Traveling is about trying new things, so why not tandem parasailing in Pokhara, a world-renowned location for the sport? Besides the exhilaration of walking off a mountain with only an oversized kite to support you, the views can be breathtaking. The Annapurna range is only 25km to the north and has several of the world’s highest peaks.
Our launch site was on Sarangkot, a 1590 metre mountain north of town. To get there, five members of our group climbed into a four-wheel drive vehicle along with the five pilots we’d be flying with and a driver. It was a bit tight.
The parasails, in oversized duffel bags, were thrown on the roof. Half way up the hill, we added a passenger, one of the pilots’ girlfriends. To make room, he climbed up on the roof with the kites!
We made the 25-minute drive up a steep, winding road that was paved in some parts, washed out and rutted in others, and generally too narrow for oncoming traffic. Hairpin turns were attacked at speed with horn blaring in case a bus or jeep was heading in the opposite direction. When we did meet another vehicle, one of the two, always us, had to back up until the road was wide enough. With nerves only a bit frayed, we arrived at the launch site.
We geared up and in what seemed like no time we literally walked off the mountain and into thin air. We were flying. Pilots come from all over the world to fly and work here. My pilot was a Frenchman named Patrice. He was delighted to have a French-speaking passenger. He told me the conditions were excellent and that we could probably climb to 2000 metres if we wanted to. Unfortunately, I’m prone to motion sickness and it wasn’t long before that familiar feeling crept up on me. I was determined to enjoy the experience and we did climb on some strong thermals until the ground was very far below, but I eventually had to ask him to descend.
If we could have seen the Annapurnas, it would have made the experience absolutely extraordinary, but they refused to reveal themselves and remained hidden behind a heavy shroud of clouds like timid ladies. It was pretty extraordinary nonetheless. Can you tell by the look on my face?
Pokhara is a lakeside town about 140km west of Kathmandu and it’s the gateway to some of Nepal’s most popular trekking routes in the Annapurna region. It’s also the capital of adventure sports for Nepal: mountain biking, river running, kayaking and paragliding. There’s an international paragliding championship held here every January.