Last night, I snuck away from the guest house after sunset to take in an outdoor movie. A café at the next beach south was screening The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on their patio. Where better to enjoy a feel-good flick set in Jaipur than when I was myself just a week removed from having seen the Pink City in person?
Arriving back at the house around 10p, I wasn’t surprise to see all my fellow guests and our hosts gathered on the balcony upstairs, drinks in hand and classic rock on the stereo. Seeing how I was easily the youngest by 25 years, it felt a bit like my own Marigold Hotel! But no matter – before long, we were all exchanging travel stories good and bad, assessing in each other our adventurous spirits.
I quickly lost the informal competition, as my guided tours in Agra and lazy days in Varanasi couldn’t hold a candle to the Brit twice my age who just came from mountain biking in Nepal, bruised ribs to prove it. Though the highlight, he informed us, was his go at para-hawking. Apparently there is such a thing as para-hawking.
Put simply, if possible, it is the sport (?) of paragliding off a cliff while outfitted with a leather glove on one had and a pouch full of raw meat around one’s waist. Flying tandem, the pro on your back happens to be hosting a bird of prey on his arm – in my fellow traveler’s case, an Egyptian vulture. The guide releases the bird and with a call, then it is summoned back to the meat in your gloved hand, where it feasts as you glide in midair. Because feeding a carnivorous bird with two feet on the ground is obviously too boring.
Needless to say, I have had no such heart-attack inducing adventures these past two weeks, dog bite aside. And while I’m tempted to think that maybe I’ve missed out on some amazing experiences – trekking through forests, boating on the Ganges, feeding birds while in flight myself – I have to think that I’ll be bringing home plenty of unique stories to remember this journey by.
Why, just this evening as I sat at an outdoor restaurant on the beach, reading with a glass of wine before dinner, I heard a distinctive plop, plop, PLOP! of something large and solid crashing down to the sand from directly above me. This little restaurant is built among a grove of palm trees, and apparently late afternoon is also coconut harvesting time. I changed tables three times to distance myself from the falling subterfuge as the same waiter who served me my wine went scrambling up the ridged trunk of the trees to the fruit above, hacking off entire branches to get at the gold he was after.
Below him, several women waited with wicker baskets to claim the ripe coconuts for their own. They’ll sell the fruit and use the downed branches as thatch for their huts’ roof and sides. A man with a gentle, grandfatherly look to him navigated the beach traffic around the commotion. I imagine if anyone got beaned with one of those things on its way down, it’d leave quite a mark!
From my new table a few safe feet removed from the raining coconuts, I still had a great book to get lost in, a glass of wine to finish and a lovely view of the sunset.
So no, I haven’t gone para-hawking and probably never will. But I’m managing to enjoy my version of India, too.