As we approach Latitude 30°N Ganga, a resort thirty kilometres from Rishikesh, we are greeted by crisp blue skies, forested hillsides gleaming in the sun, the emerald Ganga snaking along the valley floor and a balmy thirty degrees. The thirty-degree factor is almost ironic in the hills, especially as we have just left Delhi reeling under its coldest days in a decade. When my twelve-year-old daughter squeals in delight at the rafters enjoying some rapid bashings in the river below I know I have hit the right vacation note.
At Latitude we are met by Sharmila, co-founder of Active Vacations and Lifestyle, who, along with her founding partner and husband, Sachin Bhatia, is busy putting the final touches to their ‘Activotel’ initiative. Partnering with known hands at adventure and river running, Aquaterra, Latitudeaims to help guests experience the great Indian outdoors from the comfort of a resort-like setting. Gabion wire-mesh baskets filled with rock, commonly used as retaining walls on rivers and hillsides, adorn the entrance, while the well-spaced cottages, replete with balconies and sloping roofs, occupy the upper slope. Surrounded by reserve forest, the property itself boasts of two hundred trees. So this could well be your cabin in the woods except it comes kitted out with all manner of creature comforts. A double-plan loo with glass doors separating the shower and toilet area and a dresser occupy the back while the cushy bed faces a lovely view of the outside instead of a television screen. An iPod docking station and tea/coffee kit are the only other accoutrements. The design is minimalist, rustic yet luxurious, and very much in sync with the surrounds. We dump our bags on the dresser and head out for a tour of the property and a peek at the activities on offer.
It’s a hundred stone steps in all to the top of the property — “If you do it without panting you can consider yourself fit,” pipes in the vivacious and very fit Sharmila. The forested flats at the top is where construction of a challenging international standard ropes course is underway. It will offer a set of fifteen obstacles — Heebi Jeebi, Giant Swing, Dangle Duo and Wobbly Bridge, to name a few — that one has to navigate, harnessed and suspended thirty feet in the air.
As if these Tarzan-worthy stunts weren’t enough, there are designated mountain-biking tracks, day walks with picnic baskets, night camping and astronomy lessons for kids and more. In fact, Latitude has itineraries especially designed for kids, and those over seven can be safely left in the care of women activity officers.
We are raring to sink our teeth into some action ourselves but lunch comes first. We make our way to White Water Café, a sixty-seater eatery, which opens into ‘The D’, an outdoor deck for barbecues and bonfires. Bric-a-brac, photographs of famous rapids and river-running paraphernalia dot the vast space. An upturned, life-size raft lies suspended from the grid-locked ceiling, beckoning one to hit the river.
It’s a perfectly done stuffed roast chicken, a wholesome shepherd’s pie, garlic bread and a salad followed by fresh fruit and cream that is quickly lapped up by kids and adults alike. Being holiday time the Bhatias are here with their children while friends trickle in to test the waters and give valuable feedback. Being a die-hard foodie and great cook herself, Sharmila is busy fine-tuning the menus and we are treated to a variety of Continental and Indian dishes over the next few meals. The Indian food scores well with me, especially the mutton biryani, LTC (Latitude tandoori chicken) and the rara gosht. Wholesome breakfast spreads, light lunches (followed by activities) and elaborate dinner spreads with snacks are on offer each day. The emphasis is on an activity-oriented, healthy lifestyle break with just the right dose of carbs and proteins. Not that you can’t put your feet up and do nothing here but you’d be the odd one out.
We head down to ‘High Water’, the pool area with a climbing wall overlooking it. The children are impatient to try it as Kailash and Jeetu, certified adventure guides, swiftly go over the rules and climbing technique. The wall is state-of-the-art at 22ft for adults and 10ft for children. But the kids here are adrenaline junkies and even the taller wall is quickly surmounted by most. At a standard four-foot depth, the pool is ideal for children, for lounging around it on deck chairs and that first crucial kayak lesson before you hit the river in your own inflatable.
At night warm tungsten lamps light up the path to ‘The D’, where a crackling bonfire and a scintillating conversation awaits. We call it an early night though — even 10pm feels late in the mountains.
Next morning, after breakfast, we scamper off into the forested woods surrounding the resort. Our intrepid guide, Jeetu, doles out advice — “If you are ever lost in the forest, don’t panic,” he tells the children, “Go hug a tree — it will give you the confidence that you are not alone.” He then puts two leaves from a tree together and shows us how to whistle through them. The nearby village is brimming with vegetable patches — cabbage, radishes and chillies seem to be the flavour of the season — and the produce is supplied to the resort. After a refreshing cup of tea offered by a friendly lady, we take a different route back and arrive just in time for a lunch of sandwiches, rolls and salads.
And finally it’s time for some river running, with whitewater guru and partner at Latitude, Vaibhav, at the helm. Expectedly, the rapids — ‘Good Morning Hugs and Kisses’, ‘Black Money’, ‘Jail No Bail’ and ‘Double Trouble’ — surpass the expectations of the children and first-timers. Exhausted, we sleep dead to the world in our cosy cottage and wake up ravenous for food, another day of activities and whatever we can tuck in before the evening train whisks us back to cold Delhi.
The informationLocation 2hrs from the closest railhead, Haridwar. The morning Dehradun Shatabdi from Delhi or the overnight Mussoorie Express are both convenient
Accommodation 22 cottages
Tariff Rs 25,000 for 2N/3D for two inclusive of meals, two evening snacks and five activities. Kids under five complimentary. Rs 4,000/N (kids 5–12), Rs 6,000/N (kids above 12), inclusive of extra bed, meals and activities.
Contact 011-41636101, latitude.quasar.in