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World from Above – Tandem Paragliding in Nepal

It was sometime back in 2010 that I chanced upon a series named The World from Above. It is an aerial documentary series accompanied by engaging narratives from history, taking the audience on a stunning visual journey overland.

From around 3000m above, it introduced a unique perspective of our world. Thanks to technology, we could enjoy a birds-eye view of this world right from our living rooms!  

But for many adventurous souls like me, experiencing this perspective in all its glory was even more appealing. The visual pleasure which sitting in front of the television offered wasn’t enough.

I was itching to absorb the experience in a more wholesome way. A chance I got when I made my maiden trip to Nepal back in 2012 with two other friends.

In search of quietude, we landed in Kathmandu. We were instantly jolted out from our fantasy on our ride from the airport to our stay, which happened to be in the heart of the city’s tourist district – Thamel.

It was as chaotic and crowded as any medium-sized city in India and far away from the tranquil oasis we had hoped for.

After spending a day exploring pockets of the city and its suburbs for traces of its Gorkha culture and history, we had had enough of the city life. We now longed for the mountains. And Pokhara, in central Nepal, was precisely the kind of place we’d been looking for.

Although only about 200Kms from Kathmandu, it took us a good part of the day to cover that distance in a bus. The views en route were breathtaking though sometimes looking out of the window meant staring right into the deep gorges, which were nerve-racking!

But it was all part of the experience that Pokhara is known for! It attracts travelers keen on adventure or relaxation; there is no in-between. We chose the former.

Pokhara, a lakeside town, is also the gateway to the Annapurna circuit. Hence, it sees a steady stream of trekkers who use it as a stopover before they begin this epic trek.

For lesser mortals like me, it offers adrenaline-rushing adventures like rafting and paragliding. No prizes for guessing what I went for!

Many consider Pokhara the paragliding capital of the world. Well, at least for tandem paragliding anyway. Primarily for the views is what I reckon!

I mean, you can find the latest equipment and trained pilots in all other locals, but there is no replacing the views of the Himalayas. Ably supplemented by a safe take-off location and landing zone as well as stable wind speeds, it is an apt place to begin your paragliding journey. Especially if you haven’t experienced this adventure already.

Our flight was booked for the very next day we arrived! Luckily for late risers like us, it suited that the flight time was 11:30 am. The late departure afforded us a good night’s sleep and kept us fresh for an exciting adventure the next day. Though I must admit, the excitement of our first flight did keep me awake longer than usual in the night.

A 30-minute ride up the hill from Pokhara the following day took us through hillside hamlets and narrow mountain roads to Sarangkot. That’s the take-off location for the tandem flights.

Located about 2000ft above the Phewa Lake in Pokhara, it is from here that one can truly appreciate the beauty of the setting.

The green cover of the valley and the blue Phewa Lake are beautifully juxtaposed against the three snowcapped peaks of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, and Manasalu, all rising above 8000m.

Your eyes will be tempted to linger on to this commanding view over Pokhara. Though a better vantage point exists to fully appreciate the landscape. One which, when viewed from the land, appears as a colorful bird taking flight.

Soaring high in the sky while the crisp mountain air kisses your cheeks is sure to give you an adrenaline rush! But it holds a different charm here.

Gliding over pristine lakes and verdant valleys interspersed by tiny villages as the mighty Himalayas stand witness to your little adventure is a pleasure only to be had here in Pokhara.

For novices like me, the experience of tandem paragliding was an ideal introduction to this sport. In this, you are guided by an experienced pilot. Strapped safely to a harness, it feels more like an armchair once you are up in the air. All you do then is sit back, relax and enjoy the panoramic views that unfold before you while gliding gently in the air assisted by the pilot.

The initial nerves and adrenaline rush gradually turn into a meditative calmness as you ease into your flight. The world from above is now not just a visual treat. It is a sensory experience that is all about balance, not only of the body but also of the mind. You slowly move away from the initial thrill of the take-off to the reposeful landing.

The climax of the flight was as dramatic as the scenery it afforded when I took flight. Guided by the pilot, I gently glided over the Phewa Lake before descending. What looked like a speck of green from above manifested into a stunning lakeside landing site as we approached it.

As my feet touched the ground, a triumphant joy overtook me. The entire tandem paragliding session from the moment we arrived at the take-off location till that moment had lasted about 45 minutes.

In this time, it had managed to alter my view of the world. Experiencing the planet from above had accorded me a newer and well-rounded perspective on life and its vagaries.

Photos: Author, Unsplash and Pixabay

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