Tuesday, November 15, 2011

And I flew like Bird over Solang Valley - Thrill of Paragliding

This time weekend plan was to hit Manali and experience thrill of paragliding in Solang Valley. Anand, Jaideep and me traveled all the way from Nangal Dam to Manali on Friday  (11th Nov 2011) night. We arrived at Manali late night at 01:00 AM. Cold weather at Manali in night was a change for us.

Next day morning, the agenda was to reach Solang Valley for paragliding expedition. It was around 40 kilometer from Hotel where we stayed last night.

The road from Manali to Solang is same as Rohtang pass road untill 10 kilometers from Manali town. This valley has been blessed with nature's love in form of green lush landscaps, dense pine trees and spectacular snow covered mountains peaks.

Solang Valley is known for its adventure sports like paragliding and skiing. Thousands of adventure enthusiast makes a visit here every year.

The very first view of Solang valley looked like a paradise full of greenery. Para-shoots in clear blue sky increased the excitement to experience this adventure.

An excellently maintained Cable Car took us to the peak of the mountain along-with our pilots carrying big backpack of para-shoots. As cable car moved up, the valley looked too small and in a while we disappeared towards the top of the hill.

All three of us decided that I will go first, then Jaideep and finally Anand. As we reached at take off point, pilot started putting on harness and helmet on me. It all reminded me of my Bungee Jumping at Rishikesh in Dec 2010. The valley down was similar to that of Bungee Jumping. Little bit of nervousness, but I was all set for this thrilling experience.

Then there was a time when I was on front and all ready to pull the para-shoot against wind. The only thing I knew was that wind will push the para-shoot behind and we will have to pull it ahead with full force. As Pilot gave green signal, I started moving ahead along with pilot. It was really heavy, infact heavier than what I had imagined.

After five to six steps, I lost the contact with earth. Assuming that we have already taken off, I just stopped putting any effort to touch the earth. One hit on my legs and I was completely falling down. My head was down and we were falling really fast. Thanks to Pilot's skills that despite all this we were able to take off.

As the para-shoot took off in Air, the noise cooled down and view changed in seconds. Valley looked too small, dense pine tree forest looked tiny, people looked like dots and houses looked like small toys displayed for sale in Kids store.I could see the entire valley below us like a book full of painting. Zing zag wind moving up and down helped our para-shoot to take free falls and gaining height in seconds. This entire play went on for around 7 minutes when Pilot made an excuse that wind is not enough to stay flying for long.

No wonder I wished this thrill to last long.  While preparing for landing, one could feel the speed of falling down as gravity pulls down the para-shoot hard. Contrary to my impression, landing was too smooth. I did not even feel it at all.

Those 7 minutes, I wished to live it again. But we decided to keep this excitement in mind so that it becomes a reason to come back to this place again.

Soon Jaideep also landed. We waited for 5 minutes, 10 minutes and half an hour but Anand did not reach down. We called him up, but no reply on phone. We looked for organizer, he was also not around.

After sometime, Anand landed at Solang Valley. To our curiosity, he shared his experience. Anand and Pilot had crash in first take off, all credit goes to Anand's heavy built. In second take off finally they could be successful.

I watched for para-shoots flying in sky for long and wondering if I can take para-shoot alone in sky and hover around full Himalayan range. Free like birds to fly from one beautiful place to another and story continues.

It was not only paragliding which made this weekend special but also a nice and humorous company of Jaideep and Anand added spice to it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bike Trip to Chamba - The ride back to work via Chamba Jot

My journey back to work from Hometown started after spending two days at home. The distance to be covered was 300 kilometers which was full of narrow hilly terrains.

This time I had no choice than to ride non stop as I had only this day available with me. I started my journey back at 7:30 AM. Those awesome serene views and Ravi River flowing along was spectacular to watch. Until Chamba I did not see any traffic. Moreover being cold morning people were not yet out of their homes.

After reaching Chamba, I had two choices for route, one goes through Banikhet and other goes through Jot (highest pass of Chamba) and reaches Nurpur. The second option was my choice because of the terrain it offers and beautiful landscapes one get to see.

The diversion from State Highway towards Chamba Jot started with Steep uphill and narrow link in the middle of crowd of various shops. In entire Chamba bike trip this was the time which I enjoyed the most. Me and My Bike, we were the only two riding on those blind narrow curve with elevation of around 70-80 degree.

From Chamba to Jot is around 35 kilometer and this is all steep uphill with narrow roads, hardly a car and a bike can cross each other at their normal speed. Jot is highest pass of Chamba. 6 - 8 months this place experiences extreme cold and snow. There are limited number of shops here offering Tea and food. As I reached there, I first ate my breakfast and then headed to trek further to explore this place. After walking for 1 kilometer I reached at the extreme top of the mountain which was relatively plane area.

The view from top was breathtaking. One side one can see villages of Chamba district and on the other side one can see some areas of Kangra district. The green lush paradise under open sky, looked beautiful and soothing to eyes. I spent an hour wandering at Jot, clicking pictures and relaxing for a while under soft sun.

I resumed the ride soon after reaching at Road. Now steep downhill ride was going to be boring for me due to my less comfort with downhill fall. Above this the road came out to be broken and horrible. I stopped at many places, this time not only to click pictures but I had started feeling tired of that downhill fall.

On this narrow terrain, I escaped thrice from getting under Local Bus on blind curves. For those local drivers it was quite normal, but every time it happened with me, I told myself to be more careful here.

The steep downhill road of Jot ends at place called Chowari. After crossing Chowari, the traffic increased significantly with every tom, dic and harry riding bikes at great speed without helmets.

Soon I crossed Nurpur and Jassur. I was pretty accurate on time keeping in mind that I had spent lot of time at Jot and then rode very slow on downhill.

After Jassur, I had picked up decent speed but I was unable to understand that why it was taking longer time than normal.

By 2:00 PM I was near Pong Dam and this was the day when I was about to ride over Pong Dam bridge in clear weather. The beautiful pure blue water of dam made me enjoy the view before I rode ahead. The Pong Dam experience always brings unique feeling. Riding over bridge in the middle of huge dam on both side and  bridge made at height of not more than ~ 20 meters from water level is truly amazing to see.

My last lap of trip from Mubarakpur to Nangal was again horrible because of dirty broken/under construction road.

This trip was special because it was on the route which I had never done on bike before but traveled a lot on that. So a unique feeling of riding on those spectacular and unexplored routes made me feel proud of it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bike Trip to Chamba - Khajjiar to Chamba & beyond Day 2

It was afternoon time when I started my ride from Khajjiar. Now ride untill Chamba was steep downhill. Somehow I am not comfortable riding in steep downhill terrains, so my focus on road was more than the serene  views around me changing with every curve. However after a while my stoppage for photographs continued.

One can see Chamba town after few kilometers down from Khajjiar. It looks huge especially after crossing through Dalhousie and Khajjiar with isolated roads and dense forest.

Before I could reach Chamba, I sensed that my bike need small maintenance of chain and breaks. So I decided to visit Royal Enfield Service Centre in Chamba. It took me half an hour to service the bike, and then I was confident to ride ahead.

I rode through Chamba town, and took diversion towards Bharmour to reach my hometown, which was 35 kilometer from Chamba. These 35 kilometers were supposedly the most difficult one. I filled my beast with petrol pump which was the last petrol station on the route.

Assuming that nothing need to be done on bike after filling petrol, I pulled the clutch and shifted first gear down to move on my ride. There came the twist in ride, Clutch cable broke down. In contrast of weather of Dalhousie and Khajjiar, Chamba was hot in afternoon time. I inquired about mechanic shop, thankfully it was just half a mile away. A local boy helped my out moving 300 KG heavy machine on crowded road. Sweating was too normal after pushing bullet for half mile on uphill slope. With my good luck, I was carrying  extra clutch cable. Not to be surprised that mechanic did not have clutch cable of my bike.

The journey after repair of my bike was smooth, and road ahead turned out to be pretty decent. Every mile on this road reminded me of my old memories of travelling on this road in local buses, sometimes early morning with lot of luggage, sometime travelling standing in bus, sometime travelling with bad health, sometime travelling on roof of bus and most importantly travelling from Chamba to hometown with lot of excitement without any specific reason.

Memories of my old times in Chamba and places around it got refreshed in my mind. This road was so familiar that I just kept on riding with countable stops to capture the pictures.Perhaps I am so familiar with each and every landscape of this corner of the world that my camera will not be able to capture it better than my heart does.

With my brain running into past and coming back to present with sudden appearance of a vehicle on curves, I arrived at my destination.

Another story to remember, another ride to count for, another experience to possess for lifetime.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bike Trip to Chamba - Khajjiar, Mini Switzerland Day 2

In two hours from Dalhousie, I arrived with my Classic 500 beast at Khajjiar. After a joyful ride and serene landscapes, I was not at all prepared for the spectacular beautiful landscape of Khajjiar. I had never expected that this small place can be such a wonderful paradise. The greenery of this place was extremely soothing to eyes and incomparable.

Being, so called "Off Season", Khajjiar was not at all crowded and this is the way I like to visit such places. I parked my bike on road side, offloaded my backpack and got down there in to the beautiful landscape. Khajjiar is small place surrounded by forest of pine trees and in the middle of mountains there is beautifully maintained huge landscape spread in acres.

It took me a while to believe on my eyes to see such a wonderful place. By the time I realized that its a reality I had found a place on beautifully cut green grass under sun to spend sometime alone.

At one end of the landscape, there were small tea shops and restaurant. On the other extreme end of the landscape I saw a small cottage, which fascinated me a lot. I inquired about it and learnt that its a guest house maintained by Himachal Tourism. A zeal to spend a day ignited inside me. But will be fulfilled later.

Sitting in calm environment of Khajjiar, I never realized when I spent two hours sitting there listening to Song "Nothing gonna change my love for you".  

The best thing to see Khajjiar from birds eye is paragliding here. Organizors charge pretty decent amount for paragliding here, but trust me, its worth considering. Shortage of time did not allow me to climb to that tall hill and then take off. But two things were planned that day itself, one to stay in cottage on extreme end of the landscape and second paragliding.

My meal here was again, Maggi. Every-time I eat it, it taste more interesting than ever.

Before I fell in more and more love with Mini Switzerland I decided to move ahead. So with little disappointment and little happiness I rode ahead down towards Chamba.


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