[Bir Tibetan Colony, Himachal Pradesh, India]
Disappearing into the wilds of the North Indian Himalayas for weeks and weeks at a time has its advantages, but it has led me to neglect my online friends for far too long. As a result, I’m going to blatantly abuse my god-like, dictatorial powers at Transglobalist.com to institute a new feature, which–with an appalling dearth of creativity and imagination–I am calling Transglobal Tuesdays.
Transglobal Tuesdays will hit newsstands worldwide weekly and will bring you up to speed on my previous week’s forays into transglobalism. This could mean anything, of course: new photo galleries, paragliding, cycling, music, travel tips, or observations of the local culture and politics (wherever “local” happens to be at the time).
For Transglobal Tuesdays #1, I think we’ll get back in the air and talk paragliding, saving a discussion of my recently completed, seven-week, 1200 kilometer bicycle tour of India’s Ladakh region for later.
In order to get myself back in the sky for the first time since May, I have traveled from Manali (starting and ending point of my two-wheeled adventure) to a small, friendly Tibetan community named Bir, nestled in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas and famous as a mecca for cross-country (XC) paragliding. This October, Bir Tibetan Colony is once again home to the pre-Paragliding World Championship (PWC) Indian Nationals competition.
In an average year the monsoon weather has typically cleared up by the first of October, providing strong, reliable flying conditions, and offering every imaginable option for visiting pilots. Anything is possible here: from sled rides (direct launch-to-landing flights with no thermaling) to single-night vol-bivouac flights (launching from one mountain, flying to another & landing atop it, camping there & flying back the next day) to serious, utterly unsupported, trans-Himalayan XC adventures lasting days or weeks. It’s an amazing place with a well-deserved international reputation.
Knowing all these things, I arrived here on October 2nd, ready to fly and fly and fly and fly.
Knowing that, the universe decided to throw a massive cyclone (that’s a hurricane to those of us from the Western Hemisphere) into the works, which stalled a late-monsoon weather system over the Himalayan foothills here in Himachal Pradesh. In other words, my first eleven days here were overcast, muggy, rainy, and unflyable. All this was foreshadowed upon my arrival five minutes into an earth-shatteringly loud and voluminous thunderstorm, natch. Many, at this point, would exclaim “FML!” Many, but not moi (having just reached the six-month point of and extended adventure tour throughout Asia, it’d be kinda stupid to focus on a temporary, transient downside, eh?)
And sure enough, four days ago everything changed.
As the cyclone made landfall and dissipated, the weather changed quickly; each day is now flyable, and each better than the day before as weeks’ worth of moisture are slowly cleared from the atmosphere. Mornings are gloriously clear, days warm, nights comfortably chilly–the basic starting materials for an unstable atmosphere and epic flights.
Yes. I said “epic.”
Today, for instance, my shortish, hour-long flight nonetheless included repeated trips from hilltops to cloudbase (and a bit above, if I’m being honest), a handful of valley hops in the direction of Dharamshala, and a sketchy off-landing in the middle of some farmer’s wheat field. This was followed by a 20km taxi ride back to Bir, including an earnest invitation from my driver to visit him and his family’s home for dinner the next time I land near his village.
[NOTE: Such invitations are common here, where the people are unbelievably warm, friendly, curious, trusting and incredibly hospitable. (It’s worth noting that in all of my travels, it has unfailingly been those with the least to give who are the most giving.)]
Not a bad day, in my book.
And, since my Transglobal Tuesday isn’t officially over yet, I’m gonna stop right there and go hang out with some of my new sky-loving friends here in India. The rest of you, I bid a fond adieu until next week–at the same Bat time, on the same Bat Channel.