Ah! That awesome day at Nandihills!
Woke up to the shrill ringing sound of my phone & it was none other than skygod Ulrich Amendt who visits us whenever his work (flying big jetliners !) brings him to Bangalore. "Goodmorning, Naren! The sky looks great, is 11 a.m O.K with you guys?" he said. "Perfect, see at eleven", I said & wasted no time in calling my flying buddy Vinay & our ever smiling retrieve, Murthy.
As we drove to the hotel to pick up Uli,we kept gazing at the sky & it looked brilliant with tiny puffy cumulus clouds beginning to form. Reached Nandihills around 2 p.m , winds were SSE 10kmph, gusting to 15kmph on the launch... perfect conditions for XC flying, we said to each other.
So Vinay was the first to go & Wow! He went straight up like a rocket & screaming with joy all the way up. Uli stepped aside & said "It's your turn, Naren". How courteous of him! So I set up to launch & looked up to see where Vinay was & Oh! he was already a tiny speck in the sky.
I delayed no further & off I went straight into a waiting thermal! 4m/sec screamed my vario. Vinay & I were climbing steadily in different thermals in front of the hill & waited for Uli to take off. By the time Uli was airborne I was at 1000m above take off. I screamed into my radio that I was 1000m a.t.o & heard Vinay saying "Very good... there's lift everywhere, Naren!" I spotted him working his way up at a distance.
While I was blissfully climbing in the thermal, I kept a look out for Uli. Soon my vision got murky & I knew I was at cloudbase and I had drifted a little distance over the back of Nandi hills. Should have run to the edge of the cloud, but stupidly continued turning. Two more 360's & everything went white.
I glanced at my vario, it read 1230m a.t.o. quickly looked up & I could see only a few feet of my lines! Now I was getting sucked into the cloud quite fast & the air was getting pretty turbulent as well. I pulled big ears my vario was still showing 2m/sec up. So, I pushed down my speedbar cautiously to 75% of its travel. I was completed engulfed in cloud & the feeling was definately not enjoyable anymore. The agony of a total whiteout was over after a while & I now could see mother earth! Released the bar & let go of bigears. Big relief! Did a couple of wide 360's in clear sky to get my orientation right.
Nandi was a long distace away by now & I could neither see Uli nor Vinay. So I radioed my position & shot off downwind in the north westerly direction. As I was enjoying the beautiful scenery I hit lift again..I climbed back from 760m A.T.O to 1150m, this time I made sure not to get into the cloud again. While I was crossing Ghati Subramanya hill range, I could see the B'lore - Mumbai express train way below & it looked like an earth worm!
Topped up height a couple of more times & was gliding over the vast green/brown landscape with lots of mirror like lakes. Communicated with Uli & Vinay that I was not finding lift anymore & would be landing soon. They both had flown slightly crosswind & landed past Doddaballapur town which is about 25kms from Nandihills. I was cautiously looking for powerlines/fences as I scouted around for a good landing field. Found an excellent field with still 200 mtrs of altitude to spare. So I circled over the field & made sure there were no obstructions whatsoever & landed softly into a light breeze.
The entire village (Amalagunte) came to LZ to see the weird thing that had landed in their fields. It was for the very first time that they had seen anything like this. The curious villagers asked me a lot of questions & I did my best to answer them all. Such lovely folks, loved every moment I spent with them. They all were very helpul to me & some of them even escorted me to the village bus stop which was a good 3kms away from where I landed.
Though I had flown a little over 30 kms, I was truly overwhelmed with the flight & the experience at the LZ.
Took a local bus to reach the place where Uli, Vinay & Murthy were waiting for me. Lots warm hugs & high fives followed before we drove back to Bangalore sharing those magical experiences that we all had up in the sky.
What a sport! What an invention! VIVA PARAGLIDING!
Nandi hills is 70 Kms from Bangalore & is 1476 meters A.M.S.L.
Jan 16th, 2006, Bangalore, India.