Paragliding Side Effects

3,620+ kilometers of Indian land later… we’ve reached Nepal.

Four kilometers into Nepal and the people have suddenly got the Asian eyes, are much bigger built, and the makeup definition shifts from the eyes to the lips.   Ten kilometers and suddenly there’s mountains that we haven’t seen in months. (Thankfully the on-demand chai is still the same). 

Fortunately, crossing the border was a piece of cake. A passport picture, USD, and two on-arrival forms later, we’ve got shiny new stamps in our passports. A few more customs forms for LG (and a small road tax) and we’re off!

Unfortunately, as soon as we hit Pokhara our bodies decide that they’ve had enough. A week of joint pain, stomachaches, and grumpiness was inevitable I guess.

After a full week of immobility while staring out the window watching paragliders fly across the Annapurna mountains, I decided it was my turn. After all, it is a top 10 paragliding destination of the world.

Living up to my travel motto (“never say no”), I put my acrophobia aside (remember crying on Sigiria?) and boarded the van. The road (if you can even call it that) is so rocky that the van has two preexisting flats and they don’t even bother to fix it. I’m now motion sick on top of being scared shitless.

Once at the top, there’s at least 50 people jumping off from the same plateau. Surely that’s some safety hazard but nobody seems to care so neither do I. I’m trying with everything I’ve got to focus on how they look like butterflies in the sky rather than wondering what happens if the wind stops or a clip unhinges.

In literally less than five minutes I have gone from looking at the butterflies to being a butterfly.

“When I say sit back, hold here and sit back, ok?”
“What do you mean sit back?”
“I’ll pull you so you know, don’t worry. We’re just waiting for some wind.”
“Sorry if I squeeze you too hard or start crying.. I’m super scared of heights…”
“Take two steps forward. Walk backwards… Run!”
*I can’t run so he pushes me forward*
“Don’t sit down yet! Don’t sit down yet!”
*My legs automatically curl up into my body so I’m sitting*
“I said don’t sit yet”
“… sorry.”

By this time we’re in the air and I’m not sure if I’m happy screaming or scared screaming. Within two minutes he’s taking the GoPro and telling me to let go of the harness and flail my arms. That seems like an *advanced* move to me, and I am incapable of consciously and willingly letting go, so he takes my hands and makes me (which actually turns out to be pretty cool). The part that has me a nervous wreck is that the harness is loose around my legs, so in my irrational mind my legs could slip through and I’ll spiral butt-first to the ground (even though there’s essentially an entire support chair behind me).

It’s an outer body experience. It’s difficult for your mind to process the fact that you’re flying and there’s nothing beneath you. I’ve got the Annapurna mountains behind me, Fewa lake in front, rice paddies below, a jungle to my right, and the city of Pokhara to my left. The view is unlike any other (and probably why drones were created). Flying over the jungle, I see little blobs of color waving at me, and elephant sized water buffalo that look like ants.

What you don’t expect is the feeling of normalcy that follows. As if “yeah, I’m midair hanging from a piece of cloth attached to me by strings” doesn’t sound completely insane. 

I guess that feeling of euphoria is what an adrenaline rush is, because it wasn’t until after I landed that my gut caught up to my brain and was sick. My tandem flyer nonchalantly informed me that apparently “Europeans are usually fine but Asians can’t seem to handle it”. Whatever that means.  

 

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