I.N.D.I.A. = I’ll Never Do It Again – how many time’s I’ve heard it, how many times I’ve said it, yet I keep going back and back and back. I’ve been 4 times now and no doubt the fifth is in the offing.
Backpacking in India truly is an experience like no other, a full on assault on your senses. Sure it’s dirty, I won’t argue that but it’s real and that’s why I keep returning.
The last time I was there I headed to Manali, in the north of India (in Himachal Pradesh), amidst the Himalayas. Manali is about a 12 hours bus ride north of Delhi in a very rickety local bus. It’s a bit of a tourist hub so there’s plenty of stuff to see and do, cheap accommodation, delicious Indian food etc.
I was loving the respite from the Indian sun, it was 40 degrees in Delhi and ‘only’ about 25 in Manali which was just perfect. I saw a few temples, got my pic taken with a snake charmer (I know, such a tourist) but the main draw for me was paragliding in Manali. This was bucket list stuff for me, paragliding in the Himalayas!
So off I went to Solang Valley with my man Gurdeep I met in a bar, he told me he ran a paragliding ‘centre’ so I was sold. His ‘centre’ constituted 3 friends, a batter old van and some pretty worn looking gear, still you only live once right?
We hiked up a mountain to get to our paragliding spot, only then did I notice Gurdeeps like was all strapped up and he had a heavy limp. “Everything alright Gurdeep?” “Oh yes Johnny sir, I crashed last time I paraglided I crashed with the American girl, broke my leg sir, but don’t worry my friend is taking you today, not me”. Wonderful. Filled with confidence I nervously laughed, sweated a little more and carried on.
My two friends and I got to the top of the mountain, and we got strapped in. I fortunately (unfortunately?) got strapped in tandem to the Indian paragliding champion, but with my harness hanging off, and us ready to go my friend stepped forward and asked “shouldn’t this be strapped up?!”, “oh yes sir, very good, it should be strapping, hehehe”. And he strapped it. Brilliant.
The take off is the best part, you start sprinting down the mountain, you and your tandem guide until ‘whooosh’ he gets the right angle and you jet off the mountain top. Off we went, my two friends following in close pursuit. I was darting through the Indian Himalayas, hundreds of feet in the air and I really felt like I was living my life, terrified but ecstatic.
The views from so high up were amazing, and as my champion tandem partner begin chatting with me, he let the others pass quietly, gently, slowly until he told me he’d like to practice a few moves? Wtf? Before I said anything I’m bowling from side to side, spinning I sharp circles, about to lose my lunch, jealously looking at the serene arcs everyone else seems to be doing! My guy was loving it and we were hurtling towards the ground, overtaking everyone, then he landed smooth as silk with a little jog down the downward landing slope. Finished in 5 minutes. Awesome. Soon after my (hungover) friend landed, only to dart behind a tree with both a dose of Delhi-belly and air sickness, quite the sight and smell, much to the amusement of your paragliding guides!
Oh and at the end, there’s even zorbing ($3) to get you back down the hill!
If you make it to India, you gotta try this, it’s something else. And it’s so cheap too, check out the FAQs below to find out how much it costs.
How much does it cost to paraglide in Manali, India?
So unbelievably cheap. Basically it varies from about 400Rs ($7) to 2500Rs ($45). The $7 package is a fun glide for around a minute or so, for 5-10 minutes it’s around $20, and for $45 it’s a whole hour! I choose the middle option and it was perfect.
For more info, check out Ladakh tour packages