Friday, August 10, 2007

By The River Of Barapole...There We Raft Down

28th of July, 2007:
After a sleepy departure at dawn from Town Hall, we enjoyed a filling South Indian fare at Indradhanush on the Mysore-Bangalore highway. We would remember this morning coffee much later in the day. Presently we continued the journey to Coorg with a brief stopover at Hunsur so we could get our spirits in order…literally. An enchanting drive through the Nagarhole forest and a zig-zag through a multitude of coffee estates brought us to our home stay 'High Falls' in Kutta. The cottages were perfect…tucked away between the towering mountains. We put our bags away proceeded to the river. Another short drive and we were on Birunani road.
With our first glimpse of the river Barapole, we all became excited and even forgot about lunch. John Pollard, the rafting expert from Dandeli joined us for a delectable Coorg lunch by the bridge. A warm-up walk of a kilometre and a half ended at the rafting base inside Ponya Organic Estate. The sounds of the jungle were a relieving change from the noises of the city that our ears had become used to. And the constant gurgle of the river as we arrived at the base camp was all that our tired souls needed to rejuvenate.
Our guides – Muhammed, Ashok, Ranjeet and Rana - had already reached the camp and were ready to take on the river. John gave us the preliminary instructions and left the rest to the guides. We donned our spray jackets, life jackets and helmets and we were ready too…for an afternoon of adventure!
Once the rafts were on the water, our guides familiarized us with the commands and we started our rowing practice in the calm waters near the island. We learnt about white water swimming position – a crtitical skill if one falls off into the river and the team is unable to reach her in time. Then we all jumped into the water one by one to get a feel of the river and it felt like heaven! Every aching muscle felt relaxed. It was like being back into our elements. We swam around for sometime before doing the capsize drill – another critical skill to know if one gets stuck under the raft for some reason.
By this time everybody was comfortable in this new environment and fun began. The rafts clashed with each other and we splashed water at the other rafts. Also, by this time, everybody was keen to take on the rapids and soon we were off.
Among a volley of commands like ‘All Forward’, ‘Left Backward’, ‘Hold On’ etc. we negotiated the curves of the river. The first rapid ‘Morning Coffee’ was the warm-up rapid, like our coffee in the morning, and was meant to brace us for the coming rapids. Next was the ‘Grasshopper’ and our guides took us through that also pretty easily.
Grasshopper was followed by the ‘Wicked Witch’ – a rapid we all decided to check out before taking on. So we parked our rafts by the banks and started to climb the rocks to get a glimpse of the ‘Wicked Witch’. The rocks turned out to be extremely slippery and we were all wading through the water like toddlers who had recently learnt to walk, checking each rock out before stepping on it. After the guides got their strategy in place to conquer the ‘Wicked Witch’ we got back into the rafts and set out. A quick Forward, Relax, Hold-On and Get-Down later, we had shielded the spell of the witch!
The last rapid was the ‘Milk Churner’ and seemed to be the most difficult one on the stretch. After taking a good look at it, strategizing for some time and receiving special instructions to crouch down hard, we headed for the Milk Churner. Despite locking my feet hard and crouching down as much as I could, I got thrown off the raft. But that was a part of the whole adventure and was fun!
While we were having the time of our lives swimming in the water, fighting the current and trying to re-enter the rapids, John was busy capturing it all on camera so we could have as much fun remembering it all as we were having then.
We drove back to base camp in Jeeps and settled down around the fire sipping on hot beverages and discussing the adventure we had just had. An hour later we were relaxing at our home stay with a cup of piping hot coffee each and some Pakoras to go with it. Some time later the bonfire was lit and everybody settled down talking around it. A mix of Hindi and English songs followed but was interrupted by the call for dinner – a sumptuous mix of delectable Coorg specialities. Post dinner the fireside chat continued while the embers died. A drizzle started and began to turn into a pour driving us to the porch. Some people retired at this point while some others got into engaging discussions. The eventful day was drawing to a close and we were squeezing out the best from it.
29th of July, 2007:
Most of the team got up early the next morning and feasted their senses on Coorg’s immensely beautiful landscape. The rest gathered in the porch for a lazy Sunday morning breakfast and Coorg’s tantalizing coffee. That was followed by a walk to Iruppu Falls, which gratified the soul in every way – there was lush greenery everywhere the eye could see and water flowed naughtily over rocks and pebbles taking on a more boisterous form at the falls.
It roared its way down the rocks and grabbed all the attention. It drew everyone to itself and many of us jumped in for another refreshing splash. They got out reluctantly and headed back to the home stay.
Another round of lip-smacking Coorg cuisine and everybody was packing up…to return to the city, the noises and the routine with renewed vigour…away from that paradise that is Coorg and the adventure that is in rafting on the Barapole. This one is not to be missed !