Kamal Singh Oberh
1918 – H1N1. 1957 – H2N2. 1968 – H3N2. 2009 – H1N1. 2020 – COVID-19.
Fear? No fear! We humans are known to have overcome the biggest of the epidemics and therefore COVID-19 too shall soon be a thing of the past and go down the history books as did its cousin viruses decades and century ago!
Once things settle down and life starts to get back to a little normal, we’d have the urge to go out. To feel ‘free’. To travel. To explore. Or would it be to feed the hunger of adventure in us?
Talking about adventure, let’s explore a colourful sport that brings mankind closest to flying like a bird in the sky. Paragliding! It is an adventure sport that primarily makes use of an elliptical parachute that is specifically designed in such a way that as it flies through a column of warm air (thermals) it has the potential to ascend. No wonder paraglider pilots soar much higher than the place they take off from. This is the only sport that gets mankind to a platform where he soars like a bird in the limitless sky with total peace all around him. Yes – believe you me! It’s absolutely calm up there. No sound – No noise – at all, whatsoever! It’s just you – and you alone up there, sandwiched between the blue sky above and the beautiful earth below! What a feeling! What a bliss! What an experience! What are you waiting for?
There are primarily two ways of enjoying a paragliding flight. First, to go as a tandem passenger with a qualified paragliding pilot. And the second, to qualify yourself as a solo pilot which is the only way when you would actually get to experience, to feel – that – ‘the sky is the limit’! I bet you’d remember these words of mine the day you take your first solo flight.
Paragliding is an adventure sport that has become quite popular in the adventure tourism circuit. More and more paragliding sites are being commissioned across the country as each season passes by.
Next door to Jammu, nestled in the South West slopes of the Dauladhar mountain range is this small time town, Bir Billing, near Palampur in Himachal. Bir Billing is one of the most popular paragliding sites, not only in India, but the world.
The books define Dauladhar range to rise in the lesser Himalayas from the plains of Kangra. On a closer look at this range on Google Earth, one can see this range linking across the Ravi valley with the Pir Panjal in Jammu region.
So what does the above imply? Could the high mountain reaches in Jammu too be good paragliding sites? Well, the one word answer to this would be – Yes!
Our ranges offer us excellent locations for paragliding as well as camping. Higher launch points. Longer flights. Excellent soaring pockets. Amazingly breathtaking views. And above all – An experience of a life time! Despite the windows of these amazing takeaways the potential of paragliding has not been harnessed in our region in the past two decades, and this novel dimension of adventure tourism still remains unexplored. Where explored, not initiated. Where initiated, not sustained.
With due respect to our next door neighbour – Himachal, once this new chapter of adventure tourism opens up in Jammu the overall experience of paragliding in Jammu region would be far greater as one gets higher and longer flights, with much more breathtaking aerial views that would be exceptional life time experiences.
Meanwhile. It’s all about roads! Let’s not forget the superlative medieval origin proverb that remarked in praise of the great Roman Empire, ‘All roads lead to Rome’. So – as I said – it’s all about roads.
Paragliding has tremendous potential to give a new dimension to adventure tourism in Jammu region. However, for that to happen, the administration would need to give a serious thought to commission requisite infrastructure on ground, which in this case is mostly road connectivity and thereafter accommodation/basic amenities.
While there are multiple excellent paragliding sites in Jammu region, healthy, meaningful and encouraging adventure tourism would still have to wait, until it gets that little nudge from the Government that would literally push adventure tourism off the ledge – where it’s been sitting for quite some time now!
Tock! With this, the ball is in the Government’s court – awaiting much required fillip of Adventure Tourism.
All said and done, and notwithstanding the above, I’m personally hopeful that we could just be around the corner, before a new chapter of adventure tourism unfolds in our region, colouring the blue skies of Jammu with multiple coloured paragliders, soaring like birds high in the sky – in peace – in harmony – in bliss!
Until next time – blue skies and happy landings!
(The author is a qualified Parachute Jump Instructor and recipient of Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award for excellence in Aero Adventure Sports)
Kamal Singh Oberh