Variety

Easy-level river rafting

R. YEGYA NARAYANAN | Updated on: Jul 07, 2011

LF08RAFT1 | Photo Credit: R. YEGYA NARAYANAN

Young and old hop aboard, at staid stretches of the Ganga in Rishikesh.

For anyone watching river rafting on TV, the sight of paddlers navigating treacherous waters with sublime skills may make it seem an easy task. But in reality, it calls for extreme capabilities and nerve, not to mention fitness levels, to navigate the rapids. On the Ganga river, however, some stretches where the river flows peacefully can prove tempting even for those who may not have the nerve or ability to raft on the rapids.

During a recent trip to Uttarakhand, my wife and I observed that while it was a markedly young group of male rafters that attempted the 18 km stretch from Shivpuri to Rishikesh, which has dangerous rapids at many places, an equal number of boys and girls were excitedly tackling the stretch from Brahmpuri, 6 km downstream from Shivpuri. Despite being in my 50s, the temptation to join in proved too strong against any fears for personal safety. And what an unforgettable experience it proved to be!

Though I was not given the opportunity to wield the paddle, as several fit, young men from Delhi — some on repeat trips — took care of that, and was resigned to being a mere passenger, the rafters' excitement soon rubbed off on me. The overall atmosphere at Brahmpuri, and at the next two places where the raft briefly halted to provide rest to the paddlers, resembled a mela . The surrounding breathtaking scenery, as the river flowed peacefully through the mountainous region, had a calming influence.

We had to navigate three rapids along the 12 km stretch, including one at Rishikesh, during the hour-long rafting trip. At some places, some of the boys even dived into the river. There were many other rafts navigating the river at the same time, giving the appearance of a flotilla. Among the adventure enthusiasts was a physically challenged girl from Brazil accompanied by a relative. Whenever we encountered a rapid, the current was swift and water splashed against the inflatable boat.

Although the entire experience proved to be thoroughly enjoyable, there were some issues of concern too. There was no sign of Government involvement anywhere as there were no security-men nor lifeguards around, although the boatmen are expert navigators and trained to deal with emergencies. The approach roads to the riverbank were pathetic and the boating staff struggled to transport the inflated boats from the road to the river.

Raj Singh of Himalayan Discovery Adventure, in Rishikesh, who offers adventure tourism services such as rafting, rock climbing, camping and so on, says there are as many as 400 companies in Rishikesh catering to this segment and employing around 2,000.

He says that besides the popular Shivpuri and Brahmpuri take-off points, there were two more rafting points ahead of Shivpuri. .

The Uttarakhand Government has done nothing to promote these adventure activities even though it collects 20 per cent entertainment tax, he laments.

He also claims that apart from a few health-related casualties, rafting in this region was safe with the use of lifejackets and helmets. The region also requires an Adventure Tourism Authority, he says.

A.Venkateswara Rao, Chairman, Southern Travels, New Delhi, says his company operates many services to regions where rafting is popular. He plans to tie up with companies that organise rafting trips and has included the activity in his tourist packages.

Published on July 07, 2011
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