Asia, January/February, March/April, November/December

Guide to Kamshet, India

Tuesday 11 September, 2012
Tower Hill, Kamshet. Photo: Flynirvana.com

Looking out from Tower Hill, Kamshet. Photo: Flynirvana.com

WHY GO?
Escape northern winter and migrate to southwest India for a magical experience, both in the air and on the ground. Fly in T-shirts and shorts on easy soaring days or buckle up and go exploring on XC when the thermals kick in.

The flying scene is vibrant and welcoming and offers a slice of colourful, unpackaged village India far from any tourist trail.

WHERE IS IT?

WHAT’S IT LIKE

Typical conditions in Kamshet. Video: justflypg

The Western Ghats is a mountain range that runs along the western side of India. Kamshet is a small town in the Sayhadris, as the Ghats are called here, about 100km east of Mumbai. It’s a rural landscape dotted with lakes, sweeping hills and black cliffs.

Paragliding was pioneered here in the 1990s and it’s now the training capital of India: lots of people from Mumbai or Pune come here to learn. For qualified pilots the flying is smooth and easy, with afternoon winds picking up to offer hours of soaring. XC pilots can pick their way around the hills, or head off on an adventure.

There are two main sites, 10km apart. Tower Hill faces east and works in winter (November to February) while Shelar faces west and works from January to May. June to September is monsoon.

Most pilots hook up with one of the handful of established paragliding guesthouses. They offer more than just a pilot package of food, transport and guiding – you will be embraced into the local scene and become very much part of the Kamshet flying world for a little while.

FLYING CONDITIONS
In winter the east wind builds during the morning and drops towards dusk. Pilots typically fly Tower Hill at 10am and then later in the afternoon, top landing easily to wait out the stronger winds of midday. Later in the season there is more thermic flying and the wind turns west: pilots walk across the flat, grass-topped Tower Hill and fly the west face.

In summer, mornings are too strong so most flying happens later in mellower conditions. Restitution kicks in most days and there is lift everywhere – flying continues until sunset. It’s a perfect place for pilots keen to clock up airtime and develop their skills.

For pilots keen to break the mould you can take off in the morning and go XC across an agricultural landscape dotted with lakes, hillsides and black cliffs. A day’s journey away and 100km as the crow flies is Panchgani, which offers greater XC potential. Taken together the two sites make a perfect two week trip.

WHEN TO GO
Tower Hill: November to February
Shelar: March to May

ALTITUDE
Tower Hill: 857m / 617m landing
Shelar: 720m / 640m
Cloudbase: 1,800m ceiling with 3,000m base possible

HANG GLIDER ACCESS
Possible. Manpower can be arranged to carry the glider to take off.

MUST BE FLOWN
Magic hour on Tower Hill at sunset is beautiful.

Small classic routes exist: 10km from Tower Hill back to Nirvana’s guesthouse Native Place, or the 4km glide from Shelar to the same.

More adventurous XCs are possible: pilots have flown across the Ghats to Karjat and elsewhere. Landing out is no problem and there is always a bus or rickshaw to jump on for retrieve.

WATCH OUT FOR
The sites are below the Mumbai to Pune flightpath and planes pass at 1,800m.

Watch for rotor if flying the west face of Tower Hill in a southwest wind.

In strong winds there is venturi to the left of take off on Shelar – a classic trap for unsuspecting pilots.

ACCOMMODATION
You can stay in the hill stations of Lonavala and Khandala 30km away but most pilots stay closer to Kamshet in one of the local pilot-friendly guesthouses dedicated to paragliding. Views over the lake, excellent food, a great ambience and good company. Choose from private rooms, bunkhouse-style or tents.

TAKE THE FAMILY AND RAINY DAYS
Chill in a hammock, swim in the lake, birdwatch, walk in the hills, visit 2,000-year-old Buddhist caves or sharpen your bargaining skills in the market. Pune is an hour away if you want to explore ashrams or go shopping.

WEATHER INFO
Locals boast an average of 10 non-flyable days in an eight-month season. Weather at meteoblue.com (search Kamshet) or www.imd.gov.in.

GETTING THERE
Fly to Mumbai and arrange an airport pick-up with one of the guesthouses listed below in advance to whisk you the three hours to Kamshet. If taking the bus from Mumbai head for Pune, but ask to be dropped off at the Rangoli restaurant on the highway near Kamshet. This is the pilot meeting place; you will need to arrange pick up from there. Kamshet also has a train station.

USEFUL CONTACTS
Nirvana Adventures: www.flynirvana.com
Native Place Guesthouse: www.nativeplace.com
Temple Pilots: www.templepilots.com
Indus Paragliding: www.indusparagliding.com
Paragliding Mantra: www.paraglidingmantra.com

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