Camp High 5 at Jayalgarh
Summer holidays in the hills with my family was a staple while growing up. The two months off from school would mean a bus to the apple-orchard covered hills of Shimla, walking the mall in Mussoorie and the, then cooler riverside locations off Rishikesh. It cemented a long gestating love for the mountains and adventure holidays. Of course, when I was younger, adventure lay only in hikes and long walks. Till date, I try and opt for the less sedate trips to be in touch with the outdoors. So when I got a chance to experience rafting in the lower Himalayas, it seemed like an excellent way to detox from the city and re-live the feeling of summer holidays.
My destination, Camp High 5 in Jayalgarh, lay away from the tourist cluttered Rishikesh; it’s almost 96 km from the city, making it an ideal hidden gem in the region. Awashed in a million shades of green, with an angry river fracturing the topography, the drive from Haridwar to the camp was an apt precusor to what was in store for the next few days.
The calm river at dawn
Located on the banks of River Alaknanda, in the protective embrace of the Himalayas, the camp was an inviting pad. Imagine a setting of spectacular views of stacks of mountains forming deep valleys, and the rush of the river that offers a constant background score. Now add a lush green forest cover as far as your eyes can see, hills dotted with village homes in the distance and Himalayan birds in a melodious ochestra. The simplicity of an old Himalayan town, coupled with plush facilities - the perfect recipe for a camping trip, minus the hardships.I had a luxury tent to myself, equipped with a comfy bed, writing table, clothes stand and an attached bathroom. Even though I was in the midst of nature, my creature comforts were intact.
Jayalgarh has a vantage address of being accessible to rafting spots in not one, but five rivers - Alaknanda, Ganga, Bhagirath, Pinder and Mandakini are in close vicinity. They all offer different levels of rafting adventure for experts and amateurs. While there are day trips planned for families and first-time rafters, longer expeditions can also be done in this region. Expect panoramic views of the Himalayason both the sides of the rivers, while rafting on Class 2, Class 3 and Class 4 rapids. The adventure only gets bigger and better as you raft your way through these Himalayan beauties, criss crossing many a mountains along the way. But by the camp, the Alaknanda holds sway with its white frothy rapids, ideal for a rafting trip.This was going to be the river in which my rafting tip was planned.
It was along-weekend trip and apart from a much needed tryst with the outdoors, it was the ideal way to get away from city life and re-energize.The sit-out of my tent and the common area, with a viewing pavillion were my favourite spots. Of all the things in the surroundings, it was the river that I was most fascinated with. The different moods of the River Alaknanda, which merges with Bhagirathi at Devprayag (about 21 kmdownstream) to form the holy Ganges, was the single most awe-inspiring hook for me. Cool summer mornings made sure that I woke up to the melodies of the stream, which seemed to calm down into a slumber by the afternoons, and merging into darkness by late evening, whispering lullabies to the visitors. Being so close to a water body soothed my senses and I walked up to the river bed countless times for a tête-à-tête with the splashing water at the banks. In fact, a handful of lazy chairs offered more motivation to slump in them and enjoy digging the toes into the sany banks.
Apart from taking in the refreshing solitude and quiet company of the mountains, it was finally time to fill my days with several rafting trips. The fact that I was in the hands of the trained instructors of my hosts, Great Indian Outdoors, made sure that there was no room for nervousness; only ample fun. This section of the river is not cluttered like the more popular Rishikesh-Shivpuri segment, so ours was the only raft bouncing on the river. On easier patches, I looked up and waved at school kids walking along the edge of the river. Some of them played, splashing at the egde of the river in sandy patches, without a care in the world. Everyday was filled with a new adventure on the river, taking on easy to moderate rapids and stunning views all around. Even after a four day rafting expedition with GIO, I came back wishing for more.
The Alakanda skirting Camp High 5
Every evening Iwould come back to Camp High 5 after a thrlling day. The Alaknanda welcomed me with a beautiful sound of the gushing water and staff at GIO pampered with excellent local food and warm hospitality. Copious amount of hot cups of tea, home-cooked meals and amazing views to stare at- it couldn't get any better than this! the four dayszipped past me in no time, nearly as fast as a Class-4 rapid. After the rafting adventure was over, I decided to spend another day at the camp, soaking in the sunshine. Unwinding, reading a book by the river, staring at the Himalayas, and talking to staff members about their various adventures, this day was is what I needed to refresh, before heading back to the city. The dining area was my favourite spit of the camp. It was here that with hot cups of tea, also brewed interesting tales from the mountains. I left Camp 5 in Jayalgarh with a heavy heart. Back in Delhi, aligning my holiday plans with long weekends and availabilty of friends, many names proped up. Someone suggested Ladakh, others were veering towards going abroad. I’ve been lobbying for a rafting trip yet again. No points for guessing which destination is on my mind.