My eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness around me. As I held the kerosene lantern up and the white cold sand pressed against my feet, I shivered slightly. I could hear the gurgling of the Ganga flowing right by the camp en route to places far and away. But it was the night sky that left me spellbound. Thousands of stars twinkled in the clear sky. My phone had died and it was finally then, I felt at peace with myself.
I’m not particularly a nature person but as the plan to visit Rishikesh unfolded, I couldn’t help but jump with excitement. I had been wanting to go white-water rafting for ages but somehow, every plan would get scuttled thanks to work. But, no excuses this time round.
Rishikesh is barely 250 km away from Delhi. But we (my friends and I) decided to stay in a place called Kaudiyala, 40km above Rishikesh. It was probably the best decision because we were the only ones there. Tents pitched on the sand, the aqua green coloured river touching the banks, pipping hot tea, no electricity, just the sound of birds and the water – what more could you ask for?
Rafting did bring me here and indeed we went to Marine Drive. The 26km stretch, which was included in our booking, began from the point. The life jackets and helmets were firmly fastened as we descended to the beach from the road. If its your first time, the commands of ‘stop’, ‘forward’ and ‘back’ can take some time to get used to but once the first rapid comes and goes, you’re a pro.
I can’t even begin to explain how exhilarating rafting is. It’s you trying to paddle against the elements with the trainer trying to keep the raft steady in the swirling rapids. As the rapids crashed against our raft and the cold water drenched us, I smiled. I couldn’t believe how alive I felt. I’ve tried zip lining (Read about my adventures here), rock climbing and paragliding but they don’t come close to the joys of rafting.
As the rapids give way to calm, you get a chance to look around. Steep rocks dot the river. Dense trees and little waterfalls complete the beauty. You come across stretches of white sand and pitched tents with fellow travellers sunbathing or waddling in the safe zones. My favourite rapid was the Rollercoaster. I could barely hear the commands as the loud road drowned every other noise. The raft leapt up on its own free will over the rapid and gave a feeling you were actually riding a rollercoaster at an amusement park. With forward paddles we managed to reach the still water, my heart still racing with excitement. Oh how I loved it so.
Drenched and sandy, hot maggi kept us company as we waited for a drop up to the camp. I know of people who love to camp. They go out most weekends, pitch their tents and fall in love with nature all over again. After staying in the Kaudiyala camp, I can fathom what they mean. It’s beautiful. The best part is that without any electricity prevalent, one can actually enjoy the warmth of nature and the breeze of the wind. The silence around you is broken by the water — it’s the perfect accompaniment.
Piping hot food makes all the difference. Holidays do make you hungry and you tend to eat more than what you usually do. We stuffed ourselves silly with rotis, curry, vegetables and rice. Seriously, food tastes better outdoors. As night fell, a bonfire was lit. If anyone flew overhead, they would see little specks of light dotting the length of the river. I even fell asleep writing in my ever-faithful little dairy. The day couldn’t have gone any better. The sore arm and tired feet were totally worth it.
When at Rishikesh you can also visit the ‘Beatles Ashram’ (real name: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram. In 1968, the Beatles had come to this place to meditate)
It’s old, dilapidated, overgrown with weeds, silent but still so beautiful. It’s off the beaten path and will take time to find. But once you enter and walk towards the Beatles Cathedral, the murals will put a smile on your face. Vivid colours, bold strokes and peaceful messages on the walls. A perfect way to end a weekend getaway.