Author: Always A Foreigner Travel Blog
Author Bio: Caren and Cazzie met in India while volunteering in 2014 and have been traveling the world together ever since. As traveling teachers and constant adventure seekers, they’ve lived in Nicaragua and China, while taking shorter trips throughout Central America and Southeast Asia. They have big things planned for 2017 and 2018 as well. Head over to their travel blog Always A Foreigner for more of their travels, or follow them on instagram @always.a.foreigner!
Trekking and Paragliding in the Himalayan Mountains
While visiting McLeod Ganj in the Himalayan mountains, we went on a half day trekking trip to the top of a mountain, camped there for the night, and then paraglided down the following morning. This was one of the most adventurous things we have done while traveling, and was a memory of a lifetime. Here is our experience of trekking and paragliding in the Himalayan Mountains, and hopefully our information can help you plan your trip.
Trekking and paragliding in the Himalayan Mountains are located either in McLeod Ganj or Bir. The actual paragliding jump off is located in Bir, about 2 hours away from McLeod Ganj. The windy road on the way to Bir is amazingly picturesque, with deep valleys below and towering mountains above. The agency that we went through offered to find us a driver to Bir, but we decided to find our own driver for a cheaper price. This paragliding point is world renowned among enthusiasts, and even hosted the Paragliding World Cup in 2015.
Arriving in Bir, we were greeted by our trekking guide. They gave us trekking poles and made sure we had water, and then we were on our way. Because this trek was only a half day, we didn’t need much technical equipment. We wore regular gym shoes, brought rain jackets mostly to block the wind, and brought extra sleeping layers for the cold night in our backpacks.
At first it was extremely hot. Even though Bir is in the mountains, the temperature in the lower elevations that day was over 90 degrees F, or 32 degrees C. The trek seemed to be straight uphill, and the landscapes around us were changing from forests to rock quickly. I’ve never been so grateful to have trekking poles. The agency does give the option to be driven to the top of the mountain, but we are so glad we chose to trek instead…no matter how tiring it was.
If trekking is something you love, there are so many wonderful treks in the area. The tour agencies in Mcleod Ganj and Bir are able set up trekking tours much longer than just half a day if you would like.
As we reached the end of our trek, our tents and campsite were already set up for us by the trekking agency. We were offered scenes of rolling green mountains and a view of tiny Bir far below us. Our tents were set up in a nice row, and we were planning for a large bonfire that night to stay warm. The bathroom was quite literally a hole dug into the ground, with a tent surrounding it for privacy. While this was not my favorite part of the experience, it did get the job done.
Dinner with the Mountain Locals
Dinner was made for us by the family that lived in the stone house at the summit. Although the dinner was basic, but consisted of noodles, eggs, and crackers. After the long day of trekking, anything would have tasted great. They were also more than happy to share with us their homemade whiskey of sorts. Through our guides translations, they told us stories and jokes and answered questions about their lifestyle high up in the mountains. Most of the people that live in the mountains are herders, and keep goats or cows on their properties.
The night grew cold, and a heavy fog rolled in that obscured the views off the mountain. We bundled up and huddled by the fire as our guide played guitar and sang us different songs. Finally, the wind was too cold to bear, and we retreated to our tents and waited for the morning light. The tents are surprisingly wind resistant and warm, and sleeping curled up inside them was very cozy.
In the morning is when things got really exciting. Our guides helped us strap safety harnesses on, and explained to us how to jump off the mountain properly. The jump off point was even higher than where we camped, and we walked the extra 30 minutes up to the edge of a giant cliff.
We quite literally jumped off a cliff in the Himalayan mountains and had to just hope that the parachute behind us would catch the wind and we would soar. We were warned that if we hesitated at all, we would most likely go plunging into the ground far below….and to just keep running no matter what.
The feeling is indescribable. One second your feet are on the ground. The next, you’re lifted into the air looking at the ground below you. We were told to keep peddling our feet even after we started flying, and it looked a hilarious as we flailed our legs midair. It’s recommended to bring some sort of wind repellent jacket, as it can be cold while in the air.
GoPros were available for rent, or you could bring your camera or phone with you on the ride. I was so nervous that I would drop my precious electronics that I barely took any pictures at all.
The forested mountain tops go on as far as the eye can see, and in the distance the peaks are snow capped. You can see the trails the herds of animals have cut through the mountain. The lush green of the mountainside is almost untouched by humans. The view is absolutely magical. When people think of India, they think of over crowding and dirtiness, but this was a completely different country.
The ride lasted about 30-40 minutes, and at the end we did spiraling falls towards the ground as a “trick.” While I was holding on for dear life, my guide was laughing his butt off. The guides are all certified and recognized as paragliding professionals, and were planning on competing in the upcoming Paragliding World Cups. To them, these “tricks” were no big deal. When we reached the ground, he slowed the chute down and we glided to a stop.
Our trekking and paragliding in the Himalayan mountains adventure was over for now. I knew we would be back sooner rather than later. The cost for this entire adventure (trekking + paragliding + camping) ended up being about 2000 rupees per person with a little bargaining. This translates to only a little under $30 USD! We were able to get a little bit of a lower price due to us having 6 people, so a smaller group or solo might cost more. I honestly am not sure if I have ever spent a better $30 in my life. I’m so happy we busted out of our comfort zones to do this. It really sparked my love for adventure sports and activities. And of course, it made me fall in love with mountains a little bit more.
Check out these agencies for different costs and a variety of tour options. Trekking and paragliding in the Himalayan mountains is extremely popular, so there’s a lot of competition between agencies. There’s a package out there for everyone, so shop around!
Triund Trek and Bir Billing Paragliding (This is the company we used, and they were excellent!)