The mighty rivers, towering peaks, and gentler slopes that abound in the hilly tracts of Uttar Pradesh, offer an almost unlimited number of opportunities to adventure sport buffs— be it trekking, white water rafting and kayaking, mountaineering and rock climbing or skiing.
The mighty River Ganga sublime her emerald beauty winds her way along pristine sandbanks and verdant forests as we travel up the Rishikesh Badrinath route. As we wind our way along the twists and turns of the mountainous road, I cannot help but get excited. Our destination, the KAUDIYALA Rafters Camp was not far and we had been promised the experience of a life time — an opportunity to go white water rafting on the Ganga.
River rafting is one of the most exhilarating of water sports, primarily because one has to pit one’s strength and skills against the unpredictable waters. The rivers of Uttar Pradesh, the Ganga, the Alaknanda, the Bhagirathi, the Tons, the Yamuna, the Bhilangana and the Mandakini are ideal for white water rafting — the upper reaches of these rivers are full of narrow gorges, rocky outcrops and deep gradients with white, foaming waters. The sheer energy and fury with which the waters in these rivers flow create just the right ambience to get your adrenalin pumping.
Our hearts were already thumping when we got off at Kaudiyala. The camp, run by the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), is right on the banks of the river and we could see rafts going down, their crew intent on padding with all their might. Tented accommodation for 40 people is available at the camp which has a dining hall for meals. Rafts, rafting equipment, river side camping gear, as well as trained guides are provided by GMVN. Our guide immediately took us under his wings and explained the fundamentals of river rafting to us. The main equipment is a raft made of special materials which lend both strength and lightness.
Usually, rafts have inflatable compartments with vulcanized rubber bodies reinforced by nylon fabric and neoprene. This enables the raft to go over sharp rocks without tearing. The raft is navigated by an experienced helmsman who uses large oars and who is familiar with the topography. Sometimes, every member pitches in the rowing in order to match the rivers might. Though beginners can also enjoy white water rafting, all precautions such as wearing life jackets and crash helmets must be taken. The guides and organisers usually organise all back-up arrangements for evacuation and medical attention should there be a mishap. Rivers are also graded on a scale of 1 to 6, depending on the state of the water and the skill required to navigate them. By the time our guide had finished with his talk, all of us were ready to go for a spin down the river. Believe me when I say that my first trip river rafting was really some thing out of this world —the thrill of rushing past the rapids and riding the foaming waters is beyond compare.
Uttar Pradesh has many other sites where one can go river rating. In Garhwal, the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers, the main tributaries of the Ganga meet at Devprayag, where their foaming waters provide excellent river rafting opportunities. As the Ganga traverses down from Devprayag, it offers some fine stretches for the amateur rafter. In Kumaon the river Shards (or Kali Ganga) flows down from Nepal to meet the Gori river at Jauljivi. This stretch of water is suited for more experienced river rafters as the rapids are grade 4 or above. However, in the lower reaches, the waters are calmer and even novices can enjoy this stretch. Other sites for white water rafting that have been identified include Barkot to Lakha Mandal and Damta to Yamuna Bridge on the River Yamuna. Mori to Tuni on the River Tons, Kaliasor to Shrinagar and Shrinagar to Bagwan on River Alaknanda, Ghansali to Gadolia on the River Bhilangana, Chandrapuri to Rudra Prayag on the River Mandakini and many stretches along the River Bhagirathi, both for professionals and amateurs.
One can also pursue other adventure sports in Uttar Pradesh. Skiing is one such sport which is attracting a number of tourists to the snow-covered slopes of the Garhwal and Kumaon hills in winter. Auli, 16 kilometres from Joshimath is a popular winter resort run by GMVN with good skiing conditions. There are many slopes which provide excellent opportunities for cross-country, slalom and downhill skiing events. GMVN has
Mountaineers negotiating an icy snow- beaters and other sophisticated machinery to keep the slopes fit for skiing. Ski instructors are also available to provide instructions to amateurs. The best season to go skiing is from end December to early March and one is advised to take enough warm clothing, dark glasses and heavy boots. Pithoragarh in the Kumaon hills is another site being developed as a ski resort. Many other sites in Garhwal and Kumaon are also being identified as suitable for skiing.
Trekking is another favourite holiday activity for many visitors to Uttar Pradesh. Trekking is truly one of the best ways to know the many attractive facets of this state — the snow capped peaks, the flower-filled meadows, dense forests, winding rivers, jagged rocks and so much more. One can also get to know the people and culture of the land intimately by trekking across the state. Some of the popular treks are the Panch Kedar trek, the Kedarnath-Vasuki Tal Trek, the Dodi Tal Trek, the Gangotri-Kedarnath Trek, the Gangotri- Gaumukh-NandanvanTapovan Trek, the Valley of flowers and Hemkund Trek. In Kumaon, the beautiful and adventurous trekking routes are the Chhipla Kedar lake Trek, the Bageshwar Sunderdhunga Glacier Trek, the Mu nsiyari-Nilarn Glacier Trek and the Bageshwar-Namrik Glacier Trek.
Mountaineering, by far the more adventurous, is yet another exciting possibility in Uttar Pradesh which is blessed with many mountains. The best season is between April and November and equipment can be hired or purchased from agencies specialising in these things. Mountaineering routes are graded according to the degree of difficulty and accessibility. Moderate mountains require knowledge of basic mountaineering techniques while advanced peaks require good physical conditioning as well as advanced mountaineering skills. At the mountain road-head, climbers assemble along with the porters carrying the expedition baggage to attempt climbing the peak.
So, if you are looking for a holiday filled with adventure and fun, head for Uttar Pradesh. There’s so much more to discover — rock climbing, water sports in still waters like sailing, boating, rowing and canoeing. Choose whatever adventure sport your heart desires and live life to its fullest.
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