Everest Skydive reached new heights this year with a record breaking stand up parachute landing by Paul-Henry de Baere at 20,160ft MSL (6145m) at the West Col of Baruntse. The record setting skydive that occurred at 7:36AM GMT+5:45 on 19th May 2019 was made using a Performance Designs Navigator 240 main parachute with a wingloading 0.8 and into an 10kt headwind. Paul-Henry de Baere, who is the Media Director of Everest Skydive beat Everest Skydive’s all-time highest altitude landing record of 17,192ft MSL (5240m) set by Everest Skydive teammates Wendy Elizabeth Smith and Tom Noonan in 2009. The World Record jump was made from “The Dragon”, a Eurocopter B3 helicopter piloted by Deepak Jung Rana, Executive Director for Summit Helicopters and Captain Deepak Pun, with supplementary support provided by Simrik Air with Captain Siddhartha Gurung and Tsering Bothe. Everest Skydive’s Operations Director Tom Noonan managed the expedition’s oxygen support from Baruntse Base Camp at 17,857ft MSL (5443m) and Jean Yorick managed the drop zone set-up. The team of Explore Himalaya was responsible for the arrangement of the entire logistics and operation.
Explore Himalaya organized a felicitation program to honour Paul-Henry de Baere and Everest Skydive Team at Marcopolo Restaurant, Chhaya Center on 21st May. During the program, Paul-Henry de Baere, Tom Noonan and Jean Yorick were honored with garland and Khada by Bibhuti Chand Thakur – General Secretary PATA Nepal Chapter, Abdullah Tuncer Kececi – General Manager Turkish Airlines Nepal, Ramesh Kharel – Ex Nepal Police Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Rajan Pokhrel – Deputy Editor Himalayan Times and Abhinav JBR – Chairman of Turbo Motors Pvt. Ltd respectively. Mountaineers Maya Gurung and Pujan Acharya who climbed tallest mountains on all seven continents, international mountain journalist Billi Bierling, Miss Tourism Samriddhi Rai were also present in the program. A video of the record breaking landing was also premiered in the program. The program was moderated by Suman Pandey, the President of Explore Himalaya.
Our Words of Gratitude:
We have always been a proud partner of Everest Skydive since 2008. However, at this moment, we are brimming with joy as well to be a part of this ambitious expedition. What could be more beautiful than complementing our 12 years’ togetherness with Everest Skydive in such a delightful note! Operating an event of such stature in the Himalayan terrain is of course a serious challenge. However, we made it possible! But needless to say, it’s a team effort and the benevolence of the Mountains. Our deep reverence to the Mountains for patronizing us! In the meantime, we would also like to have an honorable mention to Everest Skydive’s Operations Director Tom Noonan, the man behind the back of the whole project. Thanks Tom and the entire Everest Skydive team for instilling us with passion and dream throughout! Thanks Jean Yorick for your great effort in drop zone set-up & welcome to the Team! We couldn’t help ourselves thanking Summit Helicopters Nepal and Simrik Helicopters also for your valuable support. Together we made it happen- you all are a treat to work with! Once again Félicitations PH- you are an inspiration! Keep living your dream!
It’s quite understandable that Nepal always conjures up the world of towering mountains, distant valleys, misty grooves and highland cultures in everyone’s mind. And there comes the instant urge to ramble on the rugged trail and hug the mountains. However, Nepal is not just about meeting mountains only. It’s also a wonderful cultural trove of South Asia- immensely unique and surprisingly vibrant! We can encounter some of the best kept secrets in every nook and corner of this Himalayan Kingdom. Nuwakot’s Devi Jatra, popularly known as Sindure Jatra, is also one of them!
Every year, Newari people of Nuwakot, 75 km north of Kathmandu Valley, celebrate Sidhure Jatra, which literally means “vermillion powder festival”, in the month of Chaitra or Baishakh (April). This festival starts from Chaitra Sukla Chaturdashi (14th day of bright fortnight as per lunar calendar, this year from 18th April) and continues for next 12 days. It takes place in Nuwakot Durbar Square, a historically and culturally important place having a significant connection with King Prithivi Narayan Shah, the founder of modern Nepal. During the festival, people worship Goddess Bhairabi, perform various rituals and feast with family members and relatives.
The major highlight of this festival is the chariot procession of Goddess Bhairabi, one of the Das Mahavidyas, the Divine Mothers and the patron Goddess of Nuwakot. Considered as the longest chariot procession in Nepal and one of the oldest festivals dating back to pre Malla period, the festival is unique in its own way because of its association with tantric cult. The legend behind the festival is unknown but it is believed to be an ancient celebration rite to commemorate human ability to summon God in one’s body and attain “siddhi” or the mystical unison with the divine power. So, unlike other festivals, the chief figure is not a priest but a Dhami, a Shaman who is believed to possess the power of Goddess Bhairabi.
Beside its religious importance, the festival is also about people of Nuwakot and their way of life! You can see hundreds of people milling in the Durbar Square area from far and near. The colorful street markets, busy shopkeepers, awestruck devotees, enthralled musicians, jostling chariot pullers, the pervasive smell of the ritual assortments and the occasional gun salute – well this festival is quite an extraordinary experience that awakes all your senses!
Day 01: On the first day, the Dhami dressed in white receives an ablution ritual by Living Goddess Kumari of Nuwakot. The bath ritual that symbolizes the purification process takes place in an open altar in front of Bhairabi temple. Afterwards, he is dressed in a red ceremonial costume along with elaborate silver and golden accessories that include crown of nine headed Nagas, earrings, bangles, chain necklace, Astamatrika necklace etc. Then, a Bajracharya Guru, who performs all the rituals for the Dhami throughout the festival, offers a special sacrificial ritual to Goddess Bhairabi in the temple. The Bajracharya Guru is also the one who summons Goddess Bhairabi in the body of Dhami. Later on, a procession of Dhami, Dhamini (Dhami’s wife), Bajracharya Guru and other attendants proceed to nearby Budi Devisthan, the maternal home of Goddess Bhairabi. On the same day, another interesting ritual of erecting two wooden poles also take place, marking the official beginning of the festival. One pole is erected in the premises of Bhairabi temple. Another is erected at the maternal home of Goddess Bhairabi. Each pole should measure 42 haat, approx. 63 ft.
Day 02: The second day starts with a feast ritual in which Dhware, a State Representative, offers clothes to Dhamini and head dress to Lord Kumar, Lord Ganesh and Dhami. Vermillion powder is also put along the hair partition of Dhamini. After the state feast, the procession proceeds to the temple of Taleju Bhawani, the Guardian Deity of Malla Kings, where special ritual is performed by the Bajracharya Guru. After that, Dhami, Dhamimi, Bajracharya Guru and other devotees proceed to Devighat along with the chariot of Goddess Bhairabi carried by 36 Tamangs from Lachang. The chariot has the masks of 12 different God and Goddesses including Goddess Bhairabi, Astamatrikas, two dakinis Syangini and Byangini and Ganesh. Along with the chariot, one attendant also carries “Khadga”, a sacred weapon wrapped in white piece of clothes.
The chariot procession takes about 4-5 hours to reach Devighat, which is a confluence of two rivers Tadi and Trishuli. It is a home of Jalpa Devi, Goddess Bhairabi’s sister. These two sisters meet only once a year during this festival. Devighat also has a special mention in the history of Nepal as King Prithivi Narayan Shah was cremated on the bank of Devighat. After reaching Devighat, the Bajracharya Guru performs esoteric tantric puja with sacrifice of a black uncastrated goat. The Dhami, by the power of the Goddesses, gets the insight to foresee the country’s future, which he secretly tells the State Representative who later on sends the message to the State Head. After the whole ritual finishes, at about mid-night the chariot is brought back to Nuwakot Durbar Square. However, the procession doesn’t go to the temple directly. They rest at Dharampani, a nearby place approximately 500m down from the Durbar Square.
After resting there for few hours, in the late afternoon the procession continues to the temple accompanied by State Army with great fanfare. A group of people also play traditional music. Once the procession reaches Bhairabi temple premises, Bajracharya Guru again initiates a puja and scatter Sindur (orange vermillion powder) followed by Dware. Other attendants also smear vermillion powder to each other, the ritual after which the festival is named. Then after, the procession moves to Taleju Temple where the whole attendants have feast. After the feast gets over, Dhami and Dhamini return back to their residence near Bhairabi Temple and keep a night vigil performing various rituals.
Day 03: Early morning, the overnight puja ritual concludes with a sacrificial ceremony. Two buffaloes and one uncastrated goat are sacrificed in the open altar, in which the Dhami sucks fresh blood and eats raw flesh of the sacrificed animals. The Dhami is believed to have possessed by Goddess Bhairabi during the ritual. This particular practice seems to be bit unusual in one regard as the tantric ritual that particularly relates to consuming blood and meat is distinctly private in nature. However, this one is done as a public performance. Viewer’s discretion is quite required here if one can’t stand the sight of blood and violent scenes as the sacrificial ritual is quite extreme one. Then after, the Bajracharya Guru wraps up the ritual indicating the end of the major part of the festival.
Day 04-10: During this time, the Gods and Goddesses in the chariot are restored in their own respective places in Bhairabi temple. Devotees and locals those who belong to Newar community have family feasts.
Day 11-12: In the final days, locals gather around Bhairabi Temple to lower down the wooden pole raised on the first day. The other one in the Budi Devisthan is left for the next day’s ritual. The second wooden pole is also pulled down following the same ritual as the previous day. Chhyama Puja, a ritual asking for forgiveness for any mistakes, is also performed in Bhairabi and Taleju temples. With this, the festival finally comes to an end.
This year also a team of 18 doctors, nurses and health assistants from International Medical Relief (IMR) conducted Medical Camp for 5 days in 4 different places in the rural vicinity of Kathmandu. The Camp was organised from 24th to 28th March. The first two days’ Camp was held in Nuwakot Health Post, Nuwakot, and the other three days’ Camp was held in Tarkeswor, Godawari and Farping. The Medical Camp, which was aimed at providing free medical facilities and medicines to the locals, benefited about 600 people.
Day 01/02: On 24th and 25th March, a team of 18 health practitioners conducted two days’ medical Camp in Nuwakot Health Post, Nuwakot, 75 km away from Kathmandu. The Camp which started at 12 o’clock on the first day and 1 o’ clock on the second day, was run till 5 o’ clock on both days. Services like general medical check-up (diabetes, blood pressure etc), eye check-up and dental facilities like teeth removal and fluoride treatment were provided to the villagers. The total number of 200 patients (110-first day, 90-second day) received the facilities during two days.
Day 03: The third day’s Camp was conducted in Children Herald School, Jaranku, Tarkeshwor (about 12 km away from Kathmandu City) on 26th March. The same team of 18 along with two Nepali dentists provided general health screening, eye check-up and dental treatment along with free medicines. Altogether 300 students and locals were benefited from the Camp.
Day 04: The forth day’s Camp took place in Godawari Health Post, Godawari (about 15 km away from Kathmandu City) on 27th March. A team of 3 IMR doctors and 2 Nepali dentists served 61 patients of Godawari area. The Camp was conducted from 9:30 to 3 in the afternoon. In this place also, the doctors provided general test, eye check-up and dental treatment. They also distributed free medicines. A total of 61 patients received the services.
Day 05: The last day of the Medical Camp was set up at a community building in Farping, (about 19 km away from Kathmandu) on 28th March. The same team of 3 IMR doctors and 2 Nepali dentists provided medical facilities to 40 patients. The Camp was run from 10 to 2 in the afternoon.
After the 5 days of busy schedule, the team had a sightseeing tour in Kathmandu Durbar Square, Boudha and Pashupati on 29th March. During the visit, they had a wonderful opportunity to witness the architectural and cultural grandeur of Nepal. The visit served both as a new experience and a refreshing break from their hectic schedule. On 30th March, after a week’s stay in Nepal, the team departed from Kathmandu.
Explore Himalaya Team had an official retreat at Annapurna Royal Camp in Begnas Lake from 25th to 27th January 2019. The two nights/three days’ break was one of the regular team building and motivation travels of Explore Himalaya. Beside refreshment, the retreat was also aimed at familiarizing Annapurna Royal Camp, which is the latest exclusive property of Explore Himalaya.
The Explore Himalaya Team Retreat started with an exciting 6 hours’ highway drive to Annapurna Royal Camp via Prithivi Highway on 25th January. After about 6 hours’ drive, the team of 23 members reached the Camp at 6 o’ clock in the evening. The team accommodated at the fully furnished luxury tents of the Camp. On the second day, the team had a hiking trip to Lekhnath museum. The hiking which started at 9:30 after breakfast lasted for about 4 hours. The hiking started through the community forest, which lies just below the Camp. The team continued through Ban Pokhari, the first neighboring community and a crossroad overlooking Begnas Lake towards northeast and Maidi Lake towards southwest. Upon reaching a junction at Lamshara, they took a local trail to Lekhnath Museum.
Following the uphill stony steps past the local settlements and savoring the amazing view of the lake, the team reached Lekhnath Museum at the hilltop at about midday. Then, the hike continued through the downhill trail and ended at the Camp at about 2 o’ clock in the afternoon. After lunch, the rest of the day was a free activity day. In the evening, the team had a campfire night out with live musical show. The last day’s delight was a short hiking of about 30 minutes to Begnas Damsite and boating of 20 minutes to the Camp bank, which lies right below the Camp. The morning’s activity concluded after the team climbed uphill through forest trail for about 20 minutes to reach the Camp at 10 o’ clock. After taking lunch, the team left the Camp at 12:30. Retracing the same highway route, they reached Kathmandu at about 6 o’clock, which brought the three days’ retreat to an end.
The three days’ trip gave Explore Himalaya Team a full-fledged opportunity to enjoy the wilderness of Begnas Lake, get the real insights of the pristine mid hill villages and have hands-on experience of Annapurna Royal Camp. As a cherry on top, the trip also allowed them to have the fondest memories with their team members that will be treasured for a long time.
Explore Himalaya took part in Adventure Travel Show held in Olympia London from 19 to 20 January 2019. Adventure Travel Show is the UK’s only specialized event dedicated to adventure and off the beaten holidays. The Event has been creating an exclusive platform for the adventure travel communities from different parts of the world for last 22 years. This Year’s event also showcased various adventure travel companies, adventure travel experts, travel photographers, travel writers and travel filmmakers along with various sessions of inspirational talks, multimedia seminars, trekking workshops and travel company exhibits offering exclusive show-only offers.
Suman Pandey, President of Explore Himalaya, CEO of Summit Heli and Director of Summit Air; and the Company representative in the Event, stated, “Adventure Travel Show offers a good exposure for Adventure Company like Explore Himalaya. We are quite happy to create a good contact base with adventure travel experts and our prospective customers. In the meantime, we are also happy that we have been able to present Nepal as a premier destination for adventure lovers. We look forward to participating in the Show in the forthcoming days also.” With the participation in the Event, Explore Himalaya has taken part in two international Travel Shows in January alone.