Wednesday 14 November

I sleep soundly, the sound of the grasshoppers and the distant river providing a pleasant backdrop. Breakfast is at about half past seven, and we have a gentle start. A bus takes us a short distance down-river to the put-in point of the rafting. On arrival, we unload the rafts from the roof of the bus, and then are briefed by our guide while we sit on the raft on the riverbank. ‘Forward right’, ‘Forward left’, etc—you have to remember which side you are sitting on. Falling out of the raft is referred to as ‘going for a swim’. They have three kayakers ready to speed after and rescue any swimmers, and there is a special way of holding onto the kayak in order to avoid pulling your rescuer in with you.

Into the river, we are immediately in the first rapids and I’m getting my right and left muddled up. Spray breaks over the bow, then a huge wave engulfs us and we are soaked to the skin.

The day continues very much in this vein. At one point we crash over a steep drop and water cascades down into the raft until it is almost entirely submerged and I cannot see my feet in the bottom. In the first few kilometres, we stop a couple of times for the guides to scout out the river. Apparently, there was a fresh rock-slide yesterday, which has created new rapids and altered the existing ones, and we must steer a sure path through them if we don’t want to all end up swimming.

There are two points where we must get out and walk while the guides, two to a raft, navigate on their own down sections of raging torrent.

We get few respites from the rapids all day, although we frequently stop in the shelter of a convenient rock for the three rafts to regroup. Our guide chastises us for not paddling hard enough and for giving up in the roughest parts of the ride for the feeble excuse of clinging on for dear life! Despite this our guide seems to steer a sure course between obstacles, and I feel that he could, if he desired, thread the raft through the eye of a needle.

The others do not fare quite as well. As we descend one steep and wild section, we see up ahead of us one of the other rafts utterly grounded amid the torrent on a large rock, even as the occupants bounce up and down inside to try to break free. They are only dislodged when we, striking their raft a glancing blow, hurtle past.

Further down, one of the rafts comes broadside up to an enormous sloping rock, lifting one side high into the air. The occupants tumble in a pile and there are three swimmers, the kayakers speeding to the rescue.

At the end of each major section of rapids, we do a ‘High five’ with our paddles, accompanied by a whoop of victory. It is mid-afternoon when we reach the endpoint and drag the rafts up out of the water. It is another campsite, the place where we made a toilet stop on the way up to the ‘Last Resort’ yesterday. There is a very welcome meal waiting for us, and it is warm and dry in the sun.

Back at the resort (after a bus journey back up the valley possibly more alarming than the raft trip) I lie on the terrace looking up at the sky. The first couple of stars are just beginning to appear. The occasional fire-fly circles around and a shooting star catches the corner of my eye. Diwali has begun, and the terraces and gardens are decorated with hundreds of candles and oil lamps lining the paths and steps.