Much below the elevations of Lansdowne and Pauri which lie in the Pauri-Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, Kaudiyala at just 480m above mean sea-level lies in the Tehri-Garhwal district and is just about 40km downhill from Devprayag. It is located where the Ganga makes a 180degree turn in its path towards Rishikesh which is almost 40kms further downhill. The name Kaudiyala brings just one thing to mind – white-water rafting.
And that is one reason to make a stopover at GMVN Kaudiyala or for that matter at any of the numerous hotels, tented stays and campsites erected all along the Ganga from Kaudiyala to Rishikesh. This is to be in the vicinity of the numerous rafting trips that are organised all along the stretch. However, if you are not the rafting types, you can stay near the ever-flowing Ganga and enjoy the scenic beauty and be mesmerised by the constant burble and rippling made by the river as it flows over the rocks and boulders at the lower altitudes of the Himalayas before it leaves the mountain country at Rishikesh and definitely reaches the plains at Haridwar. You may spend time admiring the local flora and fauna and undertake one of the many trekking trips organised all along the stretch road.
Environmental concerns were raised in the recent past due to non-compliance to licensing terms and conditions and degradation of the riverine ecosystem due to rampant encroachment and disregard for waste disposal all along the river by the campsites became a real issue. Read about it here. I hope better sense prevails in keeping this wonderful river and its ecosystem intact. Same holds true for its spiritual environment.
To be noted that in the earliest years of the state’s formation, Uttarakhand was called Uttaranchal.
The GMVN Kaudiayala is a nice property on the right bank of the Ganga. It lies somewhere midway between Rishikesh and Devprayag and is at an hour’s drive from both. You will need to park your car on the roadside and go down the stairs to reach to the hotel reception. The property sits high on the rocks by the banks of the Ganga and comprises many huts priced according to number of beds and amenities. In the evenings, the people can even organise a campfire if asked to. The hotel has its own restaurant which serves decent food.
Stone and wood decorations
I found a small restaurant just across the road. Unique decorations on its front porch caught my eye – an odd collection of rocks and a small wooden boat. There were some small eateries around which serve tea, snacks and food, mostly frequented by the locals. One can try them out, as per the inclination of the tongue and sensitivity of the guts.
Looking upstream from The Kaudiyala Rafters’ Camp
The camp itself was perched high on the rocks by the bank and there was no way down to the river. I came to the road and just beside a roadside eatery, there was a narrow dusty trail going down. I soon realised that climbing downhill sometimes can be trickier than climbing up. While climbing up narrow uneven paths, you require the strength of your thighs and knees to haul yourself up whereas while climbing down, the less used calf and shin muscles are used to prevent your body from tumbling over. I waded my way over the river sands and made my way to the rocks by the bank. This was where a small stream also discharges into the Ganga as is visible on the map above. At places, where it was deep, the water looked tranquil and serene. At shallower depths, flowing over rocks and boulders, it made a lot of din.
On the banks, a little upstream from our camp
As Kaudiyala lies at a considerably low altitude, the April air felt warm just as in the plains. However, towards the evening, it became cooler. After a quick cold shower, we sat in the garden overlooking the river enjoying some hot tea and pakodas while the rumbling and gurgling continued endlessly. A dog was constantly keeping an eye on all activities while its cute little pup was busy making friends with everybody.
It was a little fascinating to realise that the sound of the water have been going on for ages and will go on forever in the future, perhaps. The span of a human lifetime seemed inconsequential.
“For Men may come and Men may go, but I go on for ever.”
-The Brook by Alfred Lord Tennyson
That evening itself, we enrolled at our camp for the rafting expedition scheduled for the next morning. I spent the time post-dinner by making myself snug on a chair with my feet up on a rock while admiring the mid-heavens full of scintillating stars.
Along with an early morning tea, I spent quite some time discovering life in its various moods and hues in the surrounding gardens. I wandered around the beautifully maintained gardens discovering birds in the bushes, bird’s nests and giant ants on their daily pursuits.
A plethora of garden plants, both flowering and otherwise made the place very cheerful.
The rafting team was to leave at around 9 o’clock. At the scheduled hour, we gathered near the hotel gates. Our plan was to raft till Rishikesh and from there go to Haridwar and board our train. So we loaded our backpacks on the transport that was to take us to the starting point, Marine Drive.
A brief description of the 5 out of 6 Rapid classifications that one would encounter in this stretch are as below:
- Grade: 1 – Easy navigation across mild streams. Almost no risk involved
- Grade: 2 – Holds notably apart obstacles or rocks and easily maneuverable
- Grade: 3 – Reasonably adventurous rapids and requires good judgment
- Grade: 4 – These rapids are strong enough to tumble the raft
- Grade: 5 – Dangerous rapids. Strictly for experts.
A solitary raft in the morning
The stretch of river from Kaudiyala to Marine Drive requires quite some rafting experience as it has a couple of Category 4 rapids like the Wall and Daniel’s Dip.
Marine Drive to Shivpuri is about 12 kms and is fairly good for experienced ones with quite a few category 3 rapids with the usual share of Grade 1s and 2s.
Shivpuri to Rishikesh is about 16kms and is more relaxing and can be tried by greenhorns who are perhaps trying rafting for the first time and for fun with family. It has some Grade 3 rapids and more Grade 1s.
The starting point at Marine Drive
It took us about 20 minutes or so to each Marine Drive. We were the only ones there. But soon a family of four joined us. With some preliminary directions issued by our experienced guide, we started out. It was almost 10 o’clock. The full rafting trip from Marine Drive to Rishikesh takes approximately 5 hours or so. We would be at Rishikesh by 3 in the afternoon. The time it took to pump the raft, I took the opportunity to do some sight-seeing and photography.
We encountered some pleasant Grade 1 rapids, one with an otherwise notorious name – Black Money. It was fun to negotiate the grade 3 rapids – Cross-Fire and The Three Blind Mice. One stretch was deep enough and hence safe enough, the water had a tranquil surface and we plunged into the river, floating on the water while holding the ropes so as not to stray away from the raft.
The midway halt at Shivpuri
Shivpuri seemed like a great congress of rafters. People and rafts were everywhere. A family of parents and two kids who had joined us at Marine drive completed their trip and left while we were joined by four others. All four of them seemed to be students discovering their new-found freedom and messed up frequently by not following instructions. Team-work is really important else the raft may even capsize at the slightest rough waters.
The crowd of rafters at the Shivpuri
From Shivpuri onwards, we had more stretches of calm waters where we had more opportunities to swim in the cool waters and more grade 1s like Sweet Sixteen, Body Surfing and Hilton. Few Grade 3s do exist like Golf Course and Return to Sender. It was clear that the river was itself getting calmer and wider with fewer boulders and rocks making the rapids less dangerous. At one of the Grade 3 rapids, the four newbies got us into trouble and we were unable to get out of a pool of circulating water behind the rapid. We somehow made it. In the final stretch of our rafting, we landed on Nim Beach, a very wide beach of white sand near Rishikesh where we strolled for a while before jumping back into our raft to reach the final point on the other side. There at the banks, we found our transport waiting for us. That ended our 27 kms rafting expedition. Since we stayed at the GMVN at Kaudiyala, the one at Rishikesh was kind enough to allow us to use their shower rooms.
The Destination, Rishikesh
We took a shared taxi from Rishikesh to Haridwar, barely 40 minutes away. The Dehradun Shatabdi was waiting for us to take us back home – back to our daily chores. That completed the trip of Pauri Garhwal that started at Kanvashram and ended at Rishikesh via Lansdowne, Pauri, Devprayag and Kaudiyala.
Rishikesh resembled a busy habitation after having crossed the forested hills while floating on the Ganga. To float on the clear waters of the swiftly flowing Ganga, while looking up at the clear blue sky with the greenery of the vegetation all around was awesome. Rishikesh being a religious and spiritual town soon reminded us of the finality of our existence. We passed by a cremation ground, temple towers and ascetics deep in meditation. What a contrast to the pure exuberance in the lap of nature we experienced earlier. It was a succinct message that while we indulge in the intoxication that life brings us, in the end we all must pack up and leave.
Rishikesh would again call me on yet another trip in a few months’ time. It has also become a one-stop shop for those looking for quick spiritual enlightenment in this age where everything is a commodity. The preponderance of very economical yoga centers to costly ashrams at every nook and corner of this town says it all. But then it is also a place where multitudes throng even today as they did for centuries since time immemorial. Nothing can take away the sanctity of this holy place for the seeker.
More about Rishikesh and Haridwar in my future posts.
Some Related Stuff…
For rafting, a dry pouch can be very handy to keep mobile phones, wallets and camera.
Click here to buy on Amazon.in
Who can forget The Beatles? The Beatles came to Rishikesh to study Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. During this time they wrote most of the songs that were later to become the White Album.
Click here to buy on Amazon.in.