Namaste from Pokhara, Nepal

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Pokhara is to a Kathmandu what a bath is to a toilet. After an 8 hour bus ride from Kathmandu through huge valleys and small forgotten villages we arrived in sunny Pokhara, at the Damside bus station, grabbing a cheap taxi to our accommodation, The Celesty Inn. After the roads in Katmandu tried our patience it’s only typical that our hotel is on the only street undergoing ridiculous deconstruction. The entire road was not suitable for cars or donkeys so we had to tramp through mud, puddles and rocks. Luckily we had our trekking boots ready. Our hotel cost a whopping £2 each per night. After Hong Kong, paying £2 a night was hilarious to the point I had to check XE.com a few times to see if my conversion was correct. We later found out during our upcoming trek that this price is actually expensive. Brilliant.

As we had planned a trek across the Annapurna Circuit of the Himilayan mountains we used Pokhara as a refueling station. We pretty much ate and drank everyday, the perfect fuel for a 2 week, 180km trek. Food here is a welcome change offering very decent international foods, clean ice, safe meats all inside well decorated open front restaurants. Accompanying the endless bars and restaurants are hiking shops selling everything anyone needs for trekking and climbing, all fake of course, and also dozens of souvenir/jewelry/clothing/instruments stores. Massage parlours are as ubiquitous with one or two on every corner, perfect for the victims of the trek with much needed full body massages on offer.

In between the constant shovelling of food down one’s throat and the never ending bombardment of booze on one’s liver we still managed to explore and get out and about. Pokhara town is located on a large bed of water called Fewa Lake, where fishermen float for hours while kids play in the shallow waters along with water buffalo who lay submerged in the mud for most of the day. Farm animals roam wildly through Pokhara town like part of the traffic, which, might I add is much more chilled than Kathmandu.

Pokhara offers endless adrenaline adventures to raise your heartbeat if you’re feeling too relaxed. Veronica and I decided to go and jump off a 1,800 metre cliff on the side of Sarangkot mountain and paraglide back to ground. Sounds more heroic than it was. We booked a paragliding jump with Sunrise
Paragliding Club, where you are strapped to someone else and you basically parachute off of the cliff. It doesn’t compare to skydiving at all as this is much more chilled but a lot of fun also as the aim is to ride the wind and paraglide for 30 minutes over Pokhara and the lake. Our journey started with a 30minute drive to the top of Sarangkot to the launch pad. Once ready we harnessed up and waited while watching the other gliders floated like colourful dandelion seeds. Along with hot air balloons it’s pretty cool seeing so many parachutes follow the thermals. Go Pro and camera ready I’m strapped to my pilot, an elderly French dude. V got a more romantic younger French man. Both guys attitudes immediately made us at ease as they were very professional and based on my pilot’s age, he has seen a fair few jumps and the fact he’s still alive can only be a good thing.. Luckily they fly with western standards and appreciation for life rather than with eastern disregard to health and safety.

Strapped to Francoise, and with the parachute laid out behind us we waited. Francoise simply says, “Okay now we vait for the vind.” There was no air moving and we stood silently waiting until I felt the lightest breeze roll past my cheek. Then I hear the word “Okay” and with a little step the entire parachute inflated overhead as it caught the wind, sounding like a dragon opening it’s wings. Then we basically ran and jumped off the cliff. We immediately dipped but soon Frank manages to catch a thermal and we were floating with the most incredible view of the mountain and Pokhara. I watched Veronica take off also, detecting a faint scream in the distance. Frank decides to take me higher reaching around 2,000 metres ASL, and it was here where began to feel slightly petrified. Every time he caught a thermal you could feel the pull of the wind and the force against your straps and it’s very easy to imagine falling. It didn’t bloody help that Frank had a device for measuring altitude that would beep slowly and then speed up like a high pitched alarm every time we propelled vertically. Below vultures and eagles floated stationary in the thermals and other paragliders drifted and swooped elegantly towards the landing zone.

After 20 minutes of flying we make our decent. Once safely over Fewa Lake, a small puddle below, Frank says “You vant to feel zomezing? like in your ztomach? Like lik acrobatics, just little zpin, no?”… I slowly say sure, and he says “Okay, like dis, we zlowly move to the left like zo, and now……we go”, and he cuts right so hard that we are now horizontal including the parachute, and we are spinning like a vorex towards the water. The strap holding my ass in is my saviour and the only dividing fabric between life and death. My hands, arms and arsehole are so tight from holding on that they would need to cut me out of the straps. Once we settle and I’m done cursing he repeats the exact same sentence again but this times cuts left with equal vigour, and it’s no better the second time. Elongated curse words erupt from nowhere while my organs switch places with each other. Meanwhile Frank is so chilled he may as well be sipping an espresso and reading the newspaper.

Eventually we make it to ground level, landing running and laughing. Veronica swooped in to land pretty soon after. The entire experience was so awesome it left you hyper and heart pounding. For someone who screams on a carousel I’m pretty chuffed. For some reason jumping off a cliff is less frightening than a rollercoaster to me.

Our last days before our trek was spent hanging with random foreigners we met in bars and shopping for the trek, a few last pieces needed for the circuit, including our trekking permits. We have decided to go it alone. No porter or guide. After much research we decided we could manage it ourselves.

We sorted our gear for the trek, put or main bags in storage and set off by bus to Besishahar, the town from which you begin your trek (if you are following the anti clockwise route).

Pokhara has been sweet and the perfect filling station before leaving for the Himalayas.

Probably an uninteresting photo album for this one, but my arms and eyes have been busy directing beer bottles towards my face so the camera is having a break. Plus electrical sockets here are shocking, awful pun intended, and no plug will connect unless left hanging at a precarious angle, sparks popping out every now and again. So basically charging equipment is proving awkward.

2 Comments
  1. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude!
    That looks and sounds totally amazing!
    At first I thought it was a skydive but some parasailing looks brilliant!

    I have always wanted to do a skydive but even thinking about it makes me nervous. I think in a position I would take the dive but it would be one terrible flight up before the jump.
    Man this looks like a great alternative, epic views and a more relaxed looking decent! Rather than a face ripping blast down!

    So epic man, really pleased for you both! What more can you ask for, floating around in the sky with a parachute, humans are awesome!

    Pokhara looks so much better than Kathmandu, I really didn’t like the look of it from your pictures and description!
    Give me a shout about when you heading back so we can hook up before you arrive home or whatever! I can sort stuff out from here and contact ya via skype if needs be!
    Peace dude! Enjoy!

  2. Wow can’t believe you both did that cliff paraglide! Well done, can’t even persuade you to to come to the fun fair here with us! All your blogs sound amazing and a bit grim at times too lol! Looking forward to your blog on the trek. Hope you’re both still having fun in India,

    Love Jo and Ilkkan x

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