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Wild Waters of Adrenaline
May 26, 2008 01:23 PM 4182 Views


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People visiting Rishikesh can be classified into two

types - those who have come with the innate desire to feel the cold waters of

the Ganga purify you while zapping down the river on your raft and experience

the elements while white water rafting and those who don't have this streak of

adventure on their minds. This venting of excitement is for the former.

Most people will generally touch down in Delhi

before making their way to Rishikesh. From Delhi you have numerous options and the swarm

of touts outside the station will direct you to the smooth talking, 'I'm on

your side' travel operators. Renting your own car is an option but if your one

part of a quartet of college students on a budgeted trip, the cheapest and most

convenient mode of transport is bus. Buses generally leave in the evening and

don't be afraid to haggle like your mom at the bazaar. These hardened operators

will try and squeeze every paisa out of you so be wary. I may be painting a

gruesome picture but to be forewarned is for the better. We paid around 400 per

person which is decent considering its 214 kms away and we had Volvo buses.

Generally most buses leave around midnight and you might wonder why, well you

need a road pass to enter Uttarkhand which is valid for only a day. So these business-minded

hawks cross the border post 12 and return the same day. So if your bus is

scheduled to leave at 9-10, hold on, your journey's not yet begun. The ride is

dark and at times bumpy but a piece of cake for a seasoned traveler. The less

world weary can simple take an Avomine to quell the rising tide in their tummy.

The bus reaches Haridwar at the break of dawn and it's advisable to check if

your bus is headed to Rishikesh or Haridwar as they are a good 27 kms apart.

Anyway you can take a rickshaw for Rs 5 if you're at the market area of

Rishikesh and you wish to head higher.(Where you should be headed)

Once you round a corner past a petrol pump, it's advisable to jump off and

scout for a decent place to stay unless you've already make arrangements.

Hotels are a dime a dozen and the locals are generally friendly. We stayed at

Hotel Ganga Paradise which was more like a house than a commercial prison

(hotel).  We had two rooms for Rs 500, it did come at a price - one was

not equipped with a lavatory. However the rooms were nice and the hall outside

doubled as a balcony and we were free to come and go at a whim.

If your budget permits there are much bigger hotels with a view of the river

which will feature in every Lonely Planet and travel website you scan. The

prerogative is yours.

Once you’re settled, you can sift through the main road for anything that

catches your fancy. We chanced upon a quaint restaurant called Swiss Bakery

which served Israeli and Tibetan cuisine, ironically. We ate like kings and

paid like paupers and the food was fulfilling. The ambience was Goaesque which

accentuated the calmness that the city radiated.

Another interesting place is New Bhandari Swiss Cottage, (no relation

to the former) it has outdoor seating with a passive swing so you can soak

up the Rishikesh sky.  The staff is friendly and the walk up the hill

builds your appetite. The food is on the higher side but worth

every cent.  Go for an enchilada if you miss ghar ka spicy

khana.All said and done, it's a place you ought to visit. Although a late

meal will leave you transport less and a long walk home. The area is generally

safe but keep an eye out for that stray nut.

The second last cool thing to do is have a soda-pop. If you rack your grey

cells you'll probably experience a wave of nostalgia when you see the marble

pressurized soda bottles. This lime and masala soda mixture is guaranteed you

make you feel like a kid. I had more than five during our stay and my

bowels were still in tact so two thumbs up!

Once you're done with the trivialities, you got to put on your fedora and

pretend you're Indiana Jones looking for the ultimate rafting experience. We

browsed through the market and after a couple of recommendations and price

surfing we found Red Chilli adventure. We did 18 kms and paid a measly 550 per

person which was probably the most worthwhile deal I've clinched in my life.

Don't be disheartened if you’re not that lucky but I can vouch that you will

get a good deal. The office was intriguing with its self serve coffee and tea

on display and a balcony with a view of the Ganga

and Laxman Jhula. The staff was very friendly and Mr Arvind even helped us plan

the rest of our trip to Dharamshala and Manali without any obligations. The

guides were fluent in English and Hindi and were entertaining from the start.

After a short drive we reached the campsite and in 20 minutes our raft was

inflated and we were raring to go. Helmets and life jackets were our

accessories to adventure and we had two safety kayakers to plot the way.

We encountered Grade III+ rapids in May which were heart wrenchingly exiting

yet still safe for novices. We often jumped in the water which was freezing but

we hardly noticed it because of the sheer rush that rafting brings. I could

rattle off the names of the rapids to impress you but nothing beats the

real deal so I'll refrain from satisfying the couch potato in you. At times we

jumped out and bodysurfed much to the amusement of our water phobic pal but she

soon jumped in. Our guide Bhim had a curious chant which went like Yo Baby, Yo

Baby, Yo Baby Yoooo.which entailed banging the water with our paddles and

then banging them in an air huddle. Cute, to say the least. We passed many

temples and hotels along the way and our excitement didn't wane even a bit

after 18 kms.  Somewhere towards the end, we stopped at a diving platform,

read: rock, to rev up our adrenaline a little more. The jump varies from 16-22

feet depending on the river and can evoke demons in even the most adventurous

soul. Don't be scared though, the 3 seconds you take to reach the water and the

following sense of achievement will more than make up for the 10 mins you spend

contemplating the jump on top.  Red Chilli also arranged for a tent at the

end to change and I got a chance to try my hand at Kayaking, according to the

crew member it takes three years of rafting for you have the expertise to

sufficiently navigate the river on a kayak. I was just happy I got my ten

minutes of a high without the baggage. Many sites will also advertise for an

overnight trip but as of May 08 camping was banned of the banks, so nocturnal

bunnies look elsewhere.

The rafting ended our trip on the best possible note and

although I run the risk of sounding like a talking advertisement for Red Chilli

Adventure, I rest all laurels on them for one of the craziest rides nature has

to offer. If you have even the slightest inclination to raft I suggest you head

up north immediately, nature calleth so stand up and say Aye!

P.S: Rafting season is from after the monsoons to May. There are a whole bunch of organisers for white water rafting just outside Bombay if you're bitten by the bug.

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