When a group of us opted to go on an ‘adventure' holiday, little did we know that there would be ‘adventure' every step of the way, or rather, every mile of the road.
Rishikesh was our unanimous choice when the topic came up. After browsing website after website, following them up with phones calls to enquire, we zeroed in on camp Rapid Fire that fitted our budget and matched our to-do list.
Having planned a month ahead, and it being towards the end of the season in November, flight tickets, camp rates and taxi from Delhi to Rishikesh all worked within Rs. 15000. Now having detailed the basics, let me elaborate on the adventure bit.
Right from start
We arrived in Delhi from Chennai at 10.00 p.m. The taxi picked us up from the airport as planned and before we hit the highway to Rishikesh, we filled our bellies at a Delhi diner. All set to head to our camp in Rishikesh, we got a sample of the famed Delhi motor madness, when a two-wheeler managed to just about avoid our vehicle even when the road was empty. On the contrary, with almost nil visibility — thanks to the thick winter fog that lasted for hours — not one vehicle came within alarming distance. For a while we didn't even know if our vehicle was on the road, let alone the right lane. Our ‘adventure' holiday had begun.
Tea break at a shack at 2.00 a.m., accompanied by Punjabi folk songs playing in our taxi and insane conversations powered by sleeplessness are some experiences that you don't plan for.
After seven hours on the road, we finally reached our camp at Rishikesh, after some photo ops at Haridwar, Lakshman Jhula and with a dog at a tea shop. On the way to our camp, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the valley, with the silvery Ganga adding to the ‘picture perfectness' of the scenery. All along its banks, far below, we saw a lot of camps, and signboards leading to each. After yearningly glancing at each, as fate would have it, ours was at the end.
The camp staff welcomed us with a warm smile and a warmer breakfast. Then we were shown to our tents, where we could only rest for a while before the cold numbed our brain enough to make us brave the waist-deep freezing Ganga. The current was strong, so we had to be fastened to a rope, the end of which was in our camp guide's safe hands.
We followed it up with a really ‘long' trek through narrow hilly paths and suspended bridges, that let us take in the beauty of the valley and our camp. The camp was enveloped by the steep slope of one hill and the vastness of the other that was separated by the Ganga.
At nights, one could hear stones and boulders rolling down the slope courtesy mountain goats and lorry traffic. Luckily for us, this was all that rolled down, and not vehicles themselves, like we were told sometimes they would. The seclusion of our camp — from other camps, from cell phone signals and electric cables — ensured that the nights were truly a wild experience, with only hurricane lights showing the way.
The next day, it was time to tame the rapids. And just our luck, the day's weather ensured that there were Cass V rapids (“Exceedingly difficult, long and violent rapids, big drops; violent current; very steep gradient; close study essential but often difficult,” defines Wikipedia), along the stretch that had capsized quite a few boats.
The brave ones of the group were excited, while the rest were deep in prayer. I belonged to the latter. Our prayers were answered. We didn't get thrown into the water and plus it proved to be one of the best experiences of our lives — just to see the wild rapid waiting furiously for our boat, rowing in unison at the command from our guide as if our lives depended on it, a sense of achievement after sailing through successfully, the feel of the wind and the cold water on our faces and the beautiful, serene view on either side of the river — it was all worth it. As a celebration, we all jumped into the placid part of the river and body-surfed, clinging dearly to our life jackets.
The celebrations continued further in the night with a bonfire, complete with songs, dumb charades and food. Before we could do that, we had to scale heights, literally. Rock climbing and rappelling was on our adventure agenda. Like life teaches you, going up is the hardest, but coming down, hopping off the boulders vertically is the easiest, and in this case, fun too. So as you see, it was a complete holiday, rejuvenating for the body and soul, with some valuable lessons thrown in, like the one stated previously. Through this journey you also come to understand how much technology has taken over your life, and how you can actually blissfully survive without them, at least temporarily. Volleyball and football at the camp will keep you occupied while not trekking, rafting, rock climbing or resting your tired limbs.
But the best adventure we had at the trip, has to be this — using sand pits for toilets and lime-smelling sand for the flush, with just the tent's zipper for locks. Of all the things we did during the two days at Rishikesh, this was the only one that took time for us to get used to. And by the time we did, it was time to go home.
P.S.: The above trip is best enjoyed when undertaken as a group.
Hot air ballooning
Spiritual indulgence at Haridwar
By air: Dehradun (35 km); Delhi (236 km)
By rail: Haridwar (25 km)
By road: Taxi or bus from either or the above mentioned cities