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Great adventure hobbies, at a price

By Arti Sharma in Mumbai
Last updated on: December 18, 2004 15:06 IST
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If the word Mumbai conjures up images of sardine-packed local trains and constant traffic jams, try adding paragliders, aero modellers, horse riders and sailors to the picture.

Though it's hard to believe, among Mumbai-ites you'll find people who find the time to explore serious interests outside the workplace. The city offers a tremendous range of hobbies for those who want to de-stress or find an extra curricular passion.

Never mind that you may not know how to sail or paraglide, there are places -- clubs mostly -- you can approach for training. Here's the lowdown on the offers.

Paragliding: Literally not for the faint hearted. But if you've always wondered what it means to soar like a bird then here's something you can try out. There are two organisations in Mumbai that organise paragliding courses.

The Western Paragliding Association (WPA) operates out of Virar, a distant suburb, while Nirvana Adventures operates from Kamshet, 110 km from Mumbai. WPA charges Rs 15,000 for 20 flights on their equipment which includes training as well.

Once that is complete, you are expected to buy your own equipment and help  train new people. Second-hand paragliding equipment costs Rs 50,000, while a brand new glider costs Rs 100,000.

"When people are just starting out, we discourage them from investing too much and, typically, four or five people pool in for one glider," says Sidney D'Souza, a trainer at WPA.

Nirvana Adventures, set up by Sanjay Rao, has a team of three instructors based in Kamshet. You can enroll for the course any time between October and May.

The five-day beginners' course costs Rs 14,500 and is inclusive of food, accommodation, instruction and equipment. Since you'll be climbing up a hill to take off, usually you won't be doing more than two flights a day.

"Our area is fortunate to have the best climate all year round with light to moderate winds, meaning unrestricted flight days," says Rao.

Sailing: Mumbai has three sailing clubs  --  Royal Bombay Yacht Club, Colaba Sailing Club and Bombay Sailing Association. The Colaba Sailing Club is the cheapest of the three and provides only sailing facilities.

You can become a life member of the club by paying Rs 8,200 and an annual fee of Rs 1,200-1,500, after which you can sail any time you like at no cost. The club runs training sessions twice a year where charges depend on the destination.

Non- members can even undergo three sailing sessions for Rs 1,000, inclusive of the boat.

Horse riding: If you love animals and power, then horse riding could be an ideal pursuit. The Amateur Riders' Club based in central Mumbai's Mahalaksmi Race Course holds riding camps through the year for the uninitiated.

There are no eligibility criteria though you have to ensure proper riding attire. For non-members, the fee for the 10-session camp is Rs 2,500 and classes start from six in the morning.

If you like the sport enough, you can take the interest further by becoming an associate member of the club, which will cost you Rs 38,000.

Golf: Looking to fit into the executive club? And if you still don't know the real meaning of a handicap, then get out of the bunker and learn golf. Mumbai has three clubs -- Bombay Presidency, Willingdon and the United Services Club.

If you enrol to become an Indian Golf Union member, then a one-hour lesson on the greens at the BPGC will cost you roughly Rs 670 (inclusive of green fees, master fees and caddie charges).

Beginners cannot use the greens on weekends, and if you'd like to hire equipment from the pro-shop at the club, you will have to shell out Rs 150 per hour.

Aeromodelling: Hard core fliers feel that people can't suddenly wake up one day and take up aeromodelling as a serious interest.

For those of you who'd like to prove them wrong, the Indian Academy of Model Aeronautics holds 12 day sessions during the summer and winter vacations at a nominal fee of Rs 400-500 depending on the number of models used.

This includes the cost of the model (chuck and toe-line gliders), making the model, flying and insights into the theory of aerodynamics.

"We want to break the myth about aeromodelling being expensive, so we initiate students by making them use simpler models," says Darius Engineer, secretary of IAMA.

Adds Salim Hussain, a member, "It's important people understand how models are made and get certain experience in flying before moving on to more complex and expensive radio-controlled machines."

The rest of the year, you can also approach the regulars who camp at Mahalaksmi Race Course every Sunday morning to fly their own prized possessions.

For most of these activities, bookings have to be made in advance. Also, each club has a different style of functioning so it is better to approach them in person regarding membership details, though you'll find a lot of the preliminary information on club websites.
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Arti Sharma in Mumbai
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