I have never been a sporty person, in fact, I hated sports or any kind of sports activity in school and college. I discovered this adventurous side of me while paragliding in Bir-Billing and realized that we often underestimate ourselves.
Our trip to Bir was an impromptu one. My best friend and I were totally fed up with office work and hot summer. We chose Bir-Billing for a long weekend trip.
Bir-Billing is Asia’s highest and world’s second-highest paragliding spot. Billing is the take-off site and Bir is the landing site for paragliding. The Paragliding World Cup tournament in 2015 was held in Bir-Billing.
Our Journey to Bir-Billing
We decided to take the early morning bus to Baijnath. We started from Patiala at 6 in the morning and it was an arduous 12-hour journey to finally arrive at Bir. The bus halted at Una where we had our lunch.
We had to get down at Baijnath and take a local bus to Chougan village. This journey was a breath of fresh air as we were already in Himachal. We could feel the drop in temperature as evening approached. Looking out of the window I could see tea gardens that reminded me of my Sikkim- Darjeeling trip.
Arriving at Chougan
I let out a sigh of relief getting down from the bus at Chougan village. Finally, we had arrived! Sun was about to set and I felt that we had arrived at the right time. I loved the serenity and greenery of the place.
There were very few houses on the streets. We had booked our stay at Zostel Bir which was a few hundred meters away. With no extra luggage and just our backpacks with us, it was a pleasant walk around the village.
We were starving when we reached the hostel. One of the reasons I like to stay at hostels is meeting travelers from different parts of the world. The best hostel stay I’ve ever had was in Udaipur.
Making friends while traveling
Thankfully there was an in-house cafe. While having sandwiches, we overheard a very excited young guy sharing his paragliding experience with someone. That piqued our curiosity and we started a conversation. Though we had already decided on paragliding, his enthusiasm and happiness fueled our excitement.
As we were exhausted from the long journey, we decided to relax in the hostel. We met some other fellow travelers and interacted with them. We decided to have dinner in the hostel and have a look around the place. By the time we went to sleep, it was past midnight. We had been talking for hours.
The day of Paragliding
Our hostel had arranged for our paragliding. We were ready by the time a vehicle came to pick us up and two other girls from the hostel for paragliding. It was about a half an hour ride and we arrived at the paragliding site.
We were surprised to see that there were very few people at the paragliding site. It was the month of May and we expected more people. But it turned out well for us as the paragliders were quite patient and were answering all our questions. I was a little nervous but very excited.
We were given some basic instructions and geared up for paragliding. It was a tandem paraglider that carried two people- the instructor/guide/pilot and the passenger. It was like a seat where I could sit comfortably when airborne. The paraglider stays right behind you and maneuvers the glider (equipment). Our pilots told us to walk a little further as there was some issue with the wind. We walked a little more.
The pilots had informed us beforehand to run fast when told and then just jump. I found it difficult to run as I felt something pulling me back- wind, probably! I ran as fast as I could and within a few seconds, I was in the air! I didn’t even realize when and how that happened. But I was ecstatic! There was not even an iota of fear in me which was completely unexpected!
I looked down as we were moving further away from the ground. Soon we were flying above dense forests and I could see other gliders at some distance. I was on cloud nine! Huge trees appeared like small shrubs and foliage. The dream of flying like a bird that I cherished as a child had finally come alive.
I started talking to my pilot about his experience of paragliding. For about 20-25 minutes. The sunshine and the cool wind felt soothing on my body. We couldn’t have chosen a better time for paragliding. I was so engrossed in the whole experience that my guide had to remind me about taking pictures and making videos!
A few minutes later, we landed at Bir (the landing site). Images and videos of our paragliding experience were transferred to us in our pen drive. We paid INR 2500 as the fee for paragliding and pictures/videos. As evening approached, grey clouds started to cover the sky. We thanked the weather God for allowing us to finish. A vehicle dropped us near our hostel. We still had half a day that we wanted to make good use of.
Scooter Ride In and around Bir
We walked in the streets looking for a suitable place to eat. Having filled out stomachs with noodles at a local shop, we moved towards our next adventure. Along with another traveler from the hostel, we went to a shop to rent scooters.
The weather was too good to stay indoors. It was my first time riding a scooter on the mountain roads. We rode aimlessly and stopped at a small train station named ‘Ahju’.
‘Ahju’ is a narrow-gauge train station located 3 Km away from Bir. After clicking some pictures we started moving again.
Amazing weather, scooter ride, the fresh joy of having done something adventurous, and almost no one around except the 3 of us, it was as good as a movie!
We visited a Buddhist Monastery nearby. Sun was already down the horizon. Soon it started pouring and within a few minutes, we were all drenched in rain. The rain had made it difficult for us to ride any further.
We stopped at what appeared like office-cum-accommodation of a security guard. We told him about our situation and he let us wait inside. Only if we could have some hot tea with some Bollywood rain songs playing in the background.
After 15-20 minutes, the rain stopped. We expressed our gratitude to the man who had helped us and hurried back towards the town. I had never been so glad to be back at the hostel during a trip. Still, it was all fun as we had a story to share.
Returning Back with a Happy Heart
I had experienced a full day of fun after a very long period of time! I was so glad that I decided to go paragliding despite my initial fear and so was my friend! We both loved it and kept talking about it the whole day.
With a long journey ahead to get back home, we went to sleep early. The next day, with lots of memories and happy hearts, we left for home. During the journey, we talked about coming back again for another flight someday. What about you? Have you ticked it off your bucket list? Let us know in the comments!
Frequently Asked Questions
Bir and Billing are two towns located in the district of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh (India). These are very popular among travelers as a paragliding destination. Billing is the take-off site and Bir is the landing site for paragliding.
Paragliding for 20-25 minutes at Bir-Billing costs us INR 2500 including video and images. Depending on the time duration and the season, it may cost anywhere between INR 2500-4500.
In my experience, paragliding in Bir-Billing was very safe. You should go with licensed and experienced paragliding pilots and follow their instructions.
Buses regularly ply from Delhi to Bir and Baijnath. From Baijnath there are regular buses to Bir. Bus service is available from Dharamshala and Pathankot to Bir. The nearest broad gauge railway station to Bir is Pathankot.