The prow of the boat bucks up like a raging bronco and the paddles that were just a second ago struggling against the current of the Ganges are left floundering in thin air. The guide’s hoarse voice shouts, “Get down!” and all eight people following the detailed instructions given on the shore, tuck themselves down at the center of the boat as the wave crashes over them. If not for the timely command, somebody would have been swept off the boat today. But before you can catch your breath, a command comes, “Paddle hard”. The eight oars bite into the water again, trying to work as one but ending up like a epileptic octopus with each oar convulsing to its own rhythm, while the raging waves disdainfully toss the raft around. And then as suddenly as it started, the violence stops. The raft was once again in calm waters and the paddlers take a break and get their breath back. Awesome, mind-blowing and fantastic are some of the superlatives being thrown about to describe the experience. And the experience they are talking about is not just the thrill of white water rafting in Rishikesh, but the whole experience of Audi Club India Getaways.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
The story began the morning before, with Audi Club India members congregating for the third edition of the Audi Club India Getaways drive at the Oberoi Hotel in New Delhi. Before the drive began, there was a sombre moment to remember the victims of the Nepal earthquake; a part of the registration amount paid by the participants was donated to CARE India to help the victims. The demand to participate in this event was so overwhelming that the organisers had to divide the participants into two batches with a 48-hour break between each group. The two convoys boasting all the cars from the Audi stable, made its way from Delhi to Rishikesh through Meerut and Muzarffarpur, Roorkee and Haridwar before reaching the foothill of the Himalayas. The road was crowded and congested with heavy traffic most of the way. It’s only on the roughly 80km stretch between Meerut and Roorkee, which is a toll road, that the drivers could stretch the legs of their powerful cars. The sight of a convoy with Audi cars galloping down the road made for a magnificent sight, making other road users whip out their phone cameras to record this incredible spectacle.
After a 103km drive, the convoy made a halt at Cheetal Grand where a delicious menu had been put together, exclusively for the Audi Club India members. Post lunch, the convoy settled into a synchronised rhythm as they quickly munched the miles to Rishikesh. As the afternoon sun lost its heat, the mountains made their first appearance across the windscreen. Passing Haridwar, the plains gave way to sinuous mountain roads snaking its way up to the backdrop of the Ganga. By the time the convoy reached the luxurious Atali Ganga hotel, Delhi’s sweltering heat and traffic were fading pictures in everyone’s mind.
THE BIG REVEAL
With night fall, the participants gathered around the pool to relax with the top echelons of Audi India. The growl of a powerful engine reverberated through the air. As everyone rushed to the courtyard the source of the sound was revealed — the iconic Audi TT. Flanking the new Audi TT were the seductive Audi A3 Cabriolet and the sporty Audi S6. Audi had chosen this opportunity to reveal these cars to its customers. You could see the calculators ticking in the mens’ heads as they eyed these beautiful and desirable automobiles. Surely in the next edition of the Audi Club India Getaways, these three cars will be a part of the convoy.
A RENDEZVOUS WITH THE RAPIDS
In spite of the long day, everyone was up early the next morning. After all this was the day everyone was waiting for. The raison d’être of this trip — white water rafting in the Ganges at Rishikesh. With a few excited at the prospect of white water rafting and a few nonchalant about it, since they had done it before, the bus took the group to the Aquaterra camp site from where they would be launching the rafts. Everyone had their eyes peeled for the rafts already on the river, fighting the rapids.
“Pick up your helmet, oar and lifejacket. Then gather around me” — the instructor meant business. The briefing that followed graphically demonstrated what all could go wrong, but more importantly what to do if things went wrong. “Don’t panic, remain calm” was repeated every third sentence. Wonder how calm can one be if suddenly thrown off the boat into the raging waters that had just about turned into water from ice. Yet the briefing was reassuring since it demonstrated that these guys knew their stuff. And that’s how this story began.
The 22km stretch of Ganga that was chosen took the rafters across rapids with evocative names like Three Blind Mice, Cross Fire, Roller Coaster and Gold Course. And if this two-and-half-hour rush of adrenalin wasn’t enough, ten people were chosen by a draw of lots for a rush down the river on a jetboat!
THE SUN SETS AND STARS SHINE
The Beatles who visited Rishikesh in1968 crooned, “Money can’t buy me love.” It can’t also buy this magical an evening. The celebrations kicked off with a sundowner party on the banks of the Ganges. The gurgle of the river, the soft evening breeze and the chromatic hues of the setting sun created a magical setting as the revellers quaffed back their favourite beverages. The party then moved back to Atali Ganga to be greeted by Radhika Vaz. This comedian’s scathing take on age, gender roles and body image had the audience chuckling and holding their bellies in laughter. Continuing the evening was Dhruv Visvanath aka Guitar Spanker. This singer-songwriter whacks the body of the guitar like a drum and plays melodies on the guitar. This talented young musician had the audience grooving to his beat, playing popular ballads and taking requests from the audience. This so far had been a fun trip. But the next day, there was an important engagement awaiting their attention.
LENDING A HAND
Schools in this part of the country are not necessarily the best equipped. Even basic needs like clean drinking water are often not available for a lack of funds. Audi identified two schools at Rishikesh, in Singtali and Goolar, where the children don’t have access to drinking water. The two convoys visited the two schools to gift them water purifiers. The Audi Club India members were greeted warmly by the teachers and students who had organised a little function for them as a token of appreciation.
It was finally time to disperse and make their way back to Delhi. But not before phone numbers and contact details were exchanged and pictures snapped. 33 families had come to Rishikesh, but they returned as one.
SIGN UP AND JOIN IN
The Audi Club India Getaways give the Audi Club India members an opportunity to take their cars out for long drives and provide them with “money-can’t buy-experiences”. All they have to do is drive. No surprise then that as the members made their way home, a common topic of discussion was the next choice of destination, and their determination to be a part of it.
So where is Audi Club India Getaways going next? If you are an Audi owner, keep your eyes peeled and as registrations open, sign up quickly. If you aren’t already a member, log on to www.myaudi.in and be a part of this experience today.