White waters of the Ganges

Rishikesh Travel Blog

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Another balmy sunny morning. My trip was so far blessed with good bright weather atleast. Would be perfect weather for an adventure on the river. I finished my breakfast by 9:00, got rid of everything except my clothes and reported at the adventure firm, ready to be whisked off for the rafting excursion. In a half hour we left, to gather the other folks who would raft with me.

There was to be one guy from Kolkatta, and 3 old Irish ladies for the rafting trip. I wanted to do the big rapids and so did the Bengali guy, the ladies decided not to. The big rapids (class 4) are between Shivpuri and Bramhapuri, and Bramhapuri to Rishikesh are the smaller rapids (class 3). Some half hour of driving, and we reached the Shivpuri camping place. This is a really cool spot to camp, there's already a lot of camps set up there. There's a pretty wide beach of gray soft sand, also the set off point for most white-water expeditions. This beach is in front of a flat portion of the river, but there's some rapids just some 50 m downstream at the next bend. Our raft got set up at this point, we got instructed, and in the flat slow portion slightly upstream we practiced the paddle moves for a while. I was right in the front right of the raft, best place to see where we were going and best enjoy the swaying and swinging of the raft in rapids. Not the most comfortable position though, since one has to jam their foot inorder not to fall off. I knew my thigh and bum was going to be sore if this lasted for a few hours, and boy did it!

With a few shouts of "Ganga maiya ki jai" (praise Mother Ganges) the ride started - one heck of a ride too!! The distance was something like 16-18 kms to Rishikesh from that point. The first rapid called "tee-off" was reached pretty quickly, nothing much some "rocking of the boat", quite enjoyable. Nothing I had dealt with before, especially having come from boating in some mildly bad weather at sea in Lakshadweep. I was hungry for more. We paddled through and some more, enjoying the swift but non-turbulent flow till the next rapid, and the beautiful valley and the pleasant gray-white Ganges running through. Next up was  the "Roller coaster" rapid. This was by far THE coolest rapid in the whole course, one could make out even from a distance. We had to paddle fast to get through it. It had one huge rise, preceded and followed by a small one each - terrific! The whole raft launched itself over the rise - one moment we were staring right into the water tilted down, the next moment right into the sky tilted up at a sharp angle, swinging up and across the easily 10 feet high "wave", and the very next moment staring back into the water and scrambling to maintain an anchor to not fall off.

We rested our arms again a bit, just drifting with the current through the valley. Around this part of the river there were several small soft gray-sand beaches. These beaches are accessible from the road between Rishikesh and Neelkanth, and we spotted quite a few tourists just chilling out and tanning on these beaches. The water is a bit swift though, prevents anyone from swimming easily. We moved forward towards the next rapid - "Golf course". There were 2 rafts slightly ahead of us. We parked on a small beach alongside them. They were fully loaded with about 12 persons each, and we had only 5. I think we were going to act as backup or something for the rapids, in case any of them fell out. So we would follow them, to the next rapid which was just around the bend. This one was also a category-4 rapid, like the previous one. It was pretty rough, shook us a lot, but not as much as the previous one.

Similarly, before the next big rapid - "Club house", the  3 rafts stopped again at a beach. This time, all the 3 guides went ahead to survey the rapid, mainly to check out one huge boulder in the rapid. "Club house" was quite violent too, another category-4 and equally fun. The best thing about the white-water course in Ganges near Rishikesh is that it is both exciting and pretty safe. Our guide was obviously doing a good job, but its nice that there are long calmer portions between all the big rapids, which is quite convenient for rescues in case of somebody falling overboard. Also the river is pretty wide in most places. All in all an ideal place to enjoy the pleasures of white-waters, and a nice one for a first timer as well.

Soon after, we stopped at another beach which had quite a few tents set up. It was Bramhagiri, where we boarded 6 more folks - the Irish ladies, and 3 guys from the guys who organized the expedition. It was time for some smaller rapids - Initiation and Double-trouble, in that order. Double-trouble was a set of 2 short rapids in sequence, very close to each other. After this point the river widens and deepens further and becomes slower too. We stopped on another sandy beach next to a small stream. This was a short distance from a huge boulder that stands on the rocky part of the beach, slightly hanging over the river. This is an excellent place for diving off into the river, and the rock is easily 12 feet tall. Most rafters stop here to have a little fun, jumping off into the river. While rest of the group was dawdling around and chilling a bit, some being scared of diving from the height, I took the chance to jump off some 6-7 times into the cool water from the big rock. Drifting-swimming down toward the beach in the serene grayish waters each time. No better way to chill out... that day atleast!

Soon after that place, we cross under Laxman Jhula, over another small rapid named "bye-bye", paddle through under Ram Jhula and park there finally. We got off, said our goodbyes and I walked back to the lodge.

Sadly, no pictures from the rafting expedition. Didn't take my camera since I had planned at being busy getting drenched on my last visit to the Ganges (during that trip).

After cleaning up and checking out of the GMVN lodge I set off to Haridwar at around 14:30. Had to find me some way of getting to Dharamsala, which is quite a distance away through any route. One of the routes goes through Dehradun and a windy mountainous path through/toward Shimla. Turned out that I would instead go southward and then north again from there. Had a late lunch at Haridwar, and got onto the next convenient bus for Chandigarh - it left at 16:30. Atleast the seat and road were more comfortable, but the horn was really loud - uggh, reminded me of a train, and the bloody driver had this habit of over-using it with long blasts. Didn't get to sleep much so. Reached Chandigarh at about 22:00. There was no-one at the bus counter for Chandigarh buses towards Dharamsala, but fortunately as I was roaming around I spotted an Uttaranchal road transport luxury bus to Dharamsala. Again, fortunately I got an empty seat in the same and by 22:30 I was already off. This time I did get some sleep, finally a comfortable bus that was comfortable even in the rough mountain roads.

-- Ashish Bhambhani
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photo by: Mezmerized