The city of Pokhara is a pleasant surprise. It’s difficult to believe that a struggling country can have such a beautiful city. It’s like a European lake city at first look.
Until the end of the 1960s, Pokhara was considered even more a mystical place than Kathmandu because it was only accessible by foot. The first road was completed in 1968 after which tourism set in and today the place is The Place in Nepal for adventure sports.
Our hotel is set at a secluded corner of Phewa Lake and under a sky filled with paragliders. SV and I get a corner room which has a balcony and a window opening to a glorious view of the lake and another window facing Sarangkot hilltop from where the paragliders fly down like a legion of colorful aliens descending from another planet.
The landing spot happens to be right next to our hotel and soon they begin to whiz past in touching distance above our head. A female paraglider howling in hysterical excitement waves at me seeing me taking video of her landing and shouts, “I would like to have that video.” I shout back, “Sure” but she disappears after landing.
Another one approaches the landing field marking her route on the lakeshore with her vomit drifting down in a thin slimy line. Many people throw up while paragliding so much so that there’s even a forum on the internet where people discuss vomit techniques and how they managed to shower the pilot with their foamy barf.
Looking at the ecstatic joy on the faces of people who just landed in front of my eyes, it is easy to mistake the sport to be a completely risk-free and joyous adventure. But the history of paragliding in Pokhara is punctuated with freakish accidents.
In 2015, a glider successfully landed on a buffalo – after losing control of his glide, but both the buffalo and the man survived – thus becoming the first man to do so, and anybody is yet to repeat the feat. On a busy season, rescuers have no respite picking people from Phewa lake after they somehow mistake the lake for a landing strip. There were several deaths too.
I think it might be an idea to have a warning notice posted: ‘Beware of falling men from the sky’ as it is not inconceivable to see a glider landing on you especially when they can on a buffalo.
And hence, standing in the second-floor balcony of a building so close to the landing field is an adventure itself. We spend the rest of the afternoon taking in the excitement of just being there, and occasionally ducking to let a screaming glider fly past.