If you have ever wanted to witness a birds-eye view of the invigorating mountains and mesmerizing landscapes of Sikkim, then you must know about this amazing opportunity, where you can fly without wings in Gangtok.
I had seen numerous people flying above the green hills of Ranka in Gangtok from my window, and I had always wanted to try paragliding myself. When I was finally given that opportunity, I could not miss it, could I?
One fine day during the month of August, I decided to trigger my adrenaline rush and witness a drone-view of the picture-perfect landscape of Gangtok. I had booked my ride the previous day and was immensely excited about it. One of the first things that I liked about paragliding in Gangtok was that no prior training was required for the passengers. The pilots were extremely professional and accompanied their passengers during the flight.
This adventure activity started when I met these pilots at Reshithang, popularly known as Khel Ground in Ranka, and with me were several other adventure enthusiasts. Here, we were asked to get in a car along with our pilots. They also loaded huge backpack-like bags in the car, which were basically paragliders.
We then headed a few kilometers above Khel Ground, through a narrow road, towards Anne Gumpa. Even the car ride felt amazing to me: to be able to witness almost the whole of Gangtok town from the car window, on the hill opposite to mine, was exciting.
After what felt like half-an-hour, we reached the beautiful Anne Gumpa. Located in between the unspoiled green hills, it looked peaceful and vibrant with its contrasting wall paint of red hues.
Just beside this monastery was a huge steep hill called Baliman Dara. This hill was the launching point of the gliders. Here, we were all assigned to our pilots, and each pilot started explaining how the flight was going to work.
I was assigned to a young and energetic pilot named Shein. He demonstrated how I had to hold the backpack and run, and some dos and don’ts during the flight. Besides the pilots, the driver, and passengers, there were other people already present on the hill to help launch the glider.
When my turn finally came, they explained to me that the wind will pull us back; however, we were to run against the wind as fast as possible and jump from the cliff of the hill. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
Launching My Cares Away
We were given a go-pro camera to record ourselves flying, which I had to hold on to. When they asked us to run on the count of 10, I did. Behind me was my pilot. We were linked together in a harness that was attached to the glider. We both ran against the wind like two crazy people. However, the force of the wind was extremely strong that it pulled us back and I got stuck on the edge of the cliff. Shein pulled me up.
Launching into the sky
With the first failed attempt, I was determined to run even faster than before. Again, on the count of 10, we ran. We ran fast and jumped from the cliff. The glider automatically pulled us up in the air; the feeling was overwhelming.
I was thrilled and excited by what had happened. Shein asked me to relax and enjoy the view of the silent mountains, the ripe maize fields, and the green trees below our feet. It’s no wonder why people from every corner of the country come to indulge in paragliding in Sikkim. The views were extremely beautiful and I was filled with fulfillment and joy.
It was thrilling when Shein moved the glider across the sky; we really were flying without wings. At times, it felt like I was riding a huge merry-go-round but better. The gush of strong wind, the views of green and yellow fields below our feet, snaky roads on the hills, and the views of pretty little houses are something I will never forget.
If you think that paragliding is somewhat like boarding a plane and having to look at the landscape below, you are absolutely wrong! Unlike plane flights, I could hear the birds chirping and feel fresh and cold wind against my skin and hair. For the first time in my life, I could see the tip of tall Himalayan trees—we passed beside and above them. Shein even plucked some leaves from the top of one of those trees and gave them to me.
Enjoying the views while clutching tree leaves
We chased the clouds and feasted our eyes on the magical view of pristine nature. Paragliding in Gangtok was so fun; it was as if I was brought back to life.
When we were a few meters above the ground before landing, my pilot asked me if I wanted to add some more thrill. You bet I said yes! He then rotated the glider three times, and with the glider, we were rotated thrice in the open sky. My heart was satisfied and my soul rejuvenated.
As we descended, he then asked me to either drop my legs or lay them straight as if I was sitting on a bed on his command. We slowly approached Khel Ground and landed softly and slowly.
This was one of the best adventurous activities that I have indulged in. If given a chance again, I will definitely go for another ride.
Gently landing after a thrilling ride
Tips for paragliding in Gangtok:
• To have an extraordinary paragliding experience, it is best that you do it either during the summertime in between March-June or during the autumn season between September-October.
• To experience the best flight and spend more time in the sky, paraglide either in the morning before 11 am or 12 am, or during the evening. During these times, the wind is strong as compared to the daytime, and without strong wind, you won’t be able to fly higher or spend much time flying.
• Wearing warm clothes won’t matter. When you are in the sky, you won’t feel the chill of the wind against your skin. However, dress appropriately according to the weather. Do not wear loose-fitting clothes and wear comfortable shoes.
• Age does not matter. If you think that you must be of a certain age to fly in the sky, you don’t have to worry about that. Even if you are younger than 18 years but a healthy and fit individual, you are allowed to fly. However, if you weigh above 85-90 kg, you might not be able to fly.
Type of Flights in Gangtok
If you opt for medium fly, you will have to paraglide from Baliman Dara beside Anne Gumpa at a height of 1300 to 1400 m. The duration of this flight may vary with the flow of wind, but the average duration is between 5-10 minutes. On this flight, you will be able to witness Gangtok town, the Himalayan ranges, and the surrounding valleys.
If you opt for high fly, you will fly from Bulbuley Dara, a place above Gangtok town, at a height of 2200 m, and the duration ranges between 15-20 minutes. Here, you will be able to witness the gigantic Mt. Khangchendzonga range and its neighboring ranges, snow-covered peaks, Gangtok Township, Tashi viewpoint, and its surroundings.
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