UPDATE: With the death of a Russian paraglider in Pokhara on 25 February, paragliding events have been put to a halt, including the Paragliding Acrobatics Contest that was supposed to be held on the same day. Sixty paragliders from 15 countries were expected to participate. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, the event was cancelled because the organisers has not sought approval from the authority, nor paid taxes. It is unclear if the authorities intend to halt normal paragliding activities in view of this incident.
PICS: AHMAD ISKANDAR
It might not have rained over the past week, but mini rainbows were colouring the skies over in Pokhara. However, the strange celestial sight did not invoke surprise among the locals. An annual occurrence for the past ten years, it was a sign that the 11th Open Paragliding Competition was in season yet again.
Paraghliders with their multi-hued wings soared and swooped to claim the top spots and prizes. The three-day event, organized by Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal Western Regional Chapter (TAAN), ended on Saturday.
Some spectators sat quietly, observing with their necks strained from looking up while eating their snacks. Others happily gave chase to the landing paragliders one after the other. Over at one side, a rock band was doing numerous covers, blasting the normally quiet fields with loud music.
Another popular name was Narayan Parajuli (pictured), Nepal's second pilot and owner of Blue Sky Paragliding. Although he did not participate in any of the competitive categories, Parajuli stole the show with his comical theatrics by wearing a yeti suit while paragliding. His antics brought laughter and cheers from those watching from the Khapaudi landing spot. "I just wanted to make the children happy and make the event more interesting," Parajuli explained.
And the winners were...
Pokhara's paragliding scene has been picking up over the years, and Nepali paragliders are now competing with the best in the world. In the first paragliding competition 11 years ago, Rajesh Bomjan was the only Nepali, this year there were 42, and the numbers are still rising.
"The new generation is more interested and has a love for adventure," says Som Bahadur Thapa of the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal and coordinator of the competition. Sarangkot has also been widely mentioned as one of the best locations in the world for the sport, making it a very attractive option.
Alas, it is not all good news. Despite being able to match up well with international competitors, none of the Nepalis are legally eligible to participate in competitions overseas because the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal does not have a provision for flying licenses which is required by Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the international governing body for gliding sports. At present, only three Nepalis have international licenses.
1st - Jaime Messenger (UK)
2nd - Aja Kumar Sharma (IND)
3rd - Claudia Mota (CAN)
1st - Eva Wisniserka (GER)
2nd - Sachin Bomjan (NEPAL)
3rd - Rabin Gurung (NEPAL)
Overall (Nepal) Category
1st - Rajesh Bomjan (NEPAL)
2nd - Sanobabu Sunuwar (NEPAL)
3rd - Bimal Adhikari (NEPAL)
Best Acrobatic Category
1st - Damodar Prajuli (NEPAL)
Best Spot Landing Category
1st - Moon Seov Lim (KOREA)
Best Landing Category
Brinad Bomjan (NEPAL)est Costune Category
Narayan Parajuli (NEPAL)