On a pleasant morning in the month of June, the weather seemed perfect for a holy dip in the river Ganga(Ganges), off the river banks in Rishikesh, a city in North India. However, our tour guide suggested river rafting and with the first glimpse of the gushing waters, having some degree of fear for water, I did not like the idea. However, it was not long before I realized I was heading towards my maiden attempt at white water rafting, a ninety minute adventure which ended up being my cherished memory for life.
By the time we reached the starting point, the sun rays were replaced by a cool breeze and a thick cloud cover. A downpour seemed certain. " An icing to the cake ", said John, our rafting guide, ensuring rains would only make the adventure more exciting. With some basic tutuorial on maneuvering the boat and handling the oars, we, a group of ten, set off. Unaware of what lay ahead, I volunteered to take the front position on the boat.
The first fifteen minutes were smooth, it was less of rafting and more of sailing, after which we faced dangerous rapids and rough waters. Our short tutorial was put to test and very soon staying afloat had already become a challenge.
While I could hear John's instructions from the rear of the boat, the sound of the waters gushing had overpowered everything else. The excitement, the sudden splashes of water, the constant reminder of keeping my feet intact to prevent getting overboard and continue rowing had overwhelmed me.
The ordeal lasted for ten minutes, after which we reached a much calmer part of the river. While we rejoiced our little success, the most awaited happened. It started raining hard. With thunder and lightening up above, rain water pounding on me and our boat in the middle of a gorge, it was a sight of a lifetime. Tears rolled down my cheeks, but little did I care. The feeling was so beautiful, I did not want to come out of it. It seemed I had surrendered myself to nature.
" Okay, so who wants to get off the boat? ", shouted John who sounded equally thrilled at the ambiance of the moment. " But I cant swim ", I said rather embarrassed, but my response showed my eagerness to experience more.
" So what am I here for ? - Go ahead ", he said almost instantly. Strange as it may sound, but I took the leap of faith that nothing could go wrong on that day, letting go my fear and inhibitions. In a river like Ganga (Ganges), I could not stay in the water for long. When the downstream current got too much for me to handle, I was pulled up.
" Take your positions and get ready for more ", shouted John. While the rain continued unabated, we faced bigger rapids with courage and team work. Each time we emerged successful, we celebrated our success with shouts of joy. Though we were all tired and drenched, the wish to experience more, lingered. We continued to row though the water encouraging each other not to give up. Though the rapids were more dangerous than the earlier ones, we were now better at rowing the boat and tiredness did not get the better of us.
Taking each moment at a time, sooner than we realized, we reached the end of our litle adventure. We found ourselves smiling and congratulating each other.
As I got off the boat, I thanked every one in our team. I had no words to thank John. Though I don't remember what I mumbled, he responded saying he was happy for me, and I should come back for more. I looked back at the river recalling what had just happened. It was an experience I knew I would cherish, feeling more confident of overcoming my fears.
I stayed the night at Rishikesh in a tent off the river bank. As I lay on my bed under the open sky, the soft sound of water in my ears, I looked up at the stars and thought - "What next ? "
Key Takeaways / Tips
Good time to travel : Except for the peak of winter, when the water is very cold, rafting can be done any time of the year. It is considered especially good after spring since water levels in the Ganges are higher ( due to melting of snow ). Monsoon can also be considered a good time since rains add to the excitement and thrill of river rafting.
Gadgets : Before the event starts all electronic items are placed in a plastic/rubber bag in the raft. This is to prevent any damage caused by water. Hence it is advisable not to carry anything at all. With no opportunity to click photos, keep your hands busy with the oars and enjoy the thrill.
Health Conditions: Pregnant Ladies, people with heart issues and those with sever disabilities are advised not to engage in river rafting. Some also discourage individuals with asthma and hypertension. Those suffering from Aquaphobia should absolutely not attempt it.
Swimmers : One need not know swimming to be able to enjoy river rafting. Basic safety prerequisites like life jacket is mandatory for all participants and that should keep you afloat.
Tour Operators : Though there are numerous tour operators in Rishikesh, opt for the ones which are government approved. You may ask for their approval certificate just to be sure. These providers adhere to basic norms and safety guidelines.
Instructor’s word is final : Pay close attention to the instructions provided and if in doubt, get them cleared right away. Remember they are professionals and well trained. Once you are in the water, there will be no opportunity or time for Q&A sessions.
Fear of drowning: I was told – “No matter how hard you try, you wont drown”. If you have a fear of drowning, like me, the trick is to not panic. Even if you do fall into the water, you just need to keep your mouth closed and relax. In most cases, each raft is accompanied by a fellow instructor on a kayak or a canoe to act swiftly in case someone from the raft topples over or needs help.
I hope this helps you have gain confidence in planning a trip to Rishikesh.
For any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments section.
Good Luck and enjoy the waters 🙂