– Leonardo da Vinci
Hi, I am Kaushal Desai and welcome to Touching Cloudbase. I have always been fascinated by the art of free flight, especially flying in the Himalayas with the Himalayan griffons and lamagiers for company. I live in Manali, Himachal Pradesh and I work as a mountaineering, ski touring and cycling guide. In the initial years, one of the reasons paragliding attracted me was the possibilities of using a wing to descend from mountains after a hard climb.
I was lucky to have a lot of friends who were tandem pilots. So in 2007, one day, when I decided to learn to fly, I approached a good friend who generously lent me his old wing and harness and showed me a few basic lessons. After a couple of tries, I got the forward launch and I was soon doing my first bunny hops. As I did my first bunny hops, I knew I was hooked to free flight and that there was more to paragliding than just descending from a mountain. I think the sensation of severing your ties with earth as the paraglider takes off is better experienced than explained.
However, I knew as a novice pilot, I was starting off with a bag full of luck and one empty of experience. The trick for me was to fill one before the other runs out. I started to read up online about paragliding and also found some interesting videos of basic lessons done by other pilots. However, the best investment I made was after a few initial lessons on a borrowed wing, I bought a used wing for ground handling and a book to understand the theory of flight – Touching Cloud Base by Ian Currer, a person whom I also consider a mentor. Back then I did not know that one day I would start a paragliding company by the same name.
I knew paragliding could be a dangerous sport if pursued foolishly and I have also seen people get hurt because they chose to fly uninformed. Considering I was going to learn to fly on my own with only some basic guidance, I knew I had to tread cautiously and be conservative. I spent a good part of 2007 only kiting my wing on the training slope in Solang Nulla (Manali) and getting used to a myriad of new sensations and various reactions to inputs on my wing. Looking back I think the best foundation for a pilot is good ground handling. One can learn 70% or more on the ground, kiting and playing with the wing.
By the end of 2007, I was much better with the wing and I had managed to survive a whole year without any accidents. I decided to buy a different wing as now I was doing longer flights. I settled on a used UP Makalu 2 which had 50 odd hours of flying on it. I continued flying around in Manali till the end of 2008 and then in Oct 2009 with the help of a friend I did my first big flight from Billing in Himachal Pradesh. Ever since then I have been regularly flying in Billing which is like second home to me. In order to progress further with my flying skills, I signed on a XC flying course with Jocky Sanderson in Oct 2010. That course was an eye opener to the world of cross country flying. In the 10 days I spent more hours in the air than I had ever done and flew some of my longest flights.
Over the years, I have met and shared the skies with many good and great pilots who have a lot of flying experience and make a living working tandems and teaching paragliding. I have also seen lots of novices get stuck with bad tandem pilots and bad instructors who have no clue what they are doing. It was therefore a natural progression when I decided to do my bit for making the skies a safer place for people just beginning their paragliding journey. I hope this website also serves as a platform to connect people who are looking to do tandem flights or learn paragliding with good instructors who know how to teach the art of flight.
In the end, I think a very important facet of paragliding is that it represents friendship and camaraderie. It is an amazing experience to meet new people and fly in distant lands. The paragliding community world over is a small one and unites people with one common goal to fly, to touch cloudbase.
(A word of caution to people who want to purse flying on their own: I might have been a newbie to paragliding but by no means was I a newbie to adventure. I brought with me 16 years of experience in extreme mountaineering and I have pursued many climbs across the Himalayas. I also understand a little about risks and when not to be foolhardy. Nothing substitutes good instruction and the learning curve when you learn to fly on you own is very big as compared to working with a quality mentor.)
In case you wish to know more about my mountaineering, ski touring and cycling work then you can find it on http://www.above14000ft.com