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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rafting at Rishikesh

Our group of morning walkers after finishing their daily workout starts discussing about for going for an adventure trip or jungle safari. For quite some time tour could not be planned due to one or another reasons. It was finally decided on last Thursday that we should go for river rafting. After taking decision, first thing we did was that we booked two rooms at Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam rest house at Kodiala. River rafting at a stretch of about 40 kms from Kodiala to Rishikesh in River Ganges is one of the most adventurous sports activity. We got the booking for Kodiala rest house for Sunday night only as before that there was no booking available.

Me (Bharat), Manoj and Satnarain were very excited as it would have been our first experience of river rafting. It was second time for Manish and Kishan as they have already done river rafting once. We booked an Innova and started our journey on Friday morning. We reached Hardwar at around 2.00 pm after taking a few mini breaks in the way for tea and light snacks etc. The Poori Bhaji, we had at Jain Sweets in Modi Nagar were delicious. On reaching Hardwar we took a dip at River Ganga at Lok Nath Brahmchari Ghaat. Because of last evening rain, water was not as clean as it is usually in Ganga, but still we enjoyed our bath as it has removed tiredness of the way. After finishing our bath we proceeded towards Rishikesh.
Jungle Lodge

We did not have any hotel booking for Saturday night and looking for hotel/dharmashala in Rishikesh. Kishan was not in favour of staying in any Dharamshala as he is fond of drinking and drinking is not allowed in Dharmashalas. We proceeded just two to three kms from Hardwar towards Rishikesh we found a closed entry gate of Rajaji National Park, where one chowkidar was sitting. On enquiring he informed that Rajaji National park’s booking is available only from Dehradoon, but just 4 or 5 kms from there, near Raiwala, Uttrakhand Forest Vikas Mandal’s forest lodge is situated near Satnarayan Temple where booking can be made on the spot. After taking direction from locals, finally we reached at forest house, which is known as Satnaryan Forest Lodge.

Though it was just 250 mtrs from the main highway, still it was surrounded by thick forest. The atmosphere was quite ecstatic and there was peace all around. At the first glance we liked the place very much and decided to stay there in case we get rooms. Only one chokidar was there at that time and he informed us that rooms were available but booking could be made only by the caretaker.

After 10 minutes wait caretaker arrived. He was a middle aged noble hearted man. His name was Chander Pal Singh Chauhan. He happily gave us rooms and provided information about the place. He offered his services for taking the round of the area. Though we were tired but we still agreed to have round of the jungle. Inside the jungle some small villages were also located. There was a very beautiful view with a line of trees and in between in open space some farms. Among us Satnarain was very fond of milk. He found it is good opportunity to get some pure milk. He enquired some villagers how to get some pure milk. As the village was very small and milk was not available at that time he could not get the milk. Mr. Chander Pal then took us to a grand villa viz. a viz. Ganga Lahri, which is built by Birlas and situated in the banks of river Ganga. The villa was very beautiful spreaded in about 2-3 acres of area amidst very peaceful atmosphere. It had large sprawling orchids where fruit trees of different varieties were cultivated. We took the round of the villa and then stood for more than half hour on the banks of holy river Ganga. The view was very beautiful. Chander Pal informed us that in the morning and evening animals of the jungle come here to quench their thirst. It seemed that if heaven is anywhere, it is here. After spending some quality time there we returned to our lodge.

Now, it was getting dark and after whole day’s travel we were also tired. It was then decided that instead of going to any dhaba for dinner, we should prepare our food ourselves. Manoj and Kishan went to the highway and brought some vegetables and chicken. Everybody helped to cook the food and finally the food prepared was very delicious. Everybody enjoyed the dinner and the atmosphere.

Next day Mr. Chander Pal took us to River Saung, which is a tributory river of river Ganga. It was a 25 minutes walk from the lodge to the river along side the railway track. The water was very clean and it was not as cold as that of river Ganga. We enjoyed our dip in the water and remained in water for more than 2 hours. After the bath we returned back to the Jungle Lodge and started getting ready for our journey to Kodiala for river rafting, for which we had arrived here.

Kodiala comes in the way to Badrinath-Kedarnath Yatra and is about 40 kms from Rishikesh. Road to Kodiala is a national highway and is a serpent like hilly road along side river Ganga. When you go towards Kadiala you would see a lot of colourful rafts on the water of Ganga. From 10 kms from Kodiala we stopped at a place where a rope bridge was over the river. Later we came to know that the name of the place was Marine Drive. It was a beach like place on the banks of river and about 20 huts were built there. A group of about 25 students was staying there. We spent about half an hour enquiring about the place. Finally we reached Kodiala at around 12.30 in the noon.

The hotel where we booked rooms was aGarhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Hotel. It was a nice place to stay, which had about 20 rooms and a restaurant. It is located just on the banks of Ganga, you can even view the river from your rooms. It was decided that we do the river rafting next day. That day we did not have anything to do so we decided to have bath in the river. As the flow of the water was very fast and it was also very deep, hotel staff warned us that the swimming in the river without life jackets would be very dangerous. We took life jackets from the hotel and went for swimming in the river. We chose a place, which was just 30 meters away from the hotel. It was a small beach like place where we enjoyed our bath for about 2-3 hours. The cold holy water of Ganga freshened up everybody. We felt a new energy in ourselves.

It was getting dark and we all started feeling hungry. Satnarain offered his services for making curry for us as we did not want to have a routine meal in the restaurant. There were 2-3 tea shops and a dhaba just outside the hotel. A vegetable vendor was also there besides the road. Satnarain took all the vegetables, which the vendor had, in small quantity and gave to dhaba boy for chopping them. Our driver Pyarelal also helped in chopping the vegetables. Satnarain made a curry, which he named as mixed vegetables. When we tasted it, it was very bitter. Later we came to know he also mixed karelas in the curry, that is why it was bitter. We had no other option but to eat it. Nevertheless we enjoyed the evening. After the dinner we went for a stroll. We also had rasgullas as desert.

We booked our raft from a tea stall just opposite our hotel. The owner of the stall was a very young, smart, energetic boy, who was also a river runner/rafting guide. His name was Vikram. Vikram informed us that raft would be available by 8.00 am in the morning and we should get ready by then.

Next day we got up early in the morning and after freshened up went for a stroll besides the river. The wilderness around the river and pure morning air filled us with joy. Manish and Satnarain also took donkey ride. Actually a boy brought two donkeys for taking river sand to a nearby construction site. Manish requested him for a donkey ride, which he obliged by giving ride to Manish and Satnarain. We came back from the river and had tea at Vikram’s tea stall. Besides the tea stall there was a small kachchi road going up to the hill. Some body told us upside the hill is village Kodiala. On hearing that some village is there Satnarain started thinking on the prospect of getting milk. He along with Manish and Manoj took the round of the village but could not get the milk. We returned to the hotel and started packing our things for our downward journey to Marine Drive from where our rafting expedition would have started.

We reached Marine Drive at 8.00 am. Vikram also came along with us. Immediately on reaching Marine Drive, Vikram started getting ready his raft by pumping air. It took more than half an hour to make raft ready for rafting. Now we were ready for river rafting. Another rafting guide joined Vikram. His name was also Vikram.
Rafting is still a relatively new and upcoming Adventure Sport in India, Rafting can be done by anybody (except for those with serious medical problems) - young and old alike. No previous experience is required. You need not be a swimmer to experience the thrills of this sport. Equipment like life jackets, helmets, and oars, paddles are provided by the company, which provides raft. (Children below 13 yrs are not allowed on certain sections of the river). Each raft has a guide who sits in the middle or at the end handling the boat. Every raft has a first aid kit, repair kit, dry bags (rubberised water proof) to keep spare clothes and cameras dry. Helmets and life jackets are compulsory!
Our rafting started with briefs from our guides. They explained us what to do and what not to do in the river while rafting. We were also joined by 3 other Gujarati persons, one lady of the age of around 58 years and two men of the age of around 60 to 62 years.
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