This thing was written long time back to be published on the intranet in my office. It’s a rather long piece. Look before you read…
After all the speculations and apprehensions et al about being a non-swimmer and the phobia with water, I finally decided to embark on this trip. We left this place at around 2:30 ish on the night of 20th March from our houses. The majority of the junta hadn’t slept at all, courtesy the India-Kenya World Cup match. There were 4 qualis’s in all with around 30 ppl (after 2-3 ppl dropped out) with the qualis’s divided in east/west/north/south delhi etc. We all had to meet at ‘Noida Mod’. So we set out in the middle of the night, all charged up.. with the music at full volume.. and the qualis at full speed, what with the absolutely empty roads and all… that special sense of romance that the night lends..and the cool air.. one can imagine what it was like. We covered up quite some distance in the early hours of the morning. On the way we stopped at Cheetal Grand, a restaurant complex with an amazingly beautiful variety of flowers. There were a lot of photography sessions here due to the exquisite view the place provided. By this time all sleepy heads were also wide awake.
We set out again for Rishikesh, which was quite some distance and many temples ahead. With all the spot photography sessions we reached Kudiyala at around 11:30am. We were asked to quickly change into our rafting gear and have a quick bite of breakfast. After this we were supposed to go to another place, DevPrayag, from where we were to raft downstream to our camp. Hurriedly, we all changed and then had a quick brunch which had so much variety, I only wish I had some more time to relish it, not to forget the intuition that the next meal would be a long way off. We all set out for Dev Prayag in our qualis’s whereas the luggage was to be loaded on mules and taken directly to our camp via a shorter path. Just before the starting point of rafting, we came across a ‘Sangam’ where the Alaknanda and the Bhagirathi join the main river – Ganga. One could clearly make out where the two rivers were meeting each other because of the light green and the dark green colours of the water. We reached the rafting point and were given life jackets and helmets to adorn. I must say the life jacket nearly smothered me! We were given oars and the whole atmosphere suddenly changed from funfilled to highly professional.
We all assembled in front of the 4 rafts where we were introduced to the camp incharge, Anil Bisht and his team members. We were also given safety instructions about rafting and familiarised with various commands that a guide might give to the rafting team. Some of the commands we learnt were “paddle forward”, “paddle backward”, “relax”, and “highside”, out of which the 1st three are pretty obvious to understand whereas “highside” means putting ones weight on the front section of the raft by lying down there. This was to be used to tackle fierce rapids. So here we all set out in our respective rafts with most of the non-swimmers gathered in one particular raft. Amit was kayaking separately. Everyone was taking turns at rowing and generally getting the feel of rafting. People were also taking dips in the cold water by holding onto the rope that sidelined the raft, the rope being called the ‘lifeline’ for obvious reasons. Those who were comfortable swimming in the river had a frolicking time. By this time the sun had started burning overhead and more and more ppl grabbed the chance to get into the water. All the rafts also started having water fights where people would start splashing cold water at any nearby raft. Now everyone started innovating on the ways to make others wet. They used their oars and empty buckets to this effect, not to forget clambering onto someone else’s raft to make everyone else wet. Now that everyone realised that the empty bucket was a good weapon, all the rafts had some swimmers hounding for it, with their respective raft cheering them. It was good fun, sailing through the river and also having some games on the way!
We spent the whole afternoon toiling away, paddling and then had our lunch break around 4pm (as I had guessed) at a sand beach on the way. The moment we took that break, we realised that the lunch and drinks for the whole group were in our raft and we were the ones with the minimum number of oars, slaving for everyone else’s benefit! After the refreshing lunch, which again had enormous variety, we set out for our base camp. By this time the sun had started descending and ppl felt less inclined to get wet, as the wind was anyway cold. As a result, the remainder of the downstream trip was very calm, with no water fights and no one taking dips in the water. Everyone was just sailing away, taking in the beauty of the surrounding mountains, clicking snaps on the way. We reached the base camp at around 6:45 pm. Here everyone collected their luggage and chose a tent and a room mate for themselves. After arranging our stuff, I went out to take another dip in the water, in the presence of the main in-charge Anil. By the time I got out and changed to some dry clothes, I had missed the tea and pakoras, which had smelt heavenly and inviting when I had chosen to take a dip instead.
Since we all had a lot of time to kill before dinner, we decided to just sit around in a group. As it got darker and darker the place just got more and more scenic with stars peeping out from every inch of the sky. It was a dream for stargazers and amateur astronomers. We all went to a makeshift area with wobbly rocks and adjusted ourselves there for some conversation. It was absolutely dark now, what with no electricity in that area and no inhabitation in the nearby mountains. Occasionally we would notice the sharp beam of some vehicle on the mountain roads, which actually appeared quite eerie. The zillions of stars and all the constellations could be easily spotted with the naked eye because of the absence of the disturbing factors like city lights, pollution etc. The sound of the waves splashing against rocks only added to the ambience. In some time, the camp in-charge, Anil came along with another of his guides, Lama, who had a guitar. We had a short guitar session after which we had dinner in the ‘café’ which was an area with lots of cane furniture and a thatched roof. After dinner, we all retired to our respective tents. Some people were still not in the mood to sleep and were generally singing songs, some people were chatting in their tents, not that it made any difference to the outside world as everyone’s conversation (and their snores too) could be heard clearly because of the “thin walls”!!
The next morning, I got up early and had some juice to begin with. After that I went to get acquainted with “storm” and “scissors”, 2 puppies that Anil has. After a photo session with them we had a sumptuous breakfast with a lot of variety again. After this, a group of people went to explore the nearby waterfall and had a splash there. People could also indulge in miscellaneous activities like kayaking, beach volleyball, badminton, diving into the water from high rocks, building sand castles or just lazying around in the sand, with lunch in between of course. We had a session of dumb charades after lunch and then ppl opted for rappelling and rock climbing. By evening ppl were tired of all the activities and we had a bonfire where everyone just chilled out. Some ppl were playing antakshri, others were busy in their drinks and still others were busy chatting. After this we had an amazing chinese meal, complete with the soup and all. Some people wanted to leave early the next day to watch the world cup final but finally the evolved consensus was to stay and attend the 2nd day of rafting which included fierce rapids this time. Throughout the trip, everyone had heard so much about the rapids, that everyone had their own personal perception about them by now.
We set out early the next day and the last day of the camp trip. Everyone took photographs because after this, photography wouldn’t be possible in the turbulent waters that were expected. With all the talks about rapids and especially “The Wall”, I must add that most of the people were quite apprehensive of that rapid. The waves were supposed to rise as high as a wall and this could capsize any raft if not tackled properly. The chances of the raft capsizing were given to us as 100% as anything was possible! So we all set out, with our raft in tow with others. Ours was a maximum non-swimmers raft and that’s why we were probably kept 3rd throughout the downstream trip. There were lots of kayaks also so that if any rafts capsize, the rafters could be “rescued”. The first rapid was “Daniel’s Dip” which had high, fierce waves hitting the rafts like anything. Everyone had taken his or her respective positions, with our guide trying to calm down everyone. We had been given strict instructions for keeping absolutely quite. The experience of crossing this rapid was awesome. But still the tension of crossing the next rapid – ‘The Wall’ was quite prominent. Again, we had been given strict instructions about everything, all members took positions, with our guide shouting out the commands amidst the roaring of the waves. The ones who were supposed to paddle were doing so furiously even as they were almost being jolted out of the boat. As soon as the command for “highside” came, all the three highsiders, put their weight on the front section of the boat. HUGE, never-ending waves were hitting furiously and drenching all the highsiders and suddenly before we knew it, we had crossed ‘The Wall’ and approached calm waters. Everyone was elated and we had a ‘three cheers’ session for our guide, Som. Just as we finished cheering for ourselves, we saw that another raft, (the one following us) had capsized and all the rafters were in water. We took hold of the ones floating near our raft. Others were taken care of, by the kayaks.
After this rapid, we crossed a few other rapids, like ‘The three blind mice’, which is a series of three rapids, one after another. Another was ‘Good Morning’ and yet another was ‘Cross Fire’. The rafters were encouraged to do ‘body surfing’ in one of the smaller rapids. Some of the people jumped into the water, while holding onto the lifeline, just before the rapid appeared. Others took dips in the water once it became calm.
Our rafting trip was nearing its end now. We also saw an ad being shot at some camp for ‘Ganga Mineral Water’! Finally our rafting session came to an end at Shivpuri, where we had lunch, had a final photo session and finally bid goodbye to the camp in-charge, Anil and his team. After this we set out for home, all tanned and tired. Now everyone’s focus suddenly shifted from the trip to the World Cup final being played between India and Australia.
On the whole I am sure everyone had a fabulous time, made a lot of new friends, and shared a lot of fun times with them. We have been exchanging snaps quite frequently to say the least. Thanks to the organisers for taking the initiative to organise a trip like this!!