Rishikesh, Ladakh - the new getaway for adventure seekers
Not so long ago Rishikesh, set in the foothills of the lower Himalayas and a site which witnesses the entry of the holy Ganga into the plains, used to be a city of the pilgrims. Now adventure trips are the reason why young enthusiasts from Delhi and nearby areas are flocking to this holy town for their weekends.
"We are so much occupied in our lives that we hardly get time for ourselves. Amid studies and competition, one feels quite saturated. You feel the need to break free from all the pressure and stress," Himanshu Dubey, 21, a recent first-timer to Rishikesh, told IANS.
Groups venture out for river rafting in Rishikesh. Pic: IANS
Rafting in the Ganga, jumping from a 20-foot-high cliff into the flowing river, scaling the mountains and rappelling -- all this while you are camping in tents right in the middle of a forest!
According to adventure tourism companies, Rishikesh, an ancient pilgrim town in Uttarakhand, is becoming a popular spot for white water rafting enthusiasts from India and abroad. Recently experts from New Zealand have opened India's first and only bungee jumping camp here.
Travel and tourism companies such as Adventure Tourism India, Snow Leopard Adventures, Fear Factor Adventures, and Mercury Himalayan Explorations have opened more than 70 camps in Rishikesh over the years. Around 6,500 footfalls are recorded by each of the camps during the camping season.
Ladakh, another emerging destination for camping, is located in northern Jammu and Kashmir. Set amidst the world's two highest mountain ranges - the Great Himalayas and the Karakoram - Ladakh boasts of as many as 30 camp sites.
"These camps started operating in the late 1980s when the first rafting expeditions were approved by the Indian government. But only in the last 4-5 years, a huge number of young boys and girls from nearby places like Delhi, have been coming over for short vacations and indulging in adventure sports," Rakesh Kumar of White Water Adventures told IANS.
"We have the maximum visitors from October to May, which is the ideal camping season. The rest of the time the river's flow is very unpredictable due to the rains; so we have to close the camp," said Anuj Shah of Adventure Tourism India's Camp Ganga Riviera, located 40 km uphill from Rishikesh.
While the camps in Rishikesh operate from October to June, Ladakh witnesses camping in July and August.
"Urban youth in the age group of 20 to 35 years opt for these adventure trips the most. The rents of the camps start from around Rs.1,800 for one night to Rs.3,200 for a two-night stay," Vivek Awasthi, managing director of Hamara Holidays Pvt Ltd, told IANS.
Emerging in the circuit of travellers are adventure biking trips which last for 20 to 25 days and are held in Ladakh, according to Awasthi.
"Biking trips take place in the months of July and August every year. We charge around Rs.40,000 per person for a trip," he said.
It is not just the men who seek adventure in the adrenaline-rush trips as women also club in with adventure groups.
"Parents are getting freer in letting their daughters out on such adventure trips," said ace adventurer Ajeet Bajaj, who accompanied his 17-year old daughter on one such expedition.
Apart from young people coming with their friends, parents from nuclear families with their kids also join these trips.
"Adventure is an instant relief from work stress. After one adventure visit itself, you return to work with fresh enthusiasm and refreshed exuberance," said P.K. Sahoo, who visited Ladakh last year with his wife and eight-year-old son.