IF you had to choose the perfect vista for your paragliding experience, it may well be the snow mountain backdrop over gorgeous Phewa Lake in Nepal’s western town of Pokhara.
Pokhara is the gateway to the Annapurna mountain range and the drive alone to the departure point at Sarangkot (1592m) gives you views of monasteries, Himalayan rivers, old world villages and towering mountains setting the scene for the adventure that is to come and giving you a taste of what Pokhara has to offer when your feet are back on the ground.
Strapped to a six-foot Swiss guy, there was hardly time to think about being afraid before we launched off the side of the hill. I must say it was far more graceful than I had anticipated and we were soon soaring above one of the most picturesque landscapes on earth.
The high reaches of Machapuchare (6993m), or the “Fish Tail Mountain” in English, stood up like a beacon amongst the snowy mountains beyond Sarangkot hill while the 17km length of beautiful Phewa Lake stretched beneath us in all the hues of blue you can imagine.
It was an incredible feeling to watch the eagles or hawks below us, along with the colourful sails of other paragliders.As we wound backwards and forwards I cheered at the views and the rush of air against us. The Swiss pilot seemed in effortless control, trying to get the best photos on his camera of us and the backdrop behind.
It was exhilarating, incredible and surreal to be suspended, almost in animation, some 1.5km above the earth and I felt I could have stayed there forever until, suddenly, my stomach lurched. I must have gone quiet because the Swiss pilot suddenly offered me a plastic bag and asked if I wanted to continue doing all the twirls or head straight down.
Shamefaced, although he couldn’t see, I chose the latter option, and a few minutes later we had left paradise and were on the ground amongst paddy fields and buffalo.He told me later that 50 percent of people feel ill during the flight so there was nothing to be ashamed about. However, if you can handle it they do aim to keep you up there as long as possible.
I went with Paranova but there are numerous companies in Pokhara that offer a similar experience for a reasonable fee. Video or images cost more – the pilot operates all equipment and you get a DVD at the end. Some companies also offer the option of paragliding with hawks, if you have the guts for it.