Thursday, 28 January 2016

Exploring India's Breathtaking Landscapes

COUNTRY: Palampur
PROJECT: Individual
WRITTEN BY: Sarah Piplica

We woke up bright and early to get on the bus for Bir. There were some really beautiful sights as we drove through the windy streets closer to the mountains we had been viewing with awe all week.

When we arrived we began our trek - which was a 1.5km incline over 7km distance – very steep! It was like no trek I have ever done before. There was no rest, no flat, just incline all the way and I realised I hadn't mentally prepared myself for the ensuing aerobic exercise, or the constant burn in my thighs! Luckily, the views were incredible and worth all the effort. It was a perfect sunny day.

The mountains in the distance looked unreal, like you could easily paint their shapes different shades of blue - darker for the closer ones and lighter for the more distant ones fading into the clouds. So beautiful, competing only with the brilliant shade of blue of the sky.

On the way up our guide teased that we might see a bear. Apparently, this was unlikely – although possible. But we did see the most gorgeous white monkeys. 

When we finally made it to the top, 2 and a bit hours later, we were completely exhausted and paragliding down was going to be the most rewarding feeling as we could see just how far we had climbed.

I was keen to go first so when the first parasail had been laid out, and the strings untangled (hopefully) my pilot told me to take a running start off the cliff and continue running in mid air until he said stop. There is an awkward moment where you are running on the spot against the weight of your pilot strapped to you until the wind picks you up. My video shows me screaming as I run, although I don't quite remember it that way. And then you're running mid-air, 1200m over thousands upon thousands of trees. It is the most surreal feeling looking over this landscape of mountains. It’s unlike anything we have in Australia. The mountains look like archipelagos in a sea of clouds. Every now and then the wind picks you up and you feel weightless and like even your pilot couldn't possibly be in control. Your heart drops into your stomach. And it's freezing cold up there too.

When it was time to land, the pilot spun us around and around, he described it to me as "G-force", basically it lowers you down to the ground. You feel like you're in a washing machine. And then we were landing. I didn't bother to stand up, I wanted as smooth a landing as possible so hyperflexed my legs out in front of me at a right angle and landed as gracefully as I could on my backside with a huge smile on my face. It was an amazing experience I'd recommend to anyone.

After everyone had landed we went to a restaurant for lunch. It was only when we dug into these very delicious curries, rice and chapati that it occurred to us that it was 3pm and we'd had breakfast all of 7 hours earlier, not to mention we had done that massive trek. It was no wonder that we were calling for more of everything to the waiter. Aside from the hunger, it was the most amazing food I had in India yet and I was looking forward to coming here tomorrow. After lunch, we were driven back up the mountain to our camping site. Again, on this trip we were treated to the wonders of just how far we had climbed. In total it took one hour by car, circling up the mountain, to reach the site. Needless to say we were glad when we reached the top.

And it was breathtakingly beautiful. None of my photos could have done it justice. We reached it at sunset; we promptly put on our extra layers and made our way up to the fire for some garm garm (hot hot) chai. It was a nice little bonding experience, dinner, tunes and shielding ourselves from the cold around a camp fire.

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