When I told my parents that I would be visiting Rishikesh in a group of ten, I am sure they did not imagine in their wildest dreams that it would be anything but a religious affair.
Thanks to the foreigners who some three decades back introduced us to our own mighty waters of the Ganges, white water rafting has become a trend of sorts now and camping in the backyard of the river is sought after.
So, to live this experience, we all packed our bags and headed to our destination which is some 270 kilometres from the national capital of India, Delhi in the scorching heat of May. It was late in the night by the time we reached and had to take another 300 steps of downhill trek to reach the campsite. Ironically, it was very cold so much so that we wished we were wearing some warm clothes.
After having a quick dinner, we retired into our cosy tents. We were so tired that we fell asleep without exploring much around. We had decided to get up a bit late; after all it was our holiday.
I woke up all of a sudden, oops, somebody had left the tap open! I came out of the tent and it was an amazing scene! The river was flowing right behind our tent—in the darkness of the night we did not realise where we were camping! And there were a couple of monkeys many vibrant birds among us, the urban chimps!
In a matter of an hour, we were to hit the calm waters of the Ganges for our first ever rafting experience. And in another hour we were to understand that the river is anything but calm! Our rafting instructor taught us various sign languages and techniques to sail through the 14 km distance to be covered in two hours. We were asked not to shout and yell so that we could clearly hear all his instructions.
Despite his instructions, we continued to be our excited self and carried on singing songs and shouting! And then the force of the water started to accelerate. It was then that he asked us to jump out of the raft, no kidding! He did ask us to do that and most of us started sweating—some, just from the terrible heat. I told him that I did not know how to swim! He said that it was the best reason why I should jump myself and befriend the water! I asked him to go back and he said that option had long expired. Reluctantly, all of us slipped into the waters. Ooh! The water was freezing! He asked us to sail with the raft holding onto the lifeline. I decided at that very time and point that if I come out alive, I am going to learn how to swim!
He then asked us to help each other to come back onto the raft. He took us through the 14 kms and introduced us to the various rapids like body surfing, roller coaster, three blind mice and others. Many a times it was almost as if the raft will hit the rock and we will all drown but thankfully, we did not! We successfully covered 14 kms and it was then adrenaline rush had just begun. We decided to do another 14 kms and enter a bit more adventurous zone. The rapids here were really quick and fast! I do not remember the name of the rapid now but we saw it and our guide instructed us to duck and sit inside the raft! Which all of us did not pay heed to and guess what, the next thing we knew was, water water everywhere! I was sure that I was holding onto the lifeline with both hands and I was doubly sure that the raft was upside down. But what I was not sure was if I could sail like this forever! Those five minutes were like the longest five minutes ever. It was one alive is awesome feeling and to be back on the raft was a super awesome feeling.
Just when we thought that the excitement was all over and we were just famished, we were told that we should not miss the cliff jumping. In the right spirit, we decided to take one last plunge to come our splashing out of the cold river waters! And yes, we did come out alive and yes I am learning how to swim!
By the way, before we started off on our sojourn, we were made to sign some papers which in our excitement, we did not read. All that the papers said were, “I and only I am responsible if anything happens”!
All the best and be careful!