Carry boys of Kamshet (porters assisting paragliders)

As soon as a van belonging to one of the paragliding company (There’re at least 4 in Kamshet area- Nirvana with whom I did my elementary paragliding course, Indus, Temple and Maple), a group of local boys surround the van shouting ‘carry’, ‘carry’.

Above: Carry boys surrounding the van

On my first day it took me a few moments to figure out what they were up to. They offer to carry the heavy equipment bag containing canopy and harness that each paragliding student requires, to the starting point, which would be at different points uphill, depending on each student’s day of training/kind of practice planned. The bag weighs about 10-12 kgs in total.

While it is perfectly carriable by a normal adult on the plains, carrying it uphill requires much more energy. While some students prefer to carry it all by themselves, others find it more convenient and effective to hire these boys to do the heavy lifting. The carry boys have fixed rate depending on the distance and activity:
  • From parking area to sitting area near the hill- some 300 meters, plain fields- Rs 30
  • From parking area to take off point which is halfway through the hill- some 300 meters plain, another 30-45 odd meters uphill: Rs 130
  • Mushrooming the glide and carrying it till bunny hop point- some 100-150 meters in length and slight uphill- Rs 20 per attempt
And so on…

Most of these boys are school students. They go to school in the morning and evening they come to paragliding site on bikes. Depending on how many times/how far they get to carry the stuff, they make a few to several hundred rupees easily every day. Even staff of paragliding companies give them some work.

Reasons to use services of carry boys during your paragliding course:
Carrying the paragliding equipment uphill is perfectly doable by normal adults. So you can do it yourself and may not need to avail services of a porter. However, energy and time are precious during the short training session- which lasts just about 2 to 2.5 hours. If you carry the stuff yourself, you’ll lose more energy, take more time, will need more rest, more water and eventually you will not be able to take more practice flights. By availing porter service you can conserve your energy and spend it on actual paragliding training activities. If you can take more flights in same time then that is the value you get. Local boys get to earn a few hundred rupees which should hopefully help in their education/house hold expenses.

How much money should I carry to paragliding site if I am to use their porter services?
It depends on what kind of practice you’ll be doing that day, how many times. Below is a rough idea, for elementary paragliding course. For other courses may cost more.
Day
Training
Approx porter charges
Total
01
Basic practice- learning about equipment, inflation, running and landing
Day 1 is very light, not much uphill climb-one can easily manage without a porter
From parking lot to site: 30
Mushrooming & carry: Rs 10 per attempt
Packing, carry back- 50
Total approx. 200, assuming you’ll try 10+ attempts
200
02
Bunny hops
Assuming you’ll attempt 10-15 hops, around 200-300 rupees
200-300
03
Solo flights
You’ll be able to do 3-4 flights, max 5 per session.
Rs 100 per uphill climb in Sheriar hills, Rs 50 in Shinde hills. Thus total 250 to 500 depending on site and no of flights
250 to 500
04
Solo flights
Same as above
250 to 500


Total
900 to 1500

My experience:
I didn’t hire any carry boy on day 01- managed all by myself. Day 02 onward I saw a value in their service- I can conserve energy and practice more, so hired a boy named Omkar. He studies in 9th standard and said he has his next exam on April 2nd. From the looks it didn’t feel like he weighs more than 30 kgs, but he carries 10 kg worth stuff and climbs uphill with ease, with just a slipper on his legs. During my 4 day course, I spent about 850 odd rupees on the carry boys. (At Shinde hills it was a different person). I did carry the bag uphill couple of times as carry boys were not available when we arrived- it was doable but drains energy. If I had to carry it myself all the time, I would have probably done only 2 take offs instead of 4 that I actually did, because I could climb faster without the load and get ready for next flight quicker. From one point of view it feels bit cruel to make them carry loads and make them work in their young age, but from another point of view, this activity helps them earn a few hundred and supplement their family income, so it may be good to support their entrepreneurial spirits. These boys know almost as much about the paragliding equipment as the trained instructors.
Some of the stronger boys/guys carry even 2-3 gliders at a time (20-30 kgs). The system works similar to how mountain trekkers hire sherpas or golfers have their caddy boys.

Below: A photo I clicked while exiting the van, unfortunately has lost focus and I don't have any other similar pic to use.
What else to keep in mind while availing services of carry boys in Kamshet?
  • It is advised to keep a count of your flights and regularly cross check, agree with your carry boy. Else they might inflate the count a bit (or you may feel they did so), particularly on short duration hops.
  • It is best to settle the payment on same day. Next day you may not come to same site, or boys may not turn up (particularly for morning session, as they will have school). Do carry some change. Use above table to estimate how much you may need for each day.
  • Availability of carry boys is NOT guaranteed. Don’t count on them 100%. Particularly during morning sessions kids going to school won’t be coming to training site. During our early morning session at Shinde hills, many paragliding students were desperately hunting for carry boys but none were available. Even when they come, their priority would be to carry the glider uphill for solo flights, which is maximum paying job, not lesser paying activities. If they’re not present, you’ll have to carry your equipment uphill by yourself. Be physically and mentally ready for this.

It is not mandatory to hire these porters. You can do it all by yourself- I saw a small percentage of paragliding students carry their stuff all by themselves without any help. But most other students preferred to avail the service of these porters-particularly for the Day 03 solo flights that involve steep uphill climbing.

I am going for a tandem flight. Should I hire these boys?
No. If you’ve paid for a tandem flight (Rs 2500 on weekdays, Rs 3000 during weekends) then Nirvana will get the required stuff (glider and harness etc) uphill. You as a customer won’t have to carry anything (in fact, don’t carry anything at all, as you will be asked to empty your pockets before flight), except climbing the hill on foot. But those doing a course will have to carry lots of equipment around, hence these carry boys come in handy.

Standby for more posts on my paragliding course in Kamshet with Nirvana Adventures.
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6 comments:

  1. That's interesting. Looks like a win-win situation. I think it's great when locals get something out of ventures like this.

    Btw, that rock face in the last pic looks great.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dont you think its not the right thing to employ kids to do this ,i know they benefit from it but still

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, there're pros n cons.
      Child labor is bad if it is forced upon them and kids are made to skip school. In this case they do attend school and earn a few hundred with 2-3 hours of hard work. Only few were kids, others were in their teens (refer photo).

      I do not intend to declare if it is good or bad. Up to each individual as well as their customers(paragliding students) to decide the right way forward.

      Delete

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