Last year’s, summer, had a lasting impact on me, which will remain etched in my memory till my presence on this earth. My college mates and me decided to give a jolt to our boring nerves and planned a trip to Rishikesh, to experience river rafting!!!
We moved out of Chandigarh by mid -afternoon and reached Rishikesh by 8 in the evening. The trip was full of fun and soon we reached our place of stay, where camps had already been set up for us. Besides the river Ganges, it was indeed a sight to behold. The sheer calmness of the environment fills you with a sense of peace and you wonder that God must be somewhere here only. No wonder Rishikesh is the abode for many ashrams, and is a famous pilgrimage for Hindus.
Away from the hustle-bustle of the city life, the night was serene and we slept early to wake up for a day filled with fervor and ardor. Quite surprisingly, a late riser like me was up and running at 5am in the morning, thanks to Mother Nature. The scintillating yellow sun behind the mountains, the sound of water gushing and the clean air filled my lungs.
We got ready by 8 after a light breakfast and geared up to take on the river, unknown of what Ganges had in store for the 6 of us that morning. We drove to Shivpuri beach, where our rafting gear was handed over to us, all decked up we were ready to sail. Our instructor was a 20 something young guy, at one point in time I was unsure of his ability to sail us through. Nevertheless, a 20 min training session was conducted wherein we were introduced to the techniques of rafting, a few safety tips and the confidence to keep our cool in case any untoward incident occurred. The rafting stretch was around 17Km long , with a lot of rapids on the way, viz Golf Course, Roller coaster, Return to sender, Double Trouble, Hilton and Terminator. A Rapid is referred to as the turbulent currents in the river generally obstructed by a rock and rafting is the art of crossing the river in a raft. It involved a lot of concentration and collective effort on our part and I was quite exhilarated to begin, one thing I was sure of, with our life jackets on we were safe and with these thoughts I proceeded further.
In a red colour raft, 6 of us were seated, three on each side. The initial phase of rafting was cool, since the Ganges is steady and calm. Being an adventure enthusiast, that I am, I was sure that the complete rafting experience will be full of fun and thrill. We took a halt where the river was calm, most of my friends climbed out of the raft and were free floating in the Ganges, I on my part was happy in it. Moving further ahead, we faced a minor rapid. We crossed it with such ease and dexterity that our confidences bloated, Yes we could do it, look it’s not that tough, the instructor was unnecessarily scaring us, I reminisced.
Advancing forward, there was another patch of tranquil Ganges, brimming with confidence I decided to sit at the front of the raft, with my friends seated on the sides. We hadn’t sailed a few metres that we encountered the most dangerous of all, Roller Coaster rapid. With me at the front, I saw a mammoth wave above me and before I could comprehend what was about to happen, the wave was all over me and I was thrown out of the raft with full force.
I couldn’t believe what I faintly saw from a distance, my raft toppling over with all my friends scattered here and there. At first I was in a mode of denial, NO this perhaps couldn’t happen to me, NO I can’t die that soon, not the right time, how will my parents be informed, it would be a shock for them, how will they react, God couldn’t be that cruel!!!!! Before I could even summarize my thoughts I had managed to come on the surface and was trying harder to stay put, since the life jacket was on I could only float at the very least, but before I could even manage it, I saw a larger wave on top of me that pushed me down underneath the river, I somehow struggled my way up and managed to reach the surface again. Perhaps, I assumed it to be the end of that trauma, but I was wrong, it continued for a couple of times, before our guide was able to spot us some 500 metres away from where our raft had toppled.
The raft was lying upside down infront of me, somehow I managed to reach it, but I didn’t have the energies left to grab it, exhausted by the tussle I had with the overpowering waves. Our guide was beside me and another friend of mine, abiding by the universal rule, to save women first.We struggled hard to climb up the raft with our minimal vitality, and patiently waited for him to gather the rest of our friends, from different parts of the river. Two of us were floating nearby and were able to catch hold of a rock and stayed put, another two were gliding, along with the waves and the guide caught hold of them at a distance.
Petrified by the incident, we thanked our stars, but didn’t have the inclination to continue with the remaining stretch. Incessant goading by our guide fell on deaf ears, and we weren’t ready to concede. We stayed put at a neighbouring beach, trying to comfort each other, and loosen up a bit. The remaining rafting stretch, would have taken another half an hour to complete, but covering the same distance by road would have taken us 2 hours. This fact left us with no other option and we gave in to our guide’s suggestion of completing the rest of our (mis) adventure trip.
Partially scared and partially confident we mustered our courage and resumed our journey. I must say the incident did have a positive impact and I could sense a better camaraderie amongst all of us. We started off yet again, optimistic of overcoming the upcoming rapids, though I admit inside our hearts we were fearful. The first rapid we encountered was a much smaller version of the roller coaster, we gathered our courage and gave it our best, and the planks on both the sides of the raft moved in complete symmetry and we were able to vanquish it. Yes!!!! We did it we could do it!!!!! We had shown courage and we didn’t submit to our fear, we fought and we triumphed!!!!!!!!!
Crossing a few more rapids with increased courage and vitality, we finally reached our destination. Slogans of Hip Hip Hurray!!!!!!!!! filled the environment, and our hearts with a sense of pride and enthusiasm on our victory.
We changed and started our journey back, enriched with the experience we were taking home with us.