“You not only enjoy Nature because it’s serene; you do because it’s your beautiful extension.”It’s an epiphany I had while I was enduring the rapids in the mighty river GANGA at Rishikesh during White Water River Rafting.
Away from the bustles of the city, from the bedlam of the relatives, from those uneasy claws which penetrate you whenever you try to be yourself; I was lying like a log, embracing the grandeur of the limitless sky with closed eyes, and an open mind. A yellow halo was all I could see, the babbling sound of the river was I all could hear; the thoughts had already lost in a realm of their own, and when they were found, I got transformed. Floating on The Ganges, with arms open to receive; I received a kiss in the form of a swift breeze, and all I could say was “Thank you”. Thank you for blessing me.
It might sound poetic, but it’s nothing in compare to what I felt. Our trip to Rishikesh was planned just a few days prior to the trip, but my trip to Rishikesh was 3 years in the making. My plan saw some fortunate setbacks (I had planned a trip during the weekend when the “Apda” occurred in Uttrakhand, which got cancelled at the last moment), some unfortunate ones (when the job training preponed or some friends ditched me) and my lovely procrastination. But sometimes a thing happens only when you need it, not when you want it. And only God knows, how badly I needed this trip.
But sometimes a thing happens only when you need it, not when you want it. And only God knows, how badly I needed this trip.
My Friend Called Me For A Trip To Auli
So while I was busy with my procrastination, I received a call from my friend for a trip to Auli for Skiing. Initially, I was reluctant but said yes on a condition; we will stay a day at Rishikesh too. Henceforth, the planning phase started.
After my previous experience to Rishikesh, I had realized that you just need two things to pack your bags for Rishikesh. First, a group to go with. And second, a mode of transport. So, if you are a solo traveller, you just need to book something or just grab your wheels and whooooop!! But the ones who fall in the other category, this is the main hindrance (as it was with me). For the transport, you can easily book Normal bus, Volvo, Delux bus straight to Rishikesh if you live in North or nearby; or a train to Haridwar, followed by a cab/bus to Rishikesh.
Rishikesh is just 25-30 km away from Haridwar. But as we had plans to go further up, we booked a cab straight from my home, in Delhi. After booking the cab, we booked the camp. Now, if it’s an off-season, November-Feb due to insanely cold water, you can go straight to Shivpuri and book on the spot. All the camps are adjacent to each other, with a little variation in its costing and services.
I dreaded over the fact that Beach Camps were banned. Damn! As it can’t get any better than sitting on a cliff, with Tea in your right hand and legs swinging freely at 30 feet from the river. But, I can’t blame the ban, as it was necessary.
So, finally, the night came when the trip was about to happen.
Excitement, Double Check!
Friends were late.
You know how it feels to be full of adrenaline to start something, and you just can’t because of others. Well, I felt exactly the same.
My friends were stuck in the traffic. I was angry. Exasperated. Not only as I like being punctual but also as my father was looking at me with a dreadful expression. As if saying, “It’s already 1 hour past midnight. When do you think your parents sleep anyway?”
However, the bell at 1:45 am on phone saved me from the wraith of my parents, and we all started with our trip to Auli, with Rishikesh as the first stop.
And reciting the name of Mata Rani, we began our journey.
On our Way To Auli Via Rishikesh
After the initial 10 minutes of formalities: abusing for getting late, banter which comes out when you meet your old friends, and getting introduced to friends of friends; there was silence in the car. No, no one slept. Silence as in no music. The car’s system didn’t support an Aux. WTF!!!
So, in short, a little bit of chaos marked the starting of our journey. And as we say in Delhi, “yatra ka shubh arambh”:P
I asserted to seat on the front seat, next to the driver. Why?
Because I wanted to be the DJ of the journey. Oh yeah, the plan got busted within 3 minutes.
Because I am an owner of long legs. Really long!!
Because it’s the most comfortable seat in the cab. Yeah, the primary reason.
Because I wanted to observe the road staring at me with luminous pairs of eyes, and their respective voices playing Doppler’s effect as we across each one of them. Ohfish! Here comes the poet.
We stopped for a while after 50-60 km for stuffing our empty stomachs. And God! The Parathas, stuffed Parathas, were awesome. I mean, at 3.45 in the morning you can’t expect anything better. For a moment, I went to the road to just witness the vehicles passing by and it was majestic. The cold weather was caressing my cheeks, and when the cars whooped in front of me, their sound was melodious. The street lights on the roads on either side were magnifying the overall beauty of the road. The road which will take us to our destination. (You can see the happy faces we had after stuffing our crying tummies with awesome Paranthas. Good food = Good mood:P)
Next Stop : Shivpuri
And we find out that our driver was in a rush of his own (You can see his annoyed face in the pic above as we were wasting his time in collecting memories for us). He seemed all polite and calm, and neither did he try to scare the innocent animals, sleeping nearby the road, by whooping past them, but he had a mantra; Less stops means less time wastage. As simple.
We had planned, sort of, to do breakfast in Haridwar; “Bhaiya Rishikesh me kar lena, waha acha mil jaega”
Then we changed it to Rishikesh; “Bhaiya bas thodi der me Shivpuri a jaega, wahijake naahdhoke krna accha rahega”
And we were like, saale bhukh lag rahi hai.
So, due to his excellent driving and negotiating skills, we finally reached the camps at 7:20am in the morning. The way to the camp was a steep descent, and the road was not properly constructed. So, he stopped the car as the path ahead was bumpy. And the moment I stepped outside, I felt a connection which I had felt at Matheran. The connection with nature. On my left, I could see and hear the Ganges babbling across little stones, as melodious as it can get; and the majestic mountains surrounding me as if holding me in the middle of their heart. Surreal!
But the camps were still about 750 m ahead. So, my friends and I trekked towards the camps and ended up with a different camp which was cleaner, more picturesque, cheaper and with more polite staff than the one we had booked. The benefit of going during the offseason.
And as soon as I saw a bed, I collapsed. C’mon, I need strength for Rafting.
After having breakfast in the camp itself, we got ready for donning our life jackets and helmets to tackle the rapids being scheduled for us for the day. Our Rafting has to take place from Marine Drive which was few kilometres up from where we were. We drove till that point, and I couldn’t tell you how irresistible was the urge to actually sit in the raft which was tightened over the jeep we were in. But it wasn’t Fear Factor or Roadies, so we didn’t get the nod from the owner.
Next Stop: Marine Drive – River Rafting
It’s one thing to say that I want to do River Rafting and totally different to actually do it. And you feel that when you take your first step in the river to mount on the raft. When the slippery sand tickles your feet and the chilling river sends shrieks in your body, it’s then when you know that it has started.
I sat on the front left of the raft. Front because I had experience. And with the name of Mata Ganga, we left the shore to experience what the day had in store for us. The guide had instructed us well, before letting us on the raft. Everything about how to get into the raft, how to sit, why locking your feet inside the raft is important, what if you fall in the water and flow away from the raft, meanings of the code words, and so on. For first-timers, if the mandatory signing of the ‘At your own risk’ form didn’t, then the instructions step would certainly freak the hell out.
You must be thinking, “What if you fall? What? I didn’t actually give it a thought. Is it actually possible? I heard it’s safe. Isn’t it?” Well, there is a possibility and it’s better to prepare yourself in case it happens. Because once you are out there, then you are literally on your own. So it’s better to know what to do than to be in denial.
The sun was kissing our skins, the breeze was soothing us, and the guide was instructing us to move our asses out a little, to lock our feet properly and to pay attention.
And in amidst of it came our first point, the balancing point. Basically, a point to remove our jitters and to see our balancing skills. And,
it was there where I met nature, closer than ever.
I fell. I fell head on in the river. Huduup!!
Where am I? Is it for real? If yes, then what is real? What happened?
I felt a little push on my chest, my feet weren’t locked as we were attempting to balance, and I just did a full back summers-sault in the river. I couldn’t feel the weight of my body. Or maybe, it wasn’t important. Or maybe, I wasn’t prepared. In an instant, the world around me had changed its form; and my senses were trying to adapt.
I was in the river, floating freely. Did I say floating? I don’t even know what it’s called. But I know what it wasn’t. It wasn’t ‘panicking’. The moment I resurfaced, only one thought occupied even the last cell of my troubled mind, don’t you dare panic.
It’s amazing how the wild monkey gets tamed, disciplined, in a matter of seconds, just when the curtains of life seems to flutter. Disciplined with just one thought, don’t panic and I am grateful that I didn’t. Even the guide acknowledged that thing later.
I knew that the Life-jacket won’t let me drown. And I also knew that help was near.
“Vineet, don’t worry. Hum a rahe hai (We are coming),” screamed one of my friends. But I couldn’t pay any attention to that. As for me, the whole time was passing in moments.
I Moment – I noticed that the flow had drifted me a little away from the raft.
II Moment – I saw the worried faces, one of them was smiling I guess, of my friends; and the guide was whistling and preparing to throw something at me like a cowboy.
III Moment – A yellow wire was floating on my left and I clutched it as if my life depends on it. As it literally was.
And, as I pulled myself towards the raft, I crooned the title track of Lakshya with a determined expression on my face. Yes, I am a bit dramatic at times. Where is the Camera? Damn!!
I was elated. I seldom felt like this before. And though, while in the raft, I didn’t feel like anything of that sort had happened. But it had.
After a while, when the flow got normal at a point, we all plunged into the river. But it was only good, as I had tasted great. Surprise adds its on flavour, I guess. Going forward, we endured many Rapids. Endured as in, literally battled them. Sitting in the front has its own joy and perils. It was damn hard.
Few of the Rapids that I can recall were,
Double trouble, Roller-coaster, Whirlpool, Body surfing, Cross-fire and 3blind mice. Out of which, 3blind mice was the longest and double trouble was the hardest.
I admit that I was struggling at few places. My hands were red, my lungs were gulping huge volumes of air, and I was feeling tired. But then the guide told me something.
“Bhiaya, agar Rapid se daroge to wo aur darega. Use kato. Jitni force se wo a rha hai utni force se row kro tabhi kam banega (If you fear from the Rapid, it will creep you out. Match its force with the consistency of your row, then only it works),”” and it made all the difference.
The Yellow Halo
Post that, we didn’t bend inwards, until commanded so, and rowed past all the Rapids till the Body Surfing Rapid, as it had to be dealt with our bodies and not with our rows. And we plunged again, only this time I felt more surreal than my first encounter with the plunging. We were floating like a log, being tied with the raft with the help of a strong blue ribbon and were soaking in the surroundings. And then, I did something, whose inspiration is still unknown to me. I tied the far end of the ribbon on my right hand, pulled both my legs to the surface, and let my whole body float freely. Surreal!! Mystical!!
One of my friends also tried it and was blown away by the experience. The yellow halo, the babbling sound of the river was inducing a hypnotising effect which was enchanting and mystical at the same time.
I can hear myself saying, “Nature/Universe enter me, I am all yours.” I don’t know where the words came from, but it transformed my surroundings into my extension. I was no longer amidst Nature but a part of it. I was so in the moment that I had to force myself to get out of it and climb back into the raft.
Next stop: Cliff Jump and back to the camp
Now, if you have been to rafting and haven’t done Cliff jumping, then you have not completed your Rafting. As simple.
As the experience of rafting is incomplete without the adrenaline rush of a free-fall.How was it? Well, I was spellbound, again, during my first jump and was so thrilled that I did it again.
As the guide instructed us to go and take a jump from the cliff, my friend and I, we both had done it before, rushed and joined the big queue for the jump. The pointed rocks were giving us an accu-pressure kind of experience while we were trying to maintain our balance during the ascent. On reaching the edge of the precipice, we saw some first timers were afraid like hell which was stalling the queue. And mind you, it was very dangerous to wait with one foot on a bigger boulder, hands on the other and pacifying the jolts of the people who were trying to overtake you through some adjacent rocks. (People are always in a rush; let it be on roads or mountains. Seldom people understands that queues are there for a reason)
So, when it was my turn, finally, I recalled the drill; Look straight into the mountains which were spreading from the far left to the extreme right in front of you; hold the Life-jacket’s strap on your chest and jump straight without bending or extending any part of your body outside. And as it was the moment to jump I could feel my heartbeats racing. I actually felt them filling me up. I wonder If I had Mountain Dew at that point because I was feeling thirsty too:P.
And I jumped. And as I came up the surface, I felt that old feeling of joy again. The next part of getting back to the shore was a little difficult as I didn’t know how to swim, but the flow normally gets you back to the shore. Just be aware of the approaching rafts as one raft was just coming straight to my friend and me. We escaped it narrowly. Phew!! Too much of adventure for the day.
After getting back into the rafts, and having the not so delicious and expensive noodles at the cliff point, we headed back towards the end point where the raft-cab was waiting for us.
So, our rafting was finally completed and we drove back to the camp in the back of an open jeep (The one with the blue raft on top of it. My friend and I was sitting along with some Life-Jackets and Rows and only we both know how uncomfortable but adventures it was). It took us half an hour to reach the camps and the only thing I could have done at that point was eating and sleeping, though my friends were like “so kyu rha hai? Cricket khelte hai.” And I was like, “bhad me jao, mere me takat nahi hai.” The food was amazing and the sleep that followed was heavenly.
I woke up at the tunes of Honey Singh, which were blaring outside the camp. And as I came out, I saw the bonfire gilding the sitting area, along with snacks and drinks, whose aroma was filling the air outside. My friends had already made themselves comfortable around the bonfire. I wasted no time in joining them.
It was simply out of this world experience. Just imagine, you are sitting amidst nature, sipping tea, nibbling Pakodas, listening to Coldplay (I had switched the track) and then sitting beside the river and talking in absolute darkness barring a flashlight from your mobile. Couldn’t get better than that. And finally after talking for about 2 hours and eating dinner afterward, we slept again to prepare ourselves for the next part of the journey, Auli…
(A final picture before we could say, “till next time” to the awesome place where I felt like Heaven)
P.s: Rishikesh is indeed a beautiful place which reminded me the privilege we all are enjoying i.e. the Nature. My friends and I, throughout our trip, maintained a strict discipline and made sure that even the wrapper of a toffee gets properly disposed of into the dustbin or the side chains of our bags. Not on the road or in the river. Before leaving the camp, I went for a morning walk to witness the sunrise on the bank of the river. Although
I was a little late to witness it from my eyes, and ears: The chirping of birds, the voice of river, the grandeur of mountains and greenery.
If you are planning a weekend getaway and have the balls or the curiosity to enjoy River Rafting, Rishikesh is the place; and If you need any assistance, I can provide you the numbers I have.
And for those who have read it till here, Thanks a lot!! I know it was a big post but believe me, I tried to make it as short as I could have without compromising on the things I wanted to share. I hope you liked it and if you did enjoy it, don’t hesitate to share:P
What Happened Next? Well, in the following 27 hours, I met Snow and rediscovered friendship.