. But we would have to wait for the strong winds to calm down. Here and there on the hillock were poles fixed with a piece of cloth tied to them, the fluttering of which indicated the direction and strength of the winds.
We waited patiently. An hour passed. My pilot kept looking at the sky. These guys are trained to forecast certain weather conditions by observing the cloud patterns in the sky. At that time, the sky above us was clear and blue but there were clouds closing in from other directions. He explained that the winds would continue until the clouds had closed in completely and the sky looked somewhat uniform with respect to cloud pattern or distribution. This had to do with winds blowing from high pressure to low pressure areas or so…elements working together to help the atmosphere attain a state of equilibrium.

One more hour passed. I was getting impatient. I told my pilot that we should fly. He told me it was very risky. you would sail with the winds alright. But you might not land safely! I told him I was a brave girl. He laughed. He said he might have to land on a tree in emergency. I said I did not mind as long as I did not hurt my limbs. As the two of continued thus, to the amusement of the other pilots around, the weather condition became favourable and pilot asked me fasten the belts. I did and he too fastened the belt and positioned himself behind me. We ran a short distance and then we jumped…

My heart skipped a beat… we floated…this way and that way…in a zig-zag fashion. And very shortly we were close to landing. There were people below, some seated and some standing. I was certain I would land on one of them. They too saw the danger coming, got to their feet and ran, as I landed in their midst laughing uncontrollably.
As I unfastened my belt and removed my helmet, I was approached by camera men who had photographed me and also taken a video. I paid 100 bucks and got the video.

We returned to the hotel from where I ran to the Hidimba temple, for some more strawberry. But it was already evening and the vendors had all sold their wares and returned home. So I simply strolled some, took pictures and retuned to the hotel.

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