Rishikesh!!

This was a trip that happened in November 2013. This article was published in a magazine named Mesmeric in February 2014. But how can we let the story be without posting it on the blog, I say!

We had been planning a trip to Rishikesh ever since a friend extolled the various adventure sports the hilly town offered. Fortunately or not, the adventure began the moment we stepped off the Dehradun Express onto the tiny, quaint Haridwar railway station. It was 5 am, and we felt invisible wave after wave of chill welcome us, numbing us to the bones. We watched our breaths form wisps of vapour as we spoke, and felt, with astonishment, scalding hot tea cool quicker than it took to make it.

The ride to Rishikesh  was uneventful, with none of us falling out of the rickety rickshaw that we had hired for the 30 minute long journey. My first impression of Rishikesh was how early the town awoke. It was barely 6 am, and freezing, yet we watched on as crowds fearlessly dipped into the Ganges, going about their daily ablutions. We stood on the shore, watching the sun rise over the river, the rays pushing the mist away with supreme effort. And as we gaped, the warmth enveloped us, bringing the smiles back to our faces. We breakfasted on hot parathas and bhatures before being transported to our camp site, where we would stay for the following three days. The camp was nestled amidst a valley, between mountains, a river flowing through the flat land, with a little bridge over it. Just like pictures we once drew in art class in school, like a friend rightly pointed.

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Day 1 was reserved for settling in and acclimatization. Cheered by the warmth, we enthusiastically agreed to a trek to a waterfall, which did not look too frightening until we slid into the pool. The cold water shocked us, and our howls were drowned (literally) by the whoosh and patter of the waterfall. Rocks surrounded us, with trees and shrubs growing on any surface that would allow existence. As we slipped and swallowed mouthfuls of sweet, virgin water, and held hands and dunked our heads into the pool at the count of three, we laughed, like we hadn’t, in a long while. Our laughter must have made us seem like a bunch of juvenile school kids- but at that moment, I must say, that was exactly how we felt.

Our guide egged us into another trek that evening, after we had eaten our lunch and had enough time to look around and befriend the dogs in the camp. As we walked further into the forest, the trail slipping in and out of sight, covered by undergrowth, he terrorized us with tales of bears and leopards lurking in the mountains. By the time it was 5 pm, by when the sun had set, we were back to our shivering selves- out of cold or fear, we knew not. We were surprised with a bonfire in the camp, with a boy-band from the town playing Bollywood music in their shiny guitars that reflected the light from the fires. Urged by the musicians, we sang and danced, as our voices and claps unshackled old inhibitions, and got us grinning like children once again.

The adventure sport arena is well seasoned in Rishikesh. Every street has a kiosk offering every mountain adventure sport that one can imagine- from rafting to kayaking, from rock climbing to the ultimate adrenalin rush- bungee jumping. And that was just what we set out to do on our second day at the camp.

We headed to India’s highest Bungee jump point (boasts of a height of 83 meters) and were briefed about the sport.  The jump cost Rs 2500 plus a lot of courage from our part. From the beginning until I leaped, I was given just one piece of advice- Never, ever look before you leap. I vividly remember walking down the little bridge to the jump station, where my feet were harnessed, and I had rope-gear around my torso. A Swiss instructor who introduced herself as Martina briefed me about the jump, but I only remember a lot of butterflies fluttering in my stomach, and causing me a lot of fright. ‘Just jump right?’ I asked, finally, and she nodded with a thumbs up. I penguin-walked to the dive board, fixing my eyes only on the only view I was allowed- a mountain a few hundred meters away. ‘Three,  two, one…BUNGEE’ the team yelled and I jumped without a second thought. In slow motion I watched the mountain as I went down, details of the vegetation which I can still vividly remember. I was waiting for the jerk in my feet, my breath locked in my chest, when I was suddenly buoyed up by air pressure.  Gravity won, and as I floated down, I was buoyed up once again. By now I was able to breathe and let out my first whoop- I had never felt more alive! Many happy yells later, I found myself dangling above the river, face first, and was pulled down and released by the support staff. One more item checked off my bucket list!

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The next day dawned with the promise of the second best sport (In my opinion) that Rishikesh boasted of- Rafting on the Ganges. Apparently, this was where the ‘Dar kea age jeet hai’ Mountain Dew advertisement was shot. We were told that we could choose the distance- 9 kms, 14 kms or 26 kms. We unanimously agreed on the 26 kms long option, and were promptly introduced to Kalyan Negi, our instructor for the next couple of hours. We were given lifejackets and helmets, and briefed about the safety precautions that we had to keep in mind. Kalyan assumed that it was his prime responsibility to push us to our extremes, and the first command he gave us was that we jump off the raft, holding onto a single rope that he aptly called the ‘life line’. The next sentence he uttered was ‘Are you jumping or do I push you in?’ and we instantly knew it was going to be a crazy ride ahead. So in we jumped, and were pulled back in,

as we approached the rapids. Incidentally, the rapids are named and classified into grades according to how dangerous they are. We hit 9 such rapids, and it was never smooth sailing! After being drenched, nearly drowned, escaping a whirlpool, jumping into the river a few more times and laughing and yelling ourselves hoarse, we sullenly watched the ride come to a close.  All good things, like they, always need to come to an end!

As we reached our camp and lazed around, having packed our belongings, waiting for our cab to take us back into the town, we reminisced about how much prodding some of us needed to book tickets for this trip. Office, deliverables, leaves, clients, targets- third party issues which we might not even remember in a few years’ time might have kept us away from such a memorable experience- had we allowed them to. We quietly sat on the riverbank, watching birds we had never laid eyes on in the city, as the conversation trickled away, and quiet set in. As I type this, I still hear the music of birdsong and the river’s gurgle, forever fresh in my ears.

.Photo Credits- Yuvaraj

Oh and here is my crazy jump video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq2PbslAbZc

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