In December we continued with our daily routines of paragliding (Brad), reading (a lot… we’re buying and selling new books regularly!!) and writing (Maaike). But besides that we also celebrated Noah’s first birthday (the son of Elli and Claudio) with real Finnish apple pie, yum!!! And we went to a Nepali wedding, of Prasanna (a cousin of Nushie) and Yannick. We didn’t see the whole ceremony (we heard it lasted 2 hours and it was still all about the I do-part…), but we went to the party in the evening. We had wonderful food (a buffet with delicious dishes) and chatted to quite a few people. It looked like they invited the whole town, because we even saw the lady who owns the supermarket next door from our hotel! It was also great to see that the staff of the restaurant of our hotel was also there to party. Those guys work 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, they deserve some time off once in a while!
We also both catched a cold somewhere and after sniffing for like 2 weeks (the neverending-cold it seemed…) it was over again… The weather is still quite good, but very cold at night. Maybe sleeping with the window open was one night too many for us…? Ah well, it’s over and we’re feeling fine again. When we were feeling good we sometimes went for a run next to the lake, which is wonderful in the morning. Just trying to avoid the stray dogs and the waterbuffalos, we were able to keep up our fitness, yeah! One day we stopped for stretching next to a Tibetan woman who just wanted to chat with us (and not to sell her jewelry), Tashi. She was a very nice woman who told us about life here in Nepal as a Tibetan. It’s hard. Even though she’s born over here, she will never have a Nepali passport and therefore no rights to anything. The Nepalis are also very wary of the Tibetans, accusing them of stealing jobs, but the Tibetans are not even allowed to work here. It’s sad… Tashi is walking every day for 2 hours to Pokhara to sell jewelry, and even though she didn’t even offer it to us, we asked if we could see her stuff. It was beautiful, so we bought a nice necklace for Maaike, with the Om-symbol on it, really lovely.
Unfortunately we also experienced the downside of Nepal: Strikes… The Maoists (unbelievable that people still belive it works, it’s the 21st century!!) have held a couple of strikes here, in which there are no cars allowed on the streets and all the businesses have to be closed. The first time we saw it it was a weird sight, Pokhara looked almost like a ghosttown with all the metal barriers of the shops closed and no cars hooting on the streets. And of course the Maoists marching over the streets (teenage-boys thinking they’ve got the power… pathetic…), and attacking shops that are open (throwing stones through windows)… Ah well, makes us appreciate even more that we live in a normal first world society.
Maaike also got totally into watching cricket (shown on the international channels on TV). It’s a difficult game to understand if you didn’t grow up with it, but somehow I learned it in only watching one game with Brad’s explanation! 🙂 Brad went to get a haircut here and even though it’s not as good as in Europe, his hair fitted in his helmet again… haha!
Christmasday we started with breakfast in bed (as we usually do, now it’s so cold it’s better to stay inside and we don’t have a table to sit on) and had a nice relaxing day that ended with dinner at the Thic Thak, a wonderful restaurant in Lakeside. The food is delicious and the service superb (even some western restaurants can learn something there!), and that all for just a few euros per person, truly amazing! New Years Eve was not exactly as we expected, after staying up late we decided to go up to the roof around twelve to see what the celebrations would be, but nothing… totally nothing…. hahaha! Luckily Maaike had the cheesy song Happy New Year on her MP3 so we played that at twelve to feel something of the newyear… The manager of the hotel had already told us that the 1st of January 2010 for us is the 17th of the 9th month of 2066 here in Nepal, so nothing special about that… Anyway, Happy 17th of the 9th of 2066, Nepal!!! 🙂
On Sunday the 4th Maaike went tandem paragliding with our friend Bella. She just has her tandem rating, so she wants as much practice as possible. Together with Brad we flew for 20 minutes around, what an awesome feeling: we’re flying together in the Himalayas!!! Whoohooo!!! But, not minimizing the wonderful flight with Bella, Monday the 5th of January 2010 was one never to be forgotten…. We went parahawking….
Parahawking is like paragliding (running of a mountain and fly with the parachute), but then with birds of prey… Yeah!!! We met up with Scott and Jamie, our tandempilots, at 9.30 am at the office of Frontiers. Then we went up in a taxi with Scott, Victoria and Bob, the Egyptian vulture. After the 20 min ride up to Sarangkot we walked over to the take-off area and got our instructions while being wrapped in our paragliding harnesses. We got a leather glove on our left hand and a small bag attached to the front of our harnas with buffalo meat in it. We got the exact instructions how to feed (left arm stretched out, keep it steady so the bird has a stable place to land on) and when (the pilot will blow the whistle). All set and ready for take-off!!! With 2 great takeoffs (Maaike with Jamie and Brad with Scott to instruct him), we were both in the air with our tandems, flying in the Himalayas and were able to feed Bob at least 10 times each! It was so incredible, flying in the sky like a bird, with a bird!!! 🙂 To our gear there was a camera attached filming the whole experience and Maaike also tried to take as many photos as possible. After the first flight we had lunch at Maya Devi, right next to the landing field (great landings by the way, we came in really fast and then with one pull on the brakes we tiptoed onto the ground… wow), Anita cooked us some nice spaghetti. Then it was time to fly the kites… A Black Kite though, a sort of hawk. Just like in any Bird of prey-bird show, we stood with meat in our hands to let the bird (Sapana) fly to us. What an amazing experience. Then it was time for our second flight. Maaike was going for another tandem, with Scott this time and Brad was going to fly solo. We flew with Kevin, an older Egyptian vulture (hence the white color of his feathers). Despite all the things that could go wrong in Brad’s soloflight (so many things to think of: the meat, blowing the whistle, finding the bird in the air, and oh yeah, also try to stay up in the thermal as long as possible and not fly into the mountain or other paragliders…), it was a great success!!! The photos prove it: Brad flew solo with a bird of prey on his hand!!! We were sooooo happy after this whole day, it all went so well!!! After the second flight Brad got to fly another Black Kite, named Brad. So that was worth a cool picture: Brad with the Black Kite Brad! 🙂 This day was really a highlight of this trip (ok, next to seeing the Dalai Lama of course…), and for Brad (a pilot through and through) a highlight of his life. So incredible that this is possible, only here in Nepal. For more information: http://www.parahawking.com/ and http://www.himalayanraptorrescue.org/
Anyway, we are only for a few more days here in Pokhara. We decided to fly back to Kathmandu on the 9th of January. After a few days Kathmandu we’ll go to India to do some more sightseeing over there, and then fly back to Europe on the 9th of February. We’ll keep you posted!!!
Much love, Maaike and Brad