Where Ganga flows…
Haridwar & Rishikesh is a place where i visit as frequently as i can. A stop by the river banks at Haridwar during aarti, staring at the diya’s floating on the river dancing to the music of the flow, is a divine moment. So, two years back, when my friend asked me to join for a trip to raft on the mighty Ganga, i said yes.
at the starting point of rafting…river Ganga!
My face-off with death:
I had a hidden reason too. Few months before our trip, i visited Kerala and went for a joy ride with my cousin to my dad’s village. On our way is the mighty Muvattupuzha river. We stopped by for a quick bath. Unfortunately, i am not a swimmer and the river almost swept me away into her lap. I had lost hope and told my brother to inform my Mom that i loved her, during what i thought was my last gulp of air. Thanks to my kid brother, i was pulled to safety. The incident had induced a fear into me and i wanted to shed it, I saw this as an opportunity, knocking in the form of river-rafting.
Rishikesh is a popular place for white river-rafting in India and is probably the most popular destination for the sport. One can do a three day rafting through Alaknanda and enter Ganga at Devprayag, rafting till Rishikesh or the smaller (few hours) ones from Shivpuri. We chose the Shivpuri one.
The trip to submerge:
My trusted Maruti 800 whom i fondly called Dhanno visited her doc for a check-up and fitness schedule and we started an over-night journey from Delhi.
Dhanno & her doc
Two of us drove in turns through-out the night to reach Rishikesh by dawn. The mandatory Haridwar pit-stop was made, though a bit late to see the diya’s floating with the mighty goddess Ganga.
Amigos a.k.a Partners in crime – Vijay ‘Bhushan’ Saroha & ‘Rahul’ Anand
Since, we had all the time till the rafting which will start only by afternoon, we decided to go for a small trek to a waterfall nearby. If i am not wrong, it was the Neergarh waterfall and we did it in couple of hours. While the trek was fun & an adrenaline rush to our sleepless mind & tired muscles, the waterfall killed all our excitement. It was more of a stream flowing down than a waterfall. We walked down and at times, rolled down, exhausted.
the trek to the waterfall
A deadly drive:
At the booking office of the river-rafting guide, they gave us some antique piece of life-jackets and an instruction manual with waiver forms. Need i say, i was scared to see the waiver form by which they washed hands if i were to die, sinking. Few minutes later, we were shoved into a pick-up truck with few others and a raft over head. With no seats, we sat on the metal floor and was rushed to the starting point up-hill. The ride was more scarier that the rafting, with the driver never applying brakes and driving at about 60 kmph. We were like tennis balls bouncing all round the place. I started hooting & howling to focus my mind on the rafting than on the drive, which i suspected would end with me before reaching Ganga. Others joined in and i could see pale faces; i was happy that i was not the only one who was scared.
at the starting point…we all bought the ‘Om’ t-shirts for the day :)
Into her lap, the rafting:
At the starting point, with us in the protective gear and instructions being ordered at us by a guide who looked like a kid, we were ready. Apart from three of us, we had two sisters and a couple in the same raft. The guide looked at us and said: “The key is to row in sync and we need two people to sit in the front and help me steer”. My friend Rahul instantly said “Aye” and i wanted to whack his head with my Oar. So it was me and Rahul in the front. I wanted to quit but Rahul wouldn’t let me (and i secretly thank him for it now).
Captain of the raft
There are some 13 odd rapids in this stretch and before every rapid the instructor shouted out the name and the grade (difficulty level) of each rapid. Even though, he steered us clear of any danger, but his explanations and Ganga’s growling scared me. I looked at Rahul to see a pale face. All the adrenaline rush had been swept away by Ganga. I could clearly see the dark circles around his eyes after a sleepless night of constant driving and the strenuous physical & mental stress we have been going through the past 24 hours. I could also hear Bhushan breathing loudly behind me. To add to it, the girls were screaming, non-stop!
At each rapid, the instructor shouted at us saying that we won’t cross it safely unless we keep rowing in sync…and we never managed to. Furthermore, no rope held us to the raft. We were to hold to the raft with our legs, wedged on to the side of the raft.
I lost my grip often and during the bigger rapids, i was almost in the air, with no contact on the raft!
It was a dreadful two hours of torture till we reached a point where we could rest or opt to jump of a ledge some 20 feet high (into the river) or have maggi & tea. The rafting was coming to an end and we jumped into the water and held onto the raft. It slowly dawned into me that i am safe and i survived.
the rest after the tryst with Ganga…Bhushan and his 100W smile :)
To me, it was a message from the river telling me about my limits. At Kerala, i entered into the water with arrogance and an attitude that i am higher than nature, while at Rishikesh, i bowed to the river with reverence while entering into her waters. The caution & safety measures i took were symbols of my submission to nature’s power. I conquered my fear and nature conquered me.
When i walked uphill from the banks of Ganga, at Rishikesh, i turned back to see a calm river. The ferocious rapids we just encountered was very unlike the river what i saw. Ganga was smiling at me and i smiled back to her, a weak tired smile.