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Photo Credit: Frontiers Paragliding Pokhara

“This is your life. Be bold with it. Live it with energy and purpose in the direction that excites you. Listen to your heart, look for your dreams: they are God-inspired.”

- Bear Grylls

That is probably the life I aspire to: living life daringly and boldly; having a foundation of reckless trust and faith. But how many times this is not the case? For me this is barely more visible than my struggle with heights. I was recently reminded of this when I was somewhat bullied into going paragliding. Two friends were with me in Pokhara, finishing their packed three week visit to the countries of Nepal and Bhutan. One of the last things on their list was paragliding. We arranged a good deal with a well-established operator. I never included myself in the arrangements and was considering something more leisurely, like another visit to Metro Crépes. It was about then that things got out of control. Theuns insisted that I go with them and that he would pay for me as a way of thanking me for me for planning the trip. My reasons for not wanting to take the plunge were quickly exhausted as the hours passed until our 11:30 appointment. We were assured that the thermal streams would be better then, which means we would be able to go higher.

All of this might make more sense to you if I explain that at one point in my life I was using sedatives when I had to board a plane. Half an hour before a flight I would pop a pill, followed by another one as I stepped on board. This would be in addition to a couple of drinks taken to help me relax. Well, I can honestly say that I was miraculously delivered from that fear by God, but that’s another story altogether.

After phoning my angel to find another excuse, which did not materialize, there was only one thing left to do: suck it up and pray not to die. We had been on Sarangkot that morning to experience the sunrise. Now we started a second ascent of the same hill, the difference being that this time we would be skipping the heavy traffic on our way down. As we stood there in the bright sunlight I briefly considered abandoning this madness, but the calculation was easily done and I realised that I was long past the point of no return. This will probably – no, most definitely – be one of those running-to-the-cliff occasions in my life. That’s exactly what you have to do when you go paragliding.

When I was in Standard 8 I attended a life saver’s course in Hermanus. One of the things you have to do is a 30 meter jump into the sea at a place called Dreunkrans. I knew as I stood there that if I’d hesitate for one second when I got to the edge, I’d never do it. So I basically walked to the edge and fell over, passing out on the way down. Let’s say my plan with this whole paragliding episode was basically the same, without passing out, obviously.

I was strapped into my harness, and without much fuss I waved to Theuns and was on my way to the edge. The wind and thermal streams quickly filled the parachute, as we were lifted easily to 1,700 meters above the ground. The mountains and Fewa Lake are absolutely awesome from this vantage point. Mu pilot was very eager to take me much higher, but I assured him that this was quite sufficient for me. He professionally ensured that my flight was well-documented with more than 40 photos and some very nice video footage. He took me parallel with the Himalayas and we hovered there for some time before we changed direction and moved over the lake.. I got some amazing pictures for my trouble. Back on solid ground with a perfect landing and my legs a bit jittery, we said goodbye. We were quickly whisked away back to Lakeside, wondering if this whole adventure just happened. Thanks, Theuns, for the bullying. It was an amazing experience.

I’ll end this tale with a quote from one of my favourite authors:

“That fine line between bravery and stupidity is endlessly debated – the difference really doesn’t matter.”

- Facing Up: A Remarkable Journey To The Summit Of Everest by Bear Grylls

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