A trip to Rishikesh (a holy city in Uttarakhand) can rejuvenate you in ways more than one. One of the ways that I tried has been illustrated below. An amazing experience to share.
There are three kinds of holidays that people usually make. The first one is the spiritual holiday, where one makes sure to find himself again and connect to the greater power of the universe. The second one is adventurous, where one tries to get in action and make the adrenaline rush in the body. And the third one, probably the most popular also, is when people do nothing. People just relax, enjoy the natural ambience and let the mind take some rest.
One of the places in India, where we can get all the three, very popular amongst both Indian & foreign tourists is Rishikesh. Located in Uttarakhand, at the foothill of Himalays, this place is just an hour’s drive from the holy city of Haridwar. There are hills on a 360 degree view of the city, the Ganges flow at a good pace from the centre of the city.
The purpose of visiting Rishikesh this time was to enjoy some adventurous sports. The hot climate and cold water in the river is a great combination to enjoy rafting in the Ganges. Taking a dip in the Ganges is considered holy, but rowing a raft in this fast flowing, deep river is often risky. And this is what adventure sports is all about, to make the heart pounding against the chest, as hard as it can.
A long weekend of 3 to 4 days is enough to carry on with such a trip, that includes the to and fro travel from Delhi to Rishikesh. A lot of beach camps are available at a place called Shivpur which is 15 kms ahead of Rishikesh towards the Badrinath Highway. The camp needs to be pre-booked to make the stay easier. Rafting plus camping can cost anywhere between 1500 INR to 2000 INR depending upon the campsite and also the length of rafting. Camping includes one night stay in tent, meals for 4 times, some snacks with the bonfire.
The camp that my group chose is called ‘Paddlers Zone’ which is a river side camp. It’s a beautiful camp, especially on the moon lit nights. We reached the camp early morning at around 8 and the rafting was planned for our group at 10, post the breakfast. Each one of us signed a waiver stating that we were ourselves responsible for any kind of damage or mishappening happening to us, which is true in almost all risk involving activities.
Life jackets, helmets and paddles, all are provided at the camp and is very very essential for this act. Life Jacket keeps us on the surface, in case the raft turns upside down and we all fall into the river (yes! That does happen at times). But there is nothing to worry about, as there is a rope present all around the raft, which is always in reach. Besides, the guards are strong enough to pull us back into the raft.
After a full session of explaining the commands and a little practice near the banks of the river with the guide throwing those command at us, the voyage begins and we set out in the river with a very powerful slogan “Ganga Mayaa ki Jai”.
And the raft goes on, downstream with the flow of the river. All 8 people in the raft have to follow the command of the guide unanimously, and that is how the skill of team work is learnt. The front two forwards have to be really strong and tough. Soon we encounter our first rapid, i.e. the white waters, where the flow of river is not straight, instead its like a turmoil forming some circular fast motion.
The first raid is called ‘Return to the center’. And it does return us to the centre of the river. The flowing river takes us towards the hills, but as soon as we reach there, the white water rapid with its fast circular motion brings us back and we keep rowing our raft in the forward direction. For sometime the river seems silent, but in no time, we see another rapid.
The guide pumps energy into us with another slogan “chur mur chur mur dhoom dhadaka, hoo ha hoo ha”. And we row faster than ever on this rapid called the ‘Roller Coaster’. The raft goes up high and comes down, water is splashed on us from all sides. And as soon as we reach the silent river, the only word that comes to mind is Wow!, what a view, greens, hills on both sides and river in the middle.
Soon, the guide said, “Now you have to find the river”’ and we found it strange, “how!!, we are already into it”. But it was true, at the next curve river was not visible. There were probably crests & troughs. And that is where our next rapid ‘Double Trouble’ arrived. In a jiffy, we were on a bumpy ride unable to understand whether we were in air or in water, the raft went so high and suddenly came down. This was the rapid where we felt the maximum adrenaline rush and the heart kept pounding fast.
Our next rapid ‘Initiation’ was under the “Laxman Jhula”. As soon as we finished fighting against the white waters, the guide commanded us to jump into the river. Body Surfing, as it is commonly known. The huge waves of water still kept on coming over us and we continued to be immersed in the Ganga water. That was actually a breathtaking act, the only hope was the rope, that all of us were holding tight.
When the rapid finally ended, we kept floating along with the flow of river almost for the next 2 kms. The sun was shining over us and we were dipped in that cold water, that felt very relaxing. The life jacket did not let us sink and we were not even aware of the depth of the river. The guide did try to scare us by talking about crocodile but we knew that was not true. It was a calm feeling, lying on the river.
Soon, we reached near a cliff where lots of other people had gathered to jump. Yes, Cliff Jumping was also a part of the adventure just like rafting and body surfing. The guide took us over the cliff and explained the rules. He said “Hold your life jacket from the shoulders, look straight at a tree and jump into the river.” Phew! But it was easier said than done. It requires guts to jumps from almost the second floor of the house. Once it is done, it does remove the fear of doing this crazy act. Those 2 seconds during the jump is a thoughtless period and we do not even realize what we are thinking or doing.
Finally, a few more small rapids and we reached the end of our voyage. We parked our vehicle under the Ram Jhoola and the bus took us back to our camp where we had a relaxing afternoon and a moon light evening. Just a perfect ambience to have a booze party with friends, to make our trip even more memorable and cherishable.
I am surely addicted to this adventure sport after this trip and I am certainly going to repeat it soon.