The Mountains are calling – By Ajinkya Pandharkar

The best view comes after the hardest climb, it is said. It is also said that all good things are wild and free. And what happens when you mix up the two? Read the travelogue to find out more.

Ever had an unshakeable belief that you had to do something? Well, I did. I knew it in my heart that the Himalayas were calling us. It was an unshakeable feeling and so, we went. 

And boy, what an experience it was! 

Surrounded by the snowclad Dhauladhar range on four sides, we were staying in the heart of the mountains, untouched by the commercial hostility and touristy shenanigans. It was Bir-Billing, and it made us feel its warmth, albeit the cold winter days.

In November, we struck a deal with the beach person inside us to let go the coast for now, and headed straight to the Himalayas.

Bir was the destination. Not because of the paragliding, but due to the small and quaint neighbourhoods, which beckoned us to its quiet yet cozy vibe.

Bir welcomes you with fresh air and a sky full of gilders, jumping into the abyss from a few hundred feet above ground level to experience the unseen. Famous for paragliding, this place has a lot to offer apart from the obvious, and it deserves a separate blog altogether. Also known for its small mountain cafés and one of the oldest Tibetan colonies, Bir is still surprisingly anonymous in the tourist maps of India. That, perhaps, makes it less crowded and more pleasant.

If you haven’t stayed in a small hamlet in the hills, this is the perfect place to make it as your first. This place is more popular amongst foreign tourists than Indians, mostly due to the adventure it offers with paragliding. There are no luxurious hotels. So, brace up to stay in hostels, and homestays, and trust me, that is the way to soak in and live it up in these mountains.

This is the place where the refugees settled in the 1960s, and along with them, they also brought in the culture. Thenthuk and Thukpa make a hearty meal, and momos, now a runaway hit as a street food in Indian metros, make up a delicious snack, which is offered in every household or street shops at the cost of nothing.

There are a few continental cafés too, which mostly serve Italian food, but if you want to try the best one amongst the lot, walk up to Gunehar to experience the vibe of a German-owned Four Tables Café. The food is freshly made, and entry is limited and strictly on advance booking. If you happen to visit on a Saturday, you will get to see a movie in the in-house theater, and sample their special woodoven-baked pizza. It’s a joyful small place you will regret if you miss.

There are also a few awe-inspiring monasteries, the Palpung Sherabling monastery being the biggest and most beautiful place of worship. These places are in the radius of 5-10 kilometers, which make Bir a perfect cycle-friendly destination. On a pleasant morning, hire a bike and wander through the woods, and explore the magical vibes of the monasteries remotely hidden in the neighborhoods.

These places not only showcase the Tibetan culture, but also act as peaceful places to sit and meditate. You will get to experience the power of silence, which is a rarity if you live in the metros.

If you have never been to Himalayas, Bir is perfect to start off with. It will broaden your perspective, make you learn about a completely different culture and gain amazing food experience.

Pretty much a complete place for the nomad in you to live it up!

Photo Credits:

Flickr by Fredi Bach

Flickr By Karunakar Guntupalli 

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