Tuesday, June 10, 2014

White fairies on the Ganges Rapids - Rishikesh

Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere.” ― Emma Smith
Never before were youngsters seen willing to jump at any chance of visiting a religious place like Rishikesh. No, it is not due to some spiritual awakening. Its the adrenaline to blame.

In recent years, Rishikesh has transformed itself into the adventure capital of India. Be it the traditional outdoor activities like Camping, hiking and trekking or the more daring ones like Bungee Jump and White Water rafting, Rishikesh has made its mark. It can be safely called the Adventure capital of India. All credits to the mighty and capricious river Ganga.
Google reference image for Rapids

How to Reach : This is the easiest part.

Delhi-Rishikesh : 240 km
Time : 5-6 hrs (except on Hindu religious occasions when the roads become jam-packed in and around Haridwar.)
Frequent Roadways buses and Volvo  from NCR available.
Frequent daily trains till Haridwar. Take local bus/taxi till Rishikesh (20km).

Best time for River Rafting:

Mid Feb to early May and September-November is the common season.
Avoid extreme summers of May-June.
Rafting is closed in Monsoons for obvious reasons.

All boiled up in summer heat in northern plains, my family and I decided to cool ourselves in the lower Himalayas. Note it, June is the worst time to visit Rishikesh.
Adding to the 40 degrees celsius was the religious crowd heading towards Haridwar and Rishikesh for holy dip in the river on the occasion of Ganga Dussehra.

Rishikesh Ghat

A Family Trip:

We had started from Delhi towards Dehradun and Mussoorie which we cursorily visited. From Dehradun, it took us more than 3 hrs to cover 45 km to Rishikesh because of the traffic jam. Traffic was not because of the number of people but the lack of traffic sense in them. A 2-lane road had been turned into 4 lane with more and more vehicles trying to find some magic path from the sides. Our frustration was increasing due to the delay.

VNA Resort :

We reached the VNA resort late afternoon. The location of the resort is perfect. Away from the noise of the city and into the lap of mountains with river Ganga flowing by the side. We parked our car by the road and crossed the bridge to where resort was. The resort had all sorts of rooms - concrete and tents. With a large lawn in front and sandy river-side below, we finally let the mind breathe from a hectic day.

VNA Resort - Tents and Rooms

Now it was time to relax. Welcomed with refreshments, we were shown our cottage-cum-tents. Tents were surprisingly big and with all facilities including coolers and attached bathroom.
We freshened up and explored the resort.
Our tents

In our resort package, Rock-Climbing and Rappelling were also included. So a trainer took us to a medium height cliff near the resort entrance. It was more of a baby-step Rock Climbing. Since we were beginners, it suited just fine and we all enjoyed it. As it grew dark, resort staff had arranged for a bonfire at riverside where appetizers were  being served. Other groups were also couples or families. One of the groups were into drinks but they were keeping to themselves and were quiet so no issue there.

My brave sister :)

Rappelling & Rock Climbing Cliff

After a good night's sleep, it was a pleasant sight in the morning. I woke up quiet early contrary to my habit. The surroundings were very serene and soothing with the sun yet to come up. It was a beautiful sight of river Ganga in front and mountains on all sides. I wished for a small home in such a spot.

Early morning effect remained longer as there was a huge mountain just upfront blocking the sun. The sound of the river and the birds was something the ears were not used to.
Secret of the long cool morning

                As I stood there with my mother, taking in the scenery, we heard some shouting in distance. Soon enough some rafters came into view. Me and my mother had opposite reactions. I was excited and wide-eyed. My mother was wide-eyed too but with fear and warning. She could see that rafters did not have any sort of harness or safety belts tied to them. She almost made up her mind to cancel our rafting(even though she was not going to raft) until someone convinced her that life-jackets do work well.

After this, we clicked some snaps and played badminton on the sands. It was fun playing on the cool sand.

Badminton - One should play it more often :D

Rafting Finally:

 After some breakfast, we were given the life-jackets, paddles and helmets. The guide gave us a brief intro to the whole process and made us practice some rafting terminology for paddling, navigating etc.

 The guide told us that the depth of water at places was about 70 feet. We eyed one another alarmed. None of us was a swimmer. We were told that the life jacket was strong enough to keep a person floating for 3 days in case of a misadventure.

Team is ready..... for Posing :D
More posing!!
    Well we were eight in total. So four sat on either side and guide took the central position at the back. And off we sat for the first of our many adventures. With 27 km stretch of frivolous river ahead of us, we charged our enthusiasm with some loud cheering and marched ahead.
Posing ends... Thrill starts here.

Rapids :

The main part of Whitewater Rafting is maneuvering different grade rapids (turbulent stretches in river). The rapids in Rishikesh go as high as grade 4, which believe me, will make your heart jump out. For a fact, Rafting is not to be taken lightly. The water is deep and turbulent. Shores are rocky and it is quite common for a raft to capsize throwing off all its members in water, if rapid is not properly rowed into. Yes, I have said enough for weak-hearted to back out<evil grin> But these are the risks that give rafting the thrill and respect it holds. Else one must stay content paddling in a boat at Old Fort, Delhi.

Google reference image for Rapids.
         All the above so called risks are easily handled if you have belief.. yes, Have absolute faith in your life jacket :P It will indeed save you. And thus filled with faith, we encountered our first rapid, Three Blind Mice. The Guide told us to stand on the edges of the raft and hold the hand of the person next to us. For a second, we thought he was kidding just to frighten us. But no. He was serious and quite adamant too. After his reassurances, we finally were able to slowly balance ourselves on the raft. We felt drunk with confidence and were able to shed our initial fears.

There were few more funny named rapids like Sweet Sixteen, Cross Fire, Roller Coaster, Double Trouble, Golf Course.

To and fro , up and down, back and forth, the Ganga tried to shake our will at each rapid. But we were determined(as there was no escaping now :D). Some places are very good for Bodysurfing. Yes that was another shocker from our guide. He said jump into the water. When he saw us all rooted to our spots, he started nudging us with the paddle so that we go into the water. Best part was, before coming here, we had only heard about sitting in a raft and paddling some stretch of water . So when we were asked to jump into the water or stand over the rafts, it filled us with a thrill in a way only a surprise can. Sorry to ruin it for you guys. Now you know that everyone does it and gets out of it safely.

A pic for scaring my mom... :P


BodySurfing is like a drug for non-swimmers. Once you've had it, you keep wanting it more. It feels so calm and peaceful and light in water. Although it was safe to let go of the raft, but we were not in that toofani mood yet. So we held onto the rope of the raft and blissfully played in the lap of Ganga Maiyya. It takes strength to lift a person back on the raft. So heavy built people must watch out.

Just chilling...
                   At one of the rapid(probably Golf Course), the raft just behind us, tumbled upside down. We pulled two drifting members onto our raft and helped them to the shore. Well it really was a bump to our confidence for a little moment there. Rest of the rafting went smoothly. At Rishikesh, we pulled upto the shore and helped the guide carry the heavy raft to the jeep.

We were still on a high for several moments from the thrill and excitement of Rafting. I would do it any time again and again.

Rafting - The Ultimate Thrill

If you have not tried it yet, try it to see what you are missing.
This is one adventure that is capable of awakening one from the dumb routine life of office and malls and fancy restaurants of the city. They all look meaningless after such an experience.

Rafting does far from satisfying your thirst for adventure and thrill. It enrages it. It hooks you on. It takes you to a point of no return. The point where you just want your footprints in such magnificent places, experiencing the diverse thrill that this world has to offer. You, my friend, become a seeker!!

Will surely return to Rishikesh for more Rafting and Bungee Jumping this time. 


Transportation charges vary on your mode. We went by personal cars.
Resort charges - Rs. 2600 per head flat for triple sharing tents (including all meals, accomodation and activities)


1.   Wear good comfortable clothes, preferably synthetic/lycra as they are best for water sports and allow quick drying.
2.   Leave behind any loose item like jewellery, watch, wallet, mobile phones.
3.   The people in frontmost row of the raft must know it requires the most guts as you are faced with constant splashes of water and might feel everything coming head on to them while in a rapid.
4.   Lock your feet tightly under the raft inner body to lock your position.
5.   Have confidence but avoid overconfidence. You need to look out and be alert all times.
6.   Follow guide's instructions promptly.
7.   In case of raft capsizing, hold onto your paddle. It helps other rafters in rescuing you. Panic won't help, your breath will. So hold onto that too.
8.   For best experience, make sure all your companions are voluntarily there. Pacifying the overly-frightened ones kind of ruins it for you and them too.
9.   Do not litter anywhere. Respect your surroundings as your home. (Although it is an obvious advice, you can see many people shamelessly littering along the way and even in the holy river)
10.   Do not go in summers thinking it will be cool in mountains.(Look up 'Global Warming' on net.)
11.   One can combine Mussoorie/Dehradun/Haridwar for a longer trip as well. All these cities are in close proximity to each other.

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