I was planning a trek at the start of January with a few friends along with a few solo trips, when I came to be invited to the Instameet Birbilling that was being organised by @HIMALAYASARECALLING

I planned up my itinerary.

I was going to travel for 15 days.

As the flight was landing in Delhi, I took a good view at the clouds and wondered how this experience would turn out, of spending the NYE with complete strangers!

Once I reached Chandigarh, I was received by my friend Atul(instahandle @wildn0mad) and we had our evening snack and then headed straight out to Sector 43 bus stand at Chandigarh.

It was 8 p.m.

At the bus stand, we were joined by two of our fellow Instagrammers Priyanka( @priyanka_sharma58) and Heena. (@heena6614)

We’d taken an HRTC bus from Chandigarh to Baijnath.

We reached Baijnath at 4 a.m.

It was 10 degrees and we shivered in our fleece jackets.

At Baijnath we found a local tea shop which was open and its smiling Gaddi owner welcomed us and the four of us, Atul, Priyanka, Heena and I sipped chai and discussed about our travel freak lives.

We were waiting for the owner of @himalayasarecalling Harish Sharma and his friend Hitesh who were both joining us straight out of their Hampta Pass trek.

At Bir, our fellow instagrammer Manzeer Walia (@homme_de_la_montagne) waited for us.

Harish and Hitesh came a few minutes later with their huge backpacks and tents.

Not finding any bus at that hour, we decided to hike on foot to Bir, which was about 20 kms away.

It was pitch dark and moonless.

Stars shone in the sky and it took a while for us to get used to the darkness.

We stopped after hiking for around 3 kms and decided to wait for the bus which could come in a few minutes.

We sat stargazing on a totally deserted highway at 4.45 a.m.

Harish took out his Canon and started with his astrophotography.

I played my soft grunge music and lay down on the earth, staring at the stars in absolute silence.

In the distance Atul was having funny conversations with the rest of the gang.

After about half an hour, we finally got a bus and a few minutes later, we were on Bir Road, heading towards our stay the Garden View.

Garden View was a pretty hotel with a nice garden that had a badminton court and a beautiful view of Billing uptop.

Upon reaching, we were met with our friend Manzeer Walia who had reached the previous night itself.

We introduced ourselves.

Atul was an Engineer who worked at a corporate job in Chandigarh and was an avid trekker.

Harish was a Photographer and the owner of the startup HimalayasAreCalling and organised instameets and treks. He is presently studying Tourism Administration at HPU, Summer Hill, Shimla.

Manzeer was a hotelier from Chandigarh who loved traveling and was always filled with funny jokes.

Hitesh was an observant silent boy from Shimla who loved traveling and photography.

Priyanka was from Shimla and she worked at a corporate firm in Parwanoo.

Heena belonged to Chamba and she worked in the same firm as Priyanka.

I was a doctor,writer, poet and a travel freak who had her origins in Kolkata but was living in Maharashtra.

We got fresh and had our tea and coffee and then we played Badminton.

Our organisers informed us that after breakfast we would head to the paragliding site.

We had our breakfast at a local Parantha shop which served delicious paranthas stuffed with potato and cabbage.

Finding a food corner for vegetarians was a little difficult in Bir.

Having finished our breakfast,

We went to the paragliding landing site in Bir where we were given a gypsy car by our Pilots to head towards Billing.

Going to Billing from Bir on a Gypsy car for Paragliding.
Clockwise from left – Manzeer, Harish, Pradipta, Atul, Heena, Priyanka and Hitesh

We reached Billing and then our respective pilots gave us the training and information required so as to have a safe paragliding experience.

 

At Paragliding take -off site in Billing

Paragliding in Billing was an amazing experience.

It’s considered one of the safest paragliding sites in India.

The pilots receive intensive training and ensure adequate safety for paragliders, most of whom are only beginners.

Although all of us were extremely nervous and fearful, except Harish and Atul, we managed to paraglide and face our fears.

Flying in complete silence, with nothing but only the breeze in your ears was beautiful. I had become a bird, sailing in the sky, in complete silence, forgetting all my worries and fears.

Finding a restaurant in Bir, especially if you’re a vegetarian is a little difficult but on Bir Road you will find a few restaurants which serve authentic Indian food. You’ll have to walk, but it will be worth it. We went out, exploring the streets of Bir and enjoying some wonderful Chinar beer. It was deliciously good and a must buy if you are traveling to Bir.

 

 

 

 

Click by Manzeer Walia

Our night was now spent around a campfire especially arranged for us by the hotel staff.

Sitting around fire, I wondered, it would be so beautiful if every evening could be spent like this, with people you share your common interests with, your kindred spirit, getting to know each other, what motivated the other, the tragedies they saw and their coping mechanisms.

As the music played, and the fire crackled, we chatted about our lives, getting candid, singing, laughing, dancing, crying, and then welcoming the New Year with nothing but happiness.

Atul and Harish told us haunted stories from their various trekking experiences, and we shivered in the cold, walking through the dark deserted streets of Himachal and gazing at those mellow stars.

I was falling in love with every moment that I was spending with my fellow-travelers and I was feeling grateful to each one of them for having been such beautiful souls in this journey called life, where everyone is walking alone and facing their own problems but then what’s the most beautiful thing is that we can always fall back upon our friendship.

The following day we decided to go to Chokling monastery which is just a few feet off on the Bir Road.

Chokling Monastery is a must visit for everyone traveling to Bir. It’s a beautiful monastery spread across acres that also houses a school, a temple and a prayer room. The monks are quite friendly, but it’s best to find silence within yourself as you make your way into the Monastery.

It would be advisable to go to the monastery before 4 pm, so that you can attend the Evening chant, which is a thrilling experience.

Our friends Priyanka and Heena left us and now it was the five of us – Manzeer, Harish, Hitesh, Atul and I and we decided to camp in a nearby forest close to the village of Stain.

The villagers of Stain were very kind and friendly and they helped us get logs of wood for the campfire and some water.

We set up our tent and then lighted the campfire with the wood we’d fetched from the village nearby.

Our night was once more spent under a night sky filled with a billion stars and stories, conversations, jokes, and then total silence, doing nothing but huddling close to stay protected from the cold and wild animals.

I was reminded of Mowgli, and the embers of fire reminded.me of Raktphool, wondering if even if were being observed by someone behind those bushes.

The following day, we made some maggie for our breakfast and sang songs, eating that.

Our trip together had now come to an end.

And we hiked the remaining 3 kms to the Bir Bus stand, bidding our goodbyes, reminiscing the beautiful moments we had spent with each other, forging a lifetime of friendships, finding happiness,  and freedom from our fears about the uncertainties of life.

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