Friday, August 26, 2016

River Rafting in Kundalika river, Kolad

It was there on our wish list for a couple of years, but the fact that it is available only during monsoon months made it difficult to make it possible earlier. But this time, we were determined more than ever to go for River rafting in Kundalika river near Kolad before the monsoon ends.

We chose weekdays to avoid the rush, only to realise that it was a mistake. We found out that not many of the guest house/hotel/farm house owners accept bookings for weekdays. One of the guest house owners told us, that there are power cuts and it is not affordable for them to run a power generator only for 2 people. They can afford it on weekends when they have more people.

Finally, after searching and talking to many people, we found a place a bit far from the starting point of River rafting, who welcomed us during weekdays. It being a last minute booking, we didn't get a chance to check the place thoroughly or read reviews about it. But it turned out to be a surprise package. The place was called Doctor's farm, and it was situated approx 7 KMs off the Mumbai-Goa Highway. The journey to the farm house was indeed a bumpy one, but in the end, it was all worth it. It was right next to the river, giving a picturesque view from the dining area. Nestled in the trees, away from any civilisation, it was very quiet and enjoyable.

Doctor's farm -,73.2370701,16z?hl=en

View from the dining area
We started for our adventure in the river, early next morning. We had seen the condition of the road previous evening but didn't expect heavy traffic of trucks so early in the morning. The directions we had got from the farm house owner didn't specify the distance, and we made another mistake of underestimating the distance. We realised that we wouldn't be able to make it in time as soon as we had a word with the person from River rafting company for detailed directions. We were struggling with the potholes ridden road and trucks, to be there in time. Missing the start time would have meant missing the adventure altogether. But what was worrying me more than the pain of traveling all the way there for nothing if we missed it, was my secret fear. I had been afraid of water for a while owing to a water slide went wrong in one of the water parks. Making this journey all the way to Kolad was difficult for me as it involved a constant struggle with myself and my fear. But Kedar was determined to make every possible attempt to get rid of my fear of water. All the time he was searching for accommodation options, I was secretly hoping that we wouldn't get one. Ultimately when it came to the day itself, I was pretty nervous about it. Traveling all the way there had taken a lot of mental efforts on my side. Missing it would have meant, probably I would not be able to do it the second time. Struggling with myself once was possible, but I wasn't sure it was possible second time.

River rafting starting point -,73.3467786,16z?hl=en

Again, Kedar left no stone unturned to reach the starting point just 2 minutes before the start time. We were exactly in time, as the leader was about to start with the safety instructions. Looking at the water, I felt the familiar fear slowly spreading through my body. The safety jacket was giving me a bit of safety assurance. As the leader started briefing, it sounded more fun than risky. He also told us that if we fall in water, then all we need to do is lie on our back, with feet downstream. He said, "Don't panic or shout, just relax yourself, float on water and we will come and get you", that helped my nerves calm down. After the briefing session, we found out that we were put up in a raft with 5-6 life guards (as the company wasn't able to get any more bookings to accompany us). It was reassuring to know that there were going to be 5-6 people to save me if something goes wrong. From time to time Kedar assured me that it was going to be OK and he was there if anything goes wrong.

Can you see the shadow over my face? No.... well it's nervousness
To my horror, they put us right in front of the raft. So we were going to be the first ones to see waves coming and face it. But it was much easier than I had thought it would be, to get into the water. Once the raft started moving slowly with the flow of the river, enjoyment took over the initial skepticism within few seconds. I had always dreamed of being able to fly on my own (without a flight or any other machine/equipment between me and the clouds). This was much similar to flowing with the river without any machine/equipment between me and river (yeah being in the front had a role to play there). Kedar had been comfortable with water and was thrilled since the moment we decided to go for it. Once he saw the tension evaporating from my face, he was able to enjoy it better. I must say it was a fun ride. All the hills covered in post monsoon greenery, clouds playing hide & seek with the mountains, light drizzle in between, pleasant wind and the waves hitting us from time to time, it made us forget all our worries. Ummm.... well not exactly, for a split second, we did worry about how will we be able to go to work next day and sit in front of our computers after all this, but it was momentary.

The first time we saw turbulence, our leader instructed to row faster and I kind of forgot everything but kept staring at it. The leader shouted the instruction again, and I got back to rowing. Going through the turbulence was most enjoyable as waves hit us on the face while rocking the raft. In fact, I thought we should just stop rowing and let the turbulence take us ahead. Later when we asked leader about rowing faster in turbulence, unintentionally he gave us a life lesson "When you hit turbulence, you got to row faster to get past it quickly. You don't want it to throw you out of the raft, pull you in it or turn your raft upside down".

All in all, we had added one more breathtaking experience to our lives and grown one day older. Yeah if you count your life by the moments which took your breath away, then this was certainly an addition to our age, and we are proud of it.

Here is a video of our ride.

Some tips if you are planning River rafting in Kundalika

1) Book your stay in advance. Many places offering stay, don't cater to guests during weekdays. If possible, opt for one nearby the starting or end point of the river rafting

2) Most of the owners of guest houses/farm houses have tied up with the companies arranging river rafting. But just in case you want to get in touch with the rafting organisers directly, here is a no. of the company we did it with - 09421942730

3) It's OK even if you are not a big group. We were only 2, and the organising company put 5-6 of their people on the raft with us to balance it. (the total capacity of a raft is about 10-12 people, depending on the size of the raft, which has to be filled to maintain the balance)

4) We didn't have any prior experience of rowing or boating, we did just fine

5) To be able to swim is not mandatory, but an advantage. They give a life jacket and helmet each for safety anyway

6) The starting point is about 20-25 km away from Kolad. The road has a lot of trucks causing slow traffic even early morning (the condition of the road adds to the travel time). So make sure you keep enough traveling time to the starting location (We just made it in time)

7) The road from Kolad to the starting point also has a railway crossing, which means you can be stuck for any amount of time once the crossing gates are closed. So factor in this part in journey time as well (you guessed it right, we didn't know this bit, and spent about 10 minutes at the gate waiting for the train to pass)

8) Wear suitable clothes (read suitable for a dip in water, not flowy, no scarves). You don't want to be worrying about your clothes (or rather them getting in the way or even worse flowing away with a wave). I would recommend a comfortable T-shirt (Nylon or some fast drying fabric) and a Capri or track pant (again the ones which will dry quickly, Decathlon has some really good options for quick drying clothes). Shorts are fine too, but there are a good amount of mosquitoes in the area where you wait before starting your ride

9) Prefer not to carry too many things with you (we kept our money in a plastic bag, and it did get wet). They let you swim (with life jackets) and play in the last 2 km patch of the river. You don't want to miss out on that fun worrying about valuables you are carrying

10) Go for a waterproof camera or mobile if you must. But some companies also offer video recording of your journey, check with them while making your booking. The one we did with, offers video recording & photos for an additional cost

11) Don't eat too much just before the ride. Have breakfast at least an hour before you start the ride. If there are a lot of waves or turbulence, you may feel sick

12) Feel free to take your cars to the starting point. The rafting organisers can arrange your travel from end point to the starting point or they also arrange for someone to bring your car to the end point for additional charge. That will save a lot of time for you. It may not be easy to catch an auto on your own as the starting and end points are away from nearby villages, and there is not much traffic on the road there

13) Once it starts, forget everything and enjoy it to the fullest!