Sharon and Fred Lundahl have just returned from a month of “buying for the shop” in Nepal and northern India. Future blogs will cover various aspects of the places we went shopping, but this first blog will tell about our R&R weekend at a wonderful vacation site up the Ganges River in the Himalaya Mountains north of the guru-rich town of Rishikesh, made famous by the Beatles and the Maharishi Yogi in the 1960’s.
In 1988, when Fred began a four-year stint at the US Embassy in New Delhi, he fell in with a young Indian adventure travel entrepreneur named Yousef Zaheer who had just started his own rafting company, “Himalayan River Runners.” (See the site:http://www.hrrindia.com/).
Yousef had set up a rafting camp on the upper Ganges, where it rushes through high mountains with the volume of the Colorado River before spilling out onto the Indian plains and making its slow way to Calcutta and the Bay of Bengal. Huge “Class Four” and “Class Five” rapids made a weekend stay at the HHR rafting camp a popular choice for foreigners and Indians alike back then. We wanted to see what the intervening years had done for the rafting company.
We found the Zaheer business booming. In the early 1990’s, Yousef had married the lovely Ganeve, an event Fred had witnessed during a return trip to India; those newlyweds attended Fred and Sharon’s wedding in Virginia in 1995 with other members of the Zaheer family.
With Ganeve’s energetic help, the business had expanded greatly and now includes both a travel company, “Nexxtop India”, whose experts made all arrangement for our entire stay in India, and a wonderful luxurious mountain cottage resort, “Himalayan Hideaway” near the original HHR rafting camp, where we stayed for our last weekend.
The travel agency was a great deal too, as we had an air-conditioned car waiting for us at every airport or train arrival to take us to a nice hotel. The driver even came to the door of our train compartment to help us with our luggage. We paid for all accommodations on our own designed trip before we left the states, so there was no hassle about paying for anything. (You can contact Nexxtop through the same website.)
The stone cottage at the Hideaway where we stayed was beautifully outfitted and had an incredible view of the Ganges River roaring through numerous rapids far below our balcony. The food at the Hideaway and at the rafting camp was fantastic, and the days ended around a big campfire with all the guests, some playing music and singing. The guides were world-class professionals.
The rafting business in India has expanded hugely since our time in India, and there are now more than 40 camps set up above Rishikesh; HHR is still the most popular among the foreign community in New Delhi, and the weekend we were there the camp was filled with Australian businessmen and their young families, two young Swedish guys, an Austrian girl, some single Americans, and several students doing a year abroad.
With lots of activities ranging from children’s play groups to yoga and meditation/shenzhen massage for adults, in addition to world-class white water rafting, it is easy to see why Yousef and Ganeve’s business is so popular.
We especially liked the fact that Youssef promotes people from within his organization as often as he can. For example, one of his experienced river guides now was originally hired as a dishwasher many years ago.
The rafting was great fun and, in an odd turn on the usual feel that things you remember from the past often seem smaller when seen again, Fred found the rapids seemed LARGER than 20 years ago.