If you ever visit India, one place you absolutely must visit is Rishikesh, the land of the rishis. This place is all about unwinding, getting away from the hassles of day-to-day life and connecting with yourself on a different level. Sounds trippy? It is! Instead of just visiting the busy section of this little town, that is packed with tourists, you should visit one of the private beaches close to Rishikesh.
The best place to go to is a small village called Byasi, which is barely half an hour away from the main town of Rishikesh. I had just started working at CNN-IBN when the travel bug bit hard. I was earning just Rs 15,000 but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from travelling. Inspiration struck at 9pm, so after a quick call to a friend who travels a lot, I packed my bags and headed to New Delhi’s Inter-State Bus Terminus. My mom freaked out, but was used to my random travel plans, so she did not say too much. I got on a bus to Rishikesh and travelled for a few hours, during which I dozed off, with my head swaying back and forth as the bus jerked towards its destination. The bus came to a grinding halt at 4am in Rishikesh, 6 hours later, and I blinked the sleep out of my eyes. I stepped out and looked around. I had no idea which way I was supposed to go, so I asked my bus driver who kindly pointed towards a smaller bus nearby. “Aap aadhe ghante mein pahunchjaoge madam”, he said (you will reach in half an hour madam).
This time I kept my eyes wide open and looked for a signboard saying Beach Number 18 (Camp RapidFire), except it was pitch black outside. I couldn’t see a thing. Tree branches scraped the roof of the bus as we rattled along the narrow, hilly road. My heart was in my mouth as the minutes slipped by. This was a really crazy idea! Finally when I was about to give up hope, I saw a lantern burning in the distance. The stick figure holding it up was waving it back and forth so that anybody passing by would see it. The light from the lantern painted a bright smile on my face as I jumped out of the bus.
My guide led me down a mud path to a pristine, white, sandy beach. I threw my bag down and lay down in the sand. I was finally there! The sand felt cool beneath me and the moon hung in the sky just like the lantern had delicately balanced in my guide’s hands. This was a camp meant for rafting, trekking, jeep safaris, wildlife, angling, expeditions and a ton of other adventure sports. No electricity and no network on your phone was more of a relief than a sacrifice to pay for these treats.
I lay on the beach till I saw the sun slowly crawl out of the river and into the sky. I heard a voice calling out to me and followed it into a large tent. My guide had steaming hot breakfast heaped on a plate which he gently pushed into my hands. “Kha lo madam. Bahuth acha hai”, he said with a smile (Eat it madam. It is very good!). I wolfed down my food and went for a long trek in the nearby woods. It was the most exhilirating experience! Just me and my thoughts for company. I came back to camp an hour later and had just plonked myself down in a comfy wicker chair when my guide came up to me and asked if I was ready for the rapids. My thighs felt like jelly but the moment I heard the word ‘rapids’, I jumped up.
You can read about adventure sports, check out the best pictures and videos but nothing comes close to actually experiencing it! After pulling on a lifejacket and listening to a few, simple instructions I was ready for the adventure of a lifetime. I hopped into the raft and tightened my helmet strap. We pushed off and started our adventure on the Ganges. We experienced the thrills of big rapids like Daniel’s Dip, The Wall, Three Blind Mice, Crossfire, Roller Coaster, Golf Course and lots of smaller ones too. The adrenaline was pumping through me when my guide turned to me and asked, “Aapko body surfing try karna hai kya?”(Do you want to try body surfing?).
That was the last human voice I heard for the next hour. I jumped into the river and was pushed along by it. It was frightening but exciting at the same time. It felt like wrestling with the mighty Ganges, despite knowing I would never win. I finally stopped trying to fight it and just let my body go limp. That is when I began to enjoy it the most! I scrambled back into the raft exhausted but thrilled. We moved further down the river before it was time to stop for a break.
Break? You don’t get breaks when you are looking for adventure. We had stopped near a small cliff where only the bravest souls ventured up and then hurled themselves into the white foam below. I went half way up and made the mistake of looking down. There was no way I could do this! But then I had come all the way here and I was not going to go back home feeling like a coward. I ran up the rest of the way and without looking down I jumped. I am so happy I did! It is the best experience ever! You should try it too sometime! If adventure is what you want, Byasi is one destination that should definitely be on your travel itinerary!
(If you ever land up in Rishikesh and are looking for adventure, a good place to start looking for info is questrails.com)