Two Nepali adventurers who were very much in the international limelight in 2012 were Sano Babu Sunuwar and Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa. That was the year when these two intrepid buccaneers were chosen as the 2012 People’s Choice Adventurers of the Year through a public poll conducted by no less an authoritative body than National Geographic magazine. What had Sunuwar and Sherpa done that deserved such a high accolade? Well, according to National Geographic, the two were so honored because of the audacity displayed during the duo’s Ultimate Descent Expedition, an expedition that involved climbing the highest mountain on earth, Everest, then paragliding down from the peak, and finally, paddling down to the sea. The renowned magazine concluded that the feat “truly embodies the spirit of adventure. With borrowed gear and a bare-bones budget, there were no corporate sponsors nor social media campaigns, just the essentials for adventure—vision, creativity, and friendship.”
For the record, the daring duo summitted Everest (29,035 ft) on May 21, 2013, and while it was a very special occasion for Sunuwar, it being his first ascent, for Sherpa, it was more of an ‘all in a day’s work’ kind of thing, this being his fourth summit. On that same day, they set a world record of sorts by achieving the highest free flight ever at 29,084 ft when launching their paragliding attempt from the top. This having gone down in the books, the pair then paraglided down 16,400 ft below, taking a cool 45 minutes to do so. Their landing was at the Syangboche airstrip, which is some 1,000 ft above Namche Bazaar. Having had a safe landing, they then proceeded to kayak over the rushing torrents of the Sun Kosi River and then paddled their way to the Ganges River. Eventually, on June 27, Sunuwar and Sherpa finally made it to Ganga Sagar in the Bay of Bengal, a meeting point of the river with the sea.
The Ultimate Descent indeed lived up to its name—from the highest point on earth to sea level. In achieving this one-of-a-kind feat, Sunuwar and Sherpa also succeeded in focusing the world’s attention on Nepal tourism and on the fact that it is a country that is ripe for adventure and discovery. Adventure tourism is the name of the game; and there are plenty of facts to support the claim. Climbing, of course, tops the list, and it’s true that no climber worth his salt can claim to be a real climber without climbing the Nepali Himalayan peaks. For one thing, Mount Everest is the ultimate challenge, and for another, eight of the world’s fourteen eight-thousanders are here as well. Now, with the introduction of the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT), the world’s longest and highest trekking route, no trekker can say that he/she has done it all without attempting all or part of this epic trail. As it is, the Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit treks have always been acknowledged as two of the most popular treks in the world, with the former having been featured in a “must-to-be-done things during a lifetime” list compiled by those in the know.
Besides climbing and trekking, safari, rafting, bungee jumping, mountain biking, hot air ballooning, ultra flights, canyoning, and of course, paragliding, also offer great fare for those infused with the spirit of adventure. Some of the above, like paragliding, canyoning, and ultra flights are relatively new adventure activities in the country. But, they have become immensely popular in a very short period, primarily due to the fact that the landscape of Nepal is perfectly suited to these activities. Paragliding is thrilling, soaring as you do over acres and acres of wide open spaces etched with artistic terraced fields and dotted with pretty little villages. Besides, paragliding along with ultra flights take you close to the majestic Himalayan peaks, and this by itself makes these activities memorable events. Pokhara, the lovely lake city some 30 minutes by flight from Kathmandu, is the hot spot for both paragliding and ultra flights. There’s a hilltop called Sarangkot (1,590 m) near the city from where you take a free fall flight, while ultra flights take off from the small airport.
Bungee jumping gives you an adrenaline rush like no other sport. The best place for bungee jumping in Nepal is from a platform that’s 160 m over the Bhote Kosi River. It’s only a three-hour bus ride from the capital and near the Nepal–Tibet border. Mountain biking is another sport that seems to have been invented for Nepal’s terrain. There’s plenty of dirt trails around Kathmandu Valley, and the terrain provides lots and lots of uphill and downhill rides, thus giving the mountain bike rider plenty of thrills, and sometimes, a few spills as well. Similarly, white water rafting has been a popular tourist attraction since a long time ago, what with the country having quite a few torrential mountain rivers that originate from the Himalayas.
And, finally, the question now is, what next? Well, one would assume that it would have to be skiing. The icy slopes of the Himalayan peaks make this a country ideal for skiing enthusiasts, but then, one may ask, why are there no skiing facilities in the country? “Lack of proper infrastructure,” says one keen skier. “One will have to go up on a helicopter, that’s much too expensive!”