Adventure Camps 2009



This year, the Batch of 2010 made history by being the only batch to have been on the Alaknanda Rafting expedition twice. (And yes, we shall always rub it in).
This time around, we knew what to expect. We knew not to take too much luggage, we knew all the names of the rapids, and we even knew most of the rafting crew already. What we didn’t know, was how much different and possibly even better this time’s camp would be for us.
We started off in typical fashion, running half an hour late. The school gate- swarming with anxious parents, the buses buzzing with excited students, and the teachers in a hurried frenzy. Somehow, all 79 of us were shoved into the Mussoorie Express that would take us to Haridwar. After a rather rickety bus journey, we woke up to all the familiar smells and sounds of the Ganges near the Shivpuri Jungle base camp, where we got our very first surprise. No, it wasn’t the newly tiled and fitted ‘luxury’ bathrooms; it was the cold. We realized how horribly wrong our predictions about the weather had been, and instantly regretted snubbing our mothers’ pleas about carrying warmer clothes.
Even so, our sun worshipping spirits were not dampened. A quick fix of ‘camp chai’ was all it took to convince us to jump into our rafting gear. It had been a long journey, but we couldn’t wait to hit the river. And with that, we began (for the second time), our last ever camp together.
We reached our first destination, Srinagar, where our tents had been pitched already. After a satiating lunch of the promised ‘rajma chawal’, we were all bursting with enthusiasm and ready to go. We practically performed the safety demonstration and reiterated the routine guidelines ourselves, showing off our years of rafting experience in the process. We have practically grown up alongside this river after all.
On the first day, we got a foretaste of what the next four days would be like. With the sun following our every move, the smaller rapids were pretty painless. We jumped into the glacial, icy water whenever we got the opportunity. On returning to the campsite, we were greeted with our all time favorite- the staple camp chai and pakora combo. We wasted no time gorging on the deep fried treats, knowing these luxuries wouldn’t last long. We slept after negotiating a ‘suitable’ curfew, weary but content, and eager for the break of dawn.
With the second day on the river, came the intense water fights, the outburst of raft chants, the inevitable inside jokes and a few unnamed and grade 1 and 2 rapids. Nonetheless, we savored every minute of it. Our unacquainted muscles quickly became familiar with the paddling motion and our feet found their places to be locked in. The constantly changing scenery played a background to our fierce paddling, as well as our lazy siestas on the lonely, calm stretches of the river. That night, was our first survival night. We wasted no time getting comfortable under the stars (and our rafts), equipping our shelters against the winds. Even though we couldn’t find enough wood to make a bonfire, the nostalgia, singing, laughter and bonding sustained us throughout the night.
The third day was a preview of what we imagined was to come on our final day. Fearless and daring, we set out to hit all the rapids through the ‘Tiger Trails’, in increasingly technical ways. We learnt to catch eddies, to get out of whirlpools, how to raft through hydrolytic holes and most importantly- how to rescue a raft member by paddling against a strong current and hard winds while he floated away. (A truly daunting experience) When we finally reached campsite, the instructors decided to test whether or not we were ‘coordinated’, by making us perform some innovative activities that required only paddles. By the end of it, we were all a pretty hilarious site- covered head to toe in sand, fallen on the beach with our paddles strewn around us. We may not have proved ourselves, but we definitely had a good laugh at eachother, and ourselves as well.
The usual luxury camp was replaced by a second survival night, but no one was complaining. The second survival night was spent much like the first, but we also spent it anticipating what the sunrise would bring. Yes, this was our fourth rafting day. The day of the one and the only, ‘Wall’. However, this time we would also be doing all the other big rapids on the same day- Tee off, Golf-course, Three Blind Mice, Rollercoaster and Club-house.
That morning, the tension hung as thick as fog above the campsite. Rafting on the Wall was no joke. As we packed our dry bags and bathed ourselves in sun block, we saw the safety kayakers emerge and the guides nervously talking. Our previous experience with the Wall had aroused mixed reactions. Some had terrifying experiences, while the others had been disappointed. This time, the rapid was completely underplayed, which made it all the more better when we experienced it.
What happened next was a glorious blur. We paddled hard and fast, but the Wall got the best of most of us. A stunning 8 out of 11 rafts capsized on the Wall. We ended up sacrificing our glasses, slippers and watches to the mighty river, as we crashed into one humungous wave after the other. The river was a carnage of floating paddles, helmets and rafts. Gasping for air and spluttering water, each of us excitedly had our stories to tell and war wounds to carry back home. The Wall was a remarkable work of art- and it sure did not fail to impress us.
We came out of it shaken, and more enthused than ever. The rapids that succeeded the Wall were equally amazing, if not more. As we body surfed through Double trouble, we lay on our backs and let the river take us along, without a worry in the world. This would be the last time we did this together. Every moment was sad, yet completely blissful. As we hugged our raft guides and sang our raft chants one last time, we couldn’t help getting teary eyed. On the bus ride back to base camp, there wasn’t a dry eye left as we belted out the fitting lyrics of ‘Wonderwall’ in unison. It was the perfect end to a perfect camp- one that we would cherish throughout our lives.
“Because after all, you’re my Wonder Wall” . . .
Meghna Mann

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