I’ve made it to Pokhara – after a brief stopover in Kathmandu (I’ll spend a few days there on the way home). The lake is as peaceful, and the mountains as huge as I remember. I still can’t work out why a town that is buzzing with restaurant, hotels, and small shops selling everything from trekking kit to tiny Buddhas can feel quite so calm.
It has changed since I was last here. There are more hotels, more massage invitations (not the seedy kind – and often necessary for anyone spending nine days walking in the mountains). And there are still more opportunities to kill oneself. Walking at altitude can be risky, although it ought to include nothing more demanding than placing one foot in front of another. Bungee jumping is, apparently, now on offer near Kathmandu. I could go white water rafting – though I have heard tales of small boats with nothing to hold on to.
But – worse this – I could go paragliding.
I can understand paragliding in Wiltshire. I doubt if the most enthusiastic glider could make it to more than 300 feet from the ground there, and I can see that would be exhilarating. Plus it should be possible to steer the parachute and land somewhere grassy.
There the comparison ends. The Himalayas are seriously huge. Jump off one of those and you are competing with eagles. You could float for miles from the mountain-top, land in a rocky valley somewhere, with nothing but a passing yeti for company. Or – you might land in the lake. (No crocodiles.)
Not exciting enough? Then you must try ‘parahawking’ – following a raptor that has been trained to lead you and your parachute up to the highest thermals. Just as you reach the height where the air is thinnest, and lack of oxygen deprives you of all sense of reality, you can hold out a piece of meat for the hawk – all beak and talons – to help himself to, hopefully leaving behind the requisite number of fingers and thumb. After that – you still have to find somewhere safe to land.
I think I’ll stick to putting one foot in front of another. I’m off into the mountains at the weekend.