Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category
A great day paddling on the Dart. In the evening, I watched a presentation by some teenagers (some of whom pictured here) who just took part in an expedition to kayak India’s Zanskar River, the incredible ‘Grand Canyon of Asia’. I was more than ten years older than these guys when I took that particular trip on.
I hate to admit it, but today’s youngsters more skilled, fitter and more confident than my generation were at the same point. Time to retire and buy a zimmer frame…
Currently looking over my photos of the stunning Thuli Bheri river in Nepal. I’m doing a talk on our 2010 white water expedition tomorrow night, at the invitation of Isle of Portland Canoe Club. Heather is also talking, on the subject of our extended trip to the Orkney Isles in 2009.
Our very good friends Si and Cheryl got married this weekend. I’ve shared some great kayaking adventures with Si around the world, ranging from last week’s Italy jaunt to a year taken out of work 2000-2001, in which we did a round-the-world Grand Tour lugging white water kayaks with us. I got married during the New Zealand leg of the RTW trip, although Si somehow failed to attend the ceremony. His lame excuse was that he was severely ill with Leptospirosis at the time, forcing H and I to drag bemused strangers off the street to legally witness the ceremony…
Si met Cheryl shortly after returning from that trip, and they’ve continued the worldwide paddling adventures over the past decade; we’ve been lucky enough to join them on a few. Congratulations to both of you from Heather and I, wishing you a long and happy life together! Thanks also for laying on such a great weekend for us all, it was a fantastic chance to catch up with old friends.
A few photos follow of the wedding, and also of earlier adventures on four or five different continents…
Another magazine article; this was a 2006 trip to the Indian Himalayas which was very much in ‘exploratory’ territory; many of the rivers we paddled had seen few or no descents, and there were certainly no guidebooks. I’ve paddled white water in India four or five times now since 1998, it’s a bit of ‘thing’ of mine. Incredible country.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Paddling in the Indian Himalayas, Easter 2006
India isn’t so much a country as a planet, and attempting to quantify its wildly diverse peoples, landscapes and culture would be the road to madness. Suffice to say that the world’s largest democracy is a land of mixed messages. One moment you’ll be entranced by astonishing ethereal beauty; a woman’s glittering sari, the detail of a Hindu devotional painting, or a distant ice field glimpsed floating above green terraces. The next moment, you’ll recoil at staggering squalor and poverty; a family living in a pavement shack, the lingering stench of untreated sewage, or the grime of a restaurant kitchen. Those of us – myself included – who had paddled in India previously, knew what to expect. What we mainly expected, was confusion. Nothing in India runs to plan or on time, and randomness is the only certainty. Despite – or possibly because of – the reasons outlined above, we absolutely love India. It was exciting to be back.
In past trips we had endured local bus travel, which involves countless hours of being shaken senseless on unsurfaced roads with random livestock perched on your lap, whilst poorly taped Bollywood tunes screech at ear-bleeding volume. This time, we had unanimously decided to cheat… at Delhi airport we were met by a luxury minibus and personal driver. To emphasise our softness, the word ‘TOURIST’ was emblazoned across the windscreen in humiliatingly large text. We didn’t care…we had speed, comfort, and – most importantly – the flexibility to go where we wanted, when we wanted. Our plan was to follow successive Himalayan valleys north from Delhi, having chosen to seek out areas we knew little about; what could go wrong? Well, for starters, there was almost no roofrack on the bus. Oops. We bodged a quick-fix which left seven creek boats perched unconvincingly across the bus, not actually connected to anything solid and overhanging both sides. We kept meaning to think up a better solution, but never did get around to it.
India veterans and virgins alike were glued to the bus windows in Shock and Awe, gaping at the wondrous cornucopia of transport which we squeezed past on our way to the hills. Honking Tata trucks, auto-rickshaws, bicycles carrying whole families, elephants; all regularly braking sharply to give way to the mangy cows which grazed indifferently in the centre of the fast lane. In time, heat and jetlag overcame culture shock, and we dozed.
The next morning saw us awaking high above the plains in the hilltop station of Mussourie. The British built such places (in the image of the Home Counties) to administer their Empire from a cool climate. Mussourie’s Mall bore a disconcerting resemblance to Georgian Brighton, albeit with more monkeys and less seafront. We hunted down India’s only functioning cash machine (tip: whichever amount you withdraw, it will be too much), we joined Indian kayakers Shalabh and Neema, whose acquaintance we had made online. Email is never the most reliable means to judge a total stranger’s character and boating chutzpah, but we were delighted to find that both were solid paddlers and much more importantly, splendid company.
Pre-trip research had involved staring at a pile of inadequate and contradictory map sources, trying to correlate the damned lies of one with the blatant misinformation of the other. We had been unable even to confirm whether river valleys were populated and had road access. Even the wonder that is Google Earth wasn’t sure. Now, driving up the Yamuna River, it was instantly obvious that there were roads and people everywhere you looked, and that this would apply equally for all valleys. With 1.2 billion locals, there is no such thing as ‘wilderness’ in India. The gleaming newness and scale of some of these roads was suspicious, and we were eventually to grasp the reason for this…
Every river paddled was a First Descent. That is a total lie, most weren’t…but they had might as well have been. We had no solid beta about any of them and half the fun (and stress) of our trip was peering out of the bus windows, trying to guesstimate the grade and gradient of the river far below. We were shockingly bad at this…we would confidently dismiss rivers as too flat, low or easy. Thirty minutes later, we would invariably be getting beatdown in a huge stopper which had looked like a ripple from the road, or clinging for dear life to micro-eddies on ridiculously steep gnarl. This happened time after time. We are not good learners.
The Yamuna River drainage is one of India’s holiest, washing away the sins of those who bathe in it. Andy Mc noted that he’d need to paddle it more than once to wash clear his backlog, so we devoted plenty of time to these valleys, paddling the Yamuna, Tons, Rupin and Pabbar. The Tons is a tributary of the Yamuna, but is actually a much larger ditch with hefty tribs of its own. The Yamuna wowed us with wonderful blue water steep creeking, as, rather boringly, did everything else. We were wary (read: scared) of the upper Tons. We couldn’t see it from the road, nobody appeared to have been daft enough to paddle up that high up the valley, and the gradient profile suggested nasty gnarl. Ignorance is bliss, so a few of us paid farmers to carry our boats down into the steep valley. Reaching river level, our faces blanched and our eyes were on stalks; the Tons was full-blown Grade 6! With our few rupees left, should we pay the locals to carry our boats back uphill, or downstream? Mindless optimism won the day, and to our nervous relief, we discovered that the river became paddleable just around the next corner. Even so, wibbly wobbly routes taken down the first rapids betrayed our edginess! Some fantastic read-run action, a short portage along a beach (bloody Nora, are those tiger footprints?) a night under the tarp and to our astonishment, we rejoined the road early the next morning. Could the day get any better? Oh yes! Reunited, the team jeeped up the Rupin valley’s brand new road. Despite the usual misjudgements (“Has it got enough water?”) the Rupin offered up five exceptional flat-out hours, yet was unusually forgiving for a tricky ditch. Once you wussed, the road was on hand. As the day wore on and the Rupin steepened, the group shrank and it began to feel like Custer’s Last Stand! The very final drop boofed direct into the Tons. Kevin was so fried out that he boofed, broke out into the takeout eddy, capsized, forgot how to roll and swam. Oh, the shame.
We were genuinely sad to leave behind the wonderful free-flowing rivers of the Yamuna system. Even so, we did not fully appreciate just how privileged we had been to paddle there until we reached the Sutlej River. Here, we were forcibly transported into the future, and it was not an appealing future. Over millennia, the Sutlej has driven a monstrous cleft right through the Himalayas from the Tibetan plateau to the Indian plains. This is – obviously – something special. We had hoped to spend a full week paddling the Sutlej. Driving up the gorges, our faces progressively registered eagerness (it’s the Sutlej!), then fear (are the stoppers meant to be that big?), then incomprehension (what’s with all this concrete?) and finally despair (they’re devastating the entire valley!). What exactly had we seen? The Sutlej was brown and heaving, too high for mortal paddlers like us. Whatever, the real jolt was uncovering the state of the valley. India’s largest and deepest gorge has been tamed by concrete and dynamite into one vast engineering works and labour camp. The first completed dam has already left 40 kilometres of the river empty. Similarly scaled projects are well underway along the length of the river. Sadly, our abiding memory will be of thousands of construction trucks, churning dust as they endeavoured to complete the destruction of the Sutlej. Why was this a vision of the future? As India’s urban population and foreign exports rapidly expand, so too does the insatiable demand for electricity. In the Himalayan states of Utteranchal and Himachal Pradesh, this thirst is being quenched by largely unchecked and unregulated plans for hydroelectric power schemes. Multiple dams are being built or imminently slated for every single river. The future of India’s mountain rivers is dams, diversions and dry beds. Now we grasped why the roads were so good in the Yamuna watershed, and we felt physically sick.
After paddling the Baspa, a (dammed) Sutlej tributary, we moved on. We crossed the 10000 foot Jalora Pass and after melting the buses’ brakes on the descent, fetched up in the Kullu Valley. We worked our way around the region’s rather varied rivers and successively found ourselves faced by every possible eventuality – except boredom. Raging through the popular Honeymoon destination of Manali is the hefty Beas River. It is indeed rather thrilling, but keep your noseclip in place and your mouth tight shut. The Tirthan certainly had its moments, but is most memorable for the wretched stinking town which was visibly collapsing into the river as we paddled through. The Sainj had enough steepness to satisfy, but we had to time our descent in-between rock blasting sessions for the new dam. The Malana looked interesting, right up to the point where the Indian Army politely but firmly escorted us out of the valley, ‘for our own safety’. Because of, rather than despite these quirks, we relished all of these rivers.
Without question, Kullu’s trump card was the Parvati. Rapids of every hue and colour adequately entertained us for two full days. Treading gingerly among the turds at the Beas confluence, we agreed that the Parvati might just be the best medium volume Grade 4 river that we’ve ever paddled. Either way, it certainly has the hottest curry, delicious but unquenchable even by copious amounts of ‘Extra Strong’ Indian beer. This is to be located and enjoyed in Manikaran, a wonderfully glitzy Hindu and Sikh temple complex which straddles the evil gorge above the Parvati put-in. We usually allow ourselves one short controlled dose of ‘culture’ on each trip, and a stay in Manikaran filled that quota perfectly. Embarrassingly and possibly dangerously, our attempt at cultural immersion degenerated into cultural misunderstanding when Neil and I took a wrong turn and found ourselves inextricably participating in a Sikh ceremony. Neil’s lack of beard was a dead giveaway, not to mention that we were the only men not brandishing sharp jewelled knives…
With a single paddling day left, we woke beside a completely dry riverbed, 80 kilometres west of Kullu. We’d headed here on a whim to find the Uhl River, with no more info than a blue line on a sketched tourist map. Lucky Dip boating! Harsh words were muttered when the river proved to be empty, and we faced the prospect of a distinctly downbeat finish to our fortnight-long Grand Tour. Reverting to mindless optimism once more, we drove up the river on the off-chance. We quickly located the culprit, another dam. Above that was a free-flowing river, and a notably steep and chunky one at that…our gamble had paid off! At the road head, our arrival stopped the village dead in its tracks. All work and play was suspended as the entire population came to watch the ridiculously clothed Westerners do incomprehensible things with large plastic toys. One particular toddler almost keeled over in awe as Kevin strode past, attired in full creeking get-up. The footbridge and banks at the put-in were crowded with villagers trying to get the best view as we broke out and peeled off downstream, one by one. I can’t speak for the others, but personally, seeing my parting wave being returned enthusiastically by a hundred smiling strangers fulfilled the trip in an instant. And as for the river itself? Well, the Uhl is a story in itself…
More photos, river notes and info on paddling in India at www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk
Photo gallery from this trip – http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.30021277799.40182.528037799&l=abae22c78e
As you’ll no doubt be aware, X-Life is Hong Kong’s leading extreme sports magazine. I’m pleased to say that a shortly forthcoming issue will feature an article and photos by myself about our splendid trip to Nepal’s Thuli Bheri River, last Easter.
Both Heather and I have published material in this Asian magazine before. Although most of our writing and photos wind up in UK paddlesport publications, it’s pleasant and indeed refreshing to be occasionally reminded of just how small and well connected our world is, simply on account of this keyboard in my lap…
The following article was first published in Canoe Kayak UK magazine some months back. It describes a great expedition whitewater paddling trip we made in Easter 2010. Yes, I know that this is normally a blog about the sea and coast; please forgive me on this occasion, I keep getting enquiries about the Thuli Bheri river and this is the easiest place to make the information available.
Thuli Madly Deeply
I’m writing this in a hotel room in Delhi, India. The temperature is a searing 44 degrees Centigrade, and the tiny fan whirring overhead is failing to make the climate bearable. I was due back at work a week ago, but all flights home have been cancelled because of the ash cloud generated by the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull. I have no idea when and how I’ll get back. My stomach is suffering from the dreaded ‘Delhi belly’ and frankly, right now I’ve had enough of Asia and just want to go home. The only thing keeping me sane is reminding myself why I am here in the first place; I have just kayaked the truly wonderful and unsurpassable Thuli Bheri river.
Ten years ago, I spent several months kayaking the rivers flowing from the Himalayan mountains in the kingdom of Nepal. It was a fantastic experience, but I left Nepal with one disappointment; I had heard of a river called the Thuli Bheri, hidden away in remote western Nepal. Rumour suggested that this was the Shangri-La of Himalayan rivers, with outstanding whitewater and stunning surroundings. A group of us arranged to fly to this river, the Maoist insurgency was just beginning to dominate Nepal’s politics; news came through of an appalling massacre of fifteen policemen at the small town of Dunai, precisely where we had planned to begin our paddle. Understandably, no one would take us there, and our Thuli Bheri dream was dashed.
For ten years, the Thuli Bheri has been flagged up as ‘unfinished business’ on my kayaking wish list. In recent years the political situation in Nepal has improved, and paddlers have begun to return to the Thuli Bheri. I assembled an eager group of friends, but the logistics were daunting; our plan was to fly to Delhi, bus across India to Nepal and then to charter a plane to the river. Before we could even leave the UK, mountains of forms were filled in and notable sums of money transferred to pay for it all. More daunting still was the notion of the actual paddling, for me at least. I turn 40 in a few weeks (making me officially ‘old’) and I’m not exactly ‘Match Fit’ these days. I hadn’t taken part in a serious whitewater expedition for years, and three months before departure, I fell off my mountain bike and bust my shoulder. When the Easter hols finally came and I checked my kayak in at Heathrow, I had barely paddled at all in 2010 and the grim freezing drought that had gripped the UK’s rivers meant that the same went for the other members of the group. What could possibly go wrong?
It’s possible that getting to the Thuli Bheri was the riskiest part of the whole venture. Reeling from the twenty hour Delhi to Nepal bus ride, not to mention five hours stuck at the most fly infested border crossing on earth, we squeezed seven kayaks into the hold of a small aeroplane. The remaining space was filled up by ourselves; yes, we had our very own plane! The excitement that this generated was soon eclipsed by utter gibbering terror. Although our plane climbed steeply into the dawn skies, all manner of things kept whizzing perilously close past the windows. Things that shouldn’t rightly have been anywhere near us; trees, villages, water buffalo and most disturbingly, mountainsides. Craning our necks, we caught a brief glimpse of immense snow-capped Himalayan summits. Our attention was then diverted to the view straight ahead through the pilot’s cockpit, completely blocked by a rapidly approaching cliff face. Our fear-addled brains barely had time to compute that we were all going to die RIGHT NOW, before the plane came to a shuddering, jarring halt. Shocked to find that we were still alive (I really did pinch myself), the realisation slowly dawned that the pilot had landed the plane by flying into the cliff and at the last possible moment, soaring over the cliff rim to collide with an uphill-sloping patch of uneven stony ground, no larger than a football field.
We had arrived in style, but where exactly were we? The Thuli Bheri river drains the glaciers of Dhaulagiri (the world’s seventh highest mountain) and flows through Dolpo, a roadless and inaccessible region. Sat on a heap of kayaking gear on Juphail airstrip, we slowly absorbed our surroundings. Buddhist prayer flags fluttered in the wind, whilst ethnically Tibetan porters prodded and sized up our kayaks. Emerald green terraces formed staircases ascending the hillsides surrounding us, stretching upwards into the arid flanks of unnamed 20 000 foot peaks. Deep below us, our river was a winding ribbon of silver along the valley floor, at this distance giving no clues as to what it held in store for us. For a bunch of weekend warriors who short days before had been living our mundane UK lives, this was pretty mind-blowing stuff.
There is no such thing as paradise, however. Our Shangri-La illusion was dented somewhat by the quasi-official fellow who appeared from nowhere to exhort a large pile of dollars from us for … well, we’re not sure what. Thankfully it wasn’t long before we were packing our kayaks at the river’s edge, ready to paddle away and wash off the irritation of corrupt bureaucracy. Simon K took a bit longer to reach the river, partly as he had the heaviest kayak (his gear included an espresso pot) but mainly because his porter turned out to be the village drunk!
For those who haven’t tried it, paddling a loaded kayak is exactly like paddling an unloaded kayak, except that the kayak doesn’t work any more. As we veered clumsily from one bank of the Thuli Bheri to another, we were reminded of our complete lack of practice in previous months. We prayed that the river would at least offer a gentle initiation to its whitewater. We obviously didn’t pray hard enough, because the very first rapid we came to, located beside a Buddhist monastery, was rather long, steep and scary; thanks for nothing, Buddha. So, how did it go? Paddling gingerly forward on the brink of an intimidating horizon line, the first challenge was to remember how you actually paddle whitewater; it had after all been a long time… Boof the top ledge, struggle desperately to line up the sluggish boat for the gnarly main chute, tuck in and try to stay upright, whilst everything goes white and rocks fly past disconcertingly close. My memory of it all is rather vague as I was mostly upside-down, but I did thankfully recall how to roll. Simon K was less lucky, and took a swim; we chased him for some considerable distance before fishing him out, and he wasn’t a happy bunny after this confidence-sapping experience.
The Thuli Bheri is actually less committing than you might imagine, as a major trail follows the river along its entire length. A seemingly unbroken chain of brightly adorned ponies, mules and donkeys continuously plods along this highway, lugging rice and salt up the valley. This meant that rudimentary food and shelter was available in villages and huts, had we wanted it. However, we’d made the decision to ‘wild camp’ away from the trail and to cook for ourselves; partly to avoid being over-run by hordes of nauseatingly cute inquisitive children (not that this worked), partly to avoid stomach complaints (this didn’t work either) but mainly because Kevin fancies himself as the love child of Ray Mears and Bear Grylls. The first night’s camp set the template for the trip. Firstly, our kayaks would be emptied, yielding enough expensive gizmos to stock a sizeable outdoor shop. Next, we would scrabble to stake out the sleeping spot least infested by donkey dung. Kevin would then conjure up an impressively complex hearth from rocks, twigs and (we suspected) donkey dung, and we’d commence cooking. Is it appropriate to categorise pouring boiling water into a sachet of colourless lumpy powder as ‘cooking’? The resulting ‘meals’ provided the main focus of conversation for the rest of the evening, as we hotly debated what precisely it might be that we were eating and whose meal tasted the worst. Incidentally, any leftover discussion time would be devoted to evaluating toilet visits, with ‘movements’ rated on an ascending scale of 1 (suffering from amoebic dysentery) to 10 (passing breeze blocks). When the first stars were lit above the valley, we would already be dozing off in our bivvy bags.
Well, how about that river? I’m loathe to give too much away, because I simply wouldn’t do it justice and because if by any chance it sounds like your sort of thing, then you really must go paddle it and then you don’t want me spoiling it for you, do you? Suffice to say that the second day saw us descending through the ‘Golden Canyon’, and the name says it all. Were you to design the ultimate dream day of scenic continuous ‘read and run’ boating, with the occasional inspection or portage to stretch your legs, this is precisely what it would look like. The third day quickly degenerated into a contest to find out who could crane their neck the furthest whilst clinging to tiny eddies, as the river steepened alarmingly. Late in the day, communication meltdown lead to Jim nearly falling off a cliff whilst portaging and the team camping split apart on opposite banks of the river. The fourth day began almost restfully, as we hired porters to shoulder our kayaks around a few kilometres of river that crossed the threshold into ‘hero boating’ territory. Our idyllic stroll was quickly forgotten however, as we launched back into a Thuli Bheri that had accumulated a respectable amount of volume and power. As the day wore on, an excess of strenuous inspecting and portaging saw Matt crumple and almost give up on the whole thing, surprising to the rest of us as he was Scottish (and therefore Nails). His moment of weakness was explained when it turned out that he’s not actually a Scot but just lives in Scotland…
The final day dawned with the burning question, had we now completed it all? The answer was a rapid and resounding “No!” The Thuli Bheri threw a final series of chunky complex rapids at us that challenged, inspired, entertained, scared and kicked in equal measure. One particular stopper saw three paddlers backloop in synchronised succession, and I experienced an intimate moment or two with a pourover that had “Game Over” scrawled all over it. Simon K hadn’t exactly been feeling the love since his uber-swim on the first day, but had now regained his confidence and completed the river back on form. Eventually, this fabulous whitewater had to ease off; it had after all been constant for 100 kilometres! As we passed the confluence with the Sani Bheri River, the Thuli Bheri’s ceaseless energy was finally tamed into the wide shimmering pools and braided channels of the Bheri River.
In hindsight, a day or two paddling the Bheri River’s jungle gorges down to the main highway would have offered an appealingly relaxing and contemplative end to our adventure. But everybody is an expert in hindsight. Instead, we impatiently decided to abandon the river and carry our kayaks up to the road in the hope of hitching a lift down the valley. Stupid is as stupid does; what we hadn’t realised (if we’d bothered to ask) was that the road down the valley hadn’t actually been completed. The next twenty-four hours saw us enduring a series of the worst bus journeys imaginable; suffering innumerable bruises and welts from bouncing up and down on the top of buses (too hot and crowded inside), withering in heat and dust on roadsides during breakdowns, blubbing with fear as the bus skittered along cliff edges, contracting yet more intestinal nasties from some dubious Dahl Bhat and bedding down to sleep in what someone less positive than myself might categorise as a chicken run. But, what did we care? We’d just paddled the wonderful and unsurpassable Thuli Bheri River, and nothing could dent our elation. The fact that two weeks later we still haven’t made it home and are still here in Delhi has still not detracted from our Thuli Bheri experience. Admittedly though, another week stuck here might begin to…
Mark Rainsley is trapped at Delhi Airport with Matt Brook, Kevin Francis, Mark Gawler, Jim Green, Simon Knox and Simon Wiles.
More images here.
Further Information: The Thuli Bheri offers 100 kilometres of world class whitewater. The rapids are mostly continuous Grade 4 and 4+, but you will have to paddle some stiff Grade 5 to complete the river without excessive portaging. The river can be accessed by chartering a plane within Nepal, best arranged through a reputable operator such as Equator Expeditions. Western Nepal is reached by long bus journeys from either Kathmandu or Delhi (quicker, but including an awful border crossing). For detailed information, seek out the second edition of Pete Knowles’ inspirational guidebook ‘White Water Nepal’ – http://www.riverspublishing.co.uk.
Postscript: Our group was seven, but should have been eight. As we planned our Thuli Bheri adventure, our good friend Chris Wheeler was the very first to commit and book his flights. Then last November, Chris tragically lost his life in an accident on the River Dart, whilst enjoying his favourite river at his favourite water level. All of us who went on to paddle the Thuli Bheri were close friends of Chris. We each cherish our own personal feelings about and memories of Chris, but whilst on the Thuli, one thing only needed to be said, and it was said repeatedly; “Chris would have loved this”. For reasons hard to elucidate, knowing this enhanced our enjoyment of the river no end.
Chris in Bolivia, 2005
This is the view right now from our Hotel window. Yes, we’re still stuck in Delhi; tomorrow (fingers crossed!) we will finally escape, after ten days of waiting. This has been a truly miserable experience, not helped by bomb scares, massive political meetings and the ongoing heatwave, all of which have made our stay in India’s capital even less agreeable than it was already going to be. I also still have the embarrassment of returning to work a week and a half late to look forward to. Splendid.
What you are looking at above and below is a fourteen lane highway, and Indira Gandhi International Airport behind; although most of it (in common with much of Delhi) is a vast dusty construction site at the moment. It so happens that – despite recent inconveniences – I am still entered to run my first marathon, this coming weekend. Busy times at work in March, the two week whitewater expedition in Nepal and the current situation have meant that any form of meaningful and consistent training has long since gone out of the window.
I’ve gone from an earlier attitude of insouciant confidence to now seriously doubting my ability to complete the marathon this weekend; but I’ll still give it a go, not least because of the phenomenal and much-appreciated support I’ve been given.
I’ve carried on doing what running can in the circumstances; in Nepal this meant a few early morning jungle jogs, in Delhi it’s a little more demanding; I get up at 5 am to miss the heat (by then it’s already above 30 degrees C) and the worst of the traffic (about 20% less than you see below and above), and run along the motorway hard shoulder for as long as I can endure before the dust, fumes, heat and smell turn me around. To be honest, we’re not talking about huge (or even worthwhile) distances, but I’ve been determined to give it a go, at least. Actually, the ‘hard shoulder’ is nothing of the sort; it’s a strip of mud, rubble and random holes, with the occasional interlude of an open sewer. If this sounds ridiculous, it actually appears to be the accepted way to go running hereabouts; I have met plenty of Delhiites along there, dodging the pre-dawn traffic with me.
I have to remain positive about all of this; this Sunday, nothing can go wrong.*
*But first, I have to get home…
We’re still stuck here sweltering in Delhi, with no idea when we’ll be able to fly out … the only thing keeping us sane, is remembering how good the paddling was.
Photo galleries here and here.
Our whitewater kayaking expedition to western Nepal went really well, with outstanding whitewater and some incredible cultural experiences.
Trouble is, it should have all ended some time ago … but we seem to still be here in Asia. To be precise, fifteen of us are stuck at the airport in the fine city of Delhi unable to leave, on account of European airspace being closed. Among other problems, this has caused us all considerable embarrassment with our employers, and isn’t exactly a bonus holiday experience; Delhi has been experiencing exceptional temperatures of 44 degrees C. At current time, we have no idea at all when we will get home. Early this morning I attempted to complete some kind of marathon training along the hard shoulder of a motorway(!), but I can’t say it was an experience to be recommended.
On the bright side, we keep reminding ourselves just how good the Thuli Bheri River was. Oh yes, it was a good one …
This weekend’s rain thankfully enabled me to find out whether my broken shoulder had healed enough to paddle serious whitewater; a rather pressing question, given that the next time I paddle whitewater will be in a fortnight … with a fully loaded boat on a remote Himalayan river in the far west of Nepal, with no real option to pull out (a small plane is dropping us off there).
I was quaking in my boots as we launched onto a rather full River Dart on Saturday morning. However, the shoulder seemed to work okay, and by our third run down the river (above) the water level had dropped enough and I’d relaxed into my boat enough to play the river and to remember just what a wonderful river this is. So … Nepal is good to go, Ibuprofen allowing.
I’m having a bit of an ego trip today. This is the cover of the latest edition of Canoe Kayak UK magazine. I took the photo! It was snapped on the upper Yamuna River during our recent trip to India. The article inside is by my good chum Liz and entertainingly conveys the trials and tribulations of paddling in that wonderfully diverse and random country. So, I’m feeling very chuffed with myself right now, but I’m not half as unbearable as the guy in the photo, Dave H …
The magazine also carried a review of South West Sea Kayaking. Splendid.
I’m back from some splendid adventures in India, and am now working on getting everything ready for the coming weekend.
Looking forward to it!