Posted from TOI – http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-05-07/travel/29520476_1_dust-storm-rafting-forest
The gruelling road travel of seven hours from Delhi in the hot summer months seemed hardly a price when we arrived in the holy city of Haridwar. Earning the name of Gateway to God, the city envelopes you with positive vibes, and offers an amazing insight into the Hindu culture.
Touching ground, we first treated ourselves to a huge steel tumbler of chilled ‘chaas’ (butter milk) for the cooling effect. A local dhaba owner helped us plan the must-visits for our trip over a sumptuous meal.
We began our rendezvous with visits to the beautiful temples and went for a dip in the icy waters of the River Ganga. In the backdrop of the setting sun, the evening’s Maha Aaarti at Hari-Ki-Pairi Ghat on the banks of the Ganga transported us into a spiritual world of calm and a sense of peace, connecting you with the Creator.
After the whirlwind tour on our day one, we hit our beds unaware that a dust storm was gaining power and passing through Haridwar. At 2 am, the roar of the storm and sounds of tin roofs flying around woke us up. After an hour and half, finally it weakened and pleasant light showers bid farewell to the galloping storm.
As the early sun rays lit up the city, in spite of the destruction strewn around, the town wore a mystic look.
Day two we headed to the Rajaji National Park, a little more than an hour’s drive from Haridwar town for a two-hour forest trial.
Flocks of spotted dear welcomed us, while monkeys maintained a watchful eye on their young ones playing around at the base. Into the deeper forest, we spotted wild fowls running around helter-skelter as the jeep drove down.
As we drove through the forest, we noticed the summer heat had taken a toll on the foliage. However, the greener patches closer to civilisation gave an ample opportunity during the drive to watch herds of Asiatic Elephants roaming through the forest as if they owned it. We were also lucky enough to sight pugmarks of a leopard and a tiger at different locations. The guide guessed that the big cats had crossed these paths less than 12 hours ago.
After our encounter with the wild, our next destination was Rishikesh, where we intended to try white water rafting. It was an awesome sight to watch the gushing icy waters silently flowing down the descending gradient of River Ganga’s base, whipping up milky-coloured surf. Temples and ashrams scattered around the base of the Shivalik mountain ranges overlook the river and add the mystical flavour.