By Vivek B.
Traveling solo was a dream since a long time. After taking several suggestions on twitter and also from @shivya & @rakheeghelani to visit a place in north India, I finally settled for camping and river rafting at the banks of the river Ganga, near Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. The trip was planned with a mix of train and air travel to experience even the transport systems in India.
The trip started from Mumbai, via the Rajdhani Express till Delhi, and then a flight to the Jolly Grant airport in Dehra Dun. Google maps had confirmed the distance of the camp as 30 kms from the airport, and estimated the travel time to be half an hour. However, little did Google know that the 30 kms distance was to be covered on a hilly road, and it finally took an hour to reach Shivpuri in Uttarakhand.
|Arriving by the Ganga.|
The Explore Himalayan Adventure camp was located on the opposite side of the river, at latitude 30.136937 North and Longitude 78.402774 East, and the only way to access it was through a boat. Though I had planned a solo trip, I was surprised that the camp with 32 tents was indeed all empty and I was the only person put up there along with the camping staff!
|First glimpse of my camp.|
Staying alone at a remote place inside Rajaji national park and forest area was both exciting and adventurous. The first thing I asked the staff was about wild animals and if they ever approach the camp. They assured me that though the forest did have animals like wild elephants, monkeys and deer, only the deer ever approached the bank of the river to drink water. The camp was full of different birds, the names of which even the staff didn’t know.
|Look who came to visit?|
The night was pleasant and cool. Two more people arrived from Delhi looking for white water rafting. The night passed by the camp fire, along with a sumptuous dinner.
|Keeping the nights warm.|
We started river rafting from the marine drive point - 10 kms away from the camp. We were excited about hitting some grade III & grade IV rapids in the Ganges. The Three blind mice rapid (grade III) managed to take our breath away (literally!), whereas the rapids Roller coaster (grade III) and Golf course (grade IV) tested the ability of our guide to manoeuvre the raft without letting it topple. We did jump into the Ganges with the support of our raft; however our guide was reluctant to let us float due to the dangerous water level and water currents in the river. White water rafting was indeed an adventure to be experienced at least once.
|Setting out for river rafting.|
|The river rafting team!|
During the latter half of the day, we visited Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula – they are referred to as such because the bridges hang on pillars on the banks of the Ganga and have no support in between. My hypothesis is that the bridges were so named to prevent people from fearing walking on the bridge; it swings when you walk on it!
|The Ram Jhula in Rishikesh.|
|The river Ganga in Rishikesh|
I had also hired a Honda Activa in Rishikesh and dared to visit the Neelkanth mahadev temple which was 20 kms up on the hill from Laxman Jhula. Though I managed to climb 18 kms, the Activa broke down in the middle of road. The only option left was to ride back to Rishikesh and 10 kms was an easy climb down on the neutral gear. Luckily, I found a tempo which agreed to escort the bike till Rishikesh. The mechanic immediately confirmed that the bike didn’t have sufficient engine oil and was not maintained properly. A good lesson learnt was that one should thoroughly get the vehicle technically checked if one is planning to rent at tourist places. I then managed to reach the camp by night and sleep like a log.
The third day started with kayaking in the Ganges against the water currents. Thanks to the guide, we managed to control our kayak even in the toughest currents upstream and returned safe at the bank without having to get wet in the water! It was time to say goodbye to the camp staff and proceed with the onward journey to Delhi.
Author Bio: The author is a consultant and financial advisor, and is always craving to travel. He is a vegetarian foodie always on the hunt for local dishes. He can stay at any habitable place and travel by any mode of transport, but can’t live long without technology; a gizmo traveller, who likes to carry all possible gadgets along. Follow him on Twitter at @vlvek.