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Tales from the adventure sport corners of India

Arjun Paul

September 7, 2018

September 2016 – Birds of a feather flock together

It was a warm breezy afternoon outside my Mumbai office. For a guy who spends most of his time day-dreaming in office, watching TV and travelling in a cab or commercial plane. There is always this glass window that separated my “reality and destination bound Self” from that carefree bird who is happy to just soar in circles all day.

As I was busy gazing at that bird through the office window, I suddenly heard a thunder. Raindrops began to fall, and so did my thoughts. I imagined myself riding that bird as I surged through the rain, dodged the lightening and circled the nearby hills.

While the imagery was running in my mind, for some strange reason, theme song of this old 90’s cartoon show – ‘Captain Planet and the Planeteers’ rang in my mind:
Earth! Wind! Water! Fire! Heart! Go Planet! By yours power combined I am Captain Planet!

I knew the first 3 represented the states of matter and eventually realised that Fire is that part of nature which transforms one state to another like Weather. But as a kid, I could never clearly understand what ‘Heart’ meant. So, that fateful evening, I decided to plan an Quest to explore the elusive.

October-December 2016 – What is adventure?

Tales from the adventure sport corners of India

I always believe that Adventures are the best way to learn. But in way the word ‘adventure’ is abused nowadays in Social media, I wonder if anyone REALLY know what it means. What is adventure? What does it mean to be adventurous? Heck, even the blog name has the word adventure in it! Does it always have to seek adrenaline and thrill?

So I decided to undertake at least 3 adventure sports in 2017, each in land, water and air in order to dive deeper into the meaning.
I started saving money for the expedition and training expenses. And as 2017 arrived, I was ready to venture on my quest.

3rd February 2017 – EARTH – Chadar Trek: I have returned from the 10-day wild Expedition on the Frozen Zanskar river in Leh

Tales from the adventure sport corners of India

Past 14 days have been nothing short of exhilarating, mentally challenging, and filled with new perspectives. I  realized that even adventure seekers in all their wandering instinct seek closure for a fulfilling trip. Some may call it a need for instant gratification or a need to share your exploits as quickly as possible on social media, but I consider it a “Happy ending”. Not sounding as a cliche’, there are essentially 3 parts to a trip – the onward journey, the return journey and the homecoming. Usually we are so excited about the first part that we ignore or forget the gravity of the remaining two. That is when you grasp the double-edged sword nature of Paradise. Because then even the slightest change in Nature can make the most beautiful sight apparently seem like a curse.

Chadar Trek 2017 was one of those experiences. At a min temperature reaching -25 degree at night, the trek began with a zing with nothing but only the azure expanse separating the sun and the naked dusty mountains. The Zanskar river was frozen and with squinted eyes and penguin walk, we watched it shining like a scratchy glassy blanket. Then I wondered, how easier nd beautiful it would be to walk if there were some fresh snow on the way. But little did I know that Snow and Rain during treks are things we all wish but seldom actually need.

The heavenly sight of the first snowfall and the eventual reversal of landscape at one instant seemed so god sent for a day but it turned out to be the reason for not reaching the final camp because too much snow melted the frozen river. Adventure and safety were yet again staring face to face. The games of Mafia that we played to pass time became a voting game of convincing the team to either go forward risking or return safely. Might of Nature was never so clear and near to me. As we started our return journey to the basecamp, strangers, stories and songs were again the true companions for the weary traveler.

The homecoming was even more delayed due to bad weather as we were stranded in Leh for 3 more days. And as I slept on the next night after our flight got cancelled, I realized how desperately I sought closure of this sublime trip. I felt I was not that strong inside as I previously thought I was. I doubted if I can really consider myself a wanderer. But what happened next was Acceptance. When I accepted the facts, I understood that the simplest of experiences become joyous when you remove unnecessary expectations. Gloomy trek-mates became deeper friends, walking anywhere to pass time became meaningful, and the Dip in the icy water became my closure.

And finally I realized what a true Immersive trip actually meant. It is not all happy memories and thrilling ride, its made up of those seemingly ordinary moments of inaction, silence, self-doubt and epiphany. There are no curses or blessings when you set out on an adventure, there is just one thing…and it is a unique unforgettable experience!!
And that is the real closure….
So with these new found learnings, I began preparing for my next escapade.

April 2017 – AIR – Did my first solo Paragliding flight in Kamshet: Went on to successfully gain Open sky pilot license

Tales from the adventure sport corners of India

In my limited experience of flying for 8 days, whenever I took-off and my foot rose from the ridge….I found myself going through that very glass window of my office.
Imagine your body flying into a sublime sunset over a breath-taking landscape. As the wind graze past the tiniest of hair, heartbeats goes slow and eyes are overwhelmed by the view. For a moment my mind went numb and I felt like a kid again, with every Second feeling like an unknown Place (time meets space, voila! :). But the peculiar thing is that this kid is not the usual impatient, hyperactive and distracted fellow. This new kid on the glider is at peace, listens to the radio instructions and aware of something beyond his ordinary self.
While airborne, I no longer sensed the need of a destination, imagination or intelligence. The joy now is in just soaring in circles like a bird.
There is this unique blend of childlike play and age-old meditation. The spiritual experience gained in flight was equally boosted by the deep engaging conversations I had with fellow pilots.

September 2017 – WATER – Learnt basic whitewater Kayaking in Ganga, Rishikesh

When I sat down to write my experience of kayaking, prose just evaporated from my mind. Only verses could do justice to the waves —

The river cradles the afraid
the froth nothing less than an intoxicating ale
Lick off the white water,
the cradle is too small for the sober
Ride the waves, get captivated
and don’t forget to catapult yourself on the biggest one
Hold your breath a little
let the eddies ferry you to the shore
you’re not afraid anymore
and neither is the river,
her son has grown up”

The intense 3 days of kayaking redefined Rishikesh and rivers for me. This was my second solo trip after paragliding and it reinforced my confidence in exploring the world on my own.

October 2017 – Beginning of an end: Finally discovered the significance of “Heart”

As the saying goes –There is pot of gold at the end of each rainbow, I found shimmering Heart at the end of each adventure. Adventure sports are usually a solitary endeavors. And it beats stronger with every fear I conquer. From fighting the fear of extreme cold weather in Zanskar to rekindling my submerged spirituality in Kamshet and to finally falling in love with the rapids of Ganga, I grew fearless and never felt so closer to myself.
As I sit in my office chair writing this blog, I believe I now have a fair bit of idea what adventure means to me. In any situation, I can find different ways to be adventurous as I try something new and exciting. Adventure is about trying out new experiences, whether you will like it or not. I must admit that even after going on numerous adventures, I often get scared in the next one. However, I do them anyways.
Why? Because I don’t want to live my life in the safety of my comfort zone. I want to live a life that exhilarates and excites me.

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Arjun Paul