Having visited Varanasi at the start of my time in India, I never imagined I would get up close and personal with the Ganges. The holy river is renowned for its high faecal count and general pollution.
However, upon arriving in Rishikesh I soon discovered it was possible go white water rafting on the Ganges. Thankfully in Rishikesh the water is a fair bit cleaner than Varanasi, as its closer to the source of the river.
The rafting itself is cheap, 600rupees (£6) for half a day rafting and transfers.
We assumed the adventure sports offices in Rishikesh were targeted at the international tourists. So we were pleasantly surprised to discover we were the only westerners on the river. Our boat, and the others that set off the same time, were full of domestic (Indian) tourists.
Thankfully, despite the groups demographics, the safety briefing and instructions were all in English. And then we were ready to hit the water.
The rafting itself is rather tame (just the odd grade 3 rapid). But the experience of rafting on such a famous river was great.
At one point the guides advised it was possible to jump in a grade 1 rapid. My boyfriend went for the plunge, as did the two other men in our boat. (The other ladies and I sensibly stayed in the boat).
Unfortunately the majority of Indian people are not strong swimmers, and being swept along a grade 1 rapid turned out to be fairly distressing for one of the men. As it was for his wife, who sat next to me screaming ‘save him’ to the guide. Of course he had a life vest, and did not drown, and the guide successfully returned him to the boat.
After a bit more rafting the group stopped to jump off a big rock (fairly standard during rafting trips in the West). Again this was fairly novel to the Indian tourists, who displayed a surprising reluctance to go for the plunge. In the end my boyfriend decided to go first to show it was safe. And after a bit more umming and ahhing some others followed.
It’s funny, in a country where the driving style suggests everyone has a death wish, and health and safety is near nonexistent, the people were so reluctant to jump into place where they’ve been told (and seen) it’s safe.
All in all rafting on the Ganges was one of the best things I did in India. I must warn you, although the river is a lot cleaner in Rishikesh, it’s still relatively polluted. So avoid getting the water in your mouth at all costs! Thankfully neither my boyfriend or I got sick afterwards.
All I can say is – for £6, why not go rafting on the Ganges?