Sunday, September 12, 2010

I Am the Flying Fox

During our first assignment in India, one of our favorite spots was Neemrana Fort Palace Hotel. It was one of Lindsay's much talked about "hidden gems" and one of the three or four things she would have undoubtedly told you about if you asked her what she liked about India. And it is a really great spot. Located just across the border into Rajasthan and under a two hour drive from Gurgaon, it's a great place to get away from the chaos and general busyness of Delhi and Gurgaon.
Neemrana Fort Palace Hotel in December 2004
To enhance the Neemrana experience, a private company called Flying Fox has starting a zip-lining operation in the hills above the fort. While zip-lining doesn't necessarily fit the activity profile one might expect when staying at a 15th century fort more known for its serenity and peaceful atmosphere, it certainly provides a very good excuse to make a repeat visit.

Delhi isn't exactly known as the world's greatest spot for outdoors activities, especially in the summer. So while it's still warm and a little humid, Lindsay used the excuse of my birthday to plan a one-night excursion with a group of friends. In all honesty, she just likes to plan things, so no excuse was really necessary. We left Gurgaon on Saturday just before noon, made the requisite stop at the Manesar McDonald's which is optimally located for a pre-Neemrana lunch stop, and arrived three minutes late for a 2:00pm check-in to the hotel (apparently the wife is a little off her game). We checked out the room where we all were staying together, it passed the test and would make a fine spot for a little birthday celebration, and made our way to the Flying Fox office.
Our fearless group; harnessed up and ready to go
The brochures we had seen for the Flying Fox mentioned that it met all European safety standards though it failed to note that our guides for the day, Paul and Becks, would also be European. After getting fitted for harnesses and gloves, we began the twenty minute trek up the hill. Zip-lining in and of itself isn't exactly the most physically taxing of extreme adventure activities, but the steep walk up the mountain helped make you feel like you earned the trip down on the lines. With the humidity, I was soaked by the time we got to the top.
Just a little bit wet at the top

After a short safety briefing and practice on a ten meter cable, we were deemed fit for the course. My favorite zip was the second, which was also the longest at 400 meters. Due to a headwind, gravity wasn't able to do its job entirely and everyone was stopped short of the landing platform. As a result, you had to grab the wire and pull yourself the final few meters. I felt a little like Sly Stalone in "Cliffhanger". It was actually kind of cool because where you stopped was right above the fort, so there was a scenic view below. I'm by no means an expert but have done enough harness work in the past with high ropes courses and rappelling that being suspended from a cable is kind of a fun thing. Plus, again, you had to earn a little bit.
Lindsay successfully passes the safety briefing
Who knew Rajasthan could be so green?
Our guides, Paul and Becks, were most impressed that we were able to all pull ourselves to the other end of the second zip, which meant they didn't need to "rescue" us. We had proven our mettle and the safety instructions soon loosened to allow us to take videos with our off-hand. The always entertaining Lindsay Luth decided to do the film work for us.
Mrs. Luth dangles high above Neemrana Fort
By the end of the fifth and final zip, I was ready to take a second lap, but unfortunately there wasn't time. Thankfully, it's a short enough trip and they also have an operation in Jodhpur at the fort there (apparently, forts make great geographic locations for zip-lines) so I'm pretty sure we'll do it again. And since once you've seen one fort, you've kind of seen them all, this outdoor activity is a very welcome addition to the Rajashani fort circuit.

For more information on the Flying Fox experience, check out their website below. I'd recommend booking ahead as they seemed busy on the weekend and there is a significant price discount for booking even one day in advance.

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