On cloud nine. - Paragliding at Bir-Billing.23, June, 2017, by Seema Bhatnagar
Paragliding at Bir Billing.
On, 4th June, 2017, I and my friends finalized the program for an adventure sport, Paragliding at Bir-Billing.
Bir-Billing, located in Himachal Pradesh, India, is a second World famous paragliding site. It is also a place which hosted 2015 paragliding World cup.
Located approximately 516 km from Delhi, it is quite well accessible via buses. It takes almost 11 hours to reach this site. There are well-equipped Volvo buses running at good frequency from ISBT, Delhi.
It was a short one night trip, starting on Sunday night, reaching Monday morning, night stay for Monday, departure on Tuesday night and reaching back Delhi on Wednesday morning.
As a group of 7 persons we started off from ISBT (Interstate bus terminus), Delhi at 8:20 pm on Sun, 4th June. Travelling whole night with two halts of approximately 25 mins each we reached Bir around 8 am on Mon, 5th June. The nightlong journey was not so comfortable, as sleeping on reclined chairs cannot match the comfort of flat bed.
Bir, is a landing site for paragliding, from here one is supposed to reach Billing, the actual take off site. There are two options to reach there, either by trekking from Bir which takes around 4-5 hours on the hilly terrain or driving through car, which takes 40 -45 minutes.Reaching Bir, we rented out a single room just to freshen up in the morning for 2-3 hours. Bir is a small place largely populated with Tibeten people. It has a small market with shops catering to daily needs of locals and tourists. There are many well-equipped guest houses at reasonable prices for short stays.
We had our breakfast followed by lunch around 3 pm and by then we were all set to start journey for Billing. Didn’t do much after breakfast, just went around local Tibetan market and watched other people landing.
Bir - Landing site.
Some of our group members were not so comfortable with the sight of people flying so high in the air. Fear started gripping them, three of them literally decided to drop the idea of doing paragliding and instead they were happy trekking and camping on the hill. Rest four of us were fine with it.
I was absolutely fine, in fact I was looking forward with great excitement to be in the lap of air like a bird for few minutes. Being a nature lover, it gives me immense joy to experience the wonders of nature.
Air – The natural force.
According to ayurveda, the Indian sciences of life, air has been considered as one of the fundamental five elements out of which human beings are constituted of. The air element is revered as a God, Vayu devta in Hindu mythology. A mighty force that has a power to sweep away even the mountains.
The air element in human beings takes a form of breath and flows inside outside to continue life. The moment inhalation or exhalation or exchange of air stops it means end of life. If one realizes it deeply, it is a continuous exchange of air which keeps us alive. This very realization should be enough for one to bow down to this powerful force of nature.
Whenever I look at birds I feel fascinated by their flights in the open sky, how they effortlessly twirl in the air. When I sit in the airplane I feel like touching the air outside and want to hang out the clouds, but that means I will not be able to share my experience :-). So, paragliding is the best option with minimum carbon footprints that can enable me riding the winds in open sky.
Reaching take off site. - Billing
After having late lunch, we were not in a mood to opt for 4-5 hours of trekking, so we decided to cut it short to 2 hours. I opted to go by car instead of trekking, rest of the group members came trekking. I was somehow not in a mood to exert physically and instead wanted to enjoy the serene surroundings sitting quietly amidst the lush green mountains uphill, moreover, trekking is something I am not so fond of.
Take off site. - Billing
Our tour operator (http://www.billingadventures.com/) arranged a car to transport our luggage, and to drop anybody who wants to avoid trekking. It was 5:00 pm by the time I reached uphill, i.e. Billing. Just walked around a bit and clicked few shots and finally settled down in my tent for evening meditation. Rest of the group members reached by 6:00 pm. We all settled down by 7:00 pm and gathered around bonfire for chit chat, meanwhile staff was preparing dinner for us.
Camping in tents at Billing.
Spent almost 2 hours chit chatting and by 9 pm we all were feeling hungry. The dinner was served by 9:45 pm. The platter included the vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. Like always, I opted for vegetarian meal. We all were amazed at how that young guy cooked a sumptuous dinner in such a dim light with minimum supplies of resources. There was no electric light on the mountain, it was pitch dark. There were only dimly lit lanterns and moonshine. It was 4 days before the full moon night, so we could enjoy our moonlight dinner. That dinner is truly memorable, we ate freshly cooked food sitting on stones with minimum fancies.
Slept by 11 pm, as we all were dead tired since we could sleep properly last night in the bus. Sleeping in a small tent was a new experience. Tent could accommodate 2 persons comfortably. It was furnished with sleeping bag and rubber mats. Unless it is heavy shower, rain should not have any impact inside.
In the morning, I got up early by 5:00 am, well before anybody and freshened up. There was a pit toilet setup near tents and there was no arrangement for bathing. I finished my morning meditation by 6:30 am and was ready for breakfast. To avoid height sickness, we were served only boiled noodles tossed with Indian spices. I took small portion of it with a cup of tea. By 8:30 am we wrapped up and started our journey towards take off site.
Tent for two persons.
Walking uphill for 10 mins reached at the take off site, a tall standing cliff. We were waiting for our assigned pilots to come. The very sight of people taking off further tightened the grip of fear on three persons. They decided to drop it altogether.
Well, the height is definitely there, it was 2500 ft above the ground. For sure, it demands a brave heart. The very sight could be scary for a person who has acrophobia. I don’t know if I should classify myself as a brave heart or not but the only thing in my mind was that I just wanted to experience the exhilaration of height, to float in the air like a bird without having wings, to see the earth from height.
View from take off cliff.
After lot of convincing two group members got ready for adventure and only one was firm not to join. So, finally we were six to enjoy the adventure of riding the air.
On cloud nine.
We saw our pilots coming towards us. One of them, Kartik, approached me and asked me to sign a chit with my name and date of flying. He took me on the side and asked me to wear the gear. The gear included a helmet and a cushioned seat hanging like a back pack fastened on the waist. Then he asked me to hold the gopro, a selfie stick, for taking video while on the flight, and then completed all the required locking of the gear. He double checked and ensured all locking is done properly.
Pilot preparing the parachute.
Prepaprations for take off.
For taking off, one is required to run few steps to come into momentum of wind. This is similar to how an airplane takes off from a run way. The direction of wind is an essential factor for a perfect take off.
Take off in action.
Finally, the moment arrived for my take off, Kartik asked me to run few steps. I simply ran five six steps without thinking what is ahead of me, it was a dead end of cliff, then Kartik took the control and the next moment we were floating in the air. He asked me to sit comfortably on a cushioned seat.
I could not believe that I was floating in the air, the moment I felt those soft blows of wind embracing me, I was overwhelmed and tears started rolling down my cheeks. I could not control those tears of joy and for almost 5 minutes I was in that ecstatic moment. Kartik asked me, how are you feeling, as he could not see my face, I said, I can’t express my joy, I am so happy that I am in tears. In those ecstatic moments I just wanted to be silent and wanted to experience it deeply.
After some time, I could become normal and started looking around the landscape of mountains and ground. All objects were looking tiny and far. There was a sense of stillness as if the air was holding me in its lap. It was a silence of different kind, the only sound was of the wind which was continuously blowing.
On top of the World.
When I was settled, Kartik made some twirls in the air to give a different experience. It was like acrobatics in the air. After three four rounds, I felt some churning sensation in my stomach. I was holding the gopro, off and on he was also controlling for clicking pics and recording video.
Again and again, I was wondering and admiring Mother Nature for sustaining such a gigantic force. At the same time, I was also praising those people who conceived the idea to conquest air by riding it. I could realize the thirst of flying in the air of Leonardo da Vinci and Wright Brothers. Perhaps, only because of their efforts and deep thirst of riding the air I was able to enjoy the ride in the most comfortable manner.
On cloud nine.
I was thinking, how tough it would have been for birds to fly high in the air, how much stamina and power is needed to keep one afloat. Such a high pressure and blows of wind are indeed difficult to encounter with soft wings but just imagine these beautiful little creatures have a courage to cross countries during seasonal migrations.
Down to Earth.
About to land.
After almost 15 minutes I could see he was controlling the pressure and direction of the parachute for landing. It was going in spirals for coming near the ground, similar to how airplane prepares to land.
While in the air, he already instructed me to raise legs straight at the time of landing. At the time of landing, when we were just few meters above the ground he commanded to raise legs straight and within a minute we touched the ground.
I was back to the reality after flying in the air for 15 mins, it just felt like a dream which got over in a flash of seconds.
After landing, for almost 20 mins I had a feeling of nausea. Perhaps, this was because I had my breakfast just an hour back and the twirls triggered the acrobatics in my stomach. I should have avoided the breakfast altogether.
Down to Earth.
It was a memorable experience which tested my limits and left me soaked in deep experience of what it means a power of air. Air, a natural force, which can be used to generate energy in windmills or can take one to cloud nine.
We all six landed safely. Those who were scared were more than happy and were thankful for convincing them to experience it.
After landing we hired a cab to reach McLeod Ganj, a small town near Dharamshala, which is a two hours journey from Billing. One get to see many foreigners settled there and running their own shops of bakery.
On the way, we visited Paulpung Sherabling Monastery and then Baijnath temple, an ancient Shiva temple, frequently visited by Shiva devotees. Had our early dinner at Mcleod Ganj and boarded our bus at 8 pm, scheduled to reach Delhi by 6:30 am in the morning.
Offering gratitude to Divine.
It was a wonderful and memorable trip for each one of us. Personally, I was thinking to do it since long and this time it just happened effortlessly. Long time back, there was an opportunity to go with a group of friends but I could not make it due to some reasons, but this time everything fell in place and it happened. I bow down with gratitude to Divine for making things happen in my life so effortlessly.