I had never done this before even though I always wanted to. I have spent 37 years in the Navy; but, that’s like a person joining the air force on the strength of his having travelled on the upper deck of a double-decker bus.
My wife and I were visiting Haridwar and Rishikesh after our Course Get-together at Dehradun. The day before attempting to make true our fantasy we visited the place called Shivpuri (23 Kms from Rishikesh towards Badrinath), the launching ground of most river rafting done in that area except for the really intrepid ones who go much further up the river.
Next day, we decided that we had to undertake a rapid quickly enough so as to get over the fear rather than launch ourselves from this location. So we went a kilometre further up and came to this spot:
We were staying with the army at Raiwala and with their help, it wasn’t difficult to book the rafts at reasonable prices. There are of course a number of rafting operators readily available charging you as little as Rupees 500 per head and about Rupees 3000 for the entire raft. We had a little difficulty because on the morning of our adventure, the operator told me that we (my wife and I) were both on the other side of sixty and regulations permitted him to permit people up to 38 years of age to undertake the rafting. He somberly added that a few years back a qualified rafting guide had lost his life when the raft toppled (capsized) in a rapid. Even the Wikipedia talks about whitewater rafting as extreme sports that may result in fatality.
Lyn (short for Marilyn) and I however convinced the operator that we would be very very careful. With me being from the Navy, our guide soon gained confidence and I negotiated one of the rapids standing up in the raft. I also enjoyed jumping in the river and swimming.
Lyn and I with a person from the army (Parmeswaran) to help us and our guide (Aryan) and his assistant soon formed a reliable team (the primary spirit of the rafting) and trusted one another with our lives. I learnt that the international rafting association, the governing body of rafting anywhere classifies the rapids into six classes with Class 1 being those rapids that require slight manoeuvering, with small rough areas, and not requiring anything more than basic skills to the most dangerous rapids being of Class 6 with risk of serious injury and death being very high. But then, if there is no risk, there is no fun (Please read my: ‘The Lure Of Going On A Limb’ after my rappelling experience). They say only the most tortuous paths lead to the most beautiful destinations and in case of whitewater rafting, it is very true.
There are of course a number of rapids by the time you get to the destination (Ram Jhoola at Rishikesh) and one of the fearful ones is called Roller Coaster. Here is a video made by me of other rafts going through this rapid (whilst you are in the raft and negotiating it, clicking videos is the last thing that you’d want to do. Hence, I don’t have videos of our negotiating these rapids):
Here is the first of the rapids called ‘Camel Top’ that we negotiated (the video is shot by me of another boat doing the same thing):
It is not just the rapids that give you thrill. Every once in a while you come across calmer waters (of course with strong under currents) and then you get to look out and admire the scenery and your other mates in the raft:
In the above pics, you would have noticed a man on the bank, in maroon robes playing on the flute. He was playing the popular arti Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram. My video couldn’t capture the notes but I could capture the atmosphere:
Whilst paddling through the rapids, the technique that we used more often than not was to continue with the momentum as much as possible by rapid paddling called punching. High siding (leaning out as much as possible on the higher side in order to right the raft going through the rapid) was used only once or twice and we didn’t use low siding at all. For a navy-man, who has done these enough at sea in a sailing boat, there was nothing new, however. I must, at this stage, have a word of praise for my partner, my wife, for not just the daring but enjoying the adventure thoroughly:
I was reminded of the time, seven years ago, when we went to Andaman and Nicobar islands and I offered her to do snorkelling with me in Chidhiya Tapu. She was apprehensive of lowering herself into the sea because she doesn’t know swimming. However, after she learnt the technique and saw the beautiful choral underwater, she didn’t want to get out:
Rafting can actually be that kind of fun and more. One doesn’t ever want it to get over. It is like going through the river of life with all its ups and downs, dangerous and risky times, calm and happy occasions and of course the joy of having been there and done that.
Soon we had crossed the last of the rapids called Doble Trouble, the name having derived from the rocks in the middle of the river, dividing the river into two. At this point we started seeing first the Laxman Jhoola and then our destination the Ram Jhoola:
We had had an experience of a lifetime and as we saw the Ram Jhoola and the places around, wanted it to go on and on and never finish:
The notes of the final part of the aarti of the evening before for Gange Maa echoed in our hearts and ears and we felt fortunate that Ganga Mata (Mother Ganga) gave us the opportunity to be with her and witness her kindness, loveliness and enchantment even if for just two and half hours:
Be part of this enchantment and do this adventure at least once in your life. As far as my wife and I are concerned, it has prepared us for bigger and greater adventures.
Zindagi na milegi dobara (You can’t get your life again).
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