Monday, 22 February 2010

The Fraternity of Pilots

Well the journey to Pune took 33 hours, which actually wasn't so bad because it included 2 nights. When we got there all the local trains had been canceled, which we later found out was because someone had a set off a bomb on one of the lines. So instead we had to faff around trying to get a bus, which was a big hassle. Anyway we finally made it to the town of Lonavala where the paragliding school is. It's actually just someones house, but he has a couple of pretty good live in cook/cleaners, so we've been eating good Indian food everyday, plus a couple of decent BBQs. All food and accommodation is free too, which is nice. All the instructors and staff are really nice, and there are always people from all over India and the world turning up. Last night an English guy arrived, he had driven from England over three and a half months on bio-fuel.
Paragliding is a pretty nice experience, and the views are amazing. The first couple of days are pretty hard work because you're not actually gliding, you're learning how to control the glider on the ground. This involves running down hills and then carrying all your equipment back up, all day.
During the lunch before my first actual flight I developed diarrhea. Realizing that you have to run off a 250ft cliff with diarrhea is much more scary than running off a 250ft cliff. I thought it might be like the RAF bombing Dresden all over again, but instead it was brilliant. There were amazing views, and it is very relaxing. Once you get good at it it is quite a lazy sport.
Also, I am persevering with my beard. I got lost a few days ago, and while I was waiting for directions from a group of guys, one of them asked if I was a Muslim. I don't think he was too impressed when I said I was a Christian, but they still got me home alright.
I'm going down south next, through the hill country down to the very tip of India, and then I'll be coming back up the west coast. So hopefully I'll find some nice beaches. And then I reckon I'll do the 2nd stage of my paragliding course. Anyway hope all is well back home, have a good time.


Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Ko Tao and India

The Full Moon Party was pretty good fun, and pretty surreal. We just wandered up and down the beach all night and morning, talking to various people. I think I went to bed at about 11am and pretty much slept through until 7 the next morning. Then that day I got the boat to Ko Tao where I finally managed to get a room after searching everywhere for a few hours. Loads of people from Ko Phangan had left for Ko Tao after the Full Moon, so everywhere was pretty booked up. My room was at a diving centre, so I also signed up to do my PADI Open Water Course.
That started the next evening with a little introductory talk, so I got to meet who I would be diving with, they were a cool bunch. A couple of Canadian sisters (Team Canada), two girls from Switzerland (Team Switzerland), and a guy from Missouri (Team Transatlantic with me). And there was a really nice BBQ every night.
We had to do 4 dives, and they were amazing. We saw some really cool fish and coral, but nothing really big. We were hoping to see Bull sharks, but unfortunately there were none around when we went to their stomping ground. It was still amazing.
And when we had all passed we had a little graduation ceremony that was meant to involve throwing up snorkels and masks like the mortarboards, but our instructor couldn't get hold of any so we had to make do without. It was really good fun though and I got to see Kuyts goal against Everton that night.
The day after that I got a boat and another sleeper train back to Bangkok where I had to get more vaccinations, and also pick up my Indian visa. I didn't do much else, and so the morning after I flew to Kalkota in India (after leaving my card in a machine in Bangkok airport; I'm now living off Travelers Cheques). When I booked the flight I was under the impression that Kalkota was in South India, but that turned out to be Chennai, so I ended up about 1000 miles Northwest of where I thought I was going. Which has worked out quite well, because I met someone who is going down to Pune, which is near Mumbai, to do a para-gliding course. I decided to tag along, although I will only do some tandem flights, but it sounds like pretty good fun.
Anyway, all is well, and I hope things are good back home.
All the best, Ben.