|Some Rafts Somewhere on the River|
If there is one thing that has to be said about the rapids, it’s the noise. Its like riding in a rollercoaster where the track under you in changing constantly and also rising up to slap you in the face. There were many instances while going through the rapids that I moved my oar to push back water and there was just empty space under the oar, we were on a wave and then SLAM back on to the river, another big crest and trough of the river. Sheer madness and fury of nature are words that just about come close to describing the rapids, but don't do justice to what is actually there. Its one of those things, you have to experience yourself.
On the calm stretches of the river, there were other rafts too. And, I gathered there was some kind of competition between the rafting guides. So, he told us that we were going to do "River Yells". The primitive and ancient yells that would make us feel more like a Team and make the people in other rafts feel like utter shits. It went something like this, our guide would yell "Giddi Giddi Appa, Giddi Giddi Appa" and all six of us would raise our oars to the middle of the raft, up in the air, like a pyramid and yell "HU HA HU HA" then we all would go "OOOooooOOOOoooOOOoooOOO" and splash the oars into the river. Then our guide, Mr. Ram would fake a sneeze and splash water on whichever unlucky raft was close by. THAT SHIT WAS FUN! Few other rafts near us tried to copy us, but well, we were simply louder. We also yelled "GANGA MAIYA KI JAI" and two of us managed to squeeze in a "WAHE GURU JI DA KHALSA, WAHE GURU JI DI FATEH". Don't look me like this, it was the river, its mad when you're down there.
(Hat tip to Rahul aka @peanutbut on twitter for>> CHILMILI CHILMILI DHOOM DHADAAKA! HU HA HU HA!)
We managed to row through the rest of the rapids, much to the pleasure of our guide, who said we were shitty at the first rapid of Three Blind Mice, but we redeemed ourselves in his eyes by rowing ok in rest of the rapids. Then, at a relatively calm stretch of the river, our guide got up.
“You guys are good at rafting now,” he said, “I think you can handle rest of the rapids yourselves.”
With that, he jumped in the water. And didn’t come up. It was funny. We knew he was joking, cuz he couldn’t just abandon us in the middle of the river. He still didn’t come up. Our raft kept floating with the river’s currents. At some distance there was a big rock and our guide was perched on top of it, sunning himself like some kind of obscene mermaid.
He got back in the boat with us and told us about the next few rapids. The names are a blur now, some of them were tee-off, golf course, club house, roller coaster, double trouble, etc etc. As you can see the people who named the rapids were not very imaginative. I’d have named them, Instant Death, Water Slap, Hold Your Breath and Pray, Fear Incarnate, The Drowner, etc etc. We managed through most of the rapids then, it was scary and it made me realize that I am not all that I think I am. That I also feel fear. And it was nice feeling the fear. I knew, I could fall in the river, smash my head on some rock, get trapped under the water with my foot in some rocks, get eaten by a shark while I’m in the river or something.
You get my meaning by now, don’t you? It was freaking dangerous. There was a constant risk of death or injury staring me in the face and blowing smoke from a stinking cigar at me. And there was nothing I could do. I mean, you can fight a man or a shark, but how do you fight water rushing at you?
Land was close, but it was far away. One of the last rapids was called something which I don’t remember because our guide told us that it was a small one and a minor rapid. There was nothing to worry about, but I knew better, so I dug in my sandles in the slots on the raft and picked up the oar to tackle the last one.
Our raft hit the rapids. The water hit us and poof, the person sitting behind me (Our Esteemed and Magnanimous Tour Leader) was gone. Down under. Into the cold water of the Ganga, but the life jacket held and the person showed up, floating with the current some distance downriver. Got picked by another boat. So, it was all 10-12 seconds of rush of losing a person on the raft but it turned out to be ok.
We saw land and our guide pointed the raft to that place, telling us that this is where we’ll beach. It was a relief to be out of the water and on to dry land. We picked the raft up and hoisted it on the waiting van which would take up back to our camp. We all got in the van, and the guide said that we all did well, and we are now ready for the rapid called THE WALL for next day.
The dinner that night tasted better than any food I've ever eaten. I was glad to have my feet on the sand and the river slightly away from me. There was a bonfire, and a guitar, and some half sung songs. The next day was going to be our last in the camp.
Did we tackle the wall after the harrowing experience of the rapids? And what about the journey back?