Snow-capped mountains, dizzying heights, fearless flying, and a fun-to-drive SUV! Is there a better recipe for a badass adventure?
For someone who has a penchant for dizzying heights and is a total badass at heart, freefalling from a snow-clad cliff sounds like a perfect weekend getaway. Well, that’s exactly what I had in mind when we ventured out to Himachal Pradesh for a long weekend drive. The plan was simple! Head to Billing Valley – the Paragliding Capital of India – and take off from there for the adrenaline rush of a lifetime.
The first task was to reach our destination as quickly and comfortably as possible. The choice of car for the trip was as simple as the plan itself – the Kia Seltos. Why? Well, first and foremost, this Kia itself has been soaring to dizzying heights ever since it hit the market. And second, it’s the symbol of badassery in its segment. Both in the way it looks and drives, the Seltos has its rivals well and truly licked. So, metaphorically, it was only fair to choose this badass SUV for a badass adventure.
Raining on our parade
So, while we had our car – the 1.5 diesel AT version of the Seltos – and route chalked out, the problem was that it had been raining in Bir for a week nonstop, which meant that paragliding was temporarily suspended.
At our breakfast halt in Murthal (well, that’s customary, isn’t it?) the rain started lashing down with full fury. Things were not looking good for us – while we were busy greasing our paranthas with butter, Himachal Pradesh was being coated with a thick layer of snow.
So, we called our local contact in Bir – and there still was a glimmer of hope. We learnt that the next two days in Bir were expected to have clear skies. Not all was lost – our adventure was still possible.
Slush n’ splash
The drive from Murthal to Chandigarh is pretty straightforward, but on this day, it was pouring down. But, thanks to the 6-speed automatic gearbox of the Seltos, it was smooth sailing all the way to Chandigarh. The ride-and-handling balance, high-speed stability, and comfort of the Seltos is impeccable - it’s really no surprise that it’s such a hit amongst the masses.
To reach Bir by next afternoon, it was absolutely essential for us to make it to our night halt, Dharamshala, by 9pm. And we did! I must add that it was possible only because of the immaculate road-network of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, and, of course, Kia’s confidence inspiring manners. The suspension is taut, the steering is direct, and the gearbox and engine are always ready to play in tune with your enthusiastic driving. And the inclement weather didn’t really bother us either since we were cocooned in the premium and cosy confines of the Seltos’ cabin. The crisp 10.25-inch HD touchscreen, coupled with the UVO connected car tech and the incredible Bose sound system, meant that even after 12 hours on the road there was no sign of fatigue. From Una, which serves as a mid-point between Chandigarh and Dharamshala, we started climbing and the tarmac got much better. The Seltos was absolutely in its element again. In fact, it was as if I experienced the sensation of flying even before reaching Billing!
As soon as we got to Dharamshala, we were welcomed by fresh snowfall – which, in just 15 minutes, transformed the place into a white heaven. We were still 4 kilometres away from our hotel, and we had begun to feel a layer of ice on the tarmac. But, surprisingly, even in these conditions, the Seltos felt completely at home. The Kia easily maintained traction, continuing the remainder of the journey unperturbed, with onlookers and fellow motorists waving at us in disbelief – trying to understand how were we driving on what was now a thick layer of snow. And that’s precisely what being badass is all about, isn’t it? Doing things outside of your comfort zone…which is exactly what we had set out to do.
The next morning, the sun greeted us from between the sparkling white peaks of Dharamshala – a sight that we were glad to behold. Apart from bringing in some much-needed warmth, it also made us optimistic about getting a clear day ahead. The next thing we knew, we were on the road to Palampur.
The drive to Bir didn’t take us long – we reached there in about two hours. On the way, we stopped and had a scrumptious breakfast at a nice café called Jungle Hut. However, after a quick chat with the owner of the restaurant, we learnt that the possibility of paragliding was very faint. ‘It had been snowing there for two days. The road is covered with 2 feet of snow. Also, the weather is unpredictable, so it might change drastically in the next 4 to 6 hours.’
It wasn’t an encouraging report for sure, but Billing Valley, from where paragliders take off, was in sight and only 14 kilometres from Bir village. On the other hand, thick clouds were approaching fast – casting an ominous shadow on our plan. But another ray of hope came once we learnt the forecast for the next day – the sky was going to be clear, and I mean crystal clear. The day after that was again reserved by the rain gods. So, we’d have to wait another 24 hours…
The next morning the sky was crystal clear – without even a single cloud in sight. Some calls were made hastily, and soon we were on our way to Billing – yes, we were going paragliding!
However, there was still snow on the road. We managed to cover the entire distance in the Seltos, except for the last mile. There was still a very thick layer of snow, so we trekked until we reached the ‘tipping point.’
Whether you’re a seasoned jumper or a newbie, running off the edge of an 8,000-feet high cliff, with full faith and conviction in what is basically a glorified umbrella, takes a lot of courage. In our case, it was even harder to get the momentum, since we were running on snow as deep as 2 feet!
After face-planting ourselves twice, we finally managed to fly away in our third attempt. The moment you leave the ground and fly, the surrealness of the experience hits you as realistically as you feel the wind in your face. There’s fear, no doubt, but the thrill is so intense that you don’t feel anything else.
Your feet feel light, as you, quite literally, float on top of the world. Time and again, turbulent air would rock and upset the balance, but instead of being scared for your life, against all odds, you revel in the madness. Conquering your fears is one thing, but turning it into an adventure and, then, screaming out in pure joy and emotion is what makes you feel like a badass!
As soon as we landed, I felt a sense of achievement. For starters, we were back on the ground alive and in one piece! Jokes aside, we had chosen the wrong time of the year to come here, but we still managed to have the thrill of the adventure that we set out to pursue.
Most importantly, we didn’t give up, even when the odds were against us. We pushed through the clouds of uncertainty and did something that made no logical sense. It was a total badass move, which, in retrospect, seemed to be timed to perfection.
Now, if you think about it, the Kia Seltos is not all that different. It confidently faced the adversity of the market & went against the headwinds of a slowdown. And, in the end, it came out on the other side triumphant. And it did all that not with restraint but with the gusto of an absolute badass – which it is!
The Seltos ensured that we made it to our paragliding destination swiftly and in total comfort.
Landing straight to an amazing spread – all in a day’s work at Bir.