It was early August and monsoon was in full swing. The landscape was covered in lush green with a veil of thick mist descending from the mountains and dew drops formed on flowers as they bloomed. As the rain danced on the windshield, I hummed to soulful melodies by Jack Johnson en route to Prithvi’s Homestay in Madikeri.
Feeling refreshed in dry clothes after a brief dance in the rain, I replenished my energy vault with a cup of local filter coffee and a plate of idlis (steamed rice cakes), courtesy of my kind hosts. Out of sheer curiosity about a river rafting experience down south—since it’s synonymous with northern India—this was the first thing on my agenda. So I packed my gear—a towel, change of clothes, floaters, shorts and a headband—and set out for Dubare, the starting point.
The first thing you do before getting on the raft is sign a form taking full responsibility for your actions, but don’t be afraid. The only thing it states is that if you topple over the raft, bang into a rock or drown, it’s entirely your risk; see, nothing to worry about! It seemed straight out of a courtroom drama, where you swear on the holy Bhagwad Geeta that you shall speak the truth, and nothing but the truth. Well, an encouraging start eh? Luckily the adrenaline rush seeking adventure took over my wobbly thoughts and I headed towards the raft with two other people. Once we were seated in our raft, our river scout imparted safety tips and guidelines to follow. And thus began my tryst with the Cauvery River.
We all settled in our respective positions: me in the front with another person, and a middle-aged couple behind us. Our beginning was slow and serene. The tiny bit of fear inside me had completely vanished, now I thought, “It was so silly to worry; this is so simple, not like I’m in the water!” Just then, as if someone were reading my thoughts, our guide smirked, “You all need to take a dip in the water so that you get a feel of it.” And one by one, each of us were neck down in the freezing river. I must admit, it felt pretty good…of course, we had our life jackets on.
The key to river rafting is balance. It’s a challenge to balance your body in an inflated raft on a turbulent river and manage to propel yourself further by rowing. So as we found our minds drifting away absorbed in the plethoric landscape, our guide brought us back to reality with his excited shriek, “Hold on!”, indicating an upcoming rapid. The first rapid rose three metres in the air engulfing our raft with chilling water as it descended.
The thrill was so great that even the freezing cold water that splashed on our faces seemed invigorating. Suddenly, the excitement rushed through my body like a current. I couldn’t wait to experience the next rapid. Our arms were already tired and we were soaking wet and the sun was our only respite. As the river had simmered down, we tried to get our raft back on track after losing our direction whilst battling the rapid. The next rapid approached and got us back to our oars after a few minutes of rest. It proved to be higher and even more stimulating than before. Before the next mighty rapid a stopover for a steaming hot cup of Coorg’s local coffee was just the need of the hour.
The two hours that we rode on the endless Cauvery was too little for me. I had never experienced an adventure like this before. At the end of our journey, the five of us on the raft had become rather friendly. So, while bidding each other goodbye, the kind middle-aged gentleman let out a little observation. Laughingly, he said, “When we sat in our raft, did you guys see the board that read: Beware of crocodiles?” Stunned, we all looked at each other, but within a few seconds we burst out laughing too. If he had blurted this out before we began, we would have probably missed the thrill of a lifetime!
If in Madikeri, do stay at Prithvi’s Homestay. It is comfortable, clean, very reasonable and the view is outstanding. You can even rent a car at the homestay. For more information on accommodation, contact Mr Nanda from the Nisarga Tourism and Trekking Information Center on (08272) 229806 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in Rouge (now iDiva), Mumbai Edition, dated January 10, 2009