Rishikesh: Rafting on the Himalayan Foothills
January 1, 1970
by Meera Krishnadas
Rishikesh, the beautiful city in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand is a destination for all- the adventure seekers or the nature lovers, for the religious devotees or backpackers, for families or couples. It offers beauty, thrill, and peace. The holy Ganga or Ganges with its pristine water carrying a turquoise tint runs along the city giving it life and soul.
Being a student in Delhi, me and my friends decided to escape the exam tensions and go to Rishikesh for the day. There are constant bus services from Delhi to Rishikesh. One can reach here by road or rails. We decided to take the night bus from Delhi at 11.30 pm and we reached Rishikesh at 5 am the next day.
You get autorickshaws from the bus stop and the auto driver guided us to a good adventure company. There are plenty of options around and hence the competition is high. We were taken to Raj Adventures who offered us excellent and professional service.
Our main goal was to try rafting at India’s best white water rafting destination. As we reached there at the crack of dawn, we had time to walk along the banks of Ganga and marvel at its tranquility. You cannot help feel peaceful and calm as you look at the mighty river. The cold was not extreme as we went in March. After the walk, we decided to visit a the Parmarth Niketan temple and offer our prayers.
Things to do in Rishikesh:
- Rafting (Cliff-jumping Body surfing)
- Adventure sports- Bungee jumping, Flying fox, and Giant swing (Closed on Tuesdays)
- Temples (Parmarth Niketan temple, Neelkanth Mahadev temple)
- Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula cantilever bridges
Rishikesh does not demand a lot of your time. One can cover everything in less than two days.
Ganga is supposed to offer the best rafting experience to anyone and we were not disappointed. In fact, we were blown away by it. Rafting was nothing short of a life-changing experience for us.
The first rafting session starts at 9 and we decided to take that fearing the heat.
There are different kinds of packages.
- Brahmapuri to Rishikesh- 12 kilometers
- Shivpuri to Rishikesh- 19 kilometers
- Marine Drive to Rishikesh- 24 kilometers
- Kaudiyala to Rishikesh- 34 kilometers
As it was our first time we decided to take the Shivpuri one which costs 650 Rs per person, taking almost 3.5 hours. We were advised that it is suitable for young first timers. The Brahmapuri one is usually preferred by families or school children. The Kaudiyala raft, on the other hand, is for professionals.
They took us uphill to Shivpuri in a jeep. On reaching the location we were handed the necessary equipment like life jackets, helmets, and the paddle. One instructor accompanies each boat. Our instructor gave us all the required instructions and we were all ready to go. And it started.
We first got used to the rowing motions and the correct seating positions while our boat slowly drifted deep into the river. What followed was a ride filled with excitement and fun. There are few rides where the sheer thrill stands above fear and this was one such experience. As the raft rocked back and forth we followed the instructions dutifully, sometimes holding on to the safety rope and at times paddling real fast.
The rapids are graded according to their intensity (I, II, III, IV, and IV+). The initial rapids were like a teaser, we shouted a little and wowed a lot. Then came the major rapids. Our adrenaline levels shot up, we prayed to Ganga and we went for it! The raft rose up and it went down, it went backward and sidewards- it was nothing short of nature’s rollercoaster. True to its nature the best rapids in the Shivpuri stretch were named roller-coaster and golf course, both grade III rapids.
There were moments in which we thought that the water would engulf us, there were moments when we feared that the rafting boat would turn upside down, but there was not a single moment when we stopped smiling widely or marveling at the brilliance of the experience. It was a jaw-dropping journey through and through.
When the waters calmed down and the river stretched out in front of us in all its glory the instructor told us now “jump”. We looked at him in confusion. He repeated the same thing. Even with the life jackets, we were a bit paranoid about jumping into such a deep river and yet we jumped. The water was so cold that we shouted internally for a few seconds, then the body got adjusted to it. It was sheer pleasure to swim in the holy water. As we swam we looked around at the mountains covering us, at the sky towering above us, and at the majestic Ganga herself flowing at certain places and roaring at others. The picturesque beauty of the scene made us stare with respect at nature’s grandeur.
After the body surfing, we were pulled up to the boat and we reached a cluster of rocks where vendors served hot Maggi, tea, coffee, chips and other items. even though they were overpriced, the cold waters and all the exhaustion from the hours of rafting made us buy everything! These rocks were connected to a cliff from which we could jump. Even though it didn’t look that high from the bottom, the moment we climbed it and looked down all the confidence we had mustered up melted away. Someone pushed me from behind, as it is usually the practice and I fell into the water rather than diving. The moment you hit the water all your fears would have transformed into a sense of satisfaction.
Thus we successfully completed the trip promising ourselves to come again and try harder routes. After a short visit to the famous bridges Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula, and feeding the fishes with the Rs 10 wheat balls sold by locals, we decided to bid the place goodbye only to come again.
Rishikesh, the quaint little town on the foothills of the Himalayas, should undoubtedly be on every traveler’s bucket list.