The Paragliding World Cup Association arrived in Bir in Himachal Pradesh in the north of India on the 23rd of October. Bir is a small village sitting on the foothills of the Himalayas. Many PWC pilots had training flights over the Himalayan mountains (in the back) reaching altitudes as high as 5500 meters.
When I arrived New Dehli, my plan was to go by train up north. It’s about 8 hours in addition to a 4 hour bus ride on small mountain roads. I didn’t look particularly forward to this, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity I thought. I was greeted by a taxi driver outside the airport. Normally I’m very sceptical about being approached like that in a 3rd world big city. I asked for ID, which was shown to me. The taxi was unmarked, and it was fishy. But there were security cameras and police close by and the taxi driver (who didn’t drive – another taxi driver did) had shown me his ID, so in I went as most Scandivavians automatically trust you if you show them your ID. I learned from the taxi driver that I couldn’t get a train ticket at the train station. I had to go to a tourist office first to buy a ticket they said. So we left and after 20 minutes we ended up in some very obscure alley containing half collapsed houses, lots of garbage and car wrecks. My heart raced (it was 4 am), I believe my heart rate was 170-180 BPM. I was convinced that I was being kidnapped. We finally arrived in a small “governmental” tourist office. I still didn’t beleive I was safe and had vivid pictures in my mind of being locked in the basement and held for ransom. It took me about 45 minutes to realize that the people were genuine and worked for the government. All trains were full (this is India with 1+ Billion people) so you have to book in advance. Thing is, you can only book online if you have an Indian telephone number. The nice people in that small tourist office in that obscure alley arranged a flight ticket the next day for Dharamshala and drove me back to the airport. It didn’t come for free, but I was happy not to take the train after all.
In Bir we got a few training flights before the competition. Sunday and Monday were cancelled. We went river fishing for trout in the mountains. It was a 2 hour drive. Now if you have never been to India before you will be very surprised that they honk their horn all the time. Before a turn it’s mandatory. If you see a person walking, it’s mandatory. And if you have a car in front of you it is mandatory to honk the horn. And they have this rule that it’s not permitted to drive more than 1 second behind the vehicle in front of you. Seat belts are for losers and often they are disabled. This makes a 2 hour drive along narrow mountain roads with several hundred meter vertical cliffs on one side in a small car without seat belts, and with a marijuana smoking driver, very very exciting. I was happy when we came back to the hotel.
Thursday and Wednesday we had tasks. 100 km and 75 km. The first day I came to goal in the top 50, as 3rd Norwegian. Cold at cloudbase and a bit sharpy thermals defined the day. We had an interesting 15 km ridge to the 2nd last turnpoint where we could just ridge soar just above the hill to the turnpoint and back. Spectacular, especially with all the small temples along the top of the hill. Next day 75 km race to goal. It rained on the course line, and many pilots reported this on the safety frequency. Still the task was not stopped for some reason. I was kicking trees low over a hill for 30 minutes where many top pilots had to land. Eventually I caught a thermal and flew back to the mountains. I landed 2,5 km from goal as the Sun approached the horizon. Empty tank! I landed together with a Russian pilot flying a Nova Triton 2 and you can see the welcoming committee in the picture.
The next days I was sick laying in bed, shivering with fever. The doctor associated with the competition gave me 5 different medications including 2 different antibiotics. I was told I had a local infection most probably from food or water.
Sunday we went back to Dharamsala and I just layed in bed in the hotel. The next day, on the flight from Dehli to Moscow I filled 2 full air sickness bags. I just went back and forth to the rest room continuosly. Nothing to brag about but it can give you an indication of just how severe food poisoning in India can be.
When approaching Oslo from Moscow I was relieved and felt thankful to be back in Norway. All the things people complain about here were suddenly peanuts. I was lucky.