“Paragliding the Winds of Change”
Have been listening to Johnny Cash’s “peace in the valley” for years now, but I never knew I will have my share of it almost 3500 feet above the breath-taking valley of Himachal while floating amidst the air. The memory of the beautiful Kangra Valley landscape with the lush green foliage of conifer trees and the sprawling tea gardens, the gushing rivulets and the majestic contours of the Dhauladar ranges is vividly etched in my mind. It was not till my paragliding experience at the secluded yet comely town of Bir-Billing that I realized as to why birds sing during their flight in the vast expanse of vivid skies.
It all started when the city slicker in me wanted to escape the monotonous humdrum life, and having trekked in my last trip, I wanted to experience something novel and at the same time adventurous. Google came to rescue as I researched about one of the best paragliding spots in the country (and as per my pilot the second best following the sites in Bern, Switzerland). I instantly knew where I was heading next, and thanks to the gem of my friends who agreed to accompany me on such a short notice 🙂
There are many ways to reach Bir, we took a bus from Delhi to Chandigarh, and hired a taxi to Bir, and the drive was just heavenly as we drove past the splendid landscape surrounded by snow-clad mountains. I was a changed person already. We had booked our hotel “Bir Resort” in the upper Bir area prior to reaching our destination, and just as I opened the window of my room I was just taken aback as it overlooked a Buddhist Monastery surrounded by tea gardens!! A sight to cherish! It was more than I could have asked for besides the very cheap room rates for a very cosy room 😉 ;). I was overcome with a feeling of wanderlust and decided to explore the areas around before going for the paragliding experience. I asked the locals and found the way to the monastery which was just a five minutes’ walk from my hotel.
The road was lined with Lung ta prayer flags in the mustard fields. Legends say that the flags are used to bless the countryside with life, fortune, health and spread messages of “ahimsa” (nonviolence), and I saw a sense of calm prevail by just looking at them. Walking for a few more minutes I found a “garden café” and ordered a brunch of pancakes and pasta. It’s a very chic café with farm –to –table organic appeal and a patio with variegated flowers. As it was already 2:00pm we decided to make a move and found local pilots who were experienced and reputable Paragliders, they suggested waiting for the winds to die down so that we could be air borne.
We drove to Billing, which is the take-off spot, and is located 14kms from Bir. The view was just one of those surreal views with chilly winds blowing and we were in an altogether different world unknown to us, awing in silence, admiring the picturesque beauty. The winds started to favour us and the pilot gave the green signal. I was all set and ready to take a leap, and when we (me and my Pilot Rajbir) did I was just overwhelmed with the joy of finally taking off and the sheer beauty of the valley. Throughout our 45 minutes flight I don’t recall myself blinking. As Rajbir started to talk, I hushed him as I wanted to take a mental photograph of what I was experiencing. The valley looked ethereal!! In the words of Rumi: “This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” I knew what the words meant in the true sense of the meaning; after I landed I just knew I will revisit the place again. I set to explore the monasteries on the next day and headed for Triund in McLeod Ganj exploring the food scene for which McLeod Ganj is known for, all this while singing songs of freedom only known to me.
I’ll continue the foodie experience at Mcleod’s in some other post. Right now as I reminisce the experience I just wish I lived an organic life in the mountains, wear black overalls and walk barefoot like Steven Wilson. But since I have a “to do list of accomplishment” before I turn 30, this dream can wait. Meanwhile I will continue with such trips as and when I get an opportunity because sometimes you gotta live a part of your dreams each day.