– ODO- 11742 – 11873km
– Location- Near Darlaghat, Himachal Pradesh, India
– Weather- 14-32 Clear
(Thanks to Adrian for the photo)
I’m sitting for lunch in a large hotel on the highway out of Mandi and away from the mountains. This morning I cashed in the height I gained cycling up to Bir almost two weeks ago with sweeping descents in the cool shadow of the ridge.
I was greeted in Bir with a couple of days of thunderstorms and spent the first day working. The next day was Holi. The festival of colours. Making friends with the hostel manager I ended up surrounded by locals in a campsite up in the main village. Everybody greeted me with a face smear of coloured powder. We danced to a mix of trance and local music played – ads and all – direct from YouTube. I stayed for the morning until another storm began to build and I headed back for to prepare my glider to fly the next day. I hadn’t flown since Goa about 3 months ago so I used a break in the storm to so some ground handing practice on the landing field.
I’d heard a lot about Bir as a paragliding site. I watched a lot of videos too. But as the taxi reached the launch the next day the reality seemed much steeper. Several launch points are spread to the west, south and east of the north-south ridge. In the middle a couple of chai shops serve the solo pilots and tandem customers. Climbing to the very top launch Tibetan prayer flags spread outward from a central mast.
Even with the recent storms, spring weather and the surrounding mountains the wind never became gusty. In just 5 flying days I flew for over 10 hours surrounded by vultures, climbing up to 3500m and opening up the valley behind. The snow covered peaks from the Dhauladhar range a constant backdrop. While the thermals were sometimes strong, tugging at my harness, I flew almost every day. In the end my only limitation was my bladder. I needed to pee so badly that I sped towards the landing field – I didn’t think I’d be googling catheters at this age.
What really appealed to me the most and made me extend my trip were the other pilots. From the first day, meeting at the Surya hotel to share a taxi, or just walking down the street of an afternoon, every pilot stopped to say hello. Belgian, Chinese, Indian, British or Bulgarian. On top of the people, the village of cafes and hotels that’s built around the landing site offer food I’ve not had for almost a year. Vegan Italian. Hummus and falafel. Hand made pizza. I ate so well I’m stocked ready for be next two weeks cycling to Pokhara (for even more flying). Perhaps I’ll be back for the main season – October time – this year.