Native Place was abuzz with activity last weekend as everyone gathered on the terrace for a glimpse of shooting stars. And we weren’t disappointed. Friday night we saw atleast 2 stars each (and those drinking Old Monk saw a few more of course) with a cumulative total of 12 different stars seen. The Geminids continued to fall late into the night while everyone warmed themselves around the bonfire (yes, it’s finally getting cold).
Meanwhile, the wildlife at Native Place seems to be blooming (we’re talking about real animals here. Spotted in the garden were a Caucal and a few green bee eaters. Meanwhile, the Red Whiskered Bulbuls are flying all over the place (the suspicion is that they have a nest somewhere around which we are still to spot). Around 8 am, when the pilots leave for the site leaving the house and garden silent, seems to be the best time to spot the birds. But we still haven’t seen the Kingfisher (the bird kind, although the bottle seems to be in abundance), even with baby fish now populating the pond.
Not just the birds, we’re being treated to fresh greens from the Native Place vegetable patch. Some spinach and bhendi was made last week and we’re waiting to see what we get next.
While this week has been about Native Place, next week we’re hoping to see some madness at the site. Chicco’s back, and along with Bastien, (both test pilots with Flying Planet) there promises to be loads of action here at Tower Hill with Nirvana. So who is joining us for Christmas and New Year’s Eve?
It’s time to go back to the basics. And to watch the pros at it, is even more fun. Between them, these pilots probably have over 70 years of flying experience. But when they decided to make a day of groundhandling, it was with all the gusto that beginners have for first flights (it was extremely contagious).
So 6 pilots headed out one morning, with even more spectators to watch the fun. With French pilot Bastien around, it promised to be entertaining. (Try and make your way to Nirvana in the next couple of months just to watch him fly!). While the pilots geared up, the rest of us got rid of the slight chill by basking in the sun.
And what a trip it was, watching them was so much fun, it makes you want to do as much groundhandling as you can. But it should definitely come with a warning. “These stunts are performed by professionals, please don’t try this at home”. As one pilot got on to anothers’ shoulders, all the while controlling the glider and then jumped off onto the ground landing gracefully on his feet, the rest of us watched in awe. This stunt is called a Totem by the French, and a disaster when the landing is not so graceful (of course sending the rest of us into spasms of laughter).
You can never do enough of groundhandling, and watching these guys definitely inspired me. See if you can wrangle a demo from them whenever you make it to Native Place. And, of course, next time you are at the guesthouse, stroll down to the pond in the garden to check out the new additions to the Native Place family. You’ll see some guppies and mollies floating around, and a homemade “porcupine fish”. Only request, please don’t feed the fish!
The last week was definitely a good time to be at Native Place. Where else would you be able to say cheers in 3 different languages? Yamas in Greek, Skal in Swedish, and Sante in French (we’re yet to figure out the Hindi version for it). The Swedes and the French (from the Reunion Islands) made sure the house and Tower Hill were buzzing with energy.
A lot more was done other than just making merry. The pilots all paid a visit to the Golden Glades school in Govitri, whom they have previously helped by providing educational and other material. The trip to the school had the pilots and the kids grinning ear to ear. “They were all so polite and pleasant, the whole experience really touched me”, said Haken, one of the Swedes. He is also amazed at how happy everyone in India is (although that I would attribute to the Native Place effect!)
Conversations ranged from schools in India to the ones in Sweden, eventually drifting to religion, customs and the ever-present confusion about the bindi. However, although their size might say differently, the Swedes were dwarfed by the French in making their presence felt around the guesthouse. After spending a whole day at the paragliding site, their laughter and singing (yes, singing) continued till pretty late in the night. Some of them needed to catch up on their sleep in the daytime, and found incredibly comfy spots!
Other than the great laundry fiasco (ask Angeliki when you see her), the staff also survived through the week despite the major language barriers (sign language does work). It is going to be quiet around here for a while, unless some of you are planning to visit. Now is the time to get to Kamshet as the weather is changing. There is a nip in the air (which we are sure of since we say the Swedes putting on Jackets), and the days a sunny and clear with visibility for miles. So hurry and get here since, hopefully, winter is coming.
Crackers, chaos and craziness. That’s what Diwali was like this year. Did I mention craziness? 25 paragliding students, lots of family and add a couple of Europeans to that mix. But so much fun.
The week began with Laxmi Puja and fireworks, food and an air of festivity. The Raos led the Puja with everyone singing along, and Jannis and Angeliki looking extremely confused.
This week also saw the return of Doc and Emil to Native Place. And students from all over the country. We had group from Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, everywhere…Have you ever seen an assembly line? Well, this is what a paragliding assembly line looks like.Shinde hill was a madhouse, with 15 students being launched from take off on a single day, a complete circus. But the energy was contagious as students ran back up the slope on the adrenalin of first flights.
My favourite part was standing near the landing and watching their faces as they come down. The range of expressions seen is priceless. From massive grins to “WHAT AM I DOING?!”, you see it all!
Heading back to the house we’re in for a surprise. In the bathroom, we had to look out for the fish and not the frogs. The common loos have been brightened up with a bunch of eclectic fish swimming around the walls, with the occasional fish swimming against the current. So make sure you take a pee(p) when you’re here.
Sanjay, Sunith and I drove up from Mumbai to Kamshet on the 9th of November with the happy intention of spending the entire Diwali break in Kamshet. I had only just returned from a week long permaculture course and had my head full of plans for the garden. All through the week I slaved in the garden (happily) saying bye to the paragliding students and pilots each morning as they left for the flying site. Each evening we gathered on the roof at dinner and I listened to the excited reporting of each ones experiences.
Saturday the weather was exceptionally good and pilots gained enough altitude to leave the hill and head for home. Ravi, Bandya, Sandeep, Doc Pathak (yes he is in the house) and our very own 16 year’ old Sunith Rao braved the instability and got all the way back to Govitri the nearest village to Native Place. Sunith had only just got his first vario the day before and boy had he made good use of it.
Sunday saw me ditching the peace of the Native Place garden and scurrying off to the site. I could not stay away from the excitement no more. Colin was visiting from Brunei, Nikhil and Nisha drove up from Mumbai, Doc had arrived the previous day from Pipalkoti and Algeliki and Jannis from Greece, Gregory from the US, Jose from Hyderabad, Ben from the UK, Emil from the Koh Tao … the list goes on. A happy group of paragliding pilots all hung out on the hillside waiting for the wind to calm down a bit and embrace our wings. It was wonderful to be in the air again. I can never get over that million dollar post landing expansive feeling that lingers on, making you feel like you are walking on air and the whole world is beautiful
Peace Bliss & Happy Landings