This is a long overdue about my exhilarating rafting adventure in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India. Rishikesh, some of you would know has earned its name as the “Yoga Capital of the World”. Teeming with ashrams that offer Yoga and meditation this bustling little township, nestled in the foothills of the majestic Himalayas, has been a haven for spiritual seekers. This much before the Beatles rocked at the ashram of Mahesh Yogi in the late 60s. The holy river Ganges flows through the North of Rishikesh, surrounded by the verdant hilly forests. A perfect getaway conducive for soaking in meditative calm. A gentle breeze caresses this mystic valley in the evenings, and it reverberates to the temple bells as the Sadhus (holy men), pilgrims and tourists alike engage in the Ganga aarti (worship). Over the years Rishikesh has become a very popular white-water rafting destination and a Himalayan trekking gateway.
We visited Rishikesh two summers back. We stayed away from the township, further up the hills in this quaint resort called Atali Ganga. Atali Ganga overlooked the meandering Ganga river and was surrounded by a lush forest cover. White water rafting was part of our package deal. The DH had rafted in Rishikesh as a high school student, but it was the first time for our nineteen-year-old; then seventeen and me. Rafting was one of the things I had meant to tick off my bucket list.
Early next morning, post an elaborate breakfast befitting the royals, we headed to the banks of the river in a shuttle bus. The DH had very kindly agreed to be with our nine-year-old; then seven, as kids that age were only allowed to go only up till the first rapid, called Sweet Sixteen, obviously named so for its sweet, gentle demeanour. We, on the other hand, were to cross about fourteen rapids.The older one and I could not contain our excitement. The idea of traversing about twenty-seven kilometres of the mighty Ganga and its rapids seemed more than just a extraordinary adventure. Though I have to admit that some odd streaks of anxiousness did make their way into my otherwise bold and adventurous being. But then these thoughts were quelled by our guide who reassured us that the entire experience would be fun, remarkable, replete with copious doses of adrenaline rush. An experience of a life time, so to speak. We donned our life jackets, and what followed was a round-up of safety instructions.
Our fascinating escapade began with the easy, first rapid, Sweet Sixteen. The nine-year old was with the DH in a different boat, as they were to disembark there after and return back to the resort. Our boat steered through the river that was as wild and furious as a storm in some places and peaceful as a lazy brook in some. The river gathered all its fury the moment we came upon a rapid. Crossing the rapids was exhilarating to say the least. Each rapid has distinctive characteristics and is named after those. For instance Three Blind Mice has a very narrow water way and we could barely see ahead off it. It popped up suddenly, surprising us. The Cross Fire rapid on the other hand is a Grade III rapid and it brings serious obstacles that include multiple high, irregular waves and rocks. The passages though clear in this rapid, but are very narrow; thus challenging the rafters.
In between we stopped at a point where the river seemed calm and placid. Our guide challenged us to jump off the boat into the icy cold river. The nineteen-year-old and I chose to take the dare and jump. Of course with our life jackets on. Not surprisingly, the water was bone chilling cold. After all it was from the glaciers of the Himalayas. I thought I would be transformed into a block of ice. Ice maiden, optimistically! Though the river apparently seemed calm, it had a pretty strong under current that started dragging me away. The nineteen-year-old on the other hand seemed to enjoy herself. I started to panic, and grab at her, fearing the tides would carry me away. She was amused to say the least, though lent a helping hand, till the guide managed to pull me back to the boat. I spluttered for breath and heaved a sigh of relief, thanking my lucky stars for a second chance at life. Well, it wasn’t all that bad actually. I’m a bit of a drama queen you see! *Grin*
The nineteen-year-old also steered the boat a couple of times along with our guide. Though we were all beginners in the boat, but surprisingly we got to experience all the tough rapids. The toughest of all was The Wall which is a Grade IV rapid. Some other rafters on another boat were tossed out of their boats at this one. But fortunately they were able to swim and find their way back to their boat, safe and sound. It was scary scenario to witness but at the same time we were grateful that we were safe, and had managed to cross The Wall valiantly.
This one-of-its-kind, two-and-a-half hour journey that gave us one of our best adrenaline highs was an experience of pure, unadulterated thrill. When it was time to anchor our boats to the shore, we hoped in our hearts that the fun didn’t end. Though tired to the bones, but not satiated in our souls; this had been one cracker of an accomplishment and a big, fancy feather to our caps.
Another one ticked off from my bucket list, but thirsting to do a replay sometime soon, I have to say. This time with the DH for sure. He deserves as much, after having sacrificed last time for baby sitting.
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