Flashback: My First Whitewater Rafting Experience

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Year 2005. The wife & me, in our mid-20s then, visited the Cauvery Fishing Camp for a couple of nights. Bheemeshwari Adventure Camp is the official name. It is situated 120kms from Bangalore by the banks of Cauvery River. It is owned by Jungle Lodges & Resorts, Government of Karnataka. As a state run organisation, they have access to unique lodging & camping facilities that other private enterprises do not. This is true to this day.

Origins of Jungle Lodges

The Kabini River Lodge opened in 1980 as a joint venture between the Government of Karnataka and Tiger Tops. The partnership was brokered in 1978 by Gundu Rao, then the tourism minister of the state. Ramesh Mehra and Colonel John Felix Wakefield were instrumental in developing the first lodge in Kabini. Today Jungle Lodges has a portfolio of 25 eco-friendly properties in Karnataka.

‘Papa’ John Wakefield:

In my research for this post, I learnt the story of ‘Papa’ John Wakefield. He was not only one of the key men behind the Kabini River Lodge, but a legend who continued to live in the lodge until his death in 2010. He was in the board of JLR for 25 years. More about him in the media here, here & here

Chance Encounter

On the 2nd day during the afternoon tea break, we met a chap who had a smart, tanned, and rugged look, the kinds who make a living in the forest as a conversationist or naturalist or photographer. Yes, I was being judgemental but hey, I was in just 25 those days and have the right to be a little naïve and curious!

We stuck a conversation with him and learnt he was a rafting guide doing runs on the Cauvery River. I had seen a few videos & knew what whitewater rafting was but I had the misconception that it was only for trained professionals. I did not know it was possible for untrained common folks like us.
During the conversation, he enquired our plans. We were scheduled to check out the next day noon. He invited us to join at 8am with another group of 4 people. My sober response was “I don’t know swimming”. “Not required. Trust the life jacket and follow the guide’s instructions”, he replied. The wife, knowing well my enthusiasm with such adventures, was equally excited and we signed up.

The Moment

The next day morning arrived. While I do not recall the sequence of events on the day, the feeling of the moment is vivid. It was an exhilarating 2 hours. I was living ‘in the moment’ during the entire time. One of those epiphany moments in life when we truly learn something deep about ourself.

This was the beginning of a long tryst with whitewater rafting.

Whitewater Rafting in Jungle Lodges today

Two properties offer rafting on Kali River. Old Magazine House & Kali Adventure Camp. The rafting season is from November to June.

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