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Hop, skip and jump in the Himalayas

Participating in this adventure race was such a life-changing experience for this 40-year-old, she is now prepping her teenage daughter to join her this year

brunch Updated: Nov 11, 2017 22:26 IST
Smitaa Srivastava
Smitaa Srivastava
Hindustan Times
Himalayan Adventure Challenge,Team Pink Fluff,hike
The Himalayan Adventure Challenge (HAC) requires a 25km hike(Himalayan Adventure Challenge (HAC))

On his 40th birthday, my marathon-running husband was presented with the chance to participate in the Himalayan Adventure Challenge (HAC). I watched him struggle up steep slopes, nearly fall off cliffs on his bike, and freeze on his raft. It looked beyond my worst nightmare.

And then his team won. So maybe it wasn’t that tough.

Which was why, when I turned 40, I decided to enter the HAC with a just-as-crazy- as-me friend as the first and so far, only, all-woman team in the HAC. We called ourselves Team Pink Fluff.

HAC requires a 25km hike, followed by a 30km bike ride, with, finally, an excruciating 28km raft down the Ganges. And I did not know how to cycle.

So the training programmes started, complete with nutrition advice (not from the spouse), and then some shopping for gear.

The hike is followed by a 30km bike ride (Himalayan Adventure Challenge (HAC))

You go, girls

Learning to ride a bike at the ripe age of 39 is, to say the least, not a cake walk. From the neighbourhood drivers sniggering behind my back, to falling and leaving bits of my skin all over the road, I still have the scars that tell the sordid tale.

But eventually, Team Pink Fluff was ready to throw itself on the mercy of the mighty Himalayas.

On D-Day, we got to Atali and met all the seasoned trekkers, runners, and uber fit guys from the whole of India. Team Pink Fluff was in bright pink spandex with matching shoes.

The morning arrived with pre-race prep. We ran, climbed, scrambled, and dragged ourselves to the halfway point, where lunch was accompanied by blister-bandaging, sprain gel-massaging and some trash-talking from a bulky guy who arrived 30 minutes after we did, and said, “I’m not sorry to see those blisters on you, now I’m going to beat you!”

We dragged ourselves harder, scrambled faster, and waited long at the finish line for Mr Bulky to make it.

After the ride you go for a 28km raft down the Ganges (Himalayan Adventure Challenge (HAC))

Trauma in a tent

Day 1 was awesome, till we found our tent at the overnight camp. A tiny two-man (woman) bubble of fabric, just big enough to cover our spanking new sleeping bags, but not our (not so tiny) overnight bags.

Many pakoras, cups of tea and lots of hanging out and bonding with all the teams later, we retired to our adequate-for-everyone-else tent. The night came with freezing temperatures and howling wind, accompanied with singing and laughter from the campfire. Morning came with its own challenge, much before the start of the race.

We woke up to the tent stuck to our faces, limbs tangled in tent fabric, and no way for us to get out. Many yells and shouts later, we finally got our friends to come and extract us from the massive trap. (They had spent the time we were yelling making videos and taking pictures of our limbs kicking up the tent!)

The cycle race followed by the raft ride took everything out of us. Every metre uphill was summiting Everest, and downhill was conquering the Grand Canyon. The Ganges sprayed us with freezing water, and fought us by trapping us between rocks and rapids, but nothing felt as empowering as touching – okay, falling flat on my nose – at the race finish line, finding my daughter waving a flag and cheering us on.

The HAC allows the team to bond over tea and snacks, and tents double as accommodation (Himalayan Adventure Challenge (HAC))

Rinse and repeat

In 2016, now over 40, the itch to kill myself arrived again, driven by Raj, the 42-year-old businessman who has been participating for several years now, sending us his training routines, updates and pictures. And I thought, ‘Really, am I doing this again? I still have blisters from my run from last year.’

So I called my closest friends and told them, ‘See it’s one hell of a ride, it’s going to kill you, you’re going to have sprains, blisters, you’re going to wake up at 5am every Sunday, it’s going to make you go completely crazy, but it’s the greatest fun you’ll ever have.’

We woke up to the tent stuck to our faces, limbs tangled in tent fabric, and no way for us to get out

So now four brave girls trained for the HAC. Well, waking up early and making it to the running ground is training. And Team Pink Fluff 0.2 was ready to roll, ready to take on the Himalayas, complete with matching gear.

But ouch! Back at Atali, one of the Fluff girls didn’t have her luggage; it got off-loaded. All hell broke loose. She had bright and shiny race wear that matched ours, now what could she run in? So we worked all night, her husband found her luggage, he put it in a cab from Delhi, and yeah! Pink Fluff 0.2 ran, climbed, scrambled and dragged itself all the way to the finish line, again.

And then we introduced my friends to the tent… I don’t think I’ve ever come close to dying as I did the moment my friend saw the tent. Race prep later (liner, gloss), we made it to the cycle and the raft leg of the race.

Singing the blues

The cycle was tough, but the raft was another thing. This was not the two-man dingy we had worked with last year, this was a big, huge, daunting raft, and there were four women sitting in the raft trying to listen to each other while screaming advice to each other. We probably made more noise than all the wildlife in the forest together, trying to decide which way to go...but if you look at our videos on YouTube if there are any, you will see that we were super coordinated, each moving in rhythm with the others. That was because every time we spotted the camera, all the discord went away and we came together to make it happen. I think if there had been a camera following us all the way, we’d have come first.

Now it’s 2017, and our HAC chat group on WhatsApp is buzzing again about participation and training schedules. And I’m thinking I cannot do this to myself yet again.

But last Sunday I took my 10-year-old daughter for a training run.

So, yeah, I’m forming Team Blue Fluff (my daughter hates pink) and introducing my daughter to adventure racing. Start them young. Make them crazy early on.

The Brunch Insider’s view
  • Rishikesh offers vegetarian food. Visit Ramana’s Organic Garden and Café for yummy pumpkin ravioli. (Source: Condé Nast Traveller)
  • Tagged as the Yoga capital of the world Rishikesh is a place where you can try Hasya yoga. (Source: Lonely Planet)
  • In your list of to-dos add the Ganga Aarti at Triveni Ghat, when in Rishikesh. (Source: TripAdvisor)

(The author is a product designer based out of Delhi. She is a voracious reader and an adventure enthusiast.)

Note: This year’s HAC is on 17th December and starts 50km up the Ganges from Rishikesh. To know more visit

From HT Brunch, November 12, 2017

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First Published: Nov 11, 2017 22:20 IST