Adventure and fun at Rishikesh. - Part II6, Apr, 2017, by Seema Bhatnagar
Read part I to enjoy this post.
This was our last day here, and also the reason for which we actually came, rafting adventure.
My tent, no-4
For me, as usual, started day with Yoga and meditation, followed by breakfast and by around 10 am we all gathered at a place to board our rafts.
Reaching there we met our guide, Mr. Suman Chadha, he gave us brief introduction about himself. He is an expert and professional kayak with more than 12 years of experience under his belt. He is a thorough professional with extensive experience of rafting in Indus river, at Ladhak, Kullu manali in Beas river and several others. As a person he is excellent and made us feel comfortable in his presence. Because of his expertise he is one of most wanted guides in the Uttrakhand region of India.
Geared up to board raft.
Suman asked us to wear life jackets, head gear and briefed us with instructions to be followed on board. He told us few steps of performing forward and backward pedaling and how to sit in a right posture in raft to avoid falling in the river when there would be high rapids.
He particularly asked if anybody has any water phobia or medical problem. One of the members of our group, my friend, had a water phobia and she raised her hand. But somehow she mustered courage to give it a shot. She was really disturbed and uncomfortable before boarding the raft but since all were there so she could dare to get into the raft.
We started from Kaudiyala where our camp was located and destination was Marine Drive where we will get our luggage and cars transferred by staff. This whole journey would be covered in approximately 3-4 hours.
We were supposed to leave our valuables, like wallets and cell phones with the guide who is carrying a special dry bag tied with a hook inside the raft. Because of the size I did not carry my dslr inside the raft and took only my cell and wallet. So could not take pics while on board.
We all took our seats and occupied two rafts. With an invocation to Gods we started our journey. Water is a power as we know, doesn't matter how perfect swimmer you are but if it turns devastating nothing can stop it. With great reverence to this power I boarded the raft and gave myself to the divine.
The first calm grade I rapid on our way.
Again and again our guide instructed that in case if raft gets rolled over do not get panicked. In the event of you getting stuck we have one more kayak, Neeraj by name, going in front of raft and I myself will help you to bring back to raft.
On the whole stretch of 3 hours, there will be 5 rapids with different names based on their turbulence.
Technically, rapids are divided in classes or grades from I to VI, where I is with minimum turbulence and VI means the one with highest turbulence.
Following are the names of rapids on the Dev Prayag to Rishikesh stretch of rafting.
- Black Money (Grade 1)
- Sweet Sixteen (Grade 1)
- Good Morning (Grade 1)
- Body Surfing (Grade 1)
- Club House (Grade 2)
- Initiation (Grade 2)
- Double Trouble (Grade 2)
- Hilton (Grade 2)
- Terminator (Grade 2)
- Shivpuri Rapid (Grade 2+)
- Three Blind Mice (Grade 3)
- Cross Fire (Grade 3)
- Roller coaster (Grade 3)
- Golf Course (Grade 3)
- Return to Sender (Grade 3)
- Daniel's Dip (Grade 3+)
- The Great Wall (Grade 4)
In the first 30 mins we came across grade I rapids, that gave us the taste of what it really means riding the rapids. When I first experienced it, I simply loved it, the joy of riding the tide without making any effort is something I simply loved. The subtle message behind it that water is a power in itself which can be life taking or life giving, both ways it is powerful enough.
As we progressed and after almost one hour, when we were crossing the comparatively calm water, Suman told each one of us to dive into water, so that we can experience what it means to be in the middle of river in ice cold water. He told me the instructions and I dived without a second thought, when it came to my friend, Suman had to pursue her hard and finally he pushed her in water. It was nothing less than a shock for her but after a moment when she realized that she is safe enough she started enjoying being in water. I praised Suman highly for doing such a great job of bringing her in water, even she herself was thankful to him.
The feeling was awesome, being in deep water, the unknown terrain, without mastering swimming strokes, I was hanging in the ice-cold turquoise water. I took 2-3 dips making sure holding the rope of raft. As the water was downstream leaving the rope means one has to swim on its own. After 10 mins Suman pulled us back in the raft. That experience was just awesome. Had he not asked us to dive in we would have missed such a fantastic and exhilarating experience.
Now the time was for grade IV rapid, The Wall, for which not everybody would game. Before entering the Wall rapid, Suman told us that it will be challenging and meant only for brave hearts. Those who have even slightest doubt about themselves should avoid going there. Though I would be there but you have to have that courage and mental stamina to pass through the rough rapids.
Going by his words, 4 members from our team decided to drop out, and rest 6 including me went ahead to experience the real adventure. I tried to convince each one of them who decided to drop out, to come and join because this is what we have come for. Grade I to III were good enough to cross through, not much of adrenalin rush but the real adventure would be to taste Grade IV. All my attempts to pursue them were turned down and they decided to walk on the rocky surface as going through raft means to cross The Wall.
Finally, we all 6 took our seats in the raft with our gears on and pedals in our hand. The journey started and within 2 mins we can see the maddening and crazy, gushing water. The rapids were between two mountains, one high and other one low, and water was hitting these mountains with full turbulence. The sight was scary for a moment but I didn't let it overpower me because deep down somewhere I knew that I am wearing life jacket and two experts are beside me and above all the grace of Divine is with me so if anything goes wrong I will survive.
Within 2 mins we entered The Wall rapids. The rapids were too high, our raft almost touched 10-11 ft from the surface. It felt as if our raft will turn over and we will be in water any moment. Suman continuously gave instructions to pedal forward to cross through it. We kept pedaling forward and within 7 seconds we were through it.
Amazingly, when we were crossing through it, our mind was absolutely focused only on receiving instructions for pedaling and we were not thinking what would happen to us. That was really amazing, how the six members worked as a team and crossed through the adventure.
Neeraj, our life saver, kayak, all alone in his kayak was leading us through the rapid. I was flabbergasted the way he was effortlessly riding the rough rapids. Looking at him, it seemed as if he was controlling a little toy. For us, it was a question of survival and for him it was a business as usual. Looking at him simply made me feel tempted to do the same, but it seems another life time is needed to reach there. Suman told us that Neeraj who is 17 now, entered kayaking at the age of 8, and still many more years to go in his practice before he becomes a professional guide like him.
After crossing the last rapid, The Wall, we halted for a lunch break where we were served packed lunch provided by camp staff. Before having lunch, I tried to swim in the river, Suman told me to go in the middle fearlessly as I am here, and I took his words. Going slightly deep was very easy to swim since I was wearing life jacket, not sure, how it would feel without it.
We all came together once again and talked about the thrills of crossing the Wall. Those who dropped out were regretting their decision, one for missing the thrills and second for walking over the rocks for 30 mins. To taste the thunder, they decided to come again.
Having lunch on the bank of river, all drenched and sitting in a sand and under bright Sun was an awesome experience. Finished our lunch in 20 mins and then started the last lap of our journey to reach the destination, Marine Drive.
Marine Drive, our destination.
After reaching there we were supposed to carry our pedals and life jackets uphill so that they can be transferred back to resort for next group. We got our luggage and cars ready at that point. It was a roadside point where we received our cars and luggage, since we were all wet so had to change our clothes. For ladies, they set up a special temporary cabin tent, to be used for purpose of changing clothes. It was good enough to be used for that purpose.
View of Ganges from Marine Drive.
Transfer of rafts and gears from Marine Drive to resort for next session.
After changing we all settled down in our cars and started our journey back to Delhi. After making 3 halts of approximately 30 mins for refreshments, we reached Delhi by 9 pm after starting at 3:00 pm from Rishikesh.
Personally, I felt very uncomfortable looking at the littered empty bottles inside the river and also on the banks. I was wondering how come anybody could be so callous that after enjoying the lovely landscape has the courage to deface it.
On our visit to waterfall on day 2, I humbly requested everybody in our group not to leave any empty bottle here. I particularly ensured and collected all the empty bottles and cans inside the bag and brought them back. We not only collected our used bottles but also thrown by others.
It is always difficult for me to digest the fact that people who are doing such mindless acts are well educated and belong to higher strata of society. Their unsympathetic and careless attitude simply demonstrates how disturbed they are mentally and what they need is not a punishment or a penalty but a strong sensitization towards nature.
River Ganges is in sorry state at the moment and is already on the verge of extinction. With every year the level is going down by few meters, with this pace, that time is not so far when it will be just remembered as a part of history. There are several reasons for this dwindling level of water. The main and the only reason is the human intervention. Dams for agricultural and drinking use, untreated waste released in it and of course the deforestation and ever increasing human inhabitation near its banks are the fundamental reasons for the slow poisoning of holy river Ganges.
To a large extent, I feel guilty that I myself also contributing to this malaise. On the name of exploring nature and experiencing adventure, somewhere I also contributed to the load and insensitivity towards Mother Nature. Setting up all necessities like toilets, drinking water and food demands an infrastructure and that doesn't come so easy. To get more tourists means more load on Mother Nature. I really have no solution to it except to ensure we leave minimum waste and pool our resources as much as possible.
It might feel unpalatable and awful to many, but I personally wish, may each human being of this planet be wise enough to stride and strive towards reproducing consciously, responsibly and minimally. We really do not need more human beings on this planet as there are already many, embrace and love those who are already here rather than reproducing your own.
Each travel leaves you with some memories and experiences. This too was enriching for me, meditating on the bank of Ganges, experiencing the thrills and living in a tent amidst nature was something I absolutely relished. Since long I was thinking of experiencing living in a tent and rafting, and it just happened so effortlessly.
This was my second trip to Rishikesh, earlier, 2013, I went with one of my relatives and did not venture out much, but this time it was full of sweet and thrilling experiences.
This was the group of people I didn't know much initially but staying and spending time together made each one of us bonded well and we enjoyed each other's company.
The location of our resort, Ganga Riviera (http://www.campgangariviera.com/pages/camp.html), was truly breathtaking. It was in the lap of a valley; from there one can see the surrounding high mountains wearing greenery and serpentine roads on it. The beach was clean and very well managed. The staff was very friendly and above all the food was just awesome. I personally met the chef to praise him for serving us tasty dishes.
Our professional guide Suman, (in red), Neeraj(in black), a professional kayak.
Our guide Suman, a very warm personality, ensured that each one of us carry sweet memories of rafting. While rafting I was continuously troubling him with my questions and he joyfully answered. I found him very inspiring for choosing such an unconventional carrier and above all he simply loves his work. On a very cheerful and proud note for his work, he said he would try his best to train his son or a daughter (not yet existing on this planet) as one of the best kayaks of India. Wishing him all the best for fulfilling aspirations in his life.
I strongly recommend for anybody who is planning a rafting trip to avail his expert services. To ensure we get his company next time for more adventure trips, we took his contact number, 09720304412.
Lessons for life.
The whole adventure ended in 7 seconds, but it left a long lasting memory of what it means to cross the rough waters.
A great lesson to be learnt here, when your survival is under threat you must do what you are told and should not apply your own mind and most importantly maintain calm. You must put your whole trust in somebody who is taking you through, be it your guide, God or Guru.
Was thinking, how many times we face rough waters or challenges in our life, some have courage to cross through them effortlessly and some end up in depression.
If you try to understand it from spiritual perspective, it is like when you are facing rough waters in life, you must give yourself to Divine or to your Guru and see how effortlessly you would be able to cross through it. It is difficult to understand for somebody who is not on a spiritual path but for somebody who is, this is a living truth.
Nature is all full of such lessons for life, we just need a pair of keen eyes and a sensitive heart to feel it. May we all feel inspired by Mother Nature for living a truly inspirational life.