Standing by the bank I couldn’t help but imagine how wonderful had it been if I had known how to swim. A sudden push came from behind and I was in the river I was looking at. Gasping for breath though the water was shallow, I yelled at my friend who pushed me in. Others suggested me to chill and take a deep breath, I wasn’t drowning. I looked around and caught the sight and felt the cold water over me. Though it numbed me for few minutes, it was soul cleansing.
This is how my first Rafting trip began last night.
We headed towards Haridwar which is a district in Uttrakhand, crossing Ghaziabad, Meerut & Roorkee on our way. This was my dare to do thing as I was a non-swimmer.
Since Delhi was roasting in the heat of May, one of my friends booked a resort for us to experience the cool breeze and cold Ganges water. The months from September to December and March to June are considered as the best periods for the ultimate enjoyment of water rafting. We started around 11 in the night after dinner and reached the Shivpuri white tiger resort at 5 in the morning after crossing the narrow lanes of Rishikesh before the dawn.
The light had started pouring in and we could see the swaying trees and hear the chirping of birds early morning.
The leaves were caressed by the morning dew and as they say, ‘nature is at its best in the morning’, we pulled over to have a look around and saw the river flowing down. The air was cold enough to give me goosebumps but I got lost in the sound of the water flowing down. I couldn’t help but feel the divinity and creativity of mother nature while I witnessed the rapids.
We climbed down to plonk ourselves in the inflatable boats to reach the other side of the bank covered with white sands. Small tents surrounded the place for our comfortable stay. We had to acclimatize after the night’s travel and were advised to sleep till the breakfast was ready. We were guided towards our respective tents which were secure with zippers and had beds arranged for twin sharing.
Having breakfast while sitting on the rocks was quite a treat and as I looked around, I felt like living in the middle of a jungle. Surrounded by evergreen oaks and other trees, the water came down from Himalayas catering to our survival. I wondered how the resort manages its supplies if every time they have to cross the river to get anything. Nevertheless, the arrangements were quite remarkable in terms of food and other supplies.
The rafting was scheduled for 1 pm and therefore we had ample time in hand to go for a short trek. There are a lot of soft treks available around the area and few of them bring you to beautiful and hidden waterfalls.
We also came across a small village on the hills where we rested and also had some chilled natural water. We also witnessed an ashram which was quite well maintained.
We climbed down the hill after a while to take a dip in the flowing water.
We were given life jackets only to be safe in case we get carried away by the flow of the water. Splashes of cold water hydrated me and I lounged on the river bed and rocks for a while before the lunch was called for. It had already started to get warm and by lunch time it was almost hot and that’s the best time to raft under the sizzling sun with splashes of cold water which I’m sure will be amazing. Though it is definitely a call for feeling extremely tired after the stunt and not to forget tanning.
However, we moved on with our adventure after lunch and were explained the rules of rafting with some points to never forget. I got on to the boat with my friends after a short prayer. Life jacket was tied around but I was still scared as the water was flowing rapidly and I imagined myself drowning. With a nudge from my friend to pay attention to the guide, I shunned the ridiculous thought and caught hold of her to reassure myself that everything will be alright.
The boat started in slow motion taking us in the middle of the river and assuming it would be smooth, I started to relax. But suddenly the guide asked us to stand, balance the rafts and get ready for the rapids. I was flabbergasted and thought I could never make it to the end alive. With the help of the guide, somehow I managed to sail through the first rapid which was not even a rapid by his standard and this was just the beginning. I was told once that if you sit in the front of the boat in the center, you are not required to row. Guess I was wrong as all the participants were asked to row the boat especially the ones in front. The load is shared among all to great extent if not equally.
I gathered the courage to sit back and as I was about to enjoy the view, we got close to a rapid which was huge. I stood still to see the flow of white lather twinkling in the bright sun and for a moment I forgot I was scared. I was so engrossed in looking at the water that I didn’t realize when we went past that rapid and from there on I was high on adrenaline and was ready to take in all that the Ganges had to offer. I fixed my foot in a secure place as instructed by the guide and rowed along with others enjoying the ride. The river is an epitome of natural beauty with shades of grey that is nerve-racking at times. But I would still say that there is something certainly holy about it which takes away all your fears only if you have faith in it.
I was introduced to a new found courage inside me and I jumped into the river a few times when we were in the still waters. Everyone including me was surprised at my actions but I would say that this experience was my introduction to the new world of adventure. We came across lot of other scary rapids and now it was fun gliding through them looking at other boats; some following us and some racing against us. We also got stuck for few seconds around the mountains encircling the river edges where the river turns but the flow of the other boats chasing us made way for us.
Finally, after almost two and a half hours we reached the end and parked aside. The river kept flowing but the water had become calm and still with no rapids. We got to the bank and helped the guide to pack the boat and load on a truck. After the breath-taking experience, we headed to the Maggie stall on the sides to energize us to walk back to our bus.
We continued towards Rishikesh for the evening Arti at Shiv temple which is a must for all who visit here and is followed by the immersing of diyas (mud lamps) in the holy river. By the time we got out of the temple, crossed the Laxman Jhula (Bridge, named after Lord Ram’s brother who is said to have crossed the river with jute ropes) and reached our van, it was already dark. On reaching the river bank, we waited for our boat to take us across. Crossing the river in the dark was another escapade not just for me but all of us and it thrilled as well as scared us a bit as we weren’t carrying any torch. Thankfully the rowers are experienced enough to handle such situation but the high tide made it bit difficult for him to propel in the opposite direction of the flow.
On reaching the huts, a campfire was ready with delicious food and drinks. It was one of the finest experiences of staying outside the comforts of my house.
After the exuberating fun last evening, I got up in the morning feeling tired with every bone aching to the core after so much exertion. But it all vanished once I came out of my tent and looked around. The tranquility of the river took me by surprise and I was spell bound by its rustic natural divinity, something which I have only seen in movies. I wished I could stay there longer and experience the sunrise every morning.
The trip was wonderful and I thank my friends who took me this exotic location and I would love to go there again. My fondness for adventure began from this trip. What’s your story?
For the readers: The best way to experience the thrill is with friends and family. Follow the instructions of the guide and don’t worry if you are not a swimmer. Check the weather and river conditions before embarking for the journey. The cost will be around 5000 – 7000 INR per person for a weekend including everything. Google is your best friend for checking out the place.
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