I was sitting alone on terrace in Pokhara, Nepal, sipping coffee. My eyes stared out across a serene lake, looking but not seeing. My mind was far away, across the ocean.
Instinctively, I looked to the hills above the lake. The mountains behind the hills still remained shrouded in haze. I’d been in Pokhara for a few days now, and still not caught a glimpse of the famous Annapurna Range; the towering Himalayan massif I’d come to Pokhara to see.
The Lonely Planet guidebook I had plundered from the Hotel Snow Leopard suggested catching a sunrise from the high hill of Sarankot was the best way to see the mountains. So as I sat on the terrace, I looked to Sarankot.
Above the promontory, a swarm of paragliders circled.
I watched them, entranced.
Paragliding is a popular tourist activity in Pokhara, Nepal, largely due to that fact that it costs very, very little. As far as paragliding destinations go, Nepal is probably one of the cheapest in the world. You have to fly in rickety Nepali planes, but if you are down for that, you can jump out of a plane over the Himalayas for as little as $50.
I didn’t have much interest in skydiving, paragliding, or bungee-jumping. I prefer to experience places from the ground up, not the top-down.
But from the ground, the paragliders over Sarankot were utterly hypnotizing. I bet they can see the mountains, I thought to myself. The swarm of jumpers seemed to grow and grow, until I could identify dozens of flyers, slowly circling down, down, down…
There was something mesmerizing about the sight. I sat there, neck craned, and watched the parade of paragliders for what must have been 30 minutes to an hour. More just kept coming down. I couldn’t see the planes dropping them off, but more and more little black specs kept appearing.
The weather was perfect for jumping. Mostly clear blue skies, bright sunlight filtered in beams through the clouds, and the wind was still. For a paraglider pilot, this must be the equivalent of a powder day — unbeatable conditions just begging to be experienced.
As I kept watching, one flier separated from the group and started drifting over the lake, towards the spot I was sitting. I followed this lone pilot with detached interest. Everyone else was landing on a strip of ground on the far shore; I wasn’t sure if this pilot would turn around, or if they intended to land somewhere else.
The lone pilot and passenger sailed all the way across the lake, just as the sun was occluded by a cloud.For a few mystical moments, the pair seemed to fly through the sunbeams; angels descending from heaven. I grabbed my iPhone and shot a short little video. They soared a little further towards the opposite bank, then banked a u-turn and headed back to rejoin the group near Sarankot.
A new batch of jumpers was descending already. From this distance, they looked identical to the group that our daring duo had broken off from. But that couldn’t be right. Time passed.
Same same, but different.
I kept on watching, staring off into the distance, doing my best to keep myself absentminded.