Road Trip to Bir Billing
You probably heard about this place because of paragliding. Well, if you’re excited about paragliding, this is the right place to be. Any time of the day you look up in the sky, you’ll see 15 paragliders floating down the Himachal breeze. What’s more, it can be easily done over the weekend from New Delhi.
Here’s how 3 bums from Delhi who just wanted to go on a road trip since their 90s childhood finally did it after turning 25. Prabhu, Ganj, and me. Hired a Honda city for 3 days (that cost us 12k).
The route: Delhi — Ambala — Rupnagar — Anandpur Sahib — Una — Amb — Kangra — Palampur — Bir
Travel was sweeet. Top class roads, 550 km done in 13 hours including 7 leisurely stops for food, tea, stretches and pictures. Beautiful countryside all the way. The rented car had a excellent sound system, so that helped.
Pre-booked an ultra cheap place called Bhawani Guest house. Run by an old couple, whose son is a doctor and runs an ayurvedic facility in the same building. The old man is extremely talkative and friendly, so make use of his wisdom as much as you can.
We got a shed by the building to ourselves. 800 a night. Cozy as you can get. Brilliant view, facing due east.
Bhawani guest house is in upper Bir. No one else will tell you this, but there isn’t much to do there, other than enjoy the peace, interact with a couple of villagers, or play with goats, chickens and dogs.
The tourist activity is down in ‘Main Bir’ — 3–4 km from upper Bir. All the exotic eateries and little souvenir shops etc. No peace down there. Lots of tourist vehicles, lots of pollution. But oh what food. The tibetan food is so authentic, you don’t want to not use chopsticks.
Now, about paragliding. There are countless licensed paragliding agencies up there, and they all charge the same amount(1800 per head) . 500 extra for a GoPro video of the entire thing.
Billing is about 14 km from Bir. The paragliding agent will take you there free of charge, because he’s the one responsible for flying you down. The ride uphill is enchantingly picturesque, incredibly steep and notoriously bumpy, and if like the 3 bums that we were, you choose to sit in the back, make sure you don’t have back problems.
There’s also the less taken option of trekking up to and camping at Billing the day before your glide. We didn’t take that, but we kind of regretted it. Camping up there should have been done.
Glided down, fooled around at the landing site, grabbed some cold ones , enjoyed top notch wood fired pizza on the rooftop of a psuedo-Israeli food joint and sat staring at the sky just magnificently spotted with gigantic manmade butterflies.
Bir is a beautiful place because tourism hasn’t hit it too hard yet. However, with the added advantage of the internet, the increasing rate of growth of tourist activity is alarming as much as it is exciting. We’re still a country where ‘tourists’ invariably translates to pollution. There are already beer bottles strewn all over the hills. Streams and creaks are already choking with plastic waste. Whatever you do there, ladies and gentlemen, leave the place cleaner than you found it.