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Old 30th June 2008, 01:16   #1
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Talking White Water Rafting in Sita River (Photos added on Page 2)

It was 7:35AM, my phone rings, nobody picks up. The caller re-tries, and my wife who was half asleep takes the call since she recognized the caller. The caller says “We had two late cancellations, if you are interested, show up by 9AM and you are on”. We had a brief discussion on whether we can make it on time and then we call back at 7:45AM and confirm our attendance. Then it was a mad rush to pack, charge the camera, get ready, feed the young one, etc. At 8:33AM we drove out of the house in the Grand Vitara. Since the in-laws live with us, it was easy to leave the kids home.

The Sita River Nature Camp is about 32Kms from our house, right after Hebri. We reached Hebri in exactly 30 minutes, picked up two bottles of mineral water, and reached nature camp at exactly 9:08AM. I got out of the GV, introduced ourselves to the tour director who was standing next to a stack of four rubber rafts. We were going White Water Rafting Baby!



It is time to give some background. My wife has been dreaming about white water rafting for a long time, she wanted to do it when we were in USA, but that never happened. After moving to coastal area, she discovered that river rafting was being held every monsoon in Sita River which is practically in our backyard. After some Internet search we found an adventure company that conducts this rafting trip. Although some dates were discussed, since we were only two, they had to fit us into a larger group. So he promised to call us if some vacancies are found. But we didn’t hear back from him after that.
Yesterday evening, just on a whim my wife says let’s see whether there are any openings tomorrow. Since it had rained very heavily in the past few days, the rafting must be really good. So I called the guy, at first he couldn’t recall me, but later he did and said he will be confirm by night. Oops! We didn’t have our gear ready. So we rushed to Udupi to buy supplies like water-proof sandals (slippers can be lost in water), water proof caps, rain jacket for the wife, water-proof waist pouch for me, and I even tried buying a cheap ultra-compact P&S camera. The last one didn’t happen since none matched my requirement.

He called later at 9PM and gave the bad news that all parties have confirmed and they are fully booked. So we left the purchases in the shopping bags to be sorted out next day. Meanwhile I got the fully painted Jeep back at night and planned for an early morning photo-shoot. And next day early morning, that is today, we get the call…

As we geared up, we both wore our jackets, swimming trunks, and I even planned to wear the fairly big Sony F-717 under my jacket to keep it safe from water. Well, I didn’t want to compromise on image quality, if I can’t have dSLR quality, I at least wanted the prosumer P&S quality. Then the tour director comes our way and tells that we can’t wear jackets. It can get snagged on branches or cause trouble while pulling us out of water if we fall, which can very much happen. So the jacket and camera went back in the car. Soon we both were packed off into a 2WD Force Judo and we were taken 3KMs from the camp to the point where we are supposed to enter the water. The Judo also pulled the trailer that carried the stack of 4 rubber rafts.
After we got down I realised that I was not wearing the water-proof sandal, it was left in the GV, and I was still in the leather slipper. Soon we were handed our life jackets and helmets. That means our caps were redundant. The life jacket was pressing on the waist pouch, and then I discovered that my life jacket had a big pouch in the top, so I put the waist pouch into the life-jacket pouch. In other words, all the purchases from yesterday were useless. The water bottles we bought, still in the GV.

Next 20 minutes were spent on briefing the riders. What to do, what not to do, how to paddle, what to do when a rider goes overboard, how to rescue a rider in the water, etc. We were about 35 people spread across 4 rafts, each raft having 2 guides. Most guides were Nepalis, they were the ones who piloted the rafts by shouting paddling orders. We riders formed the engine, each one of us acting as a piston. The common orders are FORWARD, STOP, LEFT-BACK (which automatically means RIGHT-FORWARD), RIGHT-BACK (which automatically means LEFT-FORWARD), ALL-BACK, ALL-DOWN (everybody cowers in the bottom of the boat to avoid branches), etc, etc. The rafts are made of 8 chambers, so rupturing a couple chambers won’t sink the raft. All the equipment like raft, paddle, and jackets were all of the highest quality, all made in USA brands.

Other than us, there were only two other groups, one big group from Microland (Bangalore) and a smaller family/friends group from Puttur. The latter group was lead by an ACF (Assistant Conservator of Forest), so we had the local forest ranger overseeing the proceedings. His wife and daughter were the only women in the whole group other than my wife.

Our journey started with a bunch of us carrying the raft over our heads and placing in the river. No formal groups were formed, and it was more like getting into the closest one. We ended up in a raft with all engineering students, part of the Puttur group. After giving us some practice, our guide led us off into the center of the river and we took off.

I always wondered how people managed to sit hands free in a fast moving/bouncing raft and paddle with both hands without falling off. The answer came soon enough, it is much easier than it looks. Besides, one uses the foot to lock into the raft. You can completely lean back into the water and not fall off if the foot is properly locked into the nooks in the raft.
The first two hours in the raft were very pleasant, we encountered few tame to moderate rapids, but nothing challenging even to us mostly first timers. The kid behind me took quite some time to synchronize his paddle with me, but he eventually caught up. Meanwhile I made sure I synchronized my paddle with the guy in front of me. Synchronized paddling can really move the raft minimizing waste of effort. We were all hoping for rain, but it didn’t come. But the feeling of floating in a wild river with wild forest on both sides is just surreal. Every now and then we were asked to paddle that way or this way, but mostly we sat and looked around. Once the guy in front of me fell while dealing with a moderate rapid, I guess he hadn’t locked his foot. We pulled him up using his life jacket. After a while many riders jumped into water just for fun, but getting back up was not so easy, they needed help.

By 12:15PM, the short ride of 12Kms was over. They asked all the people who want to complete the 22Kms long ride to move to one side. About 10-15 people from Microland moved to that side. My wife and I decided not to continue since it had gotten little monotonous. Even as most of the Puttur group was sitting on the fence, the wife of the ACF (only lady in salwar dress) announced loudly that she is going. Meanwhile a guide mentioned that the next stretch has much more rapids and it will get wild. With Mrs.ACF leading the field, all fence-sitters got caught in the flood, even we decided to change our decision and join the group. And god bless her, we would have missed most the fun if not her blazing the trail. We later heard that only two people discontinued at that stage.

In the next part did get wilder. We got into sections that were so crisscrossed with bushes, once we had to take a very twisty multi-Z route where the guide was roaring commands keep us out of bushes and on open water. One of the rafts mistimed their paddling and ended on top of a bush. It was quite hilarious to see them trying to extract themselves with a red face. But our raft did fine, paddler mostly got it right.

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere we took a break, mostly nature call break. And this is where nature too decided to break down. Our prayers bore fruit and it started to rain, very hard. We paddled for the next one hour in heavy rain. Ah, it is hard to describe the joy of Wild River rafting in pouring rain. It is simply bliss. We encountered many strong rapids and had some great fun. Nobody fell from our raft anymore and we kept seeing people falling off other raft quite routinely. One of the things I learnt was that the guides asked us to paddle very fast whenever we ride a rapid. At first I didn’t understand the logic, which would be like speeding up upon seeing a pothole or speed bump. After doing it a few times, the logic stuck home. If we enter a rapid slowly, it will take control of the raft and send us wherever it likes. By entering the rapid fast, our momentum will overcome the force of the rapid and keep us going where we want.

Somewhere around 2PM, the guides moved all the rafts to the bank. We overheard them talking about water fall, water level, etc. It turns out that their normal long circuit involves going over a small water fall, but the recent heavy rains have changed the dynamics. It was interesting to learn that the difficulty level of the rapids constantly change with water level and currents, which again depends on recent rains. Since there was a foot difference in the water level since their last trip, they needed to check out the rapids. Therefore, many guides got into water and swam to the rapids to check them out. After a 40 minutes long inspection, they decide to abandon the ride barely 1 KM away from ending point. As some of us started removing or loosening the life jackets and helmet, new word comes. We are going to continue, we are told it will be hard, hold on to your rafts, paddle hard, and you will have great fun. Heyyyy!

We take off and I am glad to see that we are not the first raft in the line to tackle the rapid. But soon the situations change, the first raft is tangled in a bush. Meanwhile our guide is roaring orders in rapid succession like a war general to spare us the same fate and soon we come upon a crazy looking long rapid which is looks wild and white for good 50ft. And there we go… We bounced, rocked from side to side, I got thrown off my seat twice to the middle of the raft, but we kept paddling like crazy to overcome the power of the rapid and our momentum final overpowers the rapid and we float out free without losing a single rider. Our junior guide looks back and claims that this was a grade four rapid. I was dumb enough to ask him on what scale. He says in a scale of 1-5, 5 is most difficult. Damn, that is good, all of us newbies had tamed a grade 4 rapid without any casualty.

The second raft didn’t follow us, they instead took a more circuitous route to avoid the level 4 rapid and then joined us. Now the guides of both rafts wanted to wait and watch the progress of the remaining rafts. Apparently the later two rafts were slightly smaller and had lesser stability than our rafts. For good 20 minutes, nothing happened. It felt like that the remaining team decided not to proceed, they must have been having second thoughts.
After a long wait, we finally noticed their approach. First they took a pass at the grade 4 rapid and then quickly avoided it and go for the circuitous route. When they again came within our field of view, the first raft had couple missing members, and then we suddenly noticed lot more heads in the water. The last raft had toppled over pouring everybody into the water. Now rest of our rafts rushed to the rescue, the other rafts were closer, so they picked up all the people. We got to one guy, he was the Nepali guide, he didn’t want to be rescued, and he just swam away asking us to rescue other items of interest like paddles, bottles and even shoes floating in the river. That we did.

There were no injuries, everybody was in a great spirit. After regrouping and putting the people into their rafts, we continued towards the end point. But we had surprise in store of us. The heavy rains had created couple more strong rapids and bushy twisters for us before we finally pulled into the bank at the end point.

Now, all the six guys in our raft were asked to carry the raft on our heads to the pickup point while walking though the uneven forest. As the only lady in the boat, my wife just sauntered along. My neck was working like a shock absorber and leaf springs together. While I was not too tired while reaching the end point, I was sweating like a “whatever that sweats badly unlike a pig”. I think we carried it for almost 200 meters on our heads. It was 3:30PM and we hadn’t eaten a thing since 8:15AM. Just one gulp of water at 12:30PM.

The Range forest officer was awaiting our arrival. As the ASF’s bolero left, we got to ride RFO’s armada back to the nature camp which was 23Kms away on road. We finally changed into dry clothes and had wonderful vegetarian lunch, arranged by the tour group. I took both the following photos in one hand while holding the umbrella in the other. The light was very low, so was the shutter speed. Therefore, pardon the image quality.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t click a single photo of the entire white water rafting trip, I have explained the circumstances. Next time that won’t be the case, I will carry a camera that can fit in the life-jacket.

Meanwhile, enjoy the following shot of the river I took after having lunch. We paddled past this point in the morning.
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This is where we had our buffet lunch in pouring rain.
White Water Rafting in Sita River (Photos added on Page 2)-dsc03421.jpg

We finally left the nature camp around 5:10PM. After dropping the wife home, I had to rush to work to attend a 6PM teleconference with US office. I made it to the meeting with 30 seconds to go. The first 15 minutes of the meeting was dedicated to describing the wonderful events of the day.

The details of the adventure company: Adreno - The Rush That Gets You Ahead.
We got a cheaper price of 1950 per head, probably because we filled up cancelled vacancies on short notice.

Last edited by Samurai : 10th June 2011 at 12:28. Reason: added info
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Old 30th June 2008, 01:28   #2
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What I wouldnt give to have that setting here. Once again, congrats on a time well spent - I envy you.
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Old 30th June 2008, 07:57   #3
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Great write up, samurai.
A little more details about rafting like the contacts and the cost would be very helpful.
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Old 30th June 2008, 08:05   #4
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Originally Posted by speedmiester View Post
A little more details about rafting like the contacts and the cost would be very helpful.
Sorry, about that, I just added that info to the original post at the end.
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Old 30th June 2008, 09:20   #5
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Wow Samu!

You and your wife are rocking!! You guys truly have some fun outings and adventures + we get to see the travelogues.

cya
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Old 30th June 2008, 10:30   #6
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Arrow Good Reports... Photos?

Hai,

Good report and nice capture of the short trip. The joints could be protesting and aching for some days now. The price is good @ 1950/- the Shivpuri rates have gone up to almost 3K per pax per day.

Your guys who were thrown off were lucky, hydrolics can be dangerous.

I've done a lot of thes as part of our Out Bound Learning programmes. 3 of us were thrown off a raft in Rishikesh by grade 2 Hilton, piddly little rapidi after Laxman Jula with lots of lots of rocks, got my knees banged -up on the rocks and one of our guys had a slip disk!!!!!! Though we had done grade 4 ones like Rollar-Coaster, The Wall etc. smoothly, you never know with rapids, specially with rains on. Even the river-guides get spooked.

Your usual great phtos are being processed? Raring to see some more...

Happy Driving,

--Ramky
========

Last edited by ramkya1 : 30th June 2008 at 10:31.
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Old 30th June 2008, 10:49   #7
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Real adventure.
What was depth of river?
Is it safe to raft with family members all at a single given time?
Is there any insurance cover provided by organiser?
Sudden ups and down during rafting may cause drousy feeling. Was there any instruction to raft with empty stomach?
Give us as much information about rafting as we are unware about this thing.
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Old 30th June 2008, 11:55   #8
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Excellent post again, eager to see some more pics too.

Abhi
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Old 30th June 2008, 11:59   #9
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Arrow Some Rafting Information

Quote:
Originally Posted by ASHISHPALLOD View Post
Real adventure.
What was depth of river?
Is it safe to raft with family members all at a single given time?
Is there any insurance cover provided by organiser?
Sudden ups and down during rafting may cause drousy feeling. Was there any instruction to raft with empty stomach?
Give us as much information about rafting as we are unware about this thing.
Ashish,

It is usually when water levels dorp that rapids form, some sections on the Ganges down from Biasi till NIM beach in Rishikesh are as deep as 40-60 feet, most of them shallow, when water levels rise, rapids disappear. The real danger is not from a flipped raft, its from people getting sucked into hydrolcks, getting trapped under a raft or when they go in without life jackets or helmets, even the best swimmers CANNOT swim in rapids.

Yes, it is safe to raft with family members, provided you have the life jacket, helmets and the river guide is with you from a validated agency, which has a good safety record; meaning no flips, no deaths reported with the agency for at least 5 years. In fact, in Shivpuri, good acencies don't allow children to raft from shivpuri down till Brahmpuri since it has one deadly grade 4 rapid called rollar coaster. If the families are put on a "Rig Raft", they are safer. I wouldn't want to turn this thread into a rafting one, I have compiled a FAQ on rafting, will post it later.

No insurance, usual practice is to sign a release indemnifying the operator from all risks, its a calculated risk. No signature, no rafting.

Its actually lots of fun, not so much of a problem for the stomach, the thrill and adventure has to be experienced.

Happy Driving,

--Ramky

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Old 30th June 2008, 12:01   #10
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Originally Posted by ramkya1 View Post
Good report and nice capture of the short trip. The joints could be protesting and aching for some days now.
Actually, not much. After paddling for 5 hours, I expected some sore muscles today, but nothing of that sort. Just a slight tiredness, same with the wife. We could do it today again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ramkya1 View Post
Your guys who were thrown off were lucky, hydrolics can be dangerous.

I've done a lot of thes as part of our Out Bound Learning programmes. 3 of us were thrown off a raft in Rishikesh by grade 2 Hilton, piddly little rapidi after Laxman Jula with lots of lots of rocks, got my knees banged -up on the rocks and one of our guys had a slip disk!!!!!! Though we had done grade 4 ones like Rollar-Coaster, The Wall etc. smoothly, you never know with rapids, specially with rains on. Even the river-guides get spooked.
I have seen the photographs of rapids in the North, I think Sita river is very tame when compared to that. The short run trail is very mild, good for first timers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ramkya1 View Post
Your usual great phtos are being processed? Raring to see some more...
No boss, I couldn't take the camera on the raft.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ASHISHPALLOD View Post
Real adventure.
What was depth of river?
Is it safe to raft with family members all at a single given time?
Is there any insurance cover provided by organiser?
Sudden ups and down during rafting may cause drousy feeling. Was there any instruction to raft with empty stomach?
Give us as much information about rafting as we are unware about this thing.
1) The depth differed for 3ft to 30ft, it changes from rain to rain.
2) The ACF's full family was part of the trip, the parents were old enough to have 3 college going kids. Yeah, it is safe enough for families if they love adventure. The short trail is too easy that way.
3) No insurance, you have to sign a waiver saying you are doing it in your risk.
4) No such feelings, when the second part started we were all in empty stomach.

Listen, the Sita river trail we encountered yesterday appeared very safe to us. There are very few dangerous rapids, not many rocks to get you. When you are fitted with life jacket and helmet, you have to be really unfortunate to get injured. We had a whole boat turn upside down, yet none of the riders in that boat were injured. All got back in and continued on.

If you want to explore the sports of white water rafting, try the short trail which is very mild, takes two hours. If you want more, continue into the longer one.

Driving a motorcycle in the potholed roads is way more dangerous than rafting. And people around my place mostly drive without helmet in the rain on the potholed roads while talking on mobile phone. Rafting is definitely safer than that.
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Old 30th June 2008, 12:05   #11
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Arrow Bulls Eye........

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
.
Driving a motorcycle in the potholed roads is way more dangerous than rafting. And people around my place mostly drive without helmet in the rain on the potholed roads while talking on mobile phone. Rafting is definitely safer than that.
Bulls eye on that one....... agree with you 100%.

Compared to this, rafting is as safe as sitting in your living room and watching TV

--
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Old 30th June 2008, 12:42   #12
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Thanks samurai and ramkya1.
I am definitely going to do this rafting.
This is real thrill and adventure.
People get inspiration from seniors.
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Old 30th June 2008, 12:47   #13
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Thanks for the nice write up.
Last year, I did rafting in Cauvery at Bheemeswari. Rapids are of lower level there, and I wanted to go for a better one at Coorg. There is a place which is managed a Brit named John and others.

For accomodation, John suggested one guy called Rakesh, and he was supposed to "help me out" with good accomodation. This guy told me of a home stay "just 30mins drive" from the rafting place.

I landed up at the homestay. Not much of problem with that, but it was a good 2 hrs drive from rafting place, and when we reached Rafting place it was beyond lunch, and apparently, John or Rakesh didnt inform the actual ground zero personnel that we had booking. That was a completely mis managed lot of place, and we had to return without rafting. I couldnt reach John or Rakesh on phone, and after I decided to turn back and reached Mysore, I got a call from Rakesh asking "I got some missed calls from your number"
I gave him a piece of my mind, but the fact is I couldnt see his face if he really meant the apologies which he mentioned on phone, but he completely ruined up my experience.

If you are going to Coorg for rafting, make sure you have place close by, and the booking is proper, because rafting places are usually over booked on weekends.

And if possible avoid this Rakesh guy, and "if you come across him", give him one reminder of me
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Old 30th June 2008, 13:02   #14
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Hi samurai,Great write up.I have been to Hebri a few times and was not aware of the rafting there.Thanks for the info,will try next time.After hearing about the toppling i feel like trying it.The rafting i had in Tiesta river was too boring.
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Old 30th June 2008, 13:17   #15
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Talk of the devil, as I was driving home for lunch, I acrossed a few series of pot holes. And I see a guy riding a old scooter without helmet going towards the pot holes while talking on mobile. If I show him the rafting photos, he might shudder at the dangers of white water rafting.
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