Oct 22, 2006

Thrills on the Hills—I

Seven die-hard trouble-makers inside a fast Mitsubishi Voyager; six unholy hours to kill and; five bottles of rum. Adventure was bound to happen on National Highway 58.

What lay ahead of the troupe at Hrishikesh early on Saturday last morning, was much more than road-raging fun. We were there to defeat the waves, conquer the rapids, and, of course, for a tête-à-tête with Nature. A splash of green mountains, deep gorges, and the Ganga moving like a green python out of the Shivaliks, welcomed us. For most of us, early morning found a new meaning that day. The spot where we were to stay looked promising. It had a queue of Swiss tents pitched firmly on soft riverine sand, make-shift canvas loos, and a large canopy with a central table and chairs to serve as dining hall. The holy river gushed nearby to make the picture postcard complete.

FOOOODDDDD!!!! we cried in unison, seconds later we had dumped our bags. The host, sensing what lay in store for him in the coming 24 hours, cringed. Soon the breakfast was well laid out, with piles of paranthas laden with small butter cubes. All that kept disappearing in a jif, even as the poor host laboured to keep the supply line intact. Relief was writ large on his face as one by one each one of us burped with satisfaction and sprawled on the sand. None of the 16 devils had winked for a second the last night but nobody complained. The majority wanted a holy dip while a few still preferred the "unholy sip". With a mellow sun delivering vitamin D constantly, the forenoon looked pleasant and warm to us the dripping souls.

One of the deadliest rapids in the Ganges is a four-grader, The Wall. Our camp was barely half hour away from it. So, hopping the boulders and negotiating the sharp edges of rocky banks, we set about to dekho that turbulent rapid. It took some skill and courage to reach The Wall; made worse by the fact that some of us were bare feet. But the exercise was worth the pain. Raging white water was gushing out with raw power. The roar was audible from well before 100 meters. The gush looked as much impressive as destructive. Each one of us chose a comfortable rock and sat down to savour the furious beauty. Time ticked by meanwhile...

It must have been two hours or so when we got up reluctantly, nudged by the pangs of hunger, and returned to our huts. The fare laid out on the table was simple – rice, dal, chapati and a sabzi – but it tasted divine. A cup of piping tea to boot, and we were all set to retire for a siesta. In no time, we were dozing off peacefully (okay, there were a few snores to compete with the Ganga).

The evening belonged to an amateurish attempt at rock climbing. As we made our way above like wily lizards, it dawned upon us that this was going to be a tricky situation if we went too high. For, the route that we had left behind allowed only upward mobility; and it was to be a treacherous way down. Praying and sweating we came down one by one, and thanked our stars for the fresh lease of life. On the river beach, our host had fixed up a volleyball court, so the menfolk merrily went about exercising their skills and power with a different ball-game.

Soon a dark blanket, full of zillion bright holes, engulfed the earth around us. The campfire beneath, with dreamy-eyed adventurists huddled all around, looked stolen from a romantic Hindi flick. Songs, booze, hash smoke, and the warmth -- one wished the night would never come to an end. If wishes were horses...

That was to be a night of long knives. One of the camps, with only female population, found to their horror that some ghostly power was swinging the lantern kept outside their hut. Another group met a white-cloth figure on their way to answering a call of nature. But adventurists all, no one died of cardiac arrest. Reels of jokes and peels of laughter echoed many a tent throughout the night. No wonder, we looked like a bunch of dehyderated lushes in the morning thereafter...

No comments: