Saturday, May 11, 2013

Let's March!!! Part 4 - Rishikesh Rafting

Earlier parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
21st March, 2013
A long night's sleep in a cozy room always helps, especially after 5 days of trekking. There was nothing much to do today, except to sit in a bus and reach Rishikesh (Byaasi, to be precise), the starting point of our rafting escapade. After the breakfast in an Uttarkashi restaurant (the owner of the outlet acted as though his wife had beaten him up or something, in the morning) and a customary replenishment, we boarded the chartered rickety  bus.

Ale retailing is kind of a shady business in Uttarakhand. Thanks to the Char Dham pilgrimage circuit, most retail stores selling booze are hidden away from the sights of the normal passenger. This one was bang on the main road. Shops like this are like prison cellars, and you feel like you are committing a crime, while you buy stuff. The same can be said about non-vegetarian eateries too.

I said there was nothing much to do today - in the intro paragraph - but not for some people. She found a way to dislodge the bus driver.

We reached Rishikesh by around 5 in the evening and checked into Camp River Wilds, with its pristine sandy beaches. I was a bit disappointed in the beginning, because we had company - a bunch of 50 high school kids, out on their team building retreat. The disappointment stemmed from the fact that I had visualized the camping experience to be similar to the one we had two years ago - the beach all to ourselves. You cannot be too greedy, can you?

Show me the meaning of idling! When was the last time you felt like you had nothing to do?

The camp site panorama, with the emerald waters of the Ganges. 
The rafting rounds were set for the next two days. That night, we just relaxed over a sparkling campfire, with the softly flowing river and the stars giving a nice accompaniment to the music and the crackle of fire wood.

The lanterns outside each of the tents made it look all magical! 

22nd March, 2013
Today, we were to do the 14 kilometer stretch between Kaudiyala and Shiv Puri. Partho (one of the veterans of river rafting in India) gave us a briefing on the do's and dont's, before we started off. Some of us were worried, as his briefing dwelt heavily on the "calculated risks" associated with rafting. I found it annoying, but I'm sure his mind was preoccupied with the casualties on The Wall, the previous week.

Here's some of us.

Just FYI, there are unofficial "chicken lines" and "tiger lines" in rafting. After gauging the team's ability, the guide would select the line to take. The names indicate the difficulty of the route the guides take while negotiating a rapid. We took the tiger one. :)
And the rest of us.
Our guide kept us entertained throughout with his chants and rafting war cries (which we had to repeat). One of them went chiri miri chiri miri dhoom dhadaka ...hoo haa ...hoo haa. It made no sense, but it was fun yelling it out at the top of our voices. May be, we will make it the feedback chant of our quality assurance team back in the office. :) Here's his pic, and please don't ask me what his hand gesture means.

There are several amazing Level 3+ rapids on this stretch, each with their own fancy names. Some of them are the Three Blind Mice (3 rapids in quick succession when you cannot make out where one ends and where the next begins), the Golfcourse (one of the deadliest, but much less stronger now than it was years ago), and the Roller Coaster (the name says it all). There's one rapid called Mala's Curves, where the river kind of takes a turn. That's cheekily named after the Mala village on one side of the river.

Reuben fell into the Three Blind Mice, or at least that's what he claims. I strongly suspect that he jumped in for the sheer thrill of it. To prove my case, here's people picking him up from the Varna river two days ago, where he had accidentally fallen in while having lunch. Eyewitnesses claim that he was seen scheming about coming up with an excuse to jump into the cold river.
There are placid stretches where you can jump in. The water is freezing, but once you get used to it, you wouldn't want to get back into the raft. Some of us never needed any nudging to jump in.

If you ever do this stretch, please do not sit inside the raft during a part called body surfing. It's simple, you jump into the water holding on to the rope on the side of the raft IN a rapid. It's a harmless rapid, but the fun is just too much with the river water beating against your face and your body going in all directions.

The toughest part of the rafting is not the rapids, but this. Carrying the whole stuff up. It's heavy, and slippery. (no we did not take the school kids with us, in case you're wondering)
Pre-lunch snacks are available at the end of the session. Yummy churmuri. Trust me, you might want to carry something on your own if you're the picky types, because you would be dead hungry after the long stretch in the water. 

We took jeeps back to the camp. After a yummy meal, we relaxed for a bit, just a bit, because the wind picked up, blowing the sand all over the place. It wasn't too bad for us, but my friend (the MadM/Kumbh Mela guy) who had gone rafting in May this year, recommends avoiding that month. He said, he got caught in a literal sandstorm.

Things settled down a bit in a while, and we went on to play volley ball. It was a mistake as the high school kids came in and asked for a match. Never to shy away from a challenge, we offered them one. We lost the first round, but it was a closely contested one. So much so that it created a schism in the school ranks - they were supposed to go trekking in the evening - but after an hour long discussion, they convinced their teachers that playing volley ball with us was more important. We won the second round, but lost the third, but it all ended happily, especially for a bunch of folks who rarely move their fingers away from the keyboard.

The camp is the best place for a siesta.

23rd March, 2013
On the second day, we drove a little further downstream to start our rafting. The waters from the Tehri dam were released as we reached - and we could literally see the water levels rise a few meters, engulfing parts of the beach, while we waited for stuff to happen.

And today, I was determined to capture some of the Level 3 Rapids on cam. The last time I was here, I had to be satisfied with shooting Level 1s, and had to tuck the camera away when it came to the bigger rapids. There was just a small issue - we needed a cameraman (or woman) who wouldn't have to raft. As luck would have it, we had a person extra in our raft that day. We made that person our camerawoman. That happened to be Anuradha, the most risk averse person in the planet, sitting bang in the middle of the raft with nothing to hold on to. Well, she needn't have worried, because that was the safest position as there were people protecting her from a fall on all sides. And I had only bargained for a camerawoman, but I got a commentator thrown in, for free! Here's a preview of what she shot, and this is as good Rishikesh rafting can get, minus The Wall.

This is the lady I'm talking about, throwing caution to the water, with a little bit of help from her colleague. 

There's a small sandy stretch toward the end of the rafting. It is frequented by foreigners who throng Rishikesh - semi-nude sort of beach. People call it mini-Goa. Look out for it, only if you're interested in finding gawking domestic tourists more than foreigners.

Coolers aka masala lime soda! Call it lemonade, if you like.
We had lunch in an open-air facility nearby. The place is infested by monkeys, but we did not care. We were so hungry and would have fought them over lunch if it came down to it.
We said goodbye to our rafting gear. It was a pain to watch them go. Another day, another time - so long. I was impressed with the number of rafts this year though.

We checked into a basic hotel in Rishikesh after that. Went shopping, but did not purchase much (I can only speak for myself.). Having fun with gerunds:

Simple world! Everything that matters (ahem, ahem), for 2 Rupees.
We celebrated Satya's birthday at the German bakery in Rishikesh, near the Laxman Jhula. A good inexpensive place to hang out, if you're ever around. Watch out for the fake German Bakeries though - the original one started by a homesick German is situated right at the entrance of the Laxman Jhula suspension bridge (read the interesting story of its history here). We had a good time at the outlet, and at the end, one of the hotel guys came up and said, "aap logon ki dosti dekh ke, bahut acha lag raha hai." (Feels good, watching your camaraderie.)

Picture of the Laxman Jhula (Jhula = bridge) from the bakery.

At the fag end of the trip, while trying to get some sleep in the hotel in Rishikesh, I realized I had no worries. Everything had worked out well - and despite my best apprehensions, everyone was fine and everyone had a good time, and I was in good shape too. But, then it wasn't over for me, and I had this feeling that came up like puke. That there's never gonna be another trip like this, or better than this. Coz, having fun like this should be illegal. I feel the same way about it now when I write this.

The interesting part was what happened next. We reached Delhi the next evening, and flew back to work! Yay!
Earlier parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


  1. I did fall into one of the three blind mice. :D

    1. Blah blah blah, blee blee blee,
      I do stand by my story.
      It wasn't the Wall,
      So, a premeditated fall!
      Cheers Reu! You rock!

    2. Full-on poetry, Sajish. Cheers and you rock with your writing skills.

      Psst: Wish I had fallen into one of Mala's curves. :D

    3. Thanks Reu.
      Psst: B'vair vachu vish4. :)

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  3. It is a unique and exciting experience all-rafting in the middle of the line of rugged mountains, Falling in Love with sparkling clean water, breathing the aroma of natural forests, through the turbulent rapids bring a surge of adrenaline and gives rise to a lot of mixed emotions that make it a lifelong experience.