Haley Kardek rafts the Ganges River

My time here always seems to get better and better.

When I last posted, I was packing to leave for a five-day camping trip to Rishikesh (a small town next to the famous Ganges River in the Himalayan mountains).  I have returned and man do I have a lot to tell you all.

Day one we woke up at 4:30 am and boarded a bus to take us to our starting site. The bus ride took over 11 hours, but it seemed to fly-by as we passed the time singing, dancing and, of course, sleeping. When we arrived to our starting site, we were split into six rafting teams and three mega teams (mine: The Ultimates “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!”).  We were asked to further limit our packing to two outfits (as in two pairs of pants and two shirts) and our toiletries. Then, after a long day of traveling, we went to sleep anticipating the next morning.

When we woke, we were pushed into a bus yet again and driven two and a half hours upstream to our launching site. Launching our rafts, our expedition of eight rafts (six of us and the other two of supplies) we began our journey down the Ganges, the most religious and sacred river in India. We quickly realized just how cold the water was as we reached the first rapids. Having been river boarding before in New Zealand, the rapids didn’t scare me as much as the cold water shocked me. Throughout the day the outside temperature rose to the high 90s, so I soon found the water my best friend!

Each day we rafted downstream, stopping along the way on beaches to hang out and eat. Then at night we would build raft shelters and loos (or ‘bathrooms’ for all you back home)! We had to cook and prepare our own meals, build our shelters, and then row the rafts ourselves! Every day was a long one.

Now, my list of highlights:

Tara, this absolutely crazy Canadian/New Yorker/Indian, and I one night entered this competition the guides set up for all of us.  One person had to do a plank, reaching as far as they can out from a line drawn in front of their feet, while their partner climbed onto their back and reached as far forward as they can in order to place a stick into the sand. I was busy popping peas out of pods for dinner until one of the girls convinced me to just try it. You can guess which position they wanted me for! And turned out, first try we won! Hip Hip!

2. “The Wall”
Second day rafting we reached one of the hardest rapids in the entire Ganges, a grade 4+. For safety reasons, the rapids were only open for confident swimmers and out of the 40 of us, only 8 kids were allowed (myself included). Of course, before we boarded, the instructors had to inform us that the probability of flipping was over 90%! I was prepared to get very wet. The first raft went through and before it even reached halfway, it flipped vertically. If I wasn’t nervous before, that  definitely guaranteed it. Naturally, I had to be placed in the front of the raft as we began to approach “the Wall,” as the rapids were called. I can’t fully explain what happened after that. The next thing I remember was one last final wave slashing over the bow of our raft, we balanced out, and you could hear the cheering from shore. We made it all the way through, wet but still in the raft! I was so excited!

3. Run but don’t run!
Filling up water bottles a little ways from camp, a friend and I didn’t notice a monkey walking towards us until it passed a few feet away. Having seen them from far away but never up close before, you could say I was happily curious. That is until we turned around and found ourselves facing about twenty other monkeys!! We slowly turned and, careful not to meet any of their eyes, began to walk to other way back towards our camp. Noticing us, our teacher and a few friends began to chant “hurry hurry!!! but don’t run!! Faster!!” Stealing a few glances back, the clan of monkeys full of mothers with youngsters riding on their stomachs and teenagers, we continued fast and surely towards the camp. We finally made it to the camp where our numbers scared them off.  It was definitely a scary encounter I do not want to repeat!

Over three wonderful days, we managed to raft over 100 km and through beautiful mountains where streams and waterfalls met the river. It was a wonderful trip and I am so glad I had the opportunity to go on it.