Now the part Two…
It took some effort to see things in focus on Sunday morning, but we all somehow managed to come out of our beds. Cold Ganga-jal cleared the cobwebs from our eyes somewhat and we walked down to the breakfast table like zombies. The fare was a Xerox copy of the Saturday’s menu, but we were least bothered. Hung over by alcohol, we ate mechanically. The food had a gradual effect on our system and we woke up fully — after one hour of leaving our beds.
After polishing off the plates, we reached Shivpuri, the spot from where we would board the raft. The large beach was bubbling with activity. Several groups were gearing up for similar adventure trips. Our guide pointed at a pile of fluorescent jackets and helmets, and asked us to slip them on. LIFE JACKETS???? Some of us nearly jumped out of our skins. We weren't going on a mission impossible!! Were we? The guide was curt, "Please put these on and listen to instructions. All of you have to pull the oars. Those who don’t know swimming will sit at the back. Remember, if anyone of you falls into waters, don’t panic." Fall into waters and not panic? "Please listen to the paddle commands and don’t make too much of noise. Any questions?" he parroted, and left without bothering to wait for any response.
We all remembered God before getting into the German raft. What had looked like a dreamboat all along, gave us nightmares of the worst kind now. Splash went the boat into the current and some of us let out a yell – some in excitement, others with fear.
The first rapid, Return to Senders, was tailor-made for a starter. It had just the right amount of turbulence to encourage the novice, and condition them for the deadlier bit to come. But when the deadlier did come, the conditioning went for a toss. Roller Coaster, the second rapid on the run, lived up to its title, sending the rubber boat to a roller coaster spin. The first big wave that attacked the raft blinded the navigator in the back for a brief second. And when the man recovered his vision, he could see only two men in the extreme front pulling the oars. The rest six – including Monika, Shamya, and Geetanjali – lay fallen on the raft floor, soaked and unnerved. The rapid was crossed with some luck and some pluck.
Tee Off, a relatively smaller rapid came next, which indeed looked easy thanks to our over-conditioning at Roller Coaster. But the joy was short-lived. "The following one is the mother of all rapids in this stretch," informed the guide. No one jumped more than a foot. Couldn't the sod keep this info to himself. A few gave up paddling and gripped the lifeline. No one looked keen on rafting thrills any more; they wanted their lives. Golf Course, as this rapid is known, had several gaping holes in it, big enough to engulf a six-footer. Scenes from Titanic danced before us.
But fear is a great leveler. As the raft hit the rapid, everyone paddled to save his/her life. Up went the raft in the air, for a second that looked like eternity, but landed securely on the waters. At times, oars were of little help as they looked like straws in the waters. The thrill, I must admit, was there. And as we came out of the Golf Course, soaked and jubilant, we stood like a PGA World Tour champion. No longer were we afraid of any turbulence, water or earth.
The following string of rapids – Club House, Initiation, Double Trouble, and No More – were chicken-feed to our lust for adventure thereto. At Hrishikesh, some of us changed into dry clothes, while a few let the sun take care of excess water over their clothes and body. A brief sojourn to the town, over Laxman Jhoola, followed by a sumptuous meal at Choti Wala Restaurant — and we were all set to go back to Delhi.
As the Voyager whirred to motion, some of us fell asleep while others massaged the aching limbs. Oh, and what happened during the journey is another long story for another occasion…