Apr 10, 2009

Adventure Sport at Nandi Hills

Brigadier Vijaykumar, my dad’s elder brother, always wanted kids to learn practically… see and experience. He always encouraged, even now, kids and grownups too, to be active. When I was in high school, he had arranged for us- Ashiwini & Rohini, my cousins and Dipi and I- to go with a bunch of army men to Nandi Hills who were going out there for an adventure sport- hang gliding. I had seen hang gliders in an English movie and now I would be seeing it for real, a rare opportunity indeed.

We rode in one of the two Shaktiman trucks; on for people and the other one for the hang gliders. We reached the top by 10AM. We had break-fast with the team. Soon the mechanics got to work- assembling the gliders. It was fun to watch them put the parts together and we were excited and impatient to see them in action.

The take-off spot was just behind the KSTDC restaurant, a 45 degree grassy slope and then a straight fall. The pilots (I don’t know what else to call them) warmed up and took position in the glider. The glider looked like a big triangular kite. Aluminum frame supported the fabric. The entire assembly must’ve weighed around 50kgs. One of the mechanics checked wind speed and direction while the other ran a final check through the glider. Assisted by the mechanics, the pilot lifted the glider off the ground, made sure he had good grip and started taking careful steps with the mechanics moving along. Taking off could be very tricky since speed is crucial. The pilot was running faster assisted by gravity, went down towards the cliff edge and just before the edge, he lifted off the ground gracefully. The first few seconds he actually went down picking up speed and then using the momentum to climb to a higher altitude. What a scene it was! This guy looked like an expert; soon he was circling above us, enjoying the ride and the view from up there.

Meanwhile, the second pilot and glider were ready to take-off. It was smooth but this guy could not gain altitude like the first pilot. May be lack of experience. He was struggling to maintain altitude and went downwards… I cannot recall where the first pilot had landed. We could see the second pilot planning to land in an open field close to the road near a hamlet. We could see the glider fly towards a tree, it brushed, lost it’s balance and then suddenly we saw a flash of light. We could see the flash in bright sun light! The glider got tangled into overhead electrical cables! The group leader hurried us into a truck and we rushed down.

People from the hamlet had gathered and trying to help the injured pilot. His left leg was injured, the jeans bore a huge hole and we could see burnt flesh. He was in pain but alert. He was loaded into a truck and zoomed towards Bangalore...


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