A far cry from her beauty pageant days, model and actor Gul Panag taps into her adventurous streak, on the reality show Kingfisher Blue Mile, leading nine winners up the gruelling Himalayas for ‘a tick on her bucket list’. She talks about their antics and escapades on the climb to the base camp.
On the Kingfisher Blue Mile.
It is a talk-to-camera reality show, which had campouts in Delhi, Wayanad, West Bengal, Hyderabad and Manchinbele. Adventurists compete in gruelling tasks to test agility and fitness levels before nine winners were chosen. It sees them on their ascent of the Mount Everest base camp. It’s a great balance between drama and reality – but not in the saas-bahu saga sort of way. It’s a raw expression of what happens up there.
Tell us a bit about your role.
I am the anchor, but I don’t take you through the show as a host. I am more as a link between the camera and the winners. And being familiar with adventure and climbing, I was in a sense the expedition leader too.
What drew you to the show?
Climbing Mt Everest has always been on my Bucket List and getting to base camp is a start. Plus, the lovely bunch of people on the trip made it more worthwhile.
On the challenges.
The high altitude is the biggest challenge. Mountaineers spend months acclimating and we didn’t have that time. Taking 15 steps felt like a sprint – and I know that feeling as while training for marathons I sprint train. Your chest feels like it’s exploding. On the last night before base camp, I wanted to watch the start of an avalanche so I quickly climbed about seven feet, hardly the height of a mini van, to capture it, and I felt I would blackout. It was that tough.
Anything you learned
from the trip?
Well, I did learn that at that altitude weakens batteries too. I would sleep with my iPhone at about 85 per cent and wake up to it nearly dead. Same with cameras, laptops and MP3 players, for everyone on the expedition. Then the seasoned climbers and guides told us to keep them insulated too. So we had the luxury of sleeping with electronics in our heavily insulated sleeping bags!
What was most thrilling?
Just being up there is very exciting. And I was so amazed by how sometimes you can climb so quickly and sometimes it takes ages. In the mountains, you need to walk like an old person, and literally trudge. Once we reached to about 14,000 feet it started getting really hard. Then at 18,000 it is like a crawl. It’s amazing to see what that does. But in a positive way. Also, the ice falls and glaciers are just majestic. So fantastic. And seeing them fall sometimes is thrilling. It’s like watching dynamite exploding.
Premieres March 14, weekends at 8 pm on NDTV Good Times.
— Aakanksha Devi