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What I've come for specifically - Parahawking


View 2015/16 Parahawking in Nepal on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_14525925542145.jpgWatching paragliders take off as we ready ourselves.
I woke at 0600 when it was still cold and dark. Today is the day I receive my Christmas present from Kim to do parahawking. I kept warm in bed till 0700 before slowly emerging from the covers and eventually left the hotel at 0900 after breakfast.

It was a 15 min walk to the parahawking office and I got there 15 mins before the 0930 report time. I would be the only one this morning and Scott didn’t come get me till 1000 in a small Suzuki hatchback taxi. He had Kevin, an Egyptian vulture on his left arm.

We drove out of town and uphill towards Sarangkot [Sarangkot-travel-guide-1323015] and less than 30 mins later we were dropped unceremoniously on an unsealed road in the middle of nowhere. We walked on a track which led to an open area where several people were getting their paragliders ready.large_5550_14525923035686.jpgKevin swooping in to land on my hand.

It was a calm bright sunny day but rather hazy. Scott suggested that we let a few of them go first, so he could see how the thermals were behaving. He kitted me out with my harness before 1100 and hooked himself up behind me. The instructions were simple: for the takeoff I need to have both hands holding the harness, walk forward when instructed (feel the parachute pulling you back) and finally jog a few steps.

We were airborne in no time and my immediate task was to open the pouch of buffalo meat hanging in front of my waist and put a piece into the crease between my left thumb and hand, then cover it with my right hand so Kevin wouldn’t see it prematurely.

Kevin was nowhere to be seen. Scott has a spotter to help notify him of Kevin’s location and when Kevin was swooping in.large_5550_14525923086034.jpgKevin lands on my hand and about to take the buffalo meat from between my thumb and finger. Eventually, Kevin came around and Scott blew his whistle which was the signal for me to put my left arm straight out. Kevin swooped in, sat on my hand and took the meat out.

We repeated this many times while floating over the hillsides of Pokhara [Pokhara-travel-guide-1138426]. It was a truly awesome experience being airborne, flying with the various big birds and especially having Kevin alongside us in the sky. Once in a while, Kevin’s right wing would flap on my head as he was sitting on my left hand.

We drifted towards the lake and had a few more rounds. I realised that we didn’t have life jackets while some paragliders did (there is only one company doing parahawking, and only me this morning).large_5550_14525923128667.jpg All good things have to come to an end, so we descended and landed on a clear patch on the lake shore. There were other people around but Scott manouvered us well and my only instructions were to jog a little forward till we stop.

The landing spot is the base for Scott’s operations. He has his aviary of rescued birds here and accommodation for those who wish to be a little removed from the hustle and bustle of Pokhara. I was shown the hand basin to wash my hands and offered a drink, which I kinda needed to soothe my slightly quesy stomach (combination of big breakfast and motion effects).

One of the staff took me through what they were doing here with their birds-of-prey conservation efforts. Basically, it boils down to one thing. Diclofenac (aka voltaren pain killer) is used for livestock and their carcasses are tainted with it.large_5550_14525923166501.jpgWhat a beautiful bird.Being a Hindu country, cows are not eaten and are left out for the vultures and other birds who eat them and die very quickly. So, the parahawking project uses captive birds (rescued, rehab’ed from young and cannot fend for themselves) to generate income to fund these projects. One of the initiatives is free veterinary service which uses alternatives to diclofenac, in exchange for villagers donating their nearly dead cows as supply to “vulture restaurants” (where carcasses are skinned and left out for birds).

Incidentally, use of diclofenac in humans also kills birds where sky burial is being practiced eg. Tibet.

By the time I completed my eco briefing, my photo and videos were ready. Flicking through them, I wish I had taken the advice of the young lady at the town office to wear sunglasses.large_5550_14525923201880.jpgBird's eye view of us soaring like birds. I looked really squinty without them. Also, I didn’t look too comfortable as I felt queasy through a large part of the flight. I took Scott’s advice to cross my ankles because “they look better in the pictures”. I didn’t know how right he was until I was back in town later, watching other people’s videos (used as adverts) in shop windows; many looked so silly with their knees so far apart.

Scott’s ride back into town wasn’t here yet and it was only 30 minutes walk back to town, so I did that. I rested and did some admin until my queasy stomach turned into hunger.

As Scott’s Mac didn’t like my USB drive for the photos, and my laptop didn’t have a DVD drive, I had to arrange for the photos to be transferred. Naturally, the little shop had a Windows computer and there wasn’t any issue at all.
Having had such an awesome experience, I wanted to share the photos with Kim who had given it to me as my Christmas present.

As I had two full days to come, I rested and did some admin for the rest of the day before another early night. I thought I’d keep myself on Malaysian time as it would mean less adjustment when I return to New Zealand and have to start work a day later.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Nepal

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