If you do not feel as if you are flying while reading this article please excuse me and make sure you will visit Pokhara for paragliding to experience it firsthand.
I was in Palpa for some official business. When I came to know there are two roads leading to Kathmandu from Tansen, one via Pokhara and the other via Butwal, I got excited. I made up my mind to spend some time in Pokhara, the lake city. Of course, Pokhara is also known now for its extreme adventure, paragliding.
Most of my friends and some of my relatives have done paragliding in Pokhara. When Shyam uncle, who is 60 plus years of age, and Kamala auntie, his wife, did it, there was nothing to stop me from paragliding. I was just looking for the right moment and this time, indeed, it was the opportune moment.
I booked my tickets with Avia Club through Shekhar Acharya, a friend of mine who lives in Pokhara expecting some concession in the fare. The next day of my arrival in Pokhara, I was to take the flight. I was crossing my fingers that the day would be clear and would not rain. The day happened to be a clear one.
On our way to Sarangkot, the spot from where paragliders would take off their flights, there were a few clouds and I immediately asked if the clouds would affect the flight. Our Finnish pilot, a gorgeous lady explained to me how the clouds would affect the flight in a positive manner. I must apologize I can't remember what she said about the correlation between humidity, hot air and cloud affecting the flight in a good way. I was glad to know the conclusion that the clouds would not affect the flight adversely.
We were on the spot from where the flights would be launched. There were already other paragliders who were taking their flights and some were preparing to take the flights. It was a pleasant sight to see them fly in the air. Some of them screamed to overcome their fear. Some would just not take the few steps that were necessary to go beyond the edge of the hill into the air for the flight. In that case the other pilots helped the person by lifting them with their strong arms and throwing them into the air from the edge of the hill. The paragliders were expected to walk a bit and run from the edge of the hill into the air. This was to launch the flight and once in the air, pilots would take control of the flight and thus they were safely airborne. The taking off and landing was a bit of concern. It was indeed nice to see someone soaring up in the sky.
My pilot, Arun, came a little while after we reached the launching spot. I had got acquainted myself with other pilots but not Arun. I have a concern that his name will not be pronounced as the way he would like. Therefore I would restrict myself to calling 'Aeroon' as my pilot hereafter.
On our acquaintance, I immediately asked his experience as a pilot. “Nine years,” he said, his answer somewhat comforting me. Immediately, he added, “I am an acrobat pilot.”
I saw another pilot in the air perform acrobatics in the air. I asked him if that is what he meant by 'acrobat'. He confirmed. I was scared for the first time of this flight. I was nervous before but the sight I had just seen and his expertise in acrobatics made me request him if we could do the normal paragliding. His immediate response was there is no thrill and excitement in normal paragliding. However, I was his guest and he said that he was obliged to do how I preferred.
We were getting ready for the flight. The backpack on my back and the clippers connected me to the wide parachute by the straps on my backpack. My pilot was behind me.
I knew I was expected to walk and then run into the air and not sit till we were in the air safely. I had read the instructions while waiting for others to arrive in the Avia Club office and also briefed by the same gorgeous Finnish lady.
I was told to walk but the parachute pulled me back for a fraction of second. I wasn't able to walk forward, in fact, I was pulled behind in the opposite direction. I was worried if I had made the mistake. Now I realize I had not. Then the parachute was right on the top of us and it was easy for me to walk. I was walking senselessly in the direction advised by my pilot beyond the edge of the hill. After a few seconds, I regained my consciousness and, by that second, I was in the air. My fist was clenched to the strap where I was expected to hold and I was seated comfortably. I did not let go the strap till the end. However, I did try to ease myself a bit once I was comfortable in the flight.
The city of Pokhara was visible at its grandest from the air. Of course, because it is a monsoon season, Fishtail and other peaks were hidden behind the clouds and there were water hyacinth in the Fewa lake. Nonetheless the sight of the city was beautiful. There was cool breeze blowing across my face.
I had millions of questions in my mind once I was comfortable in the flight. During my conversation with the pilot I was told that sometimes birds came close and affected the flight. I had seen a video which showed pilots feeding eagles before our departure from the office. My pilot was trained in France and held a French license.
After some time in the flight it just occurred to me that the flight was getting monotonous and we were descending to the ground. The sight was the same, the breeze did not make much difference anymore and I was conscious that I was asking too many questions to the pilot. I hinted, not being able to tell directly, if we could do some acrobatics. My pilot was willing to do some and soon our movement was 8 times faster than the normal descent which made me scream and cry out loud in excitement. This happened when we were comparatively close to the ground and I did not fear much despite the velocity with which we were descending. Once close to the ground our acrobatics was over and descending was normal. Soon I realized my flight was over and was concerned about the landing. We landed safe.