Bir-Billing & McLeodganj: A Flying Adventure-Day 1

A great man once said the wise words, “All great adventures cannot begin until you have a great inner desire and.... a long weekend

Well I just made it up but isn't it true for all the riders like me who are slogging their asses in the corporate world. Hence such an opportunity should never be missed and always plan your ride for the long weekends in the calendar. Paragliding at Bir was long pending in my list of things to do before I…make another list and last long weekend of 24th-27th March 2016 was the perfect time to do so because I had enough number of days in hand. And so I packed up for this 4-day ride in my Viaterra Fly GT tankbag which doubles up as a tailbag too. I will upload its review soon. Now regarding the paragliding charges I was already in touch over email with one of the guys in Bir and he quoted Rs. 2500 for a 20 min tandem flight. He was very helpful in giving complete details about accommodation etc. in his camp. He informed about two routes which I can take:

Route 1:- Delhi – Ambala- Nangal – Una -- Amb – Paragpur/Mubarakpur – Kangra – Palampur – Baijnath – Bir:- 550 KM

Route 2:- Delhi – Chandigarh – Bilaspur – Mandi – Jogindernagar – Bir:- 530 km

I was advised that Route 1 is better and within that Mubarakpur is the highway route and Paragpur is the heritage village and shorter by half an hour. I decided to go via Mubarakpur. 

550-560km of distance to be covered and a long weekend on top of that, which means whole of Delhi will be on road for their getaway on the weekend. Had to leave early to reach before dark and I had full trust on my Duke. But somehow you don't get sleep before the ride. I managed to wake up at 5am and hit the road at 5:50am. Morning ride is always chilly and considering I was riding to a colder place, I was wearing the liner inside the riding jacket which was a good decision because the early morning wind makes you shiver and slows you down. Now I know people are fascinated to make a stop at one of the dhabas at Murthal for breakfast but it was too early for me to stop. Found some amount of traffic till Murthal and after that the roads were clear mostly and you start enjoying the road and the ride. I continued riding until I covered almost 112km and at stopped for petrol at 7:15am  and then after doing 178km I stopped for breakfast at 8 am at this place. 

I avoid crowded places for my meals during a ride. Also unless you stop at a shop like CCD, 99% chance that you will have to eat a paratha + tea on this route.

Took my hands to the pocket to take out the wifi-dongle but it was not there. Where could it go? It was right there at last stop which was the petrol pump. But wh...alright.. I did take it out at the petrol pump and visited the toilet and forgot it there. Amazing, you must be wondering why do I need wi-fi connection to visit the toilet lol. Anyways, I was way ahead of the petrol pump and I continued.

'Why are you riding alone?', 'Where is your group?'. I have been asked these questions so many times that I feel I should get a dummy mannequin and tie it up on the pillion set with bungees and hope people will stop asking these questions. Can't I just ride solo?!

Notice that you don't have to enter Chandigarh and instead go via Ambala and take the right after Ambala which is not to be missed otherwise you will keep going straight to Ludhiana. Once you take this right from Ambala the roads are very smooth and you will enjoy the ride. 

Do not worry about petrol pumps and there are plenty of them available all along the highways. I was doing good speeds of 110-120 and reached Anandpur Sahib gurudwara before Nangal. It was the day of Holi when I was riding and I was completely unaware that it was also the day of Hola Mohalla which is a major festival in Punjab. Because of this there was MASSIVE traffic jam at this point. Trucks, cars, bikes, cycles, tractors, buses all stuck at the same point and even the pedestrians were having a hard time to move. Because of this traffic jam I covered 2 km in 1.5 hours! To make things worse, it was already Low Fuel Warning on my bike and I wondered if I am going to run out of fuel in this traffic jam itself. So crawling my way out of this traffic jam I just opened throttle as soon as I got the chance to come out of it and it felt like FREEDOM. I also got a petrol pump in 2km and refueled. By this time I had covered 370km at 11:30am. I estimated that I should be reaching Bir at around 3pm may be with 1-2 stops?

Once you cross and Una and are approaching Amb, you will start getting the views of the snow clad mountains and after Amb the climb starts. I had to stop to grasp this view and reinforce the fact that mountains are here.

I was not carrying my DSLR so please adjust with the Moto G3 pics!

(Also with this ride story I will be experimenting with live audio bits during the ride. Let me know what you think about it! )

And some pics at Amb-Mubarikpur route 

Once you reach Kangra you have to continue moving towards your right to Palampur after this sign board 

By the time I reached Palampur it was 3:20pm and I was dying of hunger. There is a CCD at Palampur and its right on the road so you will not miss it. Stopped here and got some bites and liquid to recharge myself. At this point I stopped worrying about reaching Bir before dark because it was not very far from here. I spotted a brand new Ninja 300 all equipped with saddle boxes etc. I asked the owner if he rode in from somewhere to which he replied," No I just live 10 mts from here". And I thought, things people do to show off. After the refreshment break here I continued to Baijnath and the roads are decent. At Baijnath faced some traffic because there are some temples here. Make sure you get fuel at Baijnath because there is no petrol pump in Bir, so even if your tank is half-full please top it up.

After Baijnath, the road to Bir is beautiful like a dream. This is combined with the view of the greenery around, the mountains and the chill in the air. I missed riding in this combination of elements and this is what changes your mood and mind completely all of a sudden. For me it works wonders and uplifts me. To add to this I spotted people in their paragliding flights and it got me more excited. There were prayer flags waving because of the breeze and the atmosphere was just so pleasant.

As you are approaching Bir you will find some homestays, guest houses but avoid that. After you have reached Bir you have to take the left from the chowk and after riding for few minutes you will again find some stay options which will give you better views from your room for sure.

Regarding my stay here, I had done some search online and found that there are many guest houses available in all budgets in Bir and gave a call to Mr. Tashi from Choukling Guest House (8894112325) for confirming a room for me. For 400 Rs. I got a good clean room with Wi-Fi connection and 3 cute dogs to play with! (Hot water- they will give you an immersion rod). If you are a budget traveller like me there are plenty of stay options like this here.

And the view from my room of the Choukling Monastry. The weather was pleasant. 

Reached Choukling guest house at 4:30pm after covering 558km. Tashi asked if I am interested in paragliding and told me it will cost Rs. 2000 and I will be picked from the guest house itself. This was a better deal for sure and so I asked him to confirm my name for tomorrow. The rates are set to go up with the season just picking up.

After taking a bath I came out to take a walk around. The overall impression of this place is on you is that it gives you peace. Choukling Monastery is comparatively the smaller one here than Sherabling Monastery which is few kilometers before Bir. As I walked towards this Monastery I saw beautiful grass with little flowers on it. The sky was already playing a beautiful background. 

Look at those mountains and imagine the feeling of being in their laps. I could sit here for hours. There is something about monasteries which speaks a lot to you without being loud like temples. Even the sound of the monks chanting and the drums along with it doesn't seem to be too loud. There were people sitting here simply chanting with their beads.

I came inside and I was welcomed with this ambience. I saw some monks (students) being busy in preparation for the worship for the next morning. They can speak Hindi and English so you can talk to them :) 

I am glad I visited this place because for a while you are at a place with completely different lifestyle and you can totally notice it. This adds to your many perspectives about our lives. Outside the monastery I saw some guys playing football and I sat down for sometime to watch the game. 

After that I came back to the road and continued walking towards the place which was the landing spot of the paragliding. It was just 5 minutes from my guest house. There are many small cafe's here as eating options which serve Italian, Israeli and Tibetan food. There is a fruit wine shop and I don't think you will get any alcohol here. Most of the shops were closed today although I did not notice any influence of Holi here, except for few kids who were playing with water guns. It was very quiet but a 'good' quiet and not 'scary' quiet by now but the sound of birds chirping kept it the life on. There are many dogs and they are very friendly. 

Do try the bun-tikki from the stall by a lady near the landing spot. It was too good! Spent some time here in watching people landing after their flights and can't deny I was already excited for tomorrow. 

Had an early dinner, came back to room and cleaned my helmet. By 7:30 pm the shops were already closing down. This sudden change in routine makes you think about the differences in urban life and village life. But I was tired anyways by now and it didn't take long for me to fall asleep. Overall a great ride today except for the mess at Anandpur Sahib which was the spoiler. The bike worked like a charm as ever without giving any issues. And please do not hesitate to ask for directions from the locals if you get confused at any junction. I also spotted service centers of Bajaj and Hero at Palampur.

And then I told myself: Tomorrow I fly! (Day 2 ride story coming soon.)

Total km: 558
Expenses on Day 1:
Breakfast: Rs. 65
Fruit chat and soda: Rs. 55
CCD: Rs. 217
Petrol: Rs. 1450 
Bun Tikki:Rs. 20
Dinner+Coke: Rs. 100
Total: Rs. 1887

Day 2 ride story: Click Here
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  1. You really had great trip overall.I got an idea for my own trip to Delhi as well.I would write this experience of yours on the adventure column of superior essay website.

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  3. Good work. I think that I must try to cook this dish at my home so that I may be able to have something good to be prepared at home.