X-Country Paragliding-Pokhara, Nepal w/Jules Brown

Paragliding is an incredible experience, I just had my first flight and I’m sure it wont be my last. Pokhara is one of the top destinations in the world for commercial tandem paragliding, and offers year-round flying. Check out my Photos, Story, and Video Below!

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I flew with Jules Brown a highly skilled world class paragliding pilot, I definitely recommend seeking him out for your flight. He comes with 28 years experience and a strong understanding of the atmosphere, aerodynamics, thermals, and birds. He flies in communion with nature, watching for birds of prey and vultures circling a thermal. When he spots a bird marking a strong thermal he’ll glide over and join. On the other side the birds will also fly over and join Jules when he is marking a strong thermal. On our flight we out flew almost all of the birds, there were two that beat us catching a strong thermal and going off into the opposite valley. We flew for about 2 hours, though it seemed to end as soon as it began. Gliding across the sky time had been left behind at the take off. We flew with: Black Eagles, Crested Serpent Eagles, Egyptian Vultures, and White Backed Vultures.

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When taking off your only task is to run as hard as you can, the faster your run the better the take off. The girl before me sat down and the tandem was nearly dragged down the drop off, they had a poor take off on the second attempt. We had a great take off from Sarangkot, lifting up before the end of the hill ascending a strong wind. We wrapped around to the southern side of the mountain and were yanked upwards as we entered a thermal. We circled around Sarangkot rising higher and higher as we bounced between thermals, like riding the tubes in Futurama. The power of nature is awesome, and never ceases to amaze me.

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Once we reached the cloud base we glided over the ridge behind lakeside where we circled and had a look over the Seti River Valley. Our goal was to make it over Prabhat Primary School in Diki Danda and to “The Green Wall”. The conditions were not ideal that and the cloud base was low. Jules said we could go for it but he can’t guarantee that we would make it there, we may end up having to land in the river bed. If we did make it we still might not make it back, and have to walk and take buses. For me that just adds to the adventure, so I gave him complete control. Without saying a word he turns straight to the valley. The valley crossing was was, as we past the river Jules acting as the tour guide told me Seti River means White River, and gets its name from the color given to it from its glacial source. Crossing we had a slow steady descent, arriving at Gharmi Village on the first ridge line with just enough air. Luckily there was a thermal waiting for us and Jules had us high again in no time.

Pokhara Paragliding-After gaining some air we soared to Diki Danda and over Prabhat Primary School, a small school on the ridge that is supported by KarmaFlights.org, a non-profit organization. To show their appreciation they painted “Namaste Pilots” on the roof of the school. We circled the school waving back to a few kids and capturing photos of the school. We were there for a while as we tried to build up the height needed to fly “The Green Wall”.

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Pokhara Paragliding-0466We road the thermals up as high as we could then sailed over to “The Green Wall” making several passes back and forth along the first section. We slid across close to the jungle canopy as we traversed the wall. Jules flew with precision, the tip of our wing missing trees by mere feet. Around the corner further over the untouched jungle we catch a strong thermal and soar straight to the cloud base and rim of “The Green Wall”. We skim the rim of “The Green Wall, Pokhara Paragliding-0505it’s a peaceful and majestic place, nothing but the sound of the wind and the insects of the jungle sounding their sirens. We make it halfway around “The Green Wall” before entering a dense low cloud with zero visibility. Jules turned towards the valley to insure not flying into the mountain side. We maintained the same altitude in the cloud and the altimeter fell silent along with the rest of the world. The only sound was the occasional flutter of our freedom flapping above us in the wind as we gracefully flew through the cloud. I expected an adrenaline rushed experience, instead got tranquility. This may have been the most peaceful moment of my life. Then we burst out of the cloud into the sun shine and it looked like paintings of Heaven.

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We fly high above the valley for a while photographing the rice terraces and fields. By now it was getting late in the day, the conditions were declining, and the thermals were weak. We cross the valley making a slow steady descent, as we glide towards lakeside. Jules spots two vultures circling off in the distance, our last hope to make the flight back and land behind the bar. Jules makes a go for it but the vultures disappeared by the time we covered half the ground. Unable to pinpoint their previous location, and unsure that we could safely clear the city buildings and power lines Jules turned us back. We flew to a landing spot Jules knows well, next to the river in the middle of the rice fields, and free of power lines. We spiral quickly as we made our descent, as we neared the land Jules straighten out our flight path and brought us to a soft landing.Pokhara Paragliding-0371

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As we walked to the bus stand two eagles flew along the road with us, I like to think that they were some of the same birds we flew with. Just waiting for us to mark the next thermal for them. We catch a ride on the top of the first bus to town, ducking under power lines as we pass. The next bus we were able to grab a seat inside and like always missed the spacious air conditioned seats of the roof. The second bus took us on a long roundabout way back to lakeside (probably due to the fuel shortage), arriving two hours after landing.

What you need to know about Paragliding tours in Pokhara:

There are numerous paragliding agencies in Pokhara, employing many experienced pilots. The packages and prices are the same from one agency to the next. Packages include transportation from the agency to Sarongkat, $20k in personal injury insurance, flight, and transportation from the landing to the agency. The optional GoPro footage is saved onto a CD, well worth the money considering it isn’t an every day experience. When flying you will want to wear sturdy shoes for takeoff and landing. Wear warmer clothes as temperatures drop one degree Centigrade per hundred meters of elevation, it can be quite chilly in the clouds. Prime Flying Season is September-May. But Pokhara offers Year-Round Flying.

If you are prone to motion sickness it may be a good idea to take some medication beforehand. Just in case, the pilots do carry a barf-bag.

Packages:

20-30 minute standard flight: 8,800 NPRs ($85) 5500(For Nepalis)

45-60 minute cross country flight 11,500 ($115)

GoPro footage: 1700 ($17)

Custom flights are also available.

What Jules Brown is up to:

Pokhara Paragliding-0772Jules is currently working to set up a program to sponsor the training of new Nepali Paragliding Pilots. The initial goal of this program is provide a tandem para-glider to ten Nepali’s with a real interest in flying and becoming tandem pilots, as well as providing proper pilot training. Those selected for the pilot training will likely be already involved in the industry, helping with take off, landing, and packing the gliders, but otherwise would be unlikely to ever afford the $4,000 initial investment to become a pilot. This is a large amount for someone living in a country with a Gross Domestic Product,GDP, of 697 per capita current US$ (Source: The World Bank 2014). Training to be a Tandem Paragliding Pilot takes 2-3 years, before they can start making money off their new skill. Once trained these Nepali pilots will be able to make a very nice income, supporting their families and community. 20-30k/year

To raise awareness for this program, Jules Brown will be attempting a Trans-Himalayan Flight from Dharamshala, India to the epicenter of the Himalayan Mountains in Ghorka, Nepal. About a 1500km flight where he intends to live mostly off the land, fishing for his food. Jules hopes to make this flight happen in March of 2016. His previous longest cross-country flight is 1200km and took place in Turkey, on his first day he covered over 300km. His trip took one week, during which he was fishing, living off the land, and depending on the kindness of strangers.

What incredible experiences have you had?

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