In October I recieved an email from a friend entitled 'Anyone for Billing'  One email later and I was busy arranging Two weeks in India flying the Himalayas.  Once flights, visa's and kit was sorted, along with permission from work and the wonderful Sam, I was on my way.

I departed Germany at 1000Hrs and after a four hour stopover in Moscow I arrived in New Delhi at about two in the morning.  I was not fully prepared for my first visit to the Asian continent.  I was totally overwhelmed by the sheer force of New Delhi, It is a living breathing City with what would appear to be a pulse all of it's own.  I have travelled a fair amount and yet stood there at three in the morning with my wingbag and a holdall, it is fair to say that I had more than a touch of trepidation about the whole journey.

Armed however with a vast amount of internet browsing and some useful tips from Duncan, I set off in a pre-paid Taxi to my web bokked 'cheap and cheerful' hotel.  Upon arrival I was at first a little shocked at the state and standard of the room, Hotel and general area in which I had chosen.  Very quickly though and under direction of the soon to be common phrase of 'you are in India now, Sir' I took it for what it was, a much needed bed with a roof.

Duncan arrived about 4 hrs later from Oman and after a quick nap we caught a rickshaw to Connaught place for some breakfast, followed by a day of walking round Down town Delhi, taking in the sights and sorting out some last minute admin for the trip, like mobile phones for emergencies etc.  Cannot believe that we fell for the 'this card will work anywhere in India, Sir' line though.  Still we managed.

That evening we hopped aboard the Volvo a/c coach and endured the 12Hr trip out and away from Delhi to Mandi.  A journey not for the faint hearted.  Road conditions, mad drivers (including ours), Non stop Bollywood on the TV and copious amounts of vomiting by at least 4 people on the coach were hard on the tired mind, but Duncan happily fast asleep and ssnoring his head off next to me was unbearable.  Fortunately a mid way stop for hot and spicy food and my introduction to the wonderful, hot, sweet and comforting Chai got me through the Journey.  Arriving in Mandi at about 5 in the morning, it was time to haggle for a taxi for the 2 hr taxi drive to the Tibetan colony of Bir, in the province of Himachel Pradesh.

With no lodgings arranged it seemed only sensible to sort this out first.  We visited the house that Duncan had last stayed in who referred us to his brother, and within 15 minutes we were set up with a local Tibetan family for the 2 week period.  Only in India!

I shan't bore you too much with the flying side of things, suffice to say that it was the best flying I have had, bar none.  I totally fell in love with the whole experience.  The Tibetan colony of Bir seems to be built on two types of people, devoted paragliders and those studying Budhism.  Interspersed into the local community of Indians and Tibetans it makes for an enriched cultural experience.  I made many new friends and shockingly enough in this remote corner of the world even met up with an old one.  One of the most memorable experiences I will have is top landing in the middle of nowhere, only to be joined by another dozen or so pilots within a quarter of an hour and whilst sitting atop of a mountain in the Himalayas being greeted by locals who seem to magicaly appear, whenever you land armed with huge grins and a massive pride in showing off whatever English they know.

I met, Dutch, Germans, English, Swede's, New Zealanders, French, Italians and Russians all in a friendly mixture of English and sign language willing to share their experience, knowledge and tales at the cost of a willing ear. 

I shall hold fond memroies of the journey and am already planning my return in October of next year to fly once more in the comapny of like minded people and the Indian Griffin Vulture.  I should not of course forget to thank Duncan who other than fabulous company and an excellent travelling partner is an all round good egg.  Without his nudge I may have not gone at all.  Cheers mate.

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