Pokhara is not only popular for views of the Annapurna range but is also a great destination for paragliding. Since I am not that physically fit to go trekking, I thought that trying out paragliding is the next best thing.
I booked my paragliding trip with Sunrise Paragliding through my hotel, at Rs 8,500 for a standard flight, including transport to and from the jump-off point at Sarangkot hill. This seems to be a standard rate as the price is the same with 3 other operators I checked.
I was picked up at my hotel at about 8:00 AM, with an old 4x4 vehicle. I joined a group of Chinese tourists and a European guy. We were dropped off at the Sunrise Paragliding office along the Lakeside to fill out some information. We were also asked by the lady in charge of the papers if we wanted to have a photo and video included in the package, for an additional Rs 1,700. Of course, I took it, and it’s worth it! That was also my first encounter with a GoPro camera. A small buddy in a selfie stick/ monopod that can capture in wide angle. How cool is that! It wasn’t as famous then in the Philippines (but if someone asked me who invented the selfie stick, I would probably blurt out, "Who else could it be but a Filipino!").
On the way to Sarangkot
On the way to Sarangkot, I was seated in front, next to one of the Nepali pilots (forgot his name). He jokingly said that the uphill drive to Sarangkot is far more dangerous than paragliding itself. Having traversed the narrow bumpy roads on the way to Sagada, Philippines at the side of the cliff, and having no prior experience in paragliding to compare it with, I didn’t quite believe him. Hehe.
Geared up for take-off
The take off point at the edge of Sarangkot hill is more than 1,500 meters high. After being geared up with harness (which would later be my comfy chair), my pilot, Colin, a Romanian, instructed me: “When I say run, run! Once in the air, sit back, relax and enjoy.” I watched the others take-off while waiting for my turn. That seemed very easy. My issue isn’t following instructions but the thought of the large void beneath my feet after take-off made my hand sweaty. Finally, my turn. Colin said, Run!, and so I ran, with him behind me. Only three steps into running and I realized I’m already up in the air, rising from where we took off.
I was not fortunate to have clear views of the mountain ranges as it was cloudy that time. But what the heck! I’m up, sharing airspace with the birds, floating...or rather gliding, above villages and the Phewa lake. I forgot all about my sweaty hands and started enjoying the ride. To be honest, the air turbulence in a plane flight felt worse.
I asked my pilot whether he joins the paragliding competitions. Wrong question…he might have noticed I’m already feeling relaxed, then the next thing I know, he was giving me a sample of an acrobatics. All I remember was that it felt like free-falling for a split second, and he suddenly pulled us up back beneath the safety of the fabric wing.
After screaming during that short stint, I have yet another question. “So, how do we land?” Colin replied, “Easy, just stand up”. True enough, landing was easy and thankfully, it was perfectly smooth.
Traveled: April 2014