Why to Visit Nepal in 2020? The answer is simple! The Shangri-la, Himalayan jewel, trekkers’ paradise – Nepal boasts a long list of eulogies in its name. Indeed Nepal, a tiny country tucked between two Asian giants China and India, defines what it means to be “Small is beautiful”. The land of contrasts and diversity, the country has world’s 8 highest mountains and world’s deepest gorge; roaring Himalayan rivers and tranquil freshwater lakes; evergreen tropical forests of Bengal Tiger and the home of Snow Leopard! The culture is as diverse as its landscape – more than 100 ethnic groups with their own religion and language coexist in this deceptively small country. You can also witness the incredible fusion of Buddhism and Hinduism, which is one of its kind, not to be found elsewhere. So, the land is simply a replica of heaven if there exists any. Now, this land of wonders is all set to welcome 20 million visitors in “Visit Nepal 2020” campaign.
The campaign is launched by Nepal Government as a part of its promotional initiative to develop Nepal as a premier destination among international travelling community. However, this is not the first time Nepal Government is promoting the country. It all began in 1998, when the country launched its first promotional campaign as Visit Nepal 1998, followed by another one in 2011 as Nepal Tourism Year. Following these years’ successes, Nepal is now anticipating the 2020 campaign with much hope and excitement. Though, Nepal has always lured travellers but Visit Nepal Year 2020 is going to be extra delightful. So, if you are new to the country, the time is not to be missed to make your debut Himalayan adventure. Or, if you have already been here, be prepared to make your trip more eventful. We have listed some of the amazing things you can do while you are in Nepal in 2020.
Though it may sound like a cliché to say that Nepal is a trekkers’ paradise, it is in fact a big truth! Mountains are dreamlike, Hills are mystifying, Valleys are enchanting, and most importantly options are plenty! What else do hungry feet need? Trekking in Nepal normally means walking from low elevated mid-hill towns, passing through lush green rolling hills and gradually gaining elevation to the Himalayan landmarks where the natural vistas are matchless. Depending on your wish and fitness level, trekking adventure of any grade and any length can be done. All you need is your willingness to meet the mountains.
If mountains bring out the best in you, or you crave for some serious alpine adventure, Nepal is by default the best destination. The wide section of 800 kilometer long Nepali Himalayan section that includes world’s 8 highest mountains offers world class mountaineering adventures. Either you are a beginner or an old hand at mountains, you have a wide range of choices from less technical 5/6000m+ (trekking peaks) to highly technical eight thousanders (expedition peaks). There are more than 300 mountains in Nepal that are open for climbing with more than 100 virgin peaks. So, the choices are endless.
It’s quite understandable that Nepal always conjures up the world of towering mountains and distant valleys in everyone’s mind. However, Nepal is not just about meeting mountains only. Beside its natural wonders, the country is also a home to more than 100 ethnic groups resulting in diverse cultural displays. The country is a proud owner of various languages, religions including the unique fusion of Buddhism and Hinduism, multiple festivals, colorful celebrations, age-old folklores and unique practices. It’s not for nothing that Nepal is called a cultural trove of South Asia! Cultural tours of ancient towns and heritage sites are a great way to experience the cultural wonders of Nepal.
Nepal’s unique topography and extreme altitudinal range from 67m in the south to 8848 m (Mt Everest) in the north caters 11 bio-climatic zones resulting in one of the world’s most treasured biodiversity. Though Nepal occupies about 0.1 % of the world’s landmass, it harbors 3.2 % and 1.1 % of the world’s known flora and fauna. This rich natural heritage is preserved in country’s 20 protected areas (10 national parks, 3 wildlife reserves, 6 conservation areas and 1 hunting reserve). So, Nepal is a paradise for wildlife lovers and bird watchers. You can do ample of activities from thrilling jungle safaris to tranquil bird watching sessions in the exotic wilderness of Nepal.
As if mountaineering, trekking, cultural tours, wildlife tours aren’t just enough! Nepal also hosts a wide variety of adventure sports ranging from extreme aerial sport like Everest Skydive to more traditional sport like mountain biking. The winding Himalayan rivers, extreme terrains, deep gorges and stupendous waterfalls just make perfect spots for adrenaline junkies and outdoor adventurers to unleash their mad monkeys. Skydiving, Bunjee Jumping, Paragliding, Ultra light flight, White Water Rafting, Mountain Biking, Canyoning, Zip Flying and Rock Climbing are very popular among adventure lovers. So, either you are a soft adventurer or an intrepid soul, Nepal has brilliant things for you!
Honey Hunter at Work (pic credit: The Guardian)
Nepal is full of surprises! You might have already seen half of the mountains but the country still has so many things to show you. There are many unique things, definitely not as bizarre as going for yeti hunting, but are still not less interesting than any trendy activities. Honey Hunting, Shamanism Tour, Photography Tour, Culinary Tour, Motor Bike Tour, Volunteering, Visiting off the beaten places, Learning Buddhism, and Yoga and Meditation Tour are just some of the unique things you can do here. It is as if you spend your entire life here and you would never be able to see everything.
Pokhara Skydive 2019 Bollywood TV Star Parth Samthaan
Flying next to Machhapuchhre and Annapurna range, floating above magnificent Phewa Lake, relishing the sweeping view of Pokhara Valley – Pokhara Skydive is indeed one of its kind! And, this year a total of 147 adventure seekers, the highest number so far in the history of Pokhara Skydive 2019, achieved this heavenly experience. Pokhara Skydive 2019 took place from 19th to 24th November at Pame, 11 km away from Pokhara Lakeside. The event was successfully organized by Everest Skydive that comprises of an expert crew members of 13 including Paul-Henry de Baère, Wendy Elizabeth Smith, Omar Alhegelan, Nadezda Solovyeva, Anton Gilev, Jean-Philippe Audhuy, Kim Bo Larsen, Mariojulio Hoyosvargas, Gregory Lee Shelton, Sabina Kotarba, Carolyn Goldman, Robert Goldman, Ed Luciarno; and the team of Summit Helicopters and Explore Himalaya.
Puja Ceremony before the event
On the first day, 11 Nepali and 8 Indian jumpers achieved their dream of flying in the Himalayan sky. The first jump was done by Subin Limbu, Miss Nepal 2014 at 9:50 am. On the second day, a total of 22 jumpers that includes 21 Indians and 1 Nepali made their “once in a lifetime jump” in the sky of Pokhara. Third day had just 4 Indian jumpers only as the event had to be wrapped up early due to poor visibility. The fourth day’s morning brought nice weather with blue skies. The event started at about 8 o’ clock and continued till 2 in the afternoon with altogether 23 skydivers (20 Indians, 2 Egyptians & 1 American) making their jumps. The fifth day proved to be one of the most incredible days in the history of Pokhara Skydive with a total of 48 jumpers (45 Indians, 1 Nepali, 1 French and 1 Srilankan) breaking last year’s record of 45 in a single day. Bollywood TV Star Parth Samthaan also did his first ever skydive on this day as the 18th jumper of the day. The final day concluded with 31 jumpers (29 Indians and 2 Nepali) making a total of 147 jumpers in this year’s event. This year’s event, which is the 7th edition of Pokhara Skydive, has been a phenomenal success as it hasn’t just got the highest number of participants but also broken the single day jump record of last year. Since the event’s commercial operation in 2013, the event has been increasingly popular among both domestic and foreign adventurers alike. This year’s historic number of jumpers showed the growing craze of the Himalayan adventure. On its huge success, we congratulate everyone – the super-spirited crew team from around the world, the professional team of Explore Himalaya and Summit Helicopters who gave their best to make it a success, and the jumpers who brought excitement and energy to the whole team! May Pokhara Skydive reach new heights in days to come!
I saw a lot of professional skydivers jumping, flying, landing; and even more numbers of adventure seekers dying to skydive. Working in the Sales desk of Everest Skydive, talking to skydivers and seeing them day in and out (during the season) is just a part of my job. So, skydiving is definitely not an exotic adventure for me, not something I would raise my brows at! However, I had a secret. As much as I was familiar with the skydiving world, I was at the same time equally alien to it. Because, I had never done it! The Cause? It’s plain and simple – I was acrophobic!
Skydiving was on the top of my “not-to-do” bucket list. I can’t say the idea never came in my mind. Back in 2013, one of our skydiving crew asked me why I hadn’t tried it. I said sheepishly I feared height. Then he said something which blew my mind. He said, “So do I.” Foreseeing my expected reaction, he continued, “That’s why I enjoy it. If there is no fear, there is no adventure.” Well at that time, I was compelled to give a little thought about it. But then I was never courageous enough to dream about it!
To cut the long story short, year 2018 brought something I wouldn’t mind to say a “quantum leap”… when I say it I mean it both literally and figuratively. It all started in Pokhara Skydive event that took place from 20th to 25th November. As we had 100 + jumpers booked for the year, we were quite busy. After the first two days’ back-to-back skydiving operation, on the third day, our team leader Anuj offered us a skydiving chance.
Then and there, without a second thought, I readily accepted! Till this time I can’t figure out how the heck I convinced myself for the jump. Now the time was of anticipation! The ticklish pressure of anxiety, and the butterflies in my tummy- though I went through it all the time, to my surprise, I was unexpectedly calm. I had seen hundreds of skydivers going up and coming down over-and-over day-after-day with brimful smile. Maybe, this has normalized the whole thing. So, the idea of “I am not going to die” might have done the trick.
So, my turn came. Things started to get real! The butterflies in my tummy de-evolved back to caterpillars. I was freaking out on the inside! While gearing up, my tandem master Dr. Ryan Jackson debriefed me, to which, I could hardly pay any attention because there were lot many voices echoing in my mind. My videographer Omar was capturing the moment and I was trying to look as normal as possible which I utterly failed. (I knew it when I saw my video afterwards-my awkward posture and gait looked all so funny. Every time my son wants to make fun of me he reminds me of the video). So, the chopper took off with me, Ryan, Omar and Nadezda.
Once in the air, the whole new level of experiences started to unfurl before me. My Goodness, the views! Of course this is not my first time in air but everything around me felt so ethereal, and so divine. The floating Annapurnas, Machhapuchhre, the hills, the lakes and the ocean of clouds! As I was in my reverie, completely awestruck by the immensity, the infinity; Ryan signaled me for tethering against him. Then, I came back to senses … come on I am here for jumping out of the chopper! So the final moment came. Omar and Nadia were already out hanging at the edge, somewhere above 12/13000ft above! We skidded to the edge of the chopper. I dared to peak over the edge and holy crap … do I really want to do this? Countdown started and then … whooosh!
All I remembered about the first few seconds is the force of the wind gushing by me. And I did everything wrong! My eyes should be open and lips ought to be shut or smiling (at least for beautiful pictures). But my eyes were tightly shut and my mouth widely open. Heck with the Banana Position! I even forgot to spread my arms. It was fanatically trying to adjust my lips as I felt them very dry and being blown away. I felt my skin was literally coming off! Hurtling myself down to the ground at about 180/90 km per hour speed… what I could do? I totally yielded to the force, the power of gravity! Honestly it was scary in the beginning but I couldn’t say what was “It” afterwards! It was like “being me” and “not being me” at the same time!
Once the canopy of the parachute opened, we again rocketed up. Then after everything was serene and silent… the only sound that could be heard was the fluttering of the canopy. Everyone says “the freefall” is the most treasured moment of the whole adventure but for me, the sudden transition from speed to stroll, the juxtaposition was utterly unearthly. The gentle fall started but, my part of adventure was not over yet. Ryan started to talk to me, showed me the lakes and hills which were still way down.
He even gave me a chance to maneuver the parachute. There were still some aerial acrobats and the views were still glorious- the only difference was, this time I was getting closer to my abode – the ground! Then we had a perfect landing in style! After the touchdown, all I could do was babble some words which definitely didn’t do enough justice to what I just felt in the sky.
To be honest, I was scared as hell at some points and might have missed many good things about it. But to me what happened during the time is not really important. What’s more important is “Am I the same person few minutes before?” I am still to resolve my issues with heights (much lesser than before) but the whole experience is so empowering. I learned that I could push my limits. Most importantly, I just witnessed the immensity and earned humility. Now, the Himalaya is different to me. The Sky. The Clouds. The People. Even the ground I am treading on is different to me. Exactly as Omar said, “the mountain and sky will never be same again!” I just want to add few to his words, “You guys are also never same to me again!”
I am really indebted to Mr. Suman Pandey –President of Everest Skydive, Mr. Anuj Pandey – General Manager of Everest Skydive, Ryan Jackson – Tandem Master, Omar Alhegelan and Nadezda Solovyeva – Videographers, for making this miracle possible! At this moment, I just remember Paulo Coelho’s line “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I wonder now, I might have secretly wanted to do skydive all my life.
(Pokhara Skydive, a premier event organized by Everest Skydive, is an annual event taking place in November – this year from 19th to 24th November. It takes place in Pame Laurukh, 11 km west of Pokhara Lakeside. Started its commercial operation in 2013, the event is increasingly being more popular among Himalayan adventure seekers with more than 200 jumpers already making their exclusive jumps with Pokhara Skydive Team.)
I got to say I have never been so exciting to wake up at 04:50 in the morning! After a quick breakfast with a bit of coffee, we went down to the airfield and were there at 6 o’clock sharp. The plan for today was two loads, one with Anton and myself, and one with Anton along with Anuj in a tandem-jump with Nadia filming. Everest Skydive Expedition
After an hour of gearing up, parachutes on, oxygen, helmets, cameras on, the helicopter arrived. After a quick talk about the winds and weather with the pilots and one last gear check, Anton and myself climbed in the helicopter for our first jump here. The flight up was amazing. Although sitting on the floor, we could see all the mountains, glaciers and villages. We climbed to around 8000 ft. Above the airfield. As I am already an experienced HALO jumper, I was to observe our oxygen before exit. When the pilot have me the thumbs up, Anton and I did one last handshake and I opened up the door. Everest Skydive Expedition
It’s another world out there. It’s like nothing else. For a moment I had the exact same feeling as I had when the door opened up for my first jump when I was 9. Even after 8000 jumps, this gave me the chills and although you couldn’t tell from the mask, I was smiling from one ear to the other.
Because of the thinner air, the acceleration is a lot faster, with the terminal velocity being a lot higher too. I reached 5500 ft. Much faster than usual. Once the parachute was deployed, it was really time to take in the view.
The landing was sweet but fast. Even a Performance Designs Navigator 260 flies pretty fast at 12.300 ft. Landing between rocks seemed a bit tricky, but was not a problem at all.
There was smiles and high fives all over, but not much time, because we needed Anton geared up for the tandem, so we the helicopter back up fast.
Anuj had done one skydive before in Pokhara, but this was his first in Everest, and first with oxygen. He was cool and calm, and they went up with no snags or issues. The climb was a bit longer, and everyone was happy to jump out in to the thin air. Both Nadia and Anton and Anuj in tandem landed perfectly. Anuj was really thrilled. To be able to have this experience is absolutely amazing.
We packed down all the gear, as we will have a short break for a few days, before the next group of clients arrive. We will spend the break doing a bit of trekking and relaxing. A few of us have a bit of work to catch up on, and a lot of photos and video to go through.Everest Skydive Expedition
Everyone got up early, as breakfast was at 05:20. We needed to get down to the airfield and start up as early as possible, as the best weather in the mountains is in the morning.
Everest Skydive Expedition Day 3
As we arrived and started getting gear ready, Osama and Yorick arrived in the helicopter. When gearing up for a normal skydive, it tastes around 5-10 mins. When gearing up for a skydive here, with oxygen equipment and warm clothes, it takes between 1 and 1,5 hours. As Osama is disabled, it makes gearing up a bit more difficult. But with great mood and energy, we did it all with a smile.
First load consisted of Osama, Aliaa, Nadia and Paul-Henry. It was the first jump for the three first. PH was load master in charge of oxygen and spot.
At approximately 09:00 the first jumps of this years Everest Skydive Expedition were done. Everyone had a great jump, and the three for whom it was their, was overwhelmed by the view and sensation of leaping from a helicopter, looking at Everest and all the other massive mountains visible from here. They all made perfect landings. Osama hereby becomes a new world record holder for highest parachute landing by a paraplegic person! We are super proud of Osama!
After packing the parachutes, which is hear work in the thin air, all were ready for another jump.
Load two also went according to plan with big smiles all over. Winds picking up with turbulence as well, and clouds moving in, we decided to call it a day at around 11. This unfortunately meant no jumps for me today. But I’ve been waiting for this for many years, so I will wait for one more.
For the first time during the expedition, we had a bit of time to ourselves. After packing down and having a small talk, I headed down to Namche by myself. I needed to buy data for my phone, and maybe a bit of chocolate found it was into my backpack too. Others went to the teahouse to rest and catch up on a bit of work with photos and video.
Tomorrow is another jump day, although Osama and Aliaa have done their jumps, Anton and I need our training jumps, and Anton has to do a tandem with Anuj from Explore Himalaya.