Monday, February 19, 2018

Pokhara Paragliding

Our first day in Pokhara we had to get permits before we could fly (and, yes, they do check them) so after applying, we went to the Sunrise LZ to get our gear sorted out and do a little ground handling. We haven’t flown since the Owens Valley in October so it was good to warm up. There were kids practicing with old gliders. They play for endless hours, so they are totally natural at it, forward kiting without even holding the brakes, just reaching up occasionally to pluck a line, as if they were playing some giant string instrument. One of my them, about 10 years old, offered to give me lessons. “I can help you, brother” he told me. There were usually kids at the landings who would pack your glider for you (for .50 or $1). I wanted to give them the business, but they packed hurriedly, and not the way I like to do it.

Once our permits were ready we headed up to fly. The main Sarangkot launches are incredibly busy with hundreds (literally) of tourists taking tandem flights. There were a ton of Chinese tourists since it was their New Years. So we went to the Toripani launch, a little further down the ridge and less crowded (although still busy). It also has a huge open field for landing, whereas the other landing areas are smaller and busier. (But you still need to watch out for the water buffalo!)

Shelley keeping her distance from the water buffalo


It was hazy, so conditions weren’t at their best, but after a bit of searching I managed to get a decent climb and get high enough to cruise along the ridge to Sarangkot. I wasn't excited about the big gaggle in the house thermal so I hunted around the edges and still got a decent climb that let me make it back to Toripani where I climbed back up above the ridge.

Strangely, I suddenly started to feel extremely nauseous and on the verge of throwing up. I've gotten queasy from paragliding before, but not recently, and not suddenly and severely like this. I had been ready to keep flying for a while, but I felt so awful I turned my glider directly towards the landing. Thankfully the air was smooth. But my mouth was filling with saliva and I was really struggling not to vomit. I was trying to figure out the best way to do it without spattering myself and my harness. Under my arm? Over  my shoulder? To the outside of a turn? I had a feeling it wouldn't be pretty. Thankfully I managed to control it, and it passed almost as quickly as it came. I didn't feel too bad for the landing and soon felt almost normal again. It was a strange ending to a great flight.

Shelley (center) descending to land

Day 2 was even cloudier and there wasn't much thermal activity. But even a sled ride was 15 minutes, and with the shorter flights we got in three runs. By the last flight the sun was trying to come out and I found a few light thermals to stretch my flight out to 50 minutes.

tandemonium at Toripani launch

It rained in the night which helped clear the overcast and day 3 we got in a couple of good flights. In the morning I missed the upper thermals and ended up scratching down low for a long time (50 minute flight). Meanwhile, Shelley was way up high above the ridge. By the time I finally managed to climb up, it was time to head down. Our next flight we flew over to Sarangkot, climbed up again, and then continued down the ridge towards town, eventually landing at Sunrise LZ.

Shelley (top right over the lake) approaching Sunrise LZ

Day 4 started out clear and sunny. We went up a bit later to miss the initial rush of tandem flights. Although you could squeeze in between them and launch, it was easier just to wait till they were gone. I managed to snag a thermal and get up right away. Claudio suggested I could just stay up and wait in the air for them to come back for their second flight but that would have been a long flight (assuming I could have stayed up). So I made a quick transition to Sarangkot and then headed down to meet the rest of the group. We headed back up although the cumulous clouds were getting tall and dark. Shelley and I launched between a few drops of rain. There was lots of lift, but it was a little rough and strong. And the rain kept sprinkling. So we headed down. In hindsight I would have been better staying up on the first flight.

Pokhara Lakeside from the air

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