It was the beginning of the October month and the holiday mood was just kicking in, as the festive season was starting. 2nd October was a Thursday and a national holiday, as a tribute to the Father of the Nation. We convinced our companies management to grant an off to the entire team on 3rd October i.e. Friday. Thus, what we got was a solid four days long weekend.
After exchanging lot of messages and emails, we decided that we will first go to Jim Corbett National Park and then to Rishikesh (I will talk about Rishikesh in this blog as I had already written about Jim Corbett earlier. Please click this link to read about the road-trip to Jim Corbett). At first it sounded boring as Rishikesh is considered to be a religious place. However our plan was not to get religious but adventurous. Thus, we headed to Rishikesh for a lot of fun. We were an ‘All Boys’ gang of sixteen. One of us took lead and quickly used his contacts with travel agents to plan the road-trip.
The bus booked by us arrived and we boarded it from Gurgaon at around 12 am on 2nd October. We checked into our resort at Jim Corbett national park at around 9 am. We spent the entire day at Jim Corbett and next day left for Rishikesh. Few kms before Shivpuri, a landslide had occurred due to which about 50 meters stretch of the road had become very narrow. This was the start of adventure in true sense. As the Bus passed through the 50 meters patch, most of us sat tightly on our seats – it was a nerve-shredding experience. The landslide caused some delay in reaching Shivpuri – the place where we were supposed to be put up. We reached our camp in Shivpuri on 3rd October evening around 7 pm. It was quite dark and we could only see some lights glittering in the valley around us. There was absolute silence only to be broken by occasional sounds of vehicles moving on the road above in the valley. The camp manager took us down the valley on the shore of the River Ganga for the bonfire. Although it was quite dark, we could hear the continuous burbling of the river Ganga. The manager made innumerable failed attempts to engage us with the other groups and finally tried to entertain us with his half knowledge about the valley’s flora and fauna. After an hour of general chit-chat, we decided to go back to the camp for dinner. After dinner, we soon retired to our camping tents and waited eagerly for the next day’s sun to rise. There was an uncanny excitement in all of us – because we were there to raft for the first time in the River Ganga. Most of us were probably going to try hand at this sport for the first time. When we got up the next day morning (4th October), we were awe-struck as the view of the valley was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Breakfast was served at the camp. Post breakfast, we went down to the shore of the river to play volleyball. At around 10 AM, we were called back to the camp for completing the formalities. Yes, it’s a formal declaration duly signed that needs to be submitted basically saying that you are on your own. The camp does not take any responsibility for loss of life, physical or mental injuries during rafting. Couple of our friends withdrew and decided not to do rafting after reading the form in detail. You guessed it right, the sport is certainly not for the fainthearted.
We were given the river rafting gears – life jackets, helmets and paddles. We quickly got ready for the experience we were all waiting for. We were supposed to raft from Shivpuri to Brahmpuri. There were 4 rapids in between – Return to Sender, Roller coaster, Golf course and Club house. The distance was around 8 kms. This stretch was a shorter one comparatively and had rapids suitable for tourist rafting. Professionals start from a point much farther in the valley called Kaudiyala. There are 15 major rapids between Kaudiyala-Marine Drive-Shivpuri-Bramhpuri-Ramjhula covering a distance of 25 kms approximately.
The rafts were waiting for us at the start point. We were given quick briefing by the raft guide. The important instructions were – Never leave your paddle, first secure yourself and then help your rafting mates in case the raft turns over and keep continuously paddling in a synchronized manner for the safety of your life and if you want to get through. And yes, the guide did mention that there is 50% probability of the raft turning over in the rapids. On hearing this, the obvious question asked by one of us was, “Has some one ever died here doing rafting”. The guide said that it was common and every few weeks, a casualty happens. In fact, a causality had indeed occurred only last evening at the “Wall” rapid. We were frightened to the core. The next question asked was – “How much weight the life jacket can take and prevent one from drowning”. The guide said that it can handle around 90 kg. This guy’s heart actually missed a heartbeat as this guy in our group was actually weighing 90 kg.
We were given quick demo of how the paddle needs to be used in synchronization for effective steering of the raft; how to secure oneself in the event of self falling down from the raft; how to turn over the raft again, and finally, how to climb back on the raft and stressing that we had to operate like a team. The instructions felt as if we were participating in a team building exercise.
Finally we boarded the raft. We were taken to the center of the river which felt almost standstill. The guide said – “All, jump in the river”. We were like – “What???” He said it’s important to drench yourself in the water so that the body is accustomed to the water temperature. Water was ice cold and gave us shivers down the spine. We then practiced climbing back on the raft and pulling a raft mate on the raft back. After practicing for 10 minutes, we were all set. We took a deep breath and were all ready to go balls to the wall!
The first rapid was visible, we could see some rafts ahead of us. The guide kept giving us instructions, shouting at us to paddle faster and faster. We managed to dodge the Return-to-Sender rapid and rafted through it all steam. The next rapid was now visible called Roller-coaster. The raft ahead of us had toppled and we could see members of the raft scattered all over trying to get back to the raft. This sight gave us sudden adrenaline rush and before we could think we were in the middle of the most dangerous rapid of our rafting adventure. The raft suddenly fell inside a void in the river and then came out of it standing straight up. It all happened in a flash. When we gained sense, we realized that two of our raft members seated at the front had actually fallen in the river. One of the member was close by and he was pulled up quickly. The other member surfaced at a distance and the guide towed the raft towards him. He was pulled up in the raft quickly too. We could see the paddle flowing away, the guide quickly grabbed it and pulled it towards the raft.
We were now heading towards the next rapid quickly. We managed to keep the raft in control for the next two rapids called Golf course and Club house. After the Club house rapid, the river became stand still again. We were sailing through it slowly. The guide told us that the rapids were all gone and now we could jump in the river and just float for some time. Some of us jumped and enjoyed the slow cruise. It was only later that the guide revealed that the point where we had jumped in the river was only few hundred meters deep. We arrived at point famous for cliff jumping. This was the point where our rafting ended. We took turns to jump from the cliff. At first the cliff just seemed a few meters in height. But when we climbed the cliff and made the first jump, we realized the height. Actually when you jump, it only takes a second for you to hit the water but the gravity pulls you inside the water 4-5 feet deep and then, it takes 2-3 seconds for one to re-surface. These 3-4 seconds are enough to shoot your heart beat.
We finished rafting at around 2 pm. While rafting, we could see many other beautiful camps situated all along the river.
We had spent around 2 hours in rafting which seemed as if the whole thing had just gone by in a few seconds. After the rafting, we had lunch and roamed around in Rishikesh exploring the Laxman Jhula and the temples around. We left Rishikesh at around 4 pm and reached Gurgaon at 2 am on 5th October.