The Ganges winding its way through the Greater Himalayas
and Aravallis, offers an excellent locale near Rishikesh to
unwind from the city life for the religious by way of meditation, and exciting opportunities for thrill seekers by way of rafting, trekking, wildlife, and mountaineering. Uphill, the fast flowing river settles down to a sedate flow on its onward journey. Interestingly all towns in Uttranchal owe their names
to Hindu Gods or Deities. The final count for this rafting trip included Praveen, Avi, Pradeep, Saurabh, Ajay, Surbhit, Aarti, Smriti and myself.
The camp on the banks of the Ganges was ideally located, with
serene surroundings. A quick change and we were running towards
the dining tent to devour lunch. The rafting was to follow
immediately. We had opted for the Shivpuri to Muni-ki-Retti circuit
covering some very exciting rapids and activities in little
less than three hours. Sadly, photography during rafting is not possible.
A quick briefing by our guide Negi on the pros and cons and
the raft was set in motion. The thrill started when we hit
the first baby rapid called ‘Return to Sender’.
Waves return the punch given by the raft with equal gusto,
putting everyone into shape. ‘Rapids are not to be taken
for granted’ was the message now.
Next one ‘Roller Coaster’ set the entire raft
rocking and took us for a spin. 15 feet high waves hit the
raft in quick succession and everyone was spell bound. Everything
went the roller coaster way. The best way to negotiate a rapid is
to follow the guide’s commands and row quickly.
were so spellbound and awed by the impact that they forgot
to row and were simply staring at everything around. The
excitement was now in full swing. ‘Golf Course’
hit us soon. It’s a bunch of rapids that follow each
other in quick succession taking the raft and rafter for a
toss like a golf ball in flight. At one place the raft in
full throttle was pushed towards a huge rock for a massive
crash. Inches away from it, a return wave took us back…‘titanic
re-lived’ averted. Nothing to worry about – it’s
part of the package and thrill.
‘Black Money’ - funny name with a strange background
but equally exciting and full of whirlpools. This rapid was
initiated by some very rich people, hence the name. ‘Body
Surfing’ - river settles down after black money and
all of us quickly jumped into the river with our life jackets.
Braving the initial shock of icy cold waters, it was an amazing
experience to float in the wilderness. The holy waters quickly
washed us clean. Saurabh the great, true to his style, refused
to come back onto the boat not because of the pleasures, but it was
a task to pull him up onto the boat. While Negi had a tough time
doing the needful, everyone guffawed at the sight.
jumping’ was next on the agenda. The raft was parked on
the bank and the interested were to jump in the river atop a 20+
ft high rock. The moment one looks down courage fails so best
is look straight and jump. Everyone took turns for a dash,
some even repeated. It was fun savouring Saurabh’s fall,
which created some massive waves in the river. Don’t
believe me – ask the others. He even confused the Nepali
guide who looked bewildered
We now had to negotiate ‘Double Trouble’ (trouble
invited twice) and ‘Initiation’ rapids. The latter
was the first rapid to be introduced by the British when rafting
started - hence named ‘Initiation’. The rapids did
create some interesting illusions while looking at the
passing banks. Without describing it here, I will let it flow
in individual’s thoughts so as not to deprive them of
Finally, after a most thrilling and exciting journey on the
Ganges, we came ashore. Pick-up was arranged by the camp to
take us back. Murphy’s law strikes - the van did not
come. Thoroughly drenched and braving the cold wind, waiting was
the only choice. A local selling "channa jor garam" made a guest
appearance and quick orders followed. Meanwhile Avi with his
jungle instincts created a bonfire and everyone sat around
enjoying the warmth.
Finally it was decided that all of us would travel with the
three huge rafts loaded on a Tata 407. Somehow the manager-cum-driver
of the camp appeared with a qualis and we were shifted. Praveen
quickly took over controls and drove us all the way to the
camp. Some grocery was kept in the van for the camp and we
enjoyed bread or whatever was handy. Few had serious designs
on the warm gulab jamums to be served at the camp, but somehow resisted.
Quickly switching over to dry clothing, the evening rituals
were formally set rolling. The camp staff, considering our hardships,
had thoughtfully provided us with tandoori chicken and paneer
tikkas. The cool sandy banks, soft breeze, the silence, warmth
from bonfire added to the bliss, while not missing the usual
fun of taking "panga" with each other. We could hear the far
away rapids right there.
the guide, joined us to share some of his philosophies - Ever
wondered why this region is blessed with peace and tranquility.
The air, water, sand everything everywhere has traces of our
ancient wisdom filtered through ages and each particle has
remains of our rishis – slowly everyone drifted deeper into PHILOSOPHY. I don’t know what each one thought
or said but we were in a different state of mind. Later surely
none of us heard each other’s nightly "thumps" for everyone
slept blissfully. Who slept where, I don’t remember
Next morning, after a hearty breakfast, the bulls were all
set for the journey back home. Rakesh and his friend joined
us at Roorkee on their drive back from Chopta and Auli. The drive
to this part of Uttranchal is a bit crazy. The route passes
through heavily congested Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Roorkee,
Haridwar, and needs a lot of patience.
WOW, Just Great, Excellent, Never thought it would be so good!!!!
- was the instant feedback from the travelers. It has been a different
kind of experience for everyone. Keeping with the 60kph traditions, we
promise to take you to an equally exciting journey next time.
Best time to go rafting is October/November or February/March.
All the camps close down after April and reopen after monsoons
late September. Take your pick and just GO.