Monday, August 22, 2005

Whitewater Rafting in West Virginia

This one was on my "to do" list since past 2 months.... Almost finalised one in July... 10 people in Cleveland had actually said YES (my self-experience says that it takes on an average 21 e-mails to bring 6 people together in Cleveland. So imagine how difficult that was !!)... but then when it came to booking the trip... a few people backed out, and whole idea flopped.

So when Nigamath and Divya mentioned about rafting in one Asha meeting, (which was the first one for me) I saw a slim ray of hope somewhere. I liked 2 things about Asha-Cleveland chapter in the first meeting itself: 1: they all go out for a sandwich or so after the meeting. 2: they are a cool group, and don't pretend to be too busy :-).

Anyways, so we fixed 19th, 20th and 21st August to be the rafting weekend. We decided to do rafting with Songer as they offered us the cheapest rafting deal. A few of us decided to go for the Upper New river, and the rest of the gang (7 of us) decided to venture in the lower New river, which offers level 4 and 5 rapids.

A few facts about the New river. After the Nile, the New River is the second oldest river in the world (and hence the name), and it has world's second longest suspension less (single arch) bridge across its gorge. (the longest is in China, which is just 4 cm longer). It is 876 ft high. Every year, on a Bridge Day, hundreds of BASE jumpers and nearly 200,000 spectators are gather on the bridge and celebrate the largest extreme sports event in the world. The New River Gorge Bridge serves as the launch point for six hours BASE jumps. Just being there on the bridge and going beneath it was a great feeling in itself.

Anyways, so we started a long 5 hour drive at 4pm on Friday from Cleveland. Nigmanth, Divya, Himanshu, Rohini had left on Thursday itself. 6 of us (Bharadwaj, Ramya, Vishal, Dipit, Amita, me) left on Friday (we work very hard, we hardly get a day off during weekdays :D. :D.) Driving was hardly boring as we had lots of things to talk.

We reached the campsite at around 11.30 pm. Our Thursday gang greeted us with loud cheer and lots of stories to tell. We quickly set up the tent and went to bed (or sleeping bag ??) soon, as a hectic day of rafting was coming up.

On Saturday, we had delicious Masala Tea and spicy Pohe for breakfast. A very tasty and hearty breakfast set the day for us. After taking bath and packing up, we were ready for rafting. After a short ride to the starting point, at 11.30 AM, we were ready for 6 hours of rafting with our rafting gear, a huge 9 person raft and Megan (our instructor).

The New river gorge is East America's most popular white water river. Lower New River has an enormous volume of water coursing through a narrow canyon. The water creates a friction along the bottom and sides which generates big, oscillating waves, making for exciting rafting.

The entire 6 hour rafting experience was worth every rapid and every minute. Rafting has always been fun, challenge, and excitement And this time it was no different. Every time a rapid comes up, one feels a moment of excitement mixed with a bit of fear factor, one gets ready to face the worst and enjoy the best, quickly praying God with a hope of not falling in the gregarious current of water. But after all the high intensity action, that one moment of victory and joy makes you feel proud of yourself. That, I believe is the biggest and the happiest moment in rafting. When you look back at the rapid, and those thundering waves going up and down, you get an idea and a feel of what happened in your life a moment back.

We had a lot of fun in water, with many of us swimming in between rapids, and a few of us trying hard to swim. It was a very satisfying rafting experience for me, but my first rafting experience in the lower ocoee river would probably be the most cherishable one for me... may be because it was my first attempt with rafting, and also because our guide Lydia was too cute n sexy.

Some Brownie points for Songer: They have a very well maintained campsite, with excellent facilities. The restroom are spacious and very clean , with hot water bath facilities. The rates are reasonable and all the guides are friendly and helping. I would definitely recommend you to check them out if you plan to do rafting in this part of the world.

Saturday evening was camping and campfire time. We had a very delicious Rajma-Rice, and spicy masala rice (courtesy Himanshu) for dinner. It was indeed very very tasty (I swear you wont get a better rajma-rice even in the 5 star restaurent in Mumbai). We also had some sweet corn and some barbecue grilled lemon pepper chicken with that. After dinner, we had one small walk around the campsite and then we played cards till 1 AM. It was nice and cold, and overcast with occasional drizzles- a perfect atmosphere for outdoor recreation. For once, missed my monsoon trekking days in Sahyadri. Hope I can get those happy days of my life once again :(.

Anyways, plan for Sunday was to visit the ISKON Vrindavan temple in West Virginia, and also the Palace of Gold. Its a very well maintained and a very nicely developed place and one should definitely visit this place once. We had a nice time there and the 4 hour drive was worth it.

On our return trip to Akron, we had dinner in an Indian restaurant in Canton named Bombay Sitar. Its a fine place for some nice Indian food. I liked their rotis a lot.

So after almost 800 miles of drive, 2 nites of camping, and 6 hours of hardcore rafting, we were back to Cleveland with lots of cherishable memories, tons of fun, some Kodak moments, broad smiles, tanned skin and soar ankles( and for me, 9 new friends). It was a very nice trip.

Next on my task is a nite trek. Its been a while since I have done a nite trek on a full moon nite... there is no more pleasure than a nite trek with just a handful of friends in company. I don't know when that will happen, but I am looking forth to it.

I also want to do Kayaking sometime in my life. I was getting jealous of all those kayaks who were having so much of fun that day... I guess kayaking would be one ultimate pleasure. I know, for someone like me, who doesn't know swimming for nuts, (people have written articles about how they saved me!!!!) it is stupid to think of kayaking... but... there is always an hope!!

Click here for group photos. There are more coming. My digicam is broken, so have fun guys and girls. You will see some human beings in these photos because they are not taken by me :D.

Its been one hell of a summer so far: india trip, trek to himalayas, lots of travelling, a hiking trip, a rafting trip, couple of summer trips... its been fun. Am hoping to have more fun next summer.

Ok, Now I am Signing off!!

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