The range of adventure sports in and around Rishikesh will spoil you for choice. Here’s an exhaustive guide
For the uninitiated, body surfing literally means riding a wave without a buoyancy device, using only a pair of specially-designed fins. It may sound simple, but there are levels to this sport. At its most benign, body surfing merely involves floating down the river wearing a life-jacket, propelled by gradient and current, marvelling the raw and jagged rock faces all around you. At higher levels, it involves confronting the waves on the river.
Kaudiyala to Rishikesh
As the waters of the Ganga tumble down the Shivalik Hills, the river offers up superb white-water spots from Kaudiyala to Rishikesh, graded 1 to 4. The stunning beaches along the way make ideal campsites for hardy rafters. Most of the 19 campsites are spartan, with only one high-end luxury offering at Brahmpuri. Opt for the multiple-day packages: a combination of day-battles with wild rapids, and nights under stars in comfortable tents.
The least demanding of all these activities is trekking, requiring just shoes on your feet. It requires no skill other than the ability to walk, and no specific fitness level as the pace is dictated by you. There’s much to be gained while hoofing through the wilderness in search of either a glorious waterfall or a temple dating back to the dawn of spirituality. This activity is for everyone, slim or overweight, sprightly-young or twilight-old.
Cliff jumping has taken off in a big way in Rishikesh, thanks to the narrow channels of river carved out of mountain rock. You will be jumping off ledges 40 to 70 feet above swirling waters. Helmets and life-jackets are mandatory for the three- to five-second free-fall. You will attain a velocity of 80kmph before cleaving the surface of the holy Ganga, as yet pure as the snow that spawned it.
Rock-climbing and rappelling are merely two names for ‘up and down a rock face’. The only way up is by hand and foot. As you seek hand-holds and toe-crevices, you are supported by cleverly rigged pitons and a system of ropes. Once up, you rappel down, relying almost a hundred per cent on equipment. The Shivalik Hills provide some of the most stunning scenery as you huff your way up, or slither down like an agile monkey.
Advertised as Asia’s longest Flying Fox, this one has been designed by Kiwi Ron Cranston. The wire is a kilometre long and the jump platform is a frightening 120 metres above the water. Strapped into a strong harness, you step off the platform and whiz down the wire, reaching a speed of 160kmph. You do a couple of passes and eventually stop seven metres above the water, into which you are lowered, your heart still beating like a kick-drum.
Canoeing and kayaking are simply other means of navigating over these waters, but not with the team-effort of six other people on the raft; this is more a two-man, or even a solo operation. A certain amount of preparation and skill is necessary for this, and qualified instructors will take you under their wing.
Deoprayag to Rishikesh
The white-water starts from Deoprayag, 72km from Rishikesh, and that first section warms you up for the thrills ahead. The action picks up from Kaudiyala, 38km from Rishikesh. Further down, from Marine Drive to Shivpuri, the rapids dial up to medium- difficult. Most white-water enthusiasts will make a strong case for Shivpuri being the white-water capital of India, and it is between here and Rishikesh that the most exciting rapids lie.
This requires no introduction, really. Except that this 83-metre high, fixed-platform bungee is India’s first, built over a rocky cliff overlooking a roaring tributary of the Ganga. After this great leap of faith, the jumper is lowered down to a drop zone in the river which has less than a metre of water. You may then walk up to the cafeteria and enjoy your photographs and a video of the jump.
The giant swing uses the same bungee platform as a launch pad. The difference is that instead of hurling straight down towards earth, here you scythe through the valley like a pendulum. Your brief free-fall ends with the rope swinging you through the crisp Uttarakhand air with rock and water all around you. To make it special (or to simply calm the nerves), you can also choose to do it in tandem with another person.