Rafting the rapids in Rishikesh

Rishikesh Travel Blog

 › entry 24 of 32 › view all entries
    I can't believe how hard it has been to find internet lately!  Anyway, my train from Varanasi to Delhi was five hours late, meaning that instead of getting in around noon so I could do some sightseeing, I arrived just before sunset absolutely starving.  I found a nice little coffee shop to eat before meeting Kuni who had the train tickets for the next leg of the journey.  Kuni is a Japanese tour guide who actually lived near Mankato for awhile, but now lives in Delhi.  We went out for ice cream at Nirula's (the Indian equivalent of McDonald's) until it was time for the train.

    Our train to Haridwar was very new and very clean, two adjectives that generally don't apply to Indian trains that often.  In the bunks below me were two sisters from Switzerland planning on going to Nepal next week, so we had plenty to talk about.  I ended up running into them in Rishikesh as well.  We arrived in Haridwar just before sunrise, so went down to the ghats to watch the people bathing in the Ganges.  It was a very cold morning and they make you take off your shoes even though you are outside.  So I was sitting on this very cold marble with no shoes and because I hadn't expected it to be so cold- no warm clothes either.  Brrrr.  Of course you'll laugh when I tell you it was 40 degrees which I'm sure is nothing compared to Minnesota right now, but it's cold when you're dressed for summer!

    We waited for a bus to Rishikesh but couldn't find one, so took a shared autorickshaw instead.  Autorickshaws are open on the sides meaning it was incredibly cold since the wind just blows right into you.  When we finally arrived over an hour later, we walked about a mile (with my big bag!) to a little restaurant overlooking the river.  It was a cute German bakery so I had hot muesli which just warms you right up.

Rishikesh is a very cool town and considered THE place for yoga and meditation.  Apparently the Beatles came here back in the day.  I didn't really see any hippie-types thus far on the trip, but I think it's because they are all in Rishikesh.  Many of the ashrams require you to live there for a minimum of two weeks and everywhere you look you see people trying yoga poses and meditating.  Very surreal.  It's also the place to go in India for whitewater rafting, which was why we were there.  Kuni had a friend who arranged everything at a very cheap price (around $8 a person including travel to the starting point).

I checked into a very grungy little hotel that at least cost less than $2 but obviously hadn't been cleaned since the previous guest left.  There were food wrappers all over the floor, so I demanded they clean it and change the sheets which they did eventually.  I wanted to take a shower and to do this you have to go outside and yell up towards the balcony above and tell the family to turn on the hot water.  Not a pleasant hotel experience to say the least.

We found this very nice hidden restaurant for lunch.  I actually gave these directions to a girl I met later on so she'd know how to get there.  "Walk past the guy selling the shells and look for a tiny sign painted on the wall saying Freedom restaurant.  Walk down the alley where they are bringing up the burros with sand and turn left into what looks like someone's backyard.  Turn slightly left at the goat and you'll see what looks like huts- but this is actually some of the tables for the restaurant.  The menu was hilarious because the English was so bad you could barely understand a thing.  I ordered a Dyed Coke and tried to order about five different menu items until I stumbled upon gnocchi which they actually had.  A very sad looking puppy came up as we were eating so I ended up giving it a lot of the meal.

After eating, we were met by the rafting guides to take us to the start point.  The drive was really pretty and similar to the one to Gangtok, but if you looked down to the river you could see people rafting.  It was at this point that I was told that the river is rated a 4 out of 5 for difficulty which made me a bit nervous.  I found out I had the most "experience" of our group since I've been waterskiing, canoeing, kayaking, etc. and the other girl with us couldn't even swim.  We had to stop three times because the oars fell off the roof until we just stuck them inside the jeep.  I also saw my first monkey road kill.  Dead monkeys aren't much fun either.  It was very sad. 

When we got to the place I was shocked that they actually began driving down the "road" which was basically a walking path with large boulders sticking up in places.  I was even more amazed to see a bus at the bottom that somehow managed it as well.  They told me Indians can drive anywhere and I guess it's true.  I don't know how they make the vehicles here, but they must be very sturdy to put up with all this.

We got suited up and had a basic lesson from our guide who was from Nepal.  Two of the guys' in our group were complete jokesters and were trying to push each other off the raft most of the ride which didn't help my nerves much.  When we got to the first rapid my eyes got very big because all you could see were these huge waves crashing on the rocks.  It looked like the waves people go surfing on to me.  We just listened to the guide, got soaked, and made it through.  I felt like I was going to fall off at one point, but I think it was just nerves because I hadn't moved at all on the raft or anything.  When we got to a calm part, the guys actually jumped in and went swimming alongside the raft (we were all mostly soaked anyway).  But they did seem to regret it when they got back in because the rest of the way was shady and they were freezing. 

We had the guide drop us off in Rishikesh right below a restaurant where the patrons were laughing pretty hard at them shivering. We went right in to the restaurant and ordered hot tea to try and warm up.  After that, Kuni and I walked across the town to watch a buddhist ritual at sunset at a temple on the river.  They lit candles, made offerings, and sang songs to a large statue in the river.  After that we ate at this funny restaurant called Chotiwala where they have a guy dressed as Chotiwala out front- in blue face paint with his head bald except for a very long ponytail that sticks straight out behind his head.  I ordered too much food because I thought masala dosa (a South Indian dish) was the small dish pictured on the menu and ordered naan (really good Indian bread) with it.  Well the pic must have been of something else, because they brought this huge bread like concoction as big as a medium pizza plus a big basket of bread.  Needless to say I didn't finish, but it was very good at least!

I tried to use the internet after this but internet was down...in the entire city!  I don't know how that happens, but I went to several cyber cafes to makes sure no one was lying to me.  It was Republic Day too, so at night there were fireworks over the city. 
anandjoguru says:
I have also felt the experience of river rafting for the first time in my career when I was on a 3 day tour to rishikesh. It was an official tour but it was indeed my first tour outside Delhi.

Even when we were travelling in Bus and as we entered the Uttarakhand border the mountains and narrow roads mesmerized me. It was a nervy felling as I have never traveled on Mountains.

We put up our camp at Mahadev Chatti and from there went on to rafting in Ganga. Being the nomad I was shivering when the Guide was telling us about the pros and cons of rafting and what dangers we can face.

But once I boarded the boat, held the rafting material in my hands and were pushed into the Ganga river I restored my confidence and started paddling.

As I reached the shores of the river Ganga, the speed of the water stream increased. We were told that we will pass by four tidal waves of increasing intensity.

But as soon as the first one arrived my mind got clueless and I had no idea of what I was doing.

Three tides passed by and then we were asked to relax at a junction where people were jumping off a cliff into the river Ganga.

After that the best part came. We faced the biggest tide of all and somehow managed to escape without anyone toppling off the boat or getting hurt.

Overall it was a chilling experience but out of this world for Me.
Posted on: Jan 07, 2013
Sandy1 says:
Nice write up :) reminds me of my experience river rafting in Rishikesh.. Will put up a blog on that soon! I believe that there are a lot of outlets offering river rafting, however apparently red chilli (though they charge double) have got a professional bunch of people plus when you go rafting they send across 2-3 kayaks alongside for safety...
Posted on: Feb 21, 2010
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
photo by: Mezmerized