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Here’s an attempt to pen down my experiences at Bir-Billing. Mixed feelings about this trip; no doubt it was fun and adventurous. But not the *perfect* experience that we had in Triund or Parashar.
Until the last day, it was not very clear who was going and who was not, nor was I certain about my own plans, thanks to my chest congestion and prolonged cough. Somehow we managed to pull each other in to the plan and also some extra people this time making it a group of *unlucky* 13. We had three new folks (Shruti, Sid, Gurveer) from outside AM who joined us with extra baggage 😀 which started off being a subject of mockery but ended up being a wise decision for all, most importantly for VV. Girls are known to be organized, well planned, high on C (and at times OCD too) and Shruti is no exception. She had loaded the bus with two crates of water bottles, chips, cakes, cold drinks and of course, tissue papers only to figure out the next day that half of it has been eaten away by the rats. Little did she know about the mallu monster sitting on the last seat.
Somehow we have not been able to get our strategy right with regards to booking the traveler from the right agency. Every time we are stuck with a driver who has his own whims and fancies, here was one who had little appreciation for nature and adventure. More so, he was all set to sabotage our plan with his weird suggestions of when we should leave Delhi and how we could postpone our trip to the following week. A word of caution to those who plan to go to Bir-Billing: go by Volvo, leave early in the evening, say 7 PM else you would end up wasting 15-16 hours on the road, or probably a little lesser if you manage to get a good driver.
Well, moving on to the more interesting details of the trip. Paragliding or Trekking? These were the two choices and the group was divided and I don’t recall how we arrived at a consensus. It would not have been an eventful trip, if we had missed out on paragliding, given Bir-Billing is the world’s second largest destination for this activity. We got a nice deal for Rs. 3500 (Camping, Bonfirre, Dinner, Breakfast and Paragliding). While some say it could have been cheaper, I was quite satisfied, more so after the paragliding experience.
On Saturday evening we had to reach our camping spot which was at a height of 1000 meters from where we booked our package. We went uphill mostly by traveler and the last couple of kilometers by walk and this is when it seemed like I have grown old all of a sudden. I was trailing way behind others, panting badly and taking too breaks through out the mini-trek. It felt worse when I realized there were a couple of people who had to wait for me at every spot to make sure I don’t get left behind. That’s the most horrible feeling esp. when your mind and heart really wants you to be independent and more agile while your body would just now listen. Somehow I managed to reach the top only to collapse for everyone to make fun and click dead-body pics 🙂 It seemed like an awakening call from above as VV kept shouting out ’27’ ’27’, nothing but my age though I was feeling ’72’ at that moment, sadly so.
The night was peaceful, the best part was that we had the camping site all by ourselves, there were no other tourists around. The weather got chilly, perfect for the bonfire, food was tasty and ‘dabbu’ was good company! The tents were quite warm and the sleeping bags were quite comfortable to sleep in. All excited and anxious, I woke up early in the morning at six to get ready for the big thing, paragliding. I just could not believe that I was planning to jump off the cliff despite my acrophobia. Every time I would look down at the city, I could feel the jitters within me as though current was passing through me.
While I braced myself to take on the flight among the first few people, unfortunately the wind was not in favor. We had to change locations before we could take off and I slipped to the last position in the queue. While it gave me ample time to strike a rapport with my pilot, I did not have any of my friends to provide moral support (read: jeer at me) and motivate me (read: scare me). What is your name?, where are you from? How long have you been doing this? How much time does it take? Do accidents happen? What if there is no wind? How do you control? I just bombarded my pilot with all sorts of questions in little time and he was patient enough to answer them and put me at ease. After all, my life was in his hands for the next twenty minutes and he had only one advice for me: Apko bhagna padega, apko bhagna padega… I was so tired of listening to this phrase that I felt as though it has been programmed into my head like a robotic message.
The moment was there, wind blew, the pilot gave a green signal, all I could hear was ‘Bhago’ ‘Bhago’, and within seconds I was off the cliff flying high. It was quite an effort to run, not because of fear but because the parachute was so heavy to pull! The next twenty minutes were the best moments of my life, forests to my left, snow-clad mountains to my right, floating in cool breeze, watching the busy city beneath me. I enjoyed every second and was wanted to spend more and more time in the air. The fear was gone, there was a sense of achievement. I felt as I though I had raised my bar.
We had to leave now, as it was a long journey back to Delhi and we also chose to stop by at Barot valley, it was a good choice. Serene little place with a river stream flowing by and forest mountains on all sides. A place worth exploring further in another trip. In all these places, there was little exploration with food and shopping. We ate what we got on our way. The lemon soda with masala is the only thing worth a mention. The lady was nice, social and all enthu telling us about her family and their experiences with death facing situations while paragliding.
There is not much to mention about my friends who came along as the trip was a little low on people interaction and group games. For most part, the group was divided into two sub groups, the only fun time was when I played cards and dumb charades with VV, Shashank, Jassi, Piyush, Manpreet and the Bhanu couple 😀 Keeping the obscene stuff out of this piece, I would leave the above phrase open for interpretation 🙂 The commanders (Nishant and Simar) were all by themselves, sitting at their commanders seats donning new roles of CCO and CCC, I forget what they are. They were quite disappointed about the fact that there was no music in the traveler, while the rest were saved from listening to the Punjabi beats. The only factor when the whole group was in one voice was when they would hear a bottle opening or a chips packet being torn open, as they all would quickly turn their heads to catch the culprit, you know who!
Thus ended our paragliding trip on Monday, back to work, with talks of what our next trip should be! A bunch of crazy travelers always looking for options, but with the corporate life, little choice we have as weekend is the only time when we can venture out. Next pit-stop skydiving is what my friends say, let us see. Though not mentally prepared as yet, if there is God’s will, there shall be a day when I write about my skydiving experience!! 🙂