Adventure camp at Kondaji
When one is wheelchair bound and accessibility limited in a country like India, going on an adventure trip is no minor event. But that’s exactly what I was on, as I struggled to make myself comfortable in my hard seat at 11.00 p.m of December 19th 2008.
The Association of People with Disabilities (APD) is an organization based in Bangalore and works, obviously on disability. Once a year, all its 200 odd employees are taken on a trip and so the fact that we were on a 5 hour rid to Kondaji in Davangere- Karnataka, after a hard days work was a minor fact to be ignored. Piled up in 4 buses, one could actually hear the excitement crackle in the air.
Most of us at the APD don’t really come from economically well off backgrounds and so can hardly afford a break like this. For many, this will be their one and only outing they will take, to have some fun.
In Kondaji we are headed to an adventure camp called the Scouts and Guides Campus, and for the jaded eyes, that see little other than buildings and people in crowded Bangalore, we were greeted in Kondaji by the unobstructed warm rays of the sun, the green of the forest and the azure of the lake shimmering in the morning glow and as if all this wasn’t enough, peacocks, wild and free strutted around the acres of campus.
The little camp we were to live in was built on a slope, overlooking the lake, a set of 10 large tents that could house a group of 15 each. After a typical South Indian breakfast of hot Upma, we were set of on a treasure hunt, which took the motley excited group around trees and stones, and messages in books. On my wheelchair I was able to find the treasure first.
We then did some rope walking, which unfortunately me with my calipers could not participate in and some scaling, which thankfully I could participate in. So me into a harness and then hooked to a line and I had fun scaling it from end to end.
A lunch of rice and sambar, and we could contain ourselves no further. Strapped tight into bright yellow life jackets and with carefully instructions from the trainers, our group dashed over to the row boats waiting on the water fringes. By the time, I wheeled over to the boats unfortunately, they were all loaded and with no place for me to push through, I balefully watched them set off for the other end of the huge lake.
Not one to give up that easily I decided to head into the lake. I was really excited because this was about the first time in a few years that I was actually able to frolic around in the water. During my brief visit to Goa, the sand had proved my nemesis and much to my dismay I could only watch the tantalizing sea from a distance. Determined to make up for that lost opportunity, I wheeled in and plonked into the shallow water, heavy plastic calipers and all. After I’d got used to the pleasurable weightlessness, I decided to push on a little further until I suddenly found myself floating! My first reaction was fear, but then I remembered the instructor saying that the life jacket could float with up to 300 kilograms and I was no where near that. Using my hands as paddles, I floated around for quiet a while, looking up at the blue sky and spying the occasional crow scurrying by. The water soothingly lapping away into my ears, the distant laughter of the frolicking crowd.
After hours in the water and fairly tired for want of sleep and rest, I headed back to shore only to notice a kayak idling nearby, unable to restrain myself I headed for it and along with a colleague paddled our way to the other end, keeping the rows at the 90 degrees as instructed by the trainers, paddling furiously. Oh how I loved the water.
That evening we had a camp fire and everyone was instructed to spontaneously sing a song or stage a little act and show off their talent. I had been practicing some jokes for a little over a month, but the natural showmanship still eluded me, so I made everybody laugh just trying to tell my jokes, hah, hah ha J
The next morning, I went back for yet another hour into the water, before I could stuff my wet clothes into a bag and head home.