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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Dec 2014
A to Z of adventure sports in Mumbai
Amrah Ashraf, Mignonne Dsouza and Rachel Lopez, Hindustan Times
February 22, 2014
First Published: 13:54 IST(22/2/2014)
Last Updated: 18:22 IST(22/2/2014)

Last Sunday, I found myself on a speed boat, traversing the muddy waters of Mumbai from Gateway of India to Mandwa. The sun shone brightly and it was the perfect day for sailing and windsurfing. Not much of a fan of sailing and definitely not fond of getting whacked in the face by the boom of the boat (yes that happened), I was only too eager for the windsurfing lessons to start.

Back on shore, I saw boys and girls fall off their surf board in many hilarious ways. Forget surfing, people were struggling to even stand on the board. Then came my turn. Determined to not fall in the murky waters, I concentrated extra hard and managed to not only stand but surf and turn, without wetting a toe. Also, crashing in front of the cute instructor would've been ghastly!

What about you? When was the last time you tried a new adventure activity? This summer (and monsoon), prepare to break out of your comfort zone and have the time of your life with these adventure activities not too far from home, if you live in Mumbai.


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Cartoonist and radiologist Hemant Morparia, who’s been aiming his bow and arrow at the bullseye for about four years, says archery both fulfils a childhood fantasy and “brings out the kshatriya in me”. Start with an Indian-made bamboo bow (it’s cheaper than foreign ones that can cost upwards of Rs. 50,000). And prepare to work your shoulder, arms and back. It’s not a team sport, but Morparia finds that the crowd is of mixed age and fitness levels. “Like golf, you aim and shoot,” he says. “But unlike golf, it’s not something you do for image or networking. It’s just for the love of the sport.”

Ozone Activity Centre, Prabodhan, Goregaon (28797585) offers the use of their archery range and services of a trainer for Rs. 2,500 per quarter or Rs. 8,000 annually. Equipment is provided for the first month, and you’re expected to bring your own thereafter. Also available at Savarkar Archery Academy, Dadar (24465877), Della Adventure (Dellaadventure.com) and Blue Bulb (Bluebulb.in).

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Forget the real Alps, it’s the manmade ones that are the  real test of your skills. Two interlocking tripods form a 30-foot tower, from which are suspended logs, platforms, nets and ropes. The objective is to reach the top and descend from the other side, but you can’t do it without coordinating with your team. “I really didn’t want to try this because I’m scared of heights,” says banking executive Tulika Alva, who celebrated a friend’s birthday at Aamby Valley’s 19 Degree North last year. “But somehow I managed to complete it and it was such a sense of accomplishment. You have to be reasonably fit, since you’ll be hanging from ropes and all. But you have to try it!”

The tower at 19 Degree North (19degreenorth.com) in Aamby Valley offers different degrees of difficulty as part of their day package.

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Leaping off a 147-feet-tall crane may not be your idea of a date, but for some couples, love is all about taking the plunge together. “Our hearts were in our mouths when we stood at the edge. But then I hugged Samar and took the leap of faith,” says Tanya Khanna. Obviously, jumping off a rock cliff into a ravine or river is more exciting, but Jimmy Mistry, chairman of Della Adventure, calls it “drawing first blood”. Their trainer got his certification in New Zealand and will happily push you off the edge.

Available at Della Adventure (Dellaadventure.com), provided you have no spinal condition and are over four feet tall, for Rs. 2,500. Della also has a Rs. 6,000 flat charge for any of their 100 activities you can finish in a day.

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Also known as spelunking, caving involves much more than rappelling up or down a cliff face, says Dnyanesh Golatkar, co-owner of Nature Knights. Travel with them to the base of Ratnadurg Fort at Ratnagiri and they will lead you to a cave, and show you how to climb down five to 10 feet, crawl in a crevice one-and-a-half feet under a rock, then climb up 20 feet, then climb down 15 feet into a tunnel, then guide yourself along another narrow 150-feet tunnel (using ropes) through 40-feet-deep water. Breathless yet? “This is one of the safest caves where we can give people extreme adventure,” he adds.

Available at Nature Knights (Natureknights.net). It’s Rs. 4,000 onwards for a weekend package involving caving, 300-feet rappelling and dorm-style basic accommodation and food.

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This is the tougher version of a treasure hunt, and can be conducted only if a group size exceeds 25 members. The hunt is conducted in the area surrounding our campsite and lasts at least three hours,” explains Elton D’Mello from Zbac. “Our instructors set clues, give participants a compass and map to help them. It’s either a straightforward race with people racing to solve the clues, or an Amazing Race-type activity where when a group reaches a given point, they have to complete an activity to get the next clue.”
Available with the Zbac (Zbacadventures.co.in) day package, Rs. 1,000 for three activities, meals included.

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Anyone can show off on potholed roads. But can you race competitively on muddy, gravelly, dusty, slippery, often wet terrain, executing sharp turns and building up speed without skidding into slushy disaster? At the Ajmera i-Land Sports school in Wadala, Rustom K Patel, an eight-time national dirtbike and motocross champion, runs India’s first academy for dirt racers. Gear up with a helmet, race boots, and elbow, knee and shin guards, warm up and remember: two fingers on the clutch, one on the brake. Then control your machine as you conquer your fear. “It’s dangerous,” warns Patel. But he’s trained 14 women and kids as young as five.

At i-Land, Rs. 1,400 will cover bike rental, use of the track and one hour’s training. Bring your own helmet and wear full length sleeves and trousers. Find them on Facebook using the keywords i-Land Racing Academy.

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What looks like an unending ring of fire is actually the flaming version of Poi, a Maori performance art that involves gracefully spinning a sling-like poi with both hands. At Headrush, beginners are taught on a practice poi (a ball tied to a strip of fabric) before fire is attempted. Saurov Kakoti of Headrush says the activity builds left-right hand coordination and balance, making every performer “a stunning attraction wherever he/she goes.” 
Headrush (Headrush.in) offers weekend workshops in Poi for R2,000 per student for a three-hour lesson. They need a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 20 participants to hold a session.


Glass Walking and Horse Riding


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Yes, they make you walk on broken glass. No they’re not crazy. What they are, is thorough. Trainers show you how to train your body to calmness, take each step keeping your weight together (not going heel first). “When done right, you won’t cut yourself,” says Saurov Kakoti of Headrush.

Graduate from glass to fire at Zbac, which works on the same principle. “The instructors blow air to make the fire walk look more deadly,” says 33-year-old Vishit Trivedi, an FMCG executive who has been firewalking at Zbac four times. “It’s a very liberating feeling,” he explains. “You feel you have conquered your fear, and it’s very powerful.”

Headrush (Headrush.in) offers glasswalking for a minimum of five people for R150 each. Zbac (Zbacadventures.co.in) includes the firewalking activity in their day package, R1,000 for three activities, meals included

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Of all the activities in here, this is the only one in which you get on something with a brain of its own. As Rohan More, owner of the Japalouppe Equestrian Centre in Talegaon, puts it: “There’s no way a 100 kilo-man can push a 500-kilo horse. The way to do it is through your head and heart.” Once you have mastered that, learn showjumping (jumping over obstacles), dressage (riding and training a horse), tent pegging (riding at a gallop and using a lance to pierce, pick up, and carry away small ground targets), or polo.

Available at Amateur Riders’ Club (Arcmumbai.com). Membership for adults R5lakh; for kids up to 18 years R80,000. Japalouppe (Japalouppe.net) offers private lessons and weekend packages and will also train you as a family. Also at Nimbalkar Horse Riding School, Pune (9822353940) and Digvijay Pratishthan, Pune (Digvijaypratishthan.com)

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Himalayas too far away? Make a trip to ice rinks in Mumbai to ice skate. But be assured of one thing, you will fall! “How can you not enjoy falling on ice in Mumbai?” asks Ashok Mehta, consultant who loves the activity. Expert skaters will train you until you can go solo. “Mostly people skate in groups holding each other for support,” he says. “It’s fun to watch them all fall together.”
Cool your heels at Snow World, Phoenix Market City for R500 an hour (which also includes snowboarding, ice sliding, and similar activities). Gear is provided. Also at EsselWorld (Esselworld.in), within the ticket price

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Some things don’t require you to put your life on the line; jetskiing is one of them. It’s like zipping on a motorbike (wind in your hair included) but over the waves of the ocean. Once your instructor ensures that you’ve safely mounted the vehicle, a short tutorial will bring you up to speed. After that, feel free to recreate movie chase sequences, or cruise slowly. “As soon as the engine starts whirring, I feel charged up. It’s exciting, yet, calming. For those few minutes, as I conquer each wave, I feel invincible,” says Pradeep Menon, a Mumbai filmmaker.

Jet ski joyrides cost about Rs. 300 per round at Kihim beach, Mandwa jetty and Alibaug beach. Also organised by Kundalikarafting (Kundalikarafting.in) and Adventure Mandwa (Adventuremandwa.com)

Jet skiing

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A kayak looks a bit dorky. Surely something so long and narrow (that seats just one or two) is  unwieldy. Long-timers like Jatin Vohra, who rented kayaks for three years before buying his own, say otherwise. “The shape actually helps you move forward and take turns better,” he says. “It’s one of those activities that makes you fitter and calmer at the same time. Unless you kayak on white water, then, there’s nothing dorky about staying upright!”

Available along with several Konkan tours offered by Ecomantra (Ecomantra.com). Also offered in the Vasai-Virar region by Space Apple (Spaceapple.com)

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“Don’t confuse longboarding with skateboarding,” says Nikhil Bhosale, one of only 10 Mumbaikars to pursue the sport. Longboards are longer and heavier, and involve a lot of downhill floats and drifts at high speeds, one of the reasons why the ‘crew’ practice at the Parsik Hills in Navi Mumbai. With the thrills and spills come the bills – buying gear in India is a problem, says Bhosale. “We have to order from abroad (though basic boards are locally retailed and cost Rs. 10,000 onwards).” The group is planning to build their own boards in the future.

Find them using ‘Longboard Crew India’ on Facebook or @LongboardCrewIn on Twitter

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At Wadala’s i-Land Racing Academy, what dirtbikers achieve on a muddy track, motocross enthusiasts achieve mid air. Rustom K Patel trains bikers to jump over mud bumpers and specially created ditches (and when you’re experienced, enough, a few dozen trucks!). Motocross bikers race on off-road circuits and at the new track layout at the i-Land academy, which is 450 metres long with a new table top that offers additional challenges. Patel’s star student is nine-year-old Yuvraj Konde who not only aces his age-level but also wins competitions against 14-year-olds. “He’s the fastest kid in the country,” says Patel, 35, who’s been racing since he was six himself. “He travels from Pune every weekend to train and doesn’t even flinch when we ask him to make a 30-feet jump.”
Can you do better?
At i-Land, R1,400 will cover bike rental, use of track and one hour’s training. Bring your own helmet and wear full-length sleeves and trousers. Find them on Facebook using the keywords i-Land Racing Academy.

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Everything is tougher at night. Shadows come out of nowhere. You slip more often. Creepy-crawlies abound. And... wait.. did a white owl just fly past? It’s not for the faint of heart. “You only have moonlight and a flashlight to keep you from crashing in to the valley below,” says Craig Lobo, event manager and night trek fan. Camp at your destination or hike after a light dinner. The reward? Sunrise from the mountaintop!

Lets Camp Out (Letscampout.com) holds night treks to Rajmachi for R1,499 per person and for a minimum of 10 people. Also organised by Mumbai Travellers (Mumbaitravellers.com).

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You know those Hollywood training sequences that turn the regular Joe into vigilante hero while Eye Of The Tiger plays on in the background? The team at Zbac offers something similar with a minimum of six military style activities like swinging across a ditch on a Tarzan swing, jumping over tyres and climbing nets. “The instructors also create additional obstacles after observing the group,” explains Elton D’Mello of Zbac. FMCG executiveVishit Trivedi has accompanied groups to Zbac over 45 times, and says the obstacle course stimulates a “war feel” where things happen from nowhere. “It prepares you to be in a combative mood, tests your ability to prepare and lean on others’ strength,” Trivedi adds.

Available with the Zbac (Zbacadventures.co.in) day package, Rs. 1,000 for three activities, meals included.

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“It’s like meditation in the air,” says Hiren Shah describing what paragliding feels like. The Kandivali resident is a veteran at manoeuvring a glider (often for hours) from a height down to a safe landing, using just his skills to manipulate the glider with or against the forces of the wind. His first flight was in 2006 with Space Apple in Virar. He now regularly makes solo flights and attends competitions. He attributes his love of the sport to his childhood “itch” to fly.

Available at Space Apple (Spaceapple.com), which also offers paramotoring which lets you paraglide with a motorised glider. Also offered by Nirvana Adventures (Flynirvana.com), Temple Pilots (Templepilots.com) and Indus Paragliding School (indusparagliding.in), all at Kamshet.


Paramotoring


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Parasailing is now on the menu at Adventure Mandwa, a short ferry ride away from the city. Get harnessed to a speedboat, parachute on your back, and rise aloft over the sea as the boat picks up and maintains a steady speed.  

Praful Pendurkar from Adventure Mandwa claims to offer the highest and longest parasail experience in the country: “At Mandwa, we take you up to 100 metres and the experience lasts five minutes,” he says.
 
At Adventure Mandwa (Adventuremandwa.com). Rs. 1,000 per ride.

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The wind’s in your hair, there’s rough terrain underneath, and you’re in command of a 700 cc all-terrain vehicle. These are ATV riding’s many charms. “Once you get a hang of quad biking (a bike on four wheels), you wouldn’t want to get off it. Its power is addictive. It can cruise through rough, marshy and rocky areas,” says V Prakash, an advertising professional. But you have to know how to ride a geared bike before you ride a 700 cc ATV.

Della Adventure (dellaadventure.com) offers Quad Biking for Rs. 1,000 per person. Sand ATV rides are available at Adventure Mandwa (Adventuremandwa.com) for Rs. 200.

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You may have already tried regular rappelling, descending down a rockface with ropes and tools to control your drop safely (though beginners still dangle wildly). You may have even enjoyed how your knees shake uncontrollably after! Now, take things to another level. Several places let you rappel under a waterfall, rappel back to front, or go jumaring up a cliff, not down it, (tougher, as you haul yourself up bit by arm-straining bit).

Regular rappelling is available at 19 Degree North (19degreenorth.com). Nature Knights (Natureknights.net) offers waterfall rappelling with their monsoon treks. Back-to front rappelling is offered at Zbac (Zbacadventures.co.in); Jumaring is often part of the treks organised by Exploita (Exploita.com).

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Tackle the Burma loop, channel your inner Spiderman on the horizontal net, cross the Burma bridge without falling, cling on and cross the swinging bridge and finally scale the vertical net. Whew! There are, of course, wooden obstacles to make it harder. “You need a lot of upper arm strength to get through the course,” says Jimmy Mistry of Della Adventure. Once harnessed, climb, swing, jump, scream, drop and laugh, 40 feet in the air.

Della Adventures (Dellaadventures.com) offers high and low rope challenges for Rs. 750


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Maharashtra offers tandem skydiving, which straps you to an experienced instructor (after you’ve been briefed and accepted their terms), as you leap off a plane 15,000 feet over Aamby Valley. You’ll both freefall until you deploy your canopy and your instructor guides you back to earth. “It’s a feeling you’ll never forget,” says digital marketer Owais Khan who tried it last summer. “Plus, think of the profile pics!”

Aamby Valley Skydiving (Aambyvalley.com) will soon resume skydiving. 


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Don’t wobble! Just stand on a board and paddle for long distances over still or choppy water. “Mandwa beach offers both,” explains Praful Pendurkar of Adventure Mandwa, who first tried this activity four years ago. “Close to the shore, the water is still, while in the deep, the water gets choppy.” Most people move on to this once they have mastered kayaking.

Available at Adventure Mandwa (Adventuremandwa.com). Rs. 300 for 30 minutes.

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Imagine being stuffed tight in a body bag, then hauled up 30 metres in the air only to suspend wildly on a thin wire. Imagine doing this to yourself. With a swoop swing, you control the timing of the fall. “You pull the orange cord to release yourself,” says Sujeet Anand, cinematographer who tried the swing last year. You fall vertically for three to four seconds at an estimated speed of 130km/hr and then you swing like a pendulum. “The drop lasts less than three seconds and the whole swing lasts 20-30 seconds,” he says. “But it really feels like a lifetime.” 

Available at Della Adventure (dellaadventure.com) for Rs. 1,500 per person. Three people can also take the ride together.

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Sailing does not sound adventurous. But how about harnessing yourself to the sail of a Hobie Cat (small sail boat), stepping on to the edge of the boat, then pushing yourself outwards with your feet still on the railing and hanging by a thin line, as it skips, hops and glides over water? Now that sounds like a lot of fun! “Sitting on a Hobie Cat is scary since there is nothing to hold on to, but hanging outside it is a different experience all together,” says Payal Bagzai who’s tried it recently.

Aquasail (Aquasailindia.com)offers trapezing at their Mandwa facility. For prices, log on, block your dates and the activity rate will pop up (the prices vary based on the number of people and date).

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It’s most popularly known as Valley Crossing (though it’s also advertised as Ziplining and Flying Fox, after the brands of gear used). And it lets you first slide from a higher peak to lower one, then once you hit the slack in the rope, and finally pull yourself to the end point. “You’ll have butterflies in your tummy hanging up there,” says banking executive Tulika Alva who tried it last year. “But when you look back on what you’ve crossed, you think you’ve conquered the world!”

19 Degree North (19degreenorth.com) offers zip lining as part of its day package; Exploita (Exploita.com) organises Valley Crossing at Duke’s Nose in collaboration with Trekdi Adventures for Rs. 1,200 per person. Also available at Della Adventure (Dellaadventure.com).

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Keep your wits about you on the Kundalika, the goddess that lends her name to the Kolad river is fickle and not-quite-forgiving. Rafting teams that misjudge her curves and speed often topple over in their attempts to paddle in synchrony. Toppling is fun, but only after the rushing water calms down so you float with the flow, an activity known as bodysurfing.

Offered by Kundalika Rafting (Kundalikarafting.in), Ecomantra (Ecomantra.com) and Bluebulb (Bluebulb.in).

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Windsurfing uses the sail to catch the wind to ride the waves.  But it’s hard to even stand on a surfboard without tipping over, as Brunch staffer Amrah Ashraf discovered in Goa. So handling a 13-board with a sail should be tougher, right? No. “This time, I managed even surf a bit.”

Aquasail (Aquasailindia.com) offers windsurfing or sailboarding at Mandwa. For prices, log on, block your dates and the activity rate will pop up (the prices vary based on the number of people and date).

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Get into a giant inflated plastic bubble. Strap yourself into the small bubble inside so you’re nicely air-cushioned. Then wait for the push that sends you tumbling “all over the place” in the words of banking executive Tulika Alva. Zorbing is for those who prefer to let gravity do the work. Most places let you roll down an incline or in a pool. And many let two people in a Zorb together to have wicked  fun tumbling around.  

Della Adventure (Dellaadventure.com) charges Rs. 750 for one downhill run if you’re not signing up for their packages. Also offered at Headrush (Headrush.in) and Zbac (Zbacadventures.co.in)

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With inputs from Soumya Rao

From HT Brunch, February 23

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