| Steady climb: India is emerging as a hot adventure sports destination
What is so fascinating and so compelling almost to the point of addiction in adventure sports' It is the exhilarating thrill of dashing down the ski slopes or the landscape trekking or pedalling along sheer mountain slopes, white water rafting along the dangerous, roaring waters of great rivers, hang gliding over enormously deep mountain gorges and climbing serrated glaciers or mountain summits. Adventure activities like these are known as parasailing, trekking, rock climbing, boating and hovercraft riding.
What do I have to do'
About 50,000 cubic feet of hot air fills a giant nylon balloon to which your basket is attached. Hot air ballooning is becoming a great adventure option in India. A hang glider is a flexible wing aircraft that is piloted by shifting one's weight. The flight is dependent on the existence of rising columns of warm air called thermals. Take-off involves running off moderate slopes till the glider inflates. Tandem flights use a wing large enough to hold two people, the pilot and a passenger. Though a relatively recent entrant in adventure sports, hang gliding has really caught on with clubs coming up in Pune, Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, Mumbai, Devlali, Bangalore and Kalaheti.
Like many other sports, hang gliding and paragliding are dependent on the weather. Paragliding sites are located in Lahaul and Spiti, Arhaul-Anu near Rohru and Garhalla Talab in Chopal in Shimla district. The unique topography makes Garhwal an excellent destination for both experienced and beginner para gliders. Billing in Himachal Pradesh is a renowned paragliding site, while Solang makes a good site for beginners.
The Himalayas are a paradise for mountaineering activities. An aspiring mountaineer needs to do a lot of serious preparation. Physical fitness, first aid, camp management, map and compass reading and survival training are all essential.
What should I study'
To learn to pilot a hot-air balloon, you need to be at least 16 years and physically fit. Depending on how quickly you master it, training takes three to six months. The training for elementary courses for most adventure sports are for about three days, the intermediate course is for 10 days, a basic course is for five days and the advanced course is for 10 days.
From being primarily a cultural tourist destination for several decades, India has emerged as one of the most sought-after adventure sports destinations for discerning international travellers. Perhaps no other single country in the world offers the variety of adventure opportunities that India does.
India can easily be the new millennium's adventure tourism destination. Its vast geographical diversity caters to all tastes, from the gentlest to the fast-paced and for people of every level of competence, from the beginner to the expert. From the daunting Himalayan peaks in the north to the azure beaches in the south, from the rain forests of the north east to the coral paradises in the south west, it is variety that is as bewildering as it is diverse.
Exciting, challenging and at times perilous is how one can describe a career in adventure sports. The best part about adventure sports is that you can choose it either as a career option or as a hobby. However, for a full-fledged career, you need to develop expertise. It is preferable if you have a bachelors degree, as it helps in getting a job as a liaison officer in various travel and tourism agencies. Proficiency in a foreign language is an advantage in getting jobs in tour and travel agencies, as adventure sports in India attracts many foreigners. Opportunities for adventure sports professionals exist in excursion agencies, holiday resorts, leisure camps, commercial recreation centres, sports centres, athletic clubs, tourist attractions, etc. You can become an instructor in the discipline or even set up your own adventure sports centre.
Where to study
• Balloon Club of India, 8 - B Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, New Delhi 110 002
• Nirvana Adventures, 2-A, Takshashila Apts, Tagore Rd, Santacruz (West), Mumbai 400054.
• Himalayan Journeys, The Mall (near State Bank of India), Manali
• Giridoot, Ananda Cottage, Bagbazar, Chandannagar, Hooghly. Website: www.giridoot.com
• Tenzing Norgay Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Jawahar Parbat, Darjeeling 734101