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.)
Everest Skydive Expedition Day2, After a quiet night where everyone caught up on some sleep, we met for breakfast at 07:00. After coffee and food we set off on the trail. The morning was a bit cold, but after 15 mins, everyone were warm enough that we took off a layer or two.Everest Skydive Expedition Day2
Like yesterday, we took turns at coming up with new songs, and talking and having fun. I think it made a difference for us all.
The river gave some great photo opportunities during the day, we we were sometimes close down, sometimes far up above the water. As the trek got steeper, group photos was a great way of catching our breath.
In the pace we walk, which is pretty much the same, we all have time to enjoy the view. Today has been dominated by forests and cliffs, and of course the river. We also had some close up encounters with yak and mules carrying up supplies and taking down empty containers and trash.
Although Aliaa thought the trek today wes hard, her smiling face and happy mood was so contagious.
We made it to Namche Barack after roughly 7 hours, and were all excited to be here. Partly because we could rest and catch our breath, partly because of the prospect of the world famous cheesecake at our headquarter “Cafe 8848”.
We all sat down and rested our tired feet. Cheesecake, hot drinks and a great opportunity to talk a little with each other. Hearing our local superstar and guide Bibek tell us about his expedition to summit of Everest last year.
After filling up on surary treats and hot drinks we checked in to our teahouse and sat down to order dinner. While sitting at the table, we went through the plan for the next couple of days.
Tomorrow we carry on to Syangbotche where the jumps will take place. After recce’ing the landing area and a small chat about landing patterns and general safety, we local munks will join us for Puja, which a Buddhist ceremony and offering were we ask the mountain gods permission to jump amongst them, and give us good weather, safe skydives and positive energies. They chant, pray and offer to the gods.
Personally just talking about the jumps we are gonna do, gives me the chills. It is very emotional for me. The last couple of years Nepal has become almost my second home, and to be able to skydive here is a very big dream coming true. And at the same time being able to help other people achieve this dream is a true blessing. Being with this team has shown to be an amazing experience in it self, and reminds us that while skydive it is an amazing experience in it self, what makes us keep doing it, is the people. And I am absolutely convinced that I am surrounded by the best.
I’ll be writing a day by day blog of this years Everest Skydive Expedition Day1
Everest Skydive Expedition Day1 This years team consists of Paul-Henry (PH from France), Greg Rau (USA) Anton Gilev (Russia), Nadezda Solovyeva (Russia), Yurok Vion (France) and my self Kim Bo Larsen (Denmark) next week Wendy Smith (New Zealand) and Omar Alhegelan (Saudi Arabia) will join us for the second part. Along with us Bibek Pandey (Nepal), Bhuwan (Nepal), Bipin (Nepal), Samir (Nepal) taking good care of us.
Our clients for this week are two solo-skydivers from Kuwait, Aliaa and Osama, who are part of our team as well, and are both very excited about our expedition. I’ll tell more about their amazing stories within the next couple of days.
Today we set of from Kathmandu to Lukla after the whole team got together yesterday. We had a pleasant flight to Lullu, which for most of skydiving team was a new experience. A beautiful flight with great views of the mountains and valleys.
After sorting some logistics for a few hours in Lukla, we got on the trail. Today’s trek was easy and spirits high. People walked mostly in one group, some were busy singing and telling jokes, others filming and taking photos. I think everyone got a chance to talk to everyone, which is great. A few days from now, we need to perform as a solid team to make the skydives happen.
From Lukla we walked a bit down towards Phakding where we are staying tonight. On the way we got to see views of the Dudh Koshi (milk river) that flows down this valley. It’s white from silt, hence the name. We also saw monkeys playing around in the trees, and donkeys and yak hauling food and gear for Namche and beyond.
The weather today was mostly light rain, so views of he valley were few, but everyone had a great day. Although we are only at 2680 meters, everyone can feel the thinner air when walking up. It was a bit of a surprise for some.
We are now in Phakding resting, drinking tea and talking. Everyone on this team are experienced adventurers, and the stories being told these days are fantastic. For myself I can say, that my lift of things I want to do, and places to see is growing by the hour these days.
We are all very proud and grateful to be part of this team, making a dream come true for our clients and bringing skydiving to such a fantastic and spectacular part of the world.
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. There are many unique things to do in Nepal, definitely not as bizarre as going for yeti hunting, but are still much cooler than many other trendy activities.
Everest Skydive 2017
You probably don’t know but Nepal is also the host of world’s highest skydiving adventure in the world. Yes, you have heard it right and this tiny Himalayan country is increasingly being a popular hub for extreme adventure seekers. The skydivers take leap from an AS350 B3 Helicopter at the height of 29500ft next to Everest and land at Syangboche Airport (12340ft) and Ama Dablam Base Camp (15,000ft). It gives the adventure aficionados the opportunity to get their names into the international record books and make history. The event takes place every year in October/November. After its continuous success, Everest Skydive company has also launched its Pokhara edition since 2103.
Honey Hunter at Work (pic credit: The Guardian)
Treacherous cliff, swarm of angry bees and just a dangling slender rope ladder to hold your life – can anyone think of any other act as extreme as this? This daring act known as honey hunting is performed, every Spring and Autumn, by Gurung and Magar tribesmen of Annapurna region in a bid to harvest hallucinogenic honey of the giant Himalayan wild bees from their nests overhanging on the vertical rock faces. This honey hunting practice is also found among other communities in lesser known areas like Dhading, Jharlang across Ganesh Himal and Arun Valley of Makalu Barun area. As this practice is carried out in an insanely extreme working condition by just using some primitive tools, it can be rightly called as a testament of the perseverance and fortitude that equals any death defying endurance feat. Honey hunting tour is all about witnessing this insanely unbelievable act which people are following for centuries.
Nepali Shamans (pic credit: presstv.com)
Nepal’s rich cultural heritage also includes Shamanic practices. This ancient healing practice is attracting many western scholars and practitioners nowadays. Shamanism Tour let you see the shamans in their séances, in their frenzies communicating with the other worlds and curing villagers. Such shamanism tours allow you to experience a different world of belief. You will not just see the miraculous performance of the shamans but also witness the unshakable belief of the villagers and their stories. Not something to be missed if you are interested in people and old age tradition. So, make sure you choose this unique thing to do in Nepal while you are here.
A group of volunteers from England with local students after a football match
Nepali is full of welcoming people. They are always open for intercultural interactions. Volunteering offers one of the best platforms to mingle with this ever welcoming people. It’s a two way learning process – you give your knowledge and take their insight. You can work in the areas like school education, health, community development, forest conservation, agriculture, culture preservation, fund raising and maintenance of the public/communal buildings. Volunteering is one of the best ways to travel responsibly where you are no more a guest but a community member!
Visiting off-beat places
Beauty of Langtang Region
It is truly said about Nepal that “once is not enough”. It is a land of endless beauty. Be it the Game of thrones like landscape of Himalayan desert or rolling hills of tea gardens, there is much to offer than just the beauty of Everest and Annapurna. Places like Kanchanjungha, Makalu Barun, Rolwaling Valley, Dhaulagiri Region, Khaptad, Dhorpatan, Dolpo, Ilam, Langtang, Panch Pokhari, Rara, Nar Phu, Tsum Valley etc are just few to name. These places are not less in beauty and also offer more authentic experience of travelling as you can have the nature all by yourself without brushing your shoulders with others. We are sure that you will try some of these unique things to do in Nepal.
Skydive in Nepal is the annual adventure organized each November and the jump dates for both Everest Skydive and Pokhara Skydive of this year is approaching. Everest Skydive has been scheduled from 4th November to 12th of November. Skydivers participating in Pokhara Skydive will attempt their jumps from 17th November- 20th November.
The elite extreme adventure sports Skydiving is organized annually in Nepal since 2008. However, with an exception, Everest Skydive is being organized twice a year for the first time having already operated once back in May 2016.
It was an unexpected pleasure meeting you in Lhasa, I appreciated all your efforts to make this trip a great success and look forward to future travels with the professional team of Explore Himalaya.