Soaking wet in pouring rain, I stood on the banks of a wild Mhadei River trying to soothe my frayed nerves. But, with every word John uttered, my knees shook more violently than before. John was giving instructions on what to do should we fall into the water or get swept away by the strong currents. Looking at the raging brown waters of the river though, I felt falling into the water is not going to end well no matter how “well-instructed” we were. John was our instructor and we were about to go rafting on a swollen muddy river surrounded by the mist-covered peaks of Western Ghats.
Here’s the kicker, I’ve never rafted before!
I’ve spent weeks around beaches, lakes, rivers and waterfalls but have rarely gotten into water. I’m a mountain person and I tend to get extremely nervous around water. Yet, the lure of an exclusive monsoon rafting adventure in my favorite Western Ghats wasn’t beyond me. With my knees shaking still and heart in my mouth, I sat on the edge of the raft and off we went into the brown waters.
When we hit the first of rapids, I braced myself for a violent jerk. Surprisingly and thankfully, it didn’t feel as rough as it looked. But my feet were still very firmly stuck under the straps inside the raft, so much that the rough edges were piercing into my skin. But I couldn’t care less as I was trying very hard not to fall into the water. After getting over the initial fear and anxiety, I began to relax and enjoy the pristine surroundings of Chorla Ghats. It helped that our guide was John Pollard, the person who pioneered the first commercial rafting operations in south India, by charting routes down the Kali, Kundalika and three other rivers down south.
Having trekked, camped, cycled and road tripped my way through the Ghats before, rafting through the heart of the forest brought forth a brand new perspective. Hiding behind a veil of mist, the lush forests of Mhadei National Park surrounded us in every direction, drenched in the spell of a monsoon-induced greenery. Where the river widened, it calmed down and so did I. Gentle drizzle and a warm breeze kept us company as we floated over the muddy Mhadei River, the milder waves lapping gently against the raft. Despite the sights that enthralled me, I would be lying if I said the fear of falling into the water disappeared entirely from my consciousness. It’s hard to let go of our fears, no matter how irrational they might be. But the thrill of overcoming such irrational fear is no less fun either. I waited with bated breath to celebrate my first rafting session until I reached the shore almost 90 minutes later. There’s nothing more awkward than celebrating victory before winning, now is it?
Driving back to Miramar from Valpoi where we had met John earlier that afternoon, I realized it was not the thrill of rafting that stayed with me but rather it was the uniqueness of the circumstances that entranced me more. The visible currents, the insanely fast flowing river, the muddy water and the lovely Ghats on a rainy day in a place as stereotyped as Goa, made my first rafting experience an unforgettable adventure. After all, we only came across three class 3 rapids, which is pretty mild come to think of it. However, to put this uniqueness into better perspective, do a quick Google search on rafting and tell me if you’ve seen any picture where the scenery is like this. Monsoon rafting on flooded rivers doesn’t sound very inviting to begin with but it’s half as scary and twice as exciting! I, for one, couldn’t have asked for a better way to start with rafting than with Goa Tourism on the flooded Mhadei river; it included three of my favorite things - Monsoons, Western Ghats and exquisite Outdoors!
Monsoon rafting over Mhadei River is a monsoon exclusive and the rafting sessions operate only during a short window of 10-12 weeks between June to September depending on the flow of water. It costs Rs.1800 per person and takes about 3 and 1/2 hours starting from Valpoi in north Goa. Call up ahead and confirm if the rafting is in session for the day.
Lush greenery brought forth by the monsoon season lasting between June to September