From 3500 metres to Kathmandu
Wow. What an actioned packed few days. Last time I put pen to paper so to speak, we were at Sano Babu’s Paragliding School outside of Pokhara and doing paragliding skill routines with him. He offered tremendous advice on the conditions to be expected on Everest, showed me a refined way of packing the glider to eliminate potential launching problems in adverse wind conditions and was very free with a high level of advice and just as importantly, support. Marcus and I had some great flying, even Sumit, our climbing leader had a tandem flight to the valley floor, jumped in an awaiting taxi, then headed back to Pokhara airport to head home to Kathmandu - a James Bond moment.
Tuesday 5th April
A long drive into the mountains in the Manaslu region saw us break for Dahl Baat (for those not in the groove this is the rice and generally lentil meal which is the staple food) at a small mountain kiosk before leaving in the early afternoon for our high altitude paragliding launch test. Joe stayed with the Scorpio(4WD Ute) while we headed up and up, and up, and more up, on a very steep track for about 5 hours, through the most beautiful flowering Rhododendron and pine forests, small farm holdings on very isolated cleared ridges and exposed rocky sections with extensive views of the valleys and mountains beyond.
Our porter to help carry the tandem glider, Marcus and Babu at one of the high grazing paddocks and future Base Camp Paragliding Sites
Just on dark we arrived at a religious holy place with a number of rock walled buildings beside a lake all surrounded by a stone wall. This was in the saddle between two peaks, and surrounded by Rhododendron forest. We boiled water in plastic coke bottles on our fire, to add to a packet of Maggie noodles. Well, that was dinner done. No dessert.
Wednesday 6th April
After a nights rest we continued our ascent for another few hours with opening views of Manaslu, the worlds 8th highest mountain at 8163 m, and its surrounding peaks.
stunning scenery as we trek to 3500 metres to paragliding launch site
The cloud started to build so it was a hurried launch from 3500m, flying high above the ridge we had trekked, then into the valley with a landing in a rice paddy 48 minutes later, at about 750m, dodging the power lines coming from the nearby hydro power station. Fortunately the rice field was dry, and with the owners looking on, Marcus and I gingerly stepped through trying not to damage their future produce and income. I apologised to the family but was replied “not necessary-you give good entertain”.
Hanging out for a good meal, we experienced copious quantities of, you guessed it, Dahl Baat at a local kitchen.
Marcus and I were awarded our High Altitude Paragliding Certificates with a formal handover later that evening on the roof of the Ramada Hotel in Kathmandu. We are officially High Altitude Certified, whatever that means.
Receiving our High Altitude Certification
After the rice paddy landing it was a tedious drive back to Kathmandu. Babu stayed with us at the hotel busily doing something. Apparently we were the test bunnies for his new commercial Hike and Fly Paragliding Expeditions and he was busy with the department of civil aviation seeking permits to open our flying route up for overseas commercial Hike and Fly customers.
Thursday 7th April
Thursday afternoon - with Sumit, Sano Babu, Joe, and Marcus we had an appointment to meet Ambassador Felicity Volk at our embassy in Kathmandu. Over coffee and Anzac biscuits, how good is that, we had an informal discussion on our trip, the challenges and where we were up to with the obtaining of the paragliding permit. For those that don’t know, we are still yet to receive this permit, something that has never been issued before, so there is no real path to obtaining such a thing. The Tourism ministry has instructed certain things to be done (such as obtaining a high altitude certificate) so we are in a good place. A letter from Sano Babu, of recommendation was another requirement, that we have fulfilled (thank you again Babu). Ambassador Volk asked if she could assist in any further way (She previously provided us with a letter of support under the cover of the Australian Embassy,) and has offered her support, which I was, as you would expect, most appreciative. She told us that her father was a polio suffer from a very young age and talked of some of his challenges he faced through his life. The realisation of why we are here again hit home very hard.
with Ambassador Felicity Volk and Deputy Head of Mission John Currie at the Australian Embassy
It was a terrific lunch at Sumit’s home near the Embassy, Dahl Baat yes, but that’s the Dahl Baat I want to eat. When in Kathmandu, this is home for him, a beautiful home where his mother and father reside also.
Then, yes we are not finished yet, a trip to the Department of Tourism to have the official handover of the “Everest Climbing Permit” for our team - a quite auspicious ceremony that I did not expect to be involved in but was delighted by the experience.
Friday 8 April
This morning we were guests of the Rotary Club of Kathmandu Mid-Town, a breakfast meeting held close to our hotel. We were invited by Dr. Isabella Khadka, a friend of the Ambassador.
Dr Khadka, through the club, is running a program in Nepal on snake bite and education with regards treatment using social media to put people in touch with medical aid. Australian Sandra Fiedeldy from the Rotary Club of Rosebud-Rye in the Mornington Peninsula was also visiting the meeting and talked of her involvement working with traditional women artists associated with the snake bite program advertising, and the Fred Hollows Foundation. This is just a few of the inspirational people at the meeting.
On the way back to the hotel we called in on our good friend Tilak Thapa Magar. Tilak organised our very successful 2019 Everest Assault trek. It was great to catch up and we discussed the provision of the Ambulance for his local area, a project Berry Rotary Club has been involved with for some time
Ahh. Enough of my raving - back to the hotel to meet up with our other expedition members. Brother Tony and niece Denali arriving in an hour or so, with Gazza, another mate from home. Really looking forward to that.
meanwhile, enjoy Joe’s short clip. (I’m nominating him for an Oscar) Thanks Joe