It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Hey that's a really good beginning!
Ok so I realise Charles Dickens thought of it first, but I'm using it to refer to my recent paragliding experience, Charlie just used it to describe something so trivial as the French Revolution...
The best of times...
I'd never been paragliding before. Where better to do it, I thought, than over the Phewa Tal lake in Pokhara, Nepal? And who better to do it with than world famous paraglider Babu (no, I've never heard of him either but he recently climbed Everest and paraglided off the top).
And in many ways I was right. At the top of Sarangkot, overlooking Pokhara I watched Gemma struggle to walk forward off a cliff with the whole weight of her parachute pulling her backwards. It couldn't be described as graceful until she and her pilot Jessica were in the air.
I was determined mine and Babu's take off would be cleaner and professional. It wasn't. But it was probably the peek of my paragliding career.
Pokhara looked beautiful from above; you could see the whole lake, the whole city, a far reaching valley and an awful lot of cows on an awful lot of hills. Yeah I liked this, it was both relaxing and exciting at the same time.
"You want to go higher?" Shouted Babu. And you don't say no to questions like that. You just don't.
The worst of times...
But you probably should. What I didn't mention about Babu was that he was quite clearly a nutter. Lovely, but none the less a nutter (did I mention the Everest thing?). He circled the parachute higher into a cloud.
"I'll take you where you won't see any other paragliders" he said in between his elated screams of "namaste" and manical laughs.
This was exciting. Although it has to said that the view from inside a cloud is not much to rave about.
Once above the clouds the sun was shining, we could see for miles and Babu was right, we couldn't see any other paragliders. It was spectacular...
Although I was beginning to feel quite cold.
"Namaste" I heard screamed from behind me.
Ugh, my legs have gone numb.
Oh god, my head is pounding and my fingers feel like their skins are being pulled back slowly like hard unripe bananas.
Must. Tell. Babu.
"Bawu." Hmmm that wasn't right. What's happened to my speech? "Bawu, I canh awk" how on earth (or not in this particular case) do you tell someone you can't talk?!
"Are you ok?" He asked between whoops, so I shook my head.
"O"... No! Say no damn you!
Although clearly he'd got the jist, he wasn't going to let me miss a minute of my full hour in the air, swooping to a lower altitude before gliding the width of the city twice and the length of the lake once. All this time I had the confusing contridiction of enjoying the view and trying to make sure I didn't throw up on it.
"Ready to land?" Babu asked, and I was. I really was. First we swung to the left, and then the right. And then back again. I closed my eyes and this I think is the closest I've ever come to passing out. "Stand for landing" he shouted. I didn't, instead opting for falling over and lying down.
Jessica untied my harness for me. My speech was still slurred but I managed to ask how Gemma's landing had been.
"Graceful" Jessica replied "she just landed and casually walked away."