When I was a kid, I was obsessed with flying. I had this recurrent dream where I was able to fly like Superman without any wings. After quite a long time, last year, I got a chance to come quite close to living that dream.
On our Manali trip last year, the one thing I was most excited about was Paragliding at Bir Billing which I had heard so much about. It is something which is on the bucket list of many people. After all, the place is the second best paragliding spot in the world and it even hosted the Paragliding World Cup in 2015. I was fortunate enough to tick it off so early.
Bir is a mostly Buddhist town with many settlements of Tibetian monks. It’s a famous spot for ecotourism. Since people from all over the world come to Bir to enjoy paragliding, you should plan your visit to avoid too much rush as well as get the perfect weather. The peak flying season is from October to June, with September to October being the peak time.
As per our plan, we went to Palampur and set up our base there. I later realized that Palampur is actually 30km away from Bir and coming from Manali, you’d encounter Bir before Palampur. It takes around an hour to drive from Palampur to Bir. So here’s a travel tip to keep in mind to avoid unnecessary travel time.
#TravelTip: If you’re going to travel here for only for paragliding at Bir, you can skip Palampur altogether.
Bir is called the Paragliding capital of India and it is the second highest Paragliding point in the world! Definitely, something to get excited about. Bir is actually the name of the landing site. The place from where you take off while paragliding is called Billing and it is at the mountain top.
During the time we visited, the road to Billing was closed every day from 10am in the morning to 5pm (as of June 2018) due to the road’s ongoing construction work. Because of this, all activities are stopped during this time. Unfortunately, there was no way for us to know this beforehand. We reached there at around 1pm and to return back disappointed. But there was no way I was going to let this small hitch ruin my plans and give a miss to an experience for which I had flown down so far. So we decided to spend some time visiting a few places around Palampur to kill the day. And although its at least an hours drive from Palampur, in the evening, we came back again to Bir.
#TravelTip: Make sure you either reach Biling very early in the morning or in the evening at 5pm since the roads are closed at other times.
We had not pre-booked for paragliding so it took quite some time and a lot of phone calls to multiple vendors to get a booking for myself.
#TravelTip: Prebook your slot for paragliding, preferably even before coming to Bir or Palampur.
There are way less authorized flying pilots than tourists who come here for paragliding. The pilots work for multiple vendors and do multiple jumps continuously so it’s difficult to get hold of them even for the vendors. It seems they don’t have a fixed schedule or affiliation.
We had to wait for almost an hour for the pilots to arrive. Although the vendor ensured me that only licensed pilots are allowed to fly, it is always better to double check it personally whether your pilot has the required license and authorization.
Paragliding needs the right amount of wind and wind direction. Whether you’ll be able to make the jump or not also depends on the lot on the weather. Sometimes they have to close the area due to bad winds, which happens quite often.
#TravelTip: Always confirm whether paragliding is available or closed due to bad weather atleast an hour before visiting the place.
As is also common with such adventure activities, you will also be made to sign an agreement to not hold the vendor responsible in case of any unfortunate incident. Once the pilot is available, you’ll be taken to the takeoff site in a vehicle. It takes about 45 minutes of drive to reach at the top at Billing. The roads are extremely dangerous and you’d get dizzy if you look down. There were practically no roads to speak of since the road construction was underway (which is why the roads are closed during the day). The conditions of the road notwithstanding, the drivers do their dare-devil act and pretend like its an empty highway thrusting the vehicle full-speed on the bumpy road, where any slip of a turning can send you tumbling down the hill. If you make it to the top and your heart has not yet popped out of your chest, congratulations! you’ve already completed one thrilling adventure.
While taking off your flight, you need to put a lot of energy and run very fast with all your might carrying the parachute. This can be quite difficult especially if your weight is less. I, fortunately, was saved from most of the effort since my pilot was much stronger than me. He did most of the job of pulling the chute in the face of the strong winds.
If this is your first time doing paragliding, I can assure you this is going to be a memorable moment to cherish for the rest of your life. This was the scariest adventure activity I’d done till date so I was very nervous by the time we reached the top. But once you’re airborne all your fears give way to a feeling of immense joy. It is an extremely exhilarating experience, almost surreal, which you will never forget. The view that Kangra valley below offers is absolutely breath-taking.
I couldn’t pose very nicely but make sure you take some nice snaps on your flight to post on your FB account. In case you decide to go for this thrilling adventure, here is how much it would cost you-
Cost: Approx. INR 3000
Photo/Video: INR 300 (Extra)