I have to say that 2015 started off well. Apart from the obviousness of waking up on a cliff overlooking a beach hearing the waves come crashing down, there have been some great early decisions. For starters, I spent the last 4 days in Kolad learning safety techniques for capsize or very simply, rolling.
It’s been a tough few days and I can’t remember when my body was this sore, but the outcome has been good so far.
The idea came from Pradip Patade, a constant mentor and coach, and he put me in touch with Mahesh Sanap at Wilder West Adventures. You might know them if you’ve ever been rafting in Kolad or the Kundalika. They basically run the show there.
While the rafting is what I’d predominantly gone there for previously, they have a great property that serves as a place to learn river kayaking, take jetski’s out for a ride and learn your basic scuba too. The owner, Mahesh was extremely helpful and recognized the expedition and it’s adventurous nature right away.
Day 1: It was fraught with uncertainty and I was a little worked up with my resistance to being in the water. Despite having a good control over my breath underwater, I found myself panicked in the upside down scenario. I can’t say I drank anything less than 3 litres of river water that first day and frankly felt the expedition stood on the edge of a blade.
Day 2: I started with a new instructor. Rajesh, I’d say is a pro. He was doing things with his kayak that I couldn’t pull off on a dance floor*. I found my feet in the water and realized I’ve nothing to be afraid of here. Slowly, but steadily I was getting better at the stroke and pulled off some assisted rolls by the end of the day. My consumption of river water was remarkably less and I felt I’d seen the world upside down a lot more today.
Day 3: Rajesh was prompt in his instruction and we did some great drills. My confidence and morale was boosted by the friends who’d come down to join me kayaking on the water. (Needless to say they had a good time running around the lazy stream in the ideal afternoon conditions) I found myself bettering my guitar roll and by the end of the day, I could do my own rolls. Here’s a snippet from Day 3 –
*This analogy is misleading as I have two left feet on any dance floor. So here are some pics of what I’m talking about.
With baited breath you wait at the arrivals gate of the airport. I’ve been here tons of times, with tons of friends and had many a fun moment scaring, exciting and surprising people. And yet, today I wait with baited breath. With an unspoken anticipation that is telling to present company.
My cousin Rohit, or RB, was kind enough to purchase, parcel and post my brand new kayak paddles just in time for the journey. I do not know the person I am to receive, just a name and the familiar sight of Epic Paddle bags. Her family awaits at the head of a queue of eager, bubbly, teary-eyed, red-eyed people awaiting their sons, daughters, wives, mother-in-laws, bosses.
I however, am the only person checking out luggage.
An hour of waiting and I see them. Proudly mounted atop two other suitcases. My babies are here.
Decorum dictated I didn’t rush Mugda. Or hug her and jump up and down in glee. After the requisite time allowed to her to greet family and friends, I respectfully approached at her brother’s calling. Thanking her and her most accommodating brother Sourabh, I whisked away my paddles and let the family have their space.
As you can see, I wasted no time in letting them out for some cold(?) Bombay air. And have been fawning over them all day today. The black one is Sphinx. (After Vinnie Jones from Gone-in-60-seconds.) The other needs a name. Suggestions?
There’ll always be serendipity involved in discovery – Jeff Bezos
As I step up my training, I find that rather than doing circles around familiar territory, It’s far more rewarding heading out in new directions. Every paddle out however comes with the knowledge that you need to paddle an extra stroke back.
On days, this means that if I have a meeting with sponsors or a call with media, I have to be extra careful about the clock. I find myself on occasion whipping out my phone at 10:30 or 11:15 sharp in the middle of the water, trying to find a calm spot to coast while I take a call and make my pitch. Often I wonder what the other person is thinking hearing the calm of the sea in the background.
Digression aside, the real reason why, is that when you are 8.5kms off shore after a gruesome hour and a half of paddling a very unwieldy, overweight recreational kayak, you see a lighthouse. Standing tall as the sea comes crashing down on a reef behind it.
In the distance and with the morning sun, you see a fishing fleet coming out of the mouth of mumbai harbour. Calmly they pass by, a mysteriously queer line. You wonder how there is such discipline in these shipping boats as they maintain a line you’ve never seen on the streets of Bombay.
As they pass on by, you find the choppy waters have taken you closer to the lighthouse. You are almost kissing it, when the good people manning it come out to greet you. By the looks of it, they don’t get company too often. And a barrage of questions ensue. You remember human contact that extends beyond the digital. You make a mental note to come back.
Then you cross the lighthouse. And the sea hits you. It’s rough swell snaps you back to reality. There is danger here. You laugh and paddle on. You Paddle Hard.