The mighty Himalayas
The mighty Himalayas

For eons India has been the home of spirituality, yoga, tradition, history and cultural diversification. People from all over the world have visited this great land for trade, knowledge, and spiritual freedom. A multitude of cultures have found their way right to the country’s heart over many centuries.

Camping at Rishikesh
Camping at Rishikesh

In addition to being rich in history and culture, India is also a land of varied landscapes. From mountains to beaches to valleys and rivers, you can find it all here. Himalayas along with the many rivers that flow from it, dominate the topography of the north. There are also many National Parks all across the country teeming with tigers and other animals, which make for great wildlife safaris.

Himalayas attract mountaineers and adventure buffs from all over the world. It offers plenty of scope for trekking, paragliding and skiing and some serious mountaineering. River Ganges is one of the most popular rafting destinations in India. Rishikesh in the foothills of the Himalayas is the ultimate destination for rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping and zip lining.

Bungee jumping in Rishikesh
Bungee jumping in Rishikesh

Rivers Kundalika and Kali in the west and south respectively are also popular spots for rafting. Maharashtra in the west is another adventure hub that offers rafting, rock climbing and rappelling, trekking, paragliding and hot air ballooning.

Rafting in India
Rafting in India

In addition to all this, the Thar Desert in the west is the perfect place for a desert safari  where one can experience life amidst the vast expanses of sand.

Satish Gopalkrishnan and Savera D’Souza, the Bangalore husband-wife pair, have redefined teamwork in motorsport by being the only couple to consistently win rallies across the country. Most recently, the duo topped the Rally Ndure (TSD) category at the 12th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm.

While India’s champion TSD rallyists could not find a strong footing at the Desert Storm, they were able to race on a sure pitch from the opening day – this, then, was a triumph based less on flamboyance than on endeavour and strategy. From the first stage of the six-day motorsport marathon, Satish and Savera worked on building up a strong lead and regularly left their competition far behind – by the time the last stage got under way, there was little chance of them getting caught.

Top honours in the Desert Storm made for a welcome change after a string of runner-up finishes in 2013, including in the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm, the Mughal Rally, and the Maruti Suzuki Dakshin Dare. So what made the difference in the sands of the Thar Desert? “The X factor,” said Satish, matter-of-factly. “Sometimes it makes you win. Sometimes nothing seems right.”

b'lore duo
Satish Gopalkrishnan and Savera D’Souza, winners of the Rally Ndure category in the 2014 Desert Storm, driving a Grand Vitara for Team Maruti Suzuki

Satish Gopalkrishnan and his navigator Savera D’Souza celebrated yet another victory together when they won the 12th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm, in a race that upended the formbook, with pre-event favourites Gaurav Gill and Suresh Rana dogged by mechanical problems and unable to complete the race. Meanwhile, India’s top biker, the formidable CS Santosh, maintained his dominance on two wheels.

Driving a Grand Vitara for Team Maruti Suzuki, the Bangalore duo topped the ‘Rally Ndure’ category. Satish, incidentally, is the software guru who is responsible for the ‘TSD Meter’, a development that has changed the face of time-speed-distance rallying in India. Trailing the champs in second place were Pratap Thakur and Dhiraj Arora, and completing the top three were Ashish Budhia and Arindam Ghosh.

The Desert Storm, an annual motorsport marathon that sees four- and two-wheelers tackle the sands of the That Desert, finished in Jaipur after negotiating some 2200km over six days. And it was dominated by the sponsor, with seven out of the nine prizes on offer going to Maruti vehicles.

In the ‘Rally Xtreme’ category, the honours went to Chandigarh’s Sunny Sidhu and his navigator PVS Murthy. Sandeep Sharma (Delhi) and Varun Davessar (Chandigarh) finished runners-up, and occupying third place was the team of Amartej Pal Buwal (Delhi) and Nakul Mendiratta. In the ‘Rally Xplore’ category, Rajesh Chalana and navigator Yogesh Gupta, driving an SX4 for Team Maruti Suzuki, finished ahead of the pack, seeing off Nitin Yadav and Ravi Bansal, driving a Mahindra Scorpio, and Sanjay Takale and Mustafa, driving an SX4 for Team Maruti Suzuki.

On two wheels, there was no stopping CS Santosh of Bangalore, who retained his title in a Suzuki RMX 450. Ranked second in the ‘Rally Moto’ category was Austrian stalwart Helmut Frauwallner, driving a Yamaha WR450F, while third place went to Suresh Babu, who was driving a Suzuki RMS 450Z.

For centuries Rishikesh  has been the undisputed Yoga capital of the world and people from all over the world seeking spirituality have found their way to this ancient and holy town. It is located in the northern part of the Indian State of Uttrakhand, on the banks of the Ganges River and is surrounded by hills on 3 sides. People flock here for practicing meditation, learning the techniques of Yoga and sometimes just for the peace of mind that it offers.

Rishikesh - Where Gods reside!
Rishikesh – Where Gods reside!

The Beatles made it even more popular in the 1960s when they stayed at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It is also home to the 120 year old Kailash Ashram Brahmavidyapeetha, an institution that has been dedicated to promoting and conserving the traditional Vedic studies and had the likes of Swami Vivekananda has one of the students. There are many more Ashrams in Rishikesh where the traditional “Guru-Shishya Parampara ” is being followed.

Students of one of the Ashrams praying at the banks of the Ganges
Students of one of the Ashrams praying at the banks of the Ganges

In the last 10-15 years, Rishikesh has also earned another name, that of being the Rafting Capital! The shores are lined with camps that make for a great retreat and offer a host of activities for the adventure seekers. It has become an extremely popular spot for white water rafting and on a must visit list of most adventure buffs. Ganges River offers medium to rough rapids, rated class 3 and class 4.

One of our adventure enthusiasts, Jagdish Kumar Lohar, working as a Teacher in Central School in Jodhpur (Air Force area), Rajasthan, took an extraordinary trip – one that spells grit and passion.

He completed an 1800 km “Inspiriting Tour” from Jodhpur to Srinagar via Sonamarg Zojila Pass. He organized it all on his own and did it solely for the motivation of “People with Special Needs”, residing in northern India. The trip started on June 8, 2013 and concluded on June 19, 2013. This journey was completed on a single tri-scooter (RJ24 M 5147) and Mr. Lohar was accompanied by Mr. Laxman Kumar who was an assistant as well as a pillion rider (Mr. Kumar is differently abled).

They made their way through Bikaner, Shri Ganga Nagar, Amritsar and Udhampur. Between Udhampur and Srinagar, he continuously drove for 14 hours (4 AM to 8 PM), only taking 2 hours’ break in between for food!

There is a special driving license number issued for him, which is RJ-19/DLC/2002/99256 Dt. 6-8-2002.

Adventure Nation salutes this spirit of true adventure and compassion.
See the images below:

On the way to Sonamarg
Touching new heights!
Passionate riders!

What it means – A Via Ferrata or Iron Way or Iron Roads is a fixed protection climbing path or route found primarily in the Alps. The term originates from the Dolomites mountain range in Northern Italy.  Its core is a steel cable that runs along the path and is sporadically fixed to the rock. Climbers secure themselves to the cable and also use the cable as a climbing aid. Other climbing aids include pegs, carved steps, iron rungs and sometimes bridges and ladders. It makes an otherwise unsafe route relatively easy. Even those with very less or no climbing experience get the chance to reach places otherwise only accessible to avid mountaineers. All you need is some basic equipment and technique coupled with the will to do it!

Climbing with the help of iron rungs.
Climbing with the help of iron rungs.

Origin and History – Simple paths with basic protection aids and ladders have been there in the Alps for centuries. These paths helped the natives connect to the high pastures. These constructions date back to the early nineteenth century, during the time of the early Alpine exploration, and can be considered as a harbinger to the modern day Via Ferrata. Via Ferratas are also strongly linked to the First World War when, to assist the movements of the troops, many of them were constructed by the Italian Army on the Dolomite Mountain range in northern Italy. This was primarily to access difficult peaks and to also carry heavy equipment.

Development – Via Ferrata is a new adventure activity and is often tried by people looking for something slightly more challenging than the routine alpine hiking and climbing. Many new paths have been developed over the years, especially recently and their tourism benefits recognized. They have gained popularity amongst serious climbers and amateurs alike. Traditionally associated with the limestone mountain regions in Italy, Via Ferratas have found their way to other mountain ranges outside Europe too. There are more than 1000 Via Ferratas in the world today, majority in the Alps.

Via Ferrata - Dolomites
Via Ferrata – Dolomites

Safety and Equipment – Via Ferratas were primarily climbed using basic equipment like carabiners or slings attached to a rope or harness. However it was soon realized that these did not provide much safety or prevent serious injury. To resolve this, many devices have been developed that act as shock absorbers. These are aimed at dispelling energy of the fall efficaciously, keeping the climber safe. A Via Ferrata set contains a lanyard and two carabiners. The lanyard comprises of an energy absorbing system, two arms that connect to the cable and a way of connecting to the harness, forming a “Y”. It’s called a Y tape configuration and is the only type to be approved by the UIAA. It is safe and simple.

One of our Adventure Nation Gurus, Amit Chowdhury is an esteemed member of the UIAA.

Adventure Nation Guru Amit Chowdhury with the other UIAA members at Chamonix, France
Adventure Nation Guru Amit Chowdhury (Sitting – extreme left) with the other UIAA members at Chamonix, France

Grading and Types – Via Ferratas vary in length and difficulty levels, from under one hour short tours to long and demanding alpine routes at high altitudes that can take 8-10 hours to finish! These routes can sometimes be just simple paths in spectacular surroundings to very steep and dangerous treks. These definitely require the strength, if not the technique, of serious rock climbing. There are numerous grading systems that exist today and most focus on the difficulty level of the toughest passage, using a 5 or 6 point scale. The Kurt Schall guides use an A to E 5 point scale.