During a recent trip to Pakistan, I had a paragliding accident. Here I wish to explain a little of my experience.

Why Pakistan?

You may be wondering why I chose Pakistan? After all, there are many other places around the world with a better reputation and nice mountains to fly in, including my native country of Switzerland… It all started around nine years ago when I started to paraglide. From the very beginning of my instruction, my paragliding instructor told me that, for him, the only mountains he had ever seen that were more beautiful than ours, were in Pakistan. So I decided that one day when I had gained enough experience, I would go there. And so it happened.

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Before going to Pakistan, I flew in many other places; The Himalayas, Andes, and The Alps. Since I work only part-time in Switzerland, it has given me a lot of time to explore. So, after eight years of flying in numerous mountain ranges, I finally went to Pakistan. I have to admit that I wasn’t very sure if Pakistan was safe. And the information I found on the Internet wasn’t very convincing. But nevertheless, I went.

My experience in Pakistan was incredible and beyond anything, I could have imagined! Within the first days, after seeing how friendly and welcoming the Pakistani people are, all of my apprehension was gone. They always made me feel like a special guest, many spontaneously inviting me to stay in their homes. They just wanted me to feel like I was at home. Having traveled a lot, this was the first time I felt welcomed to this extent, and upon meeting other tourists, they all agreed that the Pakistani people are very welcoming people. And that’s not all, they also have the most impressive mountains for flying, some of the most beautiful I have ever seen!

Paragliding in Pakistan is a total unique experience.

In Pakistan, the flying is majestic; a place where you can go, more or less, as high as you want (or dare!), and for this, I had many magnificent flights. Everything was going great and I was extremely happy about my entire experience, but then, after three months of fantastic flying, I crashed. And the crash was not due to the extreme flying conditions, but instead due to my own stupid mistake.

Clearly, the last thing I wanted was to get injured in Pakistan, such a long way from home, and very remote. But it actually went much smoother than I could have expected. Luckily, on the day of the accident, I was flying with Jan, an Australian pilot, flying together for the first time. He was near me when I crashed, so he came to see if I was okay. When he saw that I was injured, he landed and helped me. He called an ambulance and explained where we were so they could come nearby, and then continue on foot to our location, about 40 minutes from the road. There must have been about 10 people there to help me and carry me to the ambulance.

Paragliding Crash In Pakistan
Photo by Author.

Once I arrived at Govt City hospital in Gilgit, central to this area, they took numerous radiographic scans and discovered that I’d broken a few bones. Once I knew that I’d have to get an operation, I became scared and thought to move to Islamabad, or even back to Switzerland. But then I met Dr. Kaleem, who was called in especially for me for his reputation of being the best surgeon in the area.

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Pakistanis have no match in hospitality.

Despite it being a holy day, Dr. Kaleem came to see me and convinced me that, according to what I had, it was best to get my surgery done there, due to the risks of waiting. He was really nice to me and for this, I decided the best thing to do was to trust him. The surgery went very well and once back in Switzerland, they praised the work that Dr. Kaleem had done. Furthermore, after insisting on making payment for my surgery and hospital stay, I was advised that since I am a guest in Pakistan, all expenditures would be free!

Dr. Kaleem was not just my surgeon, true to Pakistani hospitality, he went out of his way to bring me home-cooked meals and to see if everything was ok for me. This warmth was amazing. Still, he wasn’t the only one to go out of his way for me during my stay in the hospital, many other people whom I’d never met came when they heard I was alone; to see if I needed anything, to bring me delicious food, keep me company and then, to help me organize repatriation. They came because they are nice people with a community-based culture that genuinely takes care of their guests. Even now, after many months in Switzerland, people are still asking after me.

The way people took care of me, this was a real highlight that will stay in my heart forever.

Thank you so much for your warm welcoming Pakistan, I really hope I come back soon!

By Sos Gratin

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