Cross Country Sight Seeing Flight – Mussourie to Rishikesh

Cross Country Sight Seeing Flight – Mussourie to Rishikesh2_TemplePilots
We’re usually taking off around 11 and 12 am. We reach the take off site around 10 and sit n observe what’s happening in the valley. Smoke signalling winds in the valley, ruffle of leaves telling us of thermal movements and birds telling us thermal positions and strength. Jitu had a passenger, one of India’s top Plastic surgeons, a very humble n great soul and was free to solo. Jitu took off and had the ‘ House Thermals’ oblige him with decent 100 to 150 mts above take off. I got ready and waited for a thermal puff to launch myself in air. Gave my phone to Vijay to click a picture or two for the Club page, big mistake. There was no plan to travel but once I got about 2200 mts amsl I decided to climb back over the hill town of Mussourie. It was blowing east so I decided to go explore west towards George everest n Haati Paav, famous tourist points West of Mussourie on the high points of the ridge. Mid way I was joined by a very massive Himalayan Griffon Vulture. Wow, I had previously only flown with the Himalayan Eagles here when I did my first flight here in March
I didn’t know there were Himalayan Vultures too. I love nothing more in the sky than birds for company. I was ecstatic to see this huge mother with the most wonderful of wings spread right above my wing. She or maybe he (inconsequential) went about her flying around my wing very matter of factly and I was quick to pick up cues to reach about 10,000ft. I was sitting pretty high above Mussourie now and once I have a bird for company I abandon all my plans just fly with the birds wherever they take me. This one pointed east and I followed noticing in the valley the winds had shifted west. So as I went appreciating the flexible wing design n the exotic colours n followed the master i realised i couldn’t keep u despite being on full speed bar. I saw my sky guide dissapearing into the far eastern skies.
I was to fly alone now, I guess this was the lesson wink emoticon
Jitu by this time had landed the famous Doc as I can back to the take off/ landing Zone area. I decided to check another site on the eastern side of Maldevta (another tourist spot near across Dehradun). I radio’d Jitu my plan and asked him to get going in the retrieve vehicle. The thermals were working well as I headed eastward with a speed of around 40k and just about as I was approaching Maldevta I had gone up to 3750 mts (11,250ft). It was too tempting now as I crossed Maldevta I had two choices, take the higher route of the Dhanaulti ridge or the lower route which had more landing options available. I chose the later, started on cruise mode, changed the radio frequency to the local Radio station and sang along some soulful melodies of Arijit Singh smile emoticon
The scenery was stunning and newer n newer landscapes unfolded as I moved on. As I would start to lose height I would start looking for my landing options and as I would climb in a timely thermal I would look further as to how far I could push. It was a joy travelling like this, looking all around the sky, looking at the terrain for clues for thermals, observing closely. It was one delight when you expect a thermal to be working somewhere and when you actually find it working when you reach there. 
You get this tremendous satisfaction that you have understood little something of mother nature. The Jolly grant aerodrome was in sight and that was extremely discomforting even though I was well out of the ADZ of 5NM. I had to hurry past this zone as fast as I could since just a few days back I was stting in the ATC office requesting for Permissions and NOTAM. I didn’t even climb the thermals in my hurry to get past my visual with the airfield and that put Mr pretty low once I was well past. 
The higher route may have been a better choice I thought. It was now time to start scratching, looking at villages going about their chores, kids playing in the fields offering good landing options, red flags on temples telling of what the wind was doing. I was now flying over the Rajaji National Forest Reserve and to my horror discovered that here the winds were blowing east and my speeds had now come down to 20 to 22 kmph and I was low at 1450 MTS, ground height being 700 to 750 Mts. My sensitivity to respond to any bit of loft was at its peak and I was desperate for some altitude as the landing options were very limited. I did get up a few hundred feet and was delighted to see the blue-green waters of Mother Gangs. Now I found myself requesting her for a miracle thermal and she obliged. 
Rishikesh was i sight as i hugged the forest trees on low hillsides of a forest Reserve. Soon I was pinned down by the strong easterlies and I had to finalise on my landing options. Actually there was only one, dry river bed with thick forest on both banks. I was just south of Rishikesh, about to land in the infamous elephant territory without a soul in sight. Landing was fine, I had no water, no phone, radio out of coverage and a very heavy glider (my Acro harness weighs 10.5 kilos). What happened next is another story that made me feel that flying is so easy least n a high luxury.

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