Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hilight Tribe & Indira’s 4th Birthday

A month or so ago I met a vibrant woman in her mid 20s who hails from Ireland although she was born in India. Sumana and her family moved to Ireland when she was seven years old and therefore she considers that her home and speaks English with an Irish accent. This was her first time returning to India. Sumana has a lovely young girl named Indira whose father is Irish. We’ve spent a number of afternoons and evenings in the Olive Garden restaurant, making paper airplanes and boats (with Panna who is one of the managers of the restaurant), blowing bubbles and just generally having a good time. Indira’s a sweet little girl.

Sumana and Indira:

Now enter Belle and Brett. I decided to attend a free Hindi lesson at a place called Woodstock located behind the Olive Garden. It was just a one hour, very basic class and of the six people there, I was the “advanced kid”...not that I have a handle on Hindi yet but it’s slowly getting there. After the class ended I hung out for half an hour chatting with this young Australian couple, Brett and Belinda, from Darwin. Both in their mid-20s with Belle being three years older than Brett, they have decided to quit their jobs back home and travel for a year or two. Previously Brett was working in the mines while Belle was performing administrative work in a prison. We ended up having a sunset beer at the Olive Garden and over the next couple of weeks we hung out here and there. That evening I introduced them to Martin as well as Sumana and Indira and a nice circle of friends emanated from these new connections.

Brett and Belle:

One Sunday night Sumana told us of a concert at Vagator, a beach about 25 minutes south of Arambol, featuring a band called “Hilight Tribe” at a venue called Hilltop. Martin, Belle & Brett, Sumana, Indira, an American woman Lisa and I decided to check it out. I hadn’t been to the Hilltop before and it was a large open air site with a bar and basic food services lining one side, an area selling chai with a chill out zone on the other and a large dance floor in front of the large raised stage.

Brett, Martin and me pre-lubricating before the band starts:

Indira, who was turning 4 the next day, was super excited to come along for the concert. I was under the impression that she had seen the band before but I think she had just heard her mom play them at home. There were a few other young kids at the concert but none of them rocked it like Indira. The band was a mixture of various drums, didgeridoos, bass guitar and other rhythmic instruments that pumped out a high energy tribal beat.

Not soon after they started playing, we made our way to the front of the stage, me with Indira up on my shoulders so that she could see above the gyrating masses. As I was dancing around with Indira up there, she kept yelling out “C’mon Hilight...C’mon!” as if she was egging them on to play with more intensity than they already were. There was a small platform in front of the stage where Indira was able to get her groove on and be able to see the band at the same time so she rocked it out. After the concert she was able to go back stage, meet the band and get her photo taken with them...a true groupie! It was a super fun evening and a good time was had by all...that’s for sure.

Indira rockin' on my shoulders:

Now it's Belle's turn:

Hilight Tribe:

Indira up on stage:

Indira and Sue with the band backstage:

The next day was Indira’s 4th birthday and Sumana had arranged a party at the Olive Garden. It was most of the usual suspects again and Sumana generously put on a large spread of food which we couldn’t finish. Cute Indira was showered with presents and love but did have a few “moments” at the party...a bit of a hangover from last night’s concert I think.

The birthday girl arrives:

Yummy pizza:

It's my party and I can cry if I want to!

Brett and Martin enjoying a laugh:

Opening presents:

Indira with her birthday cake:

Through this group we also met a fun and interesting character from England named Marco. At the Olive Garden I’ve talked to another English fellow Phillip who likes to play a little ukulele out on the beach. Martin and I invited this whole crew to our guesthouse, affectionately known as the “Magic Villa”, for a few sunset drinks one evening and once again, a good time was had by all.

Magic Villa night:

Brett pretending to enjoy his homeland's Foster beer...nope, he didn't like it:

Unfortunately a week or so later Belle and Brett left to Mumbai to continue their travels while Sumana and Indira departed soon after to start their journey back home to Ireland.

Martin and Brett in the Cocks Town restaurant:

A parting shot with the Aussies. From left to right: Marco (from England), Bel, Brett, Martin and me:

It was wonderful to meet you guys and hopefully we’ll meet again!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gliding but not Wandering

February 9th, 2012

Well first off I must apologize for not posting anything for what must be the longest gap since I started this blog. Please don’t lose faith...I’ll never let it just die, or at least I’ll tell you if I do! A major part of the reason is that I’ve been hanging out in Goa, specifically Arambol and will be for a while to come. It’s tourist season here now and every day is around 30 degrees, sunny yet with a sea breeze to keep the heat bearable. This is the time to paraglide here and so that’s one of the things I’ve been doing.

For the first month that most days were flyable I enjoyed just boating around the main ridge enjoying the views, searching for monkeys in the trees and watching beach goers. One day there were 30-40 people down on a secluded sandy bit on the beach between some rocks with a myriad of equipment: many colourful parasols, tables and chairs set up like a small bistro, bright reflective screens used in photography and other equipment I couldn’t identify from the air. I first thought it was a photo shoot of some sort but soon that it was in fact a movie being filmed, most likely a Bollywood one. I watched as a man and woman walked out towards a rock. He quickly jumped up on it and held back his hand to aid his likely love interest up (even though it looked like the rock was 1 foot high) and then they sat down looking out towards the sea as the camera crew slowly circled around them. After the second retake I lost interest and also had to remind myself that I was flying! Pay attention Dave.

Bollywood filming below:

The number of pilots increased over the Christmas period and into the start of January and there were a few times where I counted at least 12 wings in the sky but thankfully the lift band was always quite large and traffic was rarely a problem (it seems better this year than last). I have run into a few pilots who were here last year too such as Mark from England with whom I shared 2010’s Christmas dinner with.

A number of wings in the air:

There’s one German pilot, Stefan, who is quite a skilled pilot. He enjoys performing wingovers (going side to side in a big penduluming motion) close to the terrain and also pulling off 2-3 spirals (fast 360 degree turns) in a row over the beach before flying back to the ridge to regain his height. Watching him inspired me to be a more “active” pilot so most flights, when the conditions are conducive to it, I work on practicing those skills plus top landings (landing where you took off from), dolphining (penduluming forwards and backwards) and spot landings on the beach. I have been able to squeeze in 4 spirals before having to pull out of it which I think is pretty cool considering the ridge isn’t that high.

Trying to spiral:

I’ve also made a conscious effort to do more kiting which is where you are standing on the ground with the wing above your head and you are constantly adjusting for the wind. It’s excellent practice that translates to better piloting in the sky. On days when it’s been too windy to fly I’ve been skiing in the sand with my paraglider pulling me barefoot down the beach. What a blast that is! Sure I have to be careful for the odd obstacle such as a beached fishing boat, sunbather on a sun bed or cow lounging in the sand but that just makes it a bit of a slalom course.

One day when I was kiting and skiing on Sweet Lake Beach, there was a big crowd of Indians around something just in the water. More and more people congregated around so I decided to check it out. It was a large sea turtle who didn’t seem to be moving. It was an impressive animal with a shell about 4 feet long and three feet wide. A lifeguard came over and tried to assess the situation. They flipped it over and no sign of a heartbeat or movement could be found.

It was during a long weekend so there were many Indian tourists, many young urban professionals from the cities, enjoying Goa’s beaches. These guys, many fuelled by strong Kingfisher beers or Old Monk rum, were pretty excited to see the turtle and of course get their picture taken with it. One of these guys became the ring leader and started yelling instructions in Hindi or Marathi. Five or six guys picked up the deceased turtle and began to carry it onshore, giggling, half falling over and really just not respecting this dead animal. A young woman from Holland began to express her displeasure with the way they were treating it and got into a bit of a discussion with an Indian fellow who explained that they were going to bury it deep in the sand as it was going to stink in a few days. It probably was the right thing to do but I think it was the drunken joviality in carrying out the task which put the woman and me to some extent off as it’s quite sad to see such a magnificent being such as this dead. Sea turtles, who happen to be very picky about their hatchery sights, do lay eggs at a beach about 10 kilometres south of Arambol. I wonder whether this one was on her way there...

In my classroom:

So even though it’s just a ridge soaring site here in Arambol, there are lots of things that can happen and lots of things that can be practiced and that’s what I plan to see and do...