Having spent a week watching rafts drift tamely past our front window and down towards Rishikesh centre, we nearly gave up on the idea of going ourselves. The ‘white water’ you can see from our balcony is little more than a minor ripple of turbulence, and the prospect of a few hours in a raft in the sun for the sake of a little bump wasn’t exactly appealing. Fortunately, as we’ve started to run out of things to do here, we eventually gave in and went for it.
The Ganges might be tame in Rishikesh, but 18kms up river it’s a gushing, wavy torrent of white water. The map in the rafting office showed one level IV and a number of level III+ rapids along the route, I have no idea what that means, but on the river it was bumpy as anything. After heading off from our riverside beach starting point, the river guide spent 20 minutes drilling us on various commands for when and how to paddle, all of which seemed a tad superfluous at the time. We set off in a group of three boats, and by the time we made it out of the second jolting rapids the third of the three was overturned and everyone in it was drifting through the waves looking a little worse for wear.
The first couple of rapids were by far the worst; waves were so big and turbulent that when we went to paddle on command we couldn’t reach anything but thin air a good half of the time. The waves threw spray over head height and had everyone soaked to the bone in seconds, we’re still drying out the bank notes that I hadn’t dared leave anywhere except in my pocket.
After the first couple of rapids – named ‘Rollercoaster’ and something equally appropriate – everything got a bit tamer, and we started to relax. Having stopped to put the third boats crew back inside their raft, we started to notice the amazing mountain views you get from the river, as well as all the tiny huts where Hindu Pilgrims live just to be near to the Ganges. Half way down river we had the chance to jump from the boat and float nearby, letting the river carry us downstream through the valley for a kilometre of so between the rapids.
We stopped at a remote riverside spot for drinks, next to a waterfall that weaved around through the rocks, making the entire bank of the river into one big splashing stream. The vendors cooled drinks in the cold water of the shadowy parts of the falls, and we threw ourselves from an overhanging rock into the water. From then on it was a slow, scenic ride back to Rishikesh. We saw construction workers pull themselves over the river with a tiny hand built pulley chair, working on a third Ganges bridge. We floated under the restaurants at Laxman Jullha and watched the ceremonial bathing in the Ganges from the water as we floated past. Eventually we rowed into Rishikesh centre, climbed out exhausted and made our way back to bed.
A great way to kill a day, and I almost – almost – managed to forget that I don’t know what on earth’s going to happen in my life in the next few days. Seoul or the Himalayas? The next few hours could well hold the answer. It’s hard not to be seriously stressed out about!
I’ll be back with the answer when I have one.
(Sorry, no photos today – no way the camera would have survived the rapids!)