July 2008
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Billing in Himachal Pradesh

Major Sport Activities : Para Gliding, Hang Gliding
Best Time : March to June and mid August to November (hang-gliding); para-gliding (the whole year except for monsoons)
Prerequisite – Should be More than 15 years and should weigh between 45 to 85 kgs.
Billing height: 8,500 feet
Map of location of Bir/Billing (link)

Centuries ago, when man first began to look up at the sky and wonder what lay above him, he’s been captive to an inherent urge to fly- to soar above and see what the earth looks like from way up there. He has used balloons, developed flight, spacecraft, and so on. But the easiest way to fly (and probably the cheapest) is through the adventure sports of hang-gliding and para-gliding. In India, Himachal Pradesh is one of the centers of these sports. And inside Himachal, a small town near Palampur is one of the centers.
Called Billing, this small adventure village is one of the centers of hang-gliding in India, and has become extremely famous in the recent past. The bald peak of Billing, above the Buddhist monastery of Bir in Kangra, has been the venue for five national and three international hang-gliding rallies since 1984. The site is perfect for para-gliding too. Its topography makes it the most suited venue for future world paragliding championships. Billing in Himachal Pradesh is located at 8,500 feet in the Kangra valley. The massive Dhauladar mountain range and the Kangra valley below with its panoramic views offer opportunities for high altitude ‘up and down’ and ‘cross-country’ flying for more than 200-km.

Location of Palampur

View Larger Map

Billing is by far and away Himachal’s most prominent site for hang gliding and parasailing. It offers nearly a 100 km of clear, beautiful countryside where gliding is possible, and the Aero Sports Club at nearby Bir is a good place to go for assistance of any kind. Up to Bir town you can travel by any vehicle. The 14 km distance from Bir to billing is actually a rock road, whose rock cutting was done way back in 1962. It is advisable that this distance be covered either by foot or if by a vehicle then Gypsy or the Mahindra which are suitable for this terrain.

What is hang-gliding ? In Hang Gliding, you are suspended by a harness from a large type of a kite called a Hang Glider. Hang-gliding requires some training and handling the glider is tougher than handling the equipment using in para-gliding.
What is Para-Gliding? Para Gliding is another adventure sport that has caught the fancy of the people al over the world. The credit of introducing Para Gliding goes to Dr Francis Rogalo who constructed a flexible Delta Kite for gliding. But, the sport gained popularity only in early 80’s. It is lighter and easier than Hand Gliding and safer than Hang Gliding. This sport was introduced in India in 1991-92, when some foreign visiting pilots decided to explore flying possibilities in the Kullu Valley. The sport with its self-advertising nature soon charmed the Valley adventure lovers, who had till then been involved in skiing, trekking and rock climbing.

Bir has Buddhist Monasteries that are worth visiting. Fine Tibetan handi craft are also produced here. Bir, surrounded by tea gardens and an amphitheater of low hills, is an ideal landing around for para-gliders. Bir is famous for an annual fair, which is related to Holi festival. During the festival, locals come dressed in their best clothes and dance and sing joyously.

What to carry:
Warm clothing and a windcheater are a must, as the higher you rise, the lower the temperature falls, and it can get quite cold. Make sure you’re wearing sturdy ankle-support shoes, long trousers, and gloves. A pair of sunglasses and a liberal splash of suntan lotion are highly recommended too. You should also carry your own bedding, medicines, mineral water, etc. Smaller and more inaccessible sites such as Billing need not have the comfort of even small towns. The best time for hang gliding is May-June and September-October.

Basic accommodation is available at Bir and Chaughan Tibetan colony. The facilities are limited so its better to make arrangements in advance especially during season.
For Billing, fiberglass tents and tented accommodation can be arranged through the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation.
Chaughan Tibetan colony, Shakya guest house (basic amenities)

Getting there:
Air: Kangra has its own domestic airport at Guggal, which is 7km away from Kangra town and about 40 km from Palampur. Kangra airport is connected to Pathankot and Delhi.
Rail : Pathankot is the nearest railhead. There is an overnight train from Delhi to Pathankot. From Pathankot Palampur is connected by narrow guage railway. One can also take a bus or taxi to Bir from Pathankot.
Road: There are ordinary, semi deluxe or deluxe buses available from Delhi and other major towns of Himachal Pradesh to Dharamsala, Palampur, Baijnath, Jogindernagar or Mandi (all of them relatively close to Bir)
Contact details of the HP tourism dept located at this link.

Some videos of this sport in Billing (link)
A beautiful photos of para-gliding in Billing (link)
A great post outlining the adventure, the risks and precautions that you need to take (link)
Refer to this website if you are looking for more information (http://www.paraglidingindia.net/)
Pre World Cup : Bir/Billing, Himachal – Oct 2008 (link)
More videos of para-gliding ( link)

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