Row Row Row a boat
Gently down the Ganges
When you’re bouncing inside a rapid
Don’t forget to scream
Five minutes later my 8-year-old daughter was being told off by our guide/instructor not to shout so loud during the rapids because the paddlers up front – myself included – couldn’t hear his directions.
I’m trying to think of a time when I used to be adventurous; I am not one to bungee-jump or even go on a roller-coaster. Ask me to go on an impromptu drive from Schwaebisch Gmuend in Germany to Paris, France in the middle of the night or hike up to the Neuschwanstein Castle through a doggy-path, and I’d be game, but ask me to go down a water slide and I’ll start shivering even before I hit the cold water. So when my 8-year-old daughter and almost 70-year-old father showed extreme keenness in river-rafting, I faced a dilemma. Should I chicken-out of the activity making some lame excuse – I’ll stay back to take photographs – or just build up my courage and take on the challenge head on? Obviously if I’m writing about it, I chose the latter.
Rishikesh is synonymous with adventure sports in the North. There is a bungee-jumping point, one can go zip-lining across the valley, or as most tourists do and I too did, pop their river-rafting cherry. At Rs. 750 + Taxes, including pick-up and drop-off at the hotel, for a good two hour plus rafting trip, it is a bargain not to be missed. There are three options – based on kilometers and increasing intensity of rapids – that one can take. Being our first time, and in fact everyone in our boat was a first-timer, we went with the initial 15 Km ride down to Shivpuri (The others go further all the way to Rishikesh and aren’t advisable for children below 12 years).
And so it was, our little group of beginners, with paddles in our hands, helmets on her heads, and life jackets strapped tight to our chests sat at the starting point listing to instructions of what needed to be done once we were floating down the river. In the end though, of all the manoeuvres, techniques and what nots, the only instructions we heard were to paddle forward or rest, and that is it.
As I think back to that day I realize how diverse our little group was; we had two active “young” gentlemen in their late 60s, my daughter who was all of 8, myself who was somewhere in between, sitting upfront with a balding head and a potbelly, and a young bearded TV/Film star and author with his wife, who were celebrating their first holiday together after marriage – and thus I shall refrain from naming them. I also didn’t know till towards the end of our little adventure who he was and maybe it was a good thing because I had at one time dissed his book based just on its title. Had he known that, who knows, maybe this would have been the perfect opportunity for him to get rid of me because all kinds of things can happen inside a rapid, right? In fairness, the said person was extremely courteous, polite, and even laughed at a couple of my jokes.
The thing about rapids is that they look pleasant from afar, but once you are in the river, approaching one, or in middle of it, your entire perception changes drastically. Yes, the refreshing feeling of cold water hitting the face is exciting, but being thrown all around by the river isn’t as easy as it may seem. On top of that the actual thrill of crossing a rapid doesn’t last long, so be prepared for a lot of gentle and strenuous – if you are out of shape as I was – paddling in-between the rapids.
Mickey Mouse, Black Money, Three Blind Mice, Crossfire, and Thank God; no I’m not referring to cartoons or nursery rhymes or even the news, but these happen to be the names given to the five rapids that we encountered. Three Blind Mice is infamous and most enthusiasts know of it, although I found Crossfire to be more challenging and fun. River-rafting is an excellent adventure sport that is executed with proper safety and security at Rishikesh and if you are able to withstand a few bumps and bounces and in a position to give your back and arms a good workout, then don’t miss it. I’m thankful to my daughter and father whose enthusiasm it was that made me do rafting – I am now a fan of the sport and can’t wait to someday try the “harder” rapids.
A late afternoon rafting session meant I was famished by dinner and slept like a baby afterwards. As I woke up the next day, or tried to, I found that my joints protested against all the fun I had had the previous day by hurting me. But it was the good kind of hurtin’, one that corresponded to a personal achievement I could somewhat be proud of. There was however no time to waste as we had a long drive back home.
Leaving at 9 AM a day before Holi we expected a longer commute. The views of the Shivalik range and the Ganga meandering through the valley was a truly mesmerizing farewell to this mountainous region. The hours clocked by mostly in silence, each one of the passengers quiet, in contemplation, listening to music, sleeping, or reading.
Lunch hour and we reached Cheetal Grand – the one on the opposite side, and this time it was a smaller more old-fashion version of the one we had visited just two days back. Eager to get home, yet still in vacation mode, we ordered Vegetable Cutlets – crispy and a little oily yet delicious, Cheese Pizza – with a very thick Indian-ized base, and gorgeously grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
As luck would have it, we made it back in about the same time as it had taken us to reach Rishikesh from Gurgaon – 7 hours. In hindsight, a day’s stay more would be advisable, although if bound by time a 3 day 2 night option also works well when planning a road-trip to Rishikesh.
Family road trips are always special. Enjoy them – as we did – or not, but they have a way of being etched in the memory for long. The trick is always to make the most of them the best you can and that’s exactly how it went for us in Rishikesh; we did what we wanted to do but also soaked in a little of what Rishikesh had to offer.