White Water Tourists in Ladakh (World Tour Trip)

- Postcards from North India, August 2000.

Part I

We've been in India for nearly a month now, and had some great adventures. We started on the River Beas near Manali, a full-on paddle that cleared the cobwebs right out! We were stuck there for a while, waiting for the road North to be repaired (big floods had wiped it out...).

The Beas in Manali

Eventually, we went up to Ladakh by jeep and did the Tsarap and Zanskar rivers (Asia's 'Grand Canyon) in silly water levels...but it was actually quite friendly in a scary sort of way...the
trip of about 180 miles among stunning gorges and big rapids took only five days! We never quite got our heads around altitude sickness, though!

Gear for the Tsarap expedition.

Mark playboating on the Tsarap at 12500 feet!

The Tsarap is a strenuous river...Mark crashed out asleep during a portage!

Advertising break with the monks of Phugtal Monastery, Tsarap River.

Phugtal monastery, perched above the Tsarap river.

Simon on the Tsarap.

The heinous portage of Reru Falls.

Reru falls on the Tsarap. Those boulders are a bitch to portage a loaded boat around...

Padum, end of the Tsarap River and start of the Zanskar trip.

The start of the Zanskar below Leh. Note overloaded boat...

Waves on the Zanskar below Leh

Zanskar, the grand canyon of Asia.

Entering the unbelievable Zanskar Gorges.

'Waterfall Beach' in the gorges...except that the beach was flooded underwater.

Simon cooling off in the Indus after 200 miles self-supported.

Leh, capital of Ladakh...rest point after the big trip.

Now after some easier paddling on the River Indus, we headed back to Manali to see what the monsoon was doing... After returning from Ladakh, we planned on a bit of exploratory paddling in the remote Spiti border region. Getting there was an adventure in itself. We had plenty of opportunity to view the incredible glacial scenery as our chosen mode of transport (a lorry!) slogged
over a high pass into the region averaging a speed of fifteen kilometres per hour! Spiti is a vast desert, with the capital at Kaza.....

Buddhist prayer flags on the 4400 metre Kunzum La pass into the Spiti region.

Nothing happens ever at Kaza! The place is so laid back that even getting served in restaurants is an epic achievement. Anyway, our plan was to explore the lower Spiti River down to its confluence with the Sutlej River. BUT the road had been washed away by recent floods.....oops! Unable to continue, we just did a day trip on the nearby River Pin (first descent???) an easy paddle among impressive gorges.

In the back of beyond...River Pin.

Takeout on the Pin.

Shepherd in the remote Lahaul region.

Then, it was back to Manali for more steep manic playing on the River Beas...

Part II

Bored today and disappointed...last night we psyched ourselves up to run a really hairy section of the River Beas which drops straight through Manali town...a sort of East Lyn with real volume. But, this morning we woke up to the sound of heavy rain...the monsoon has come to town and any section of the Beas is now a suicide mission. On the bright side, the 'Hindustani Times' makes a great umbrella. Even so, had one of our best paddling days ever yesterday. Simon and I ran about 40 km of the Beas which was mostly continuous technical grade 4+, some harder bits. We've spent a lot of time on big water recently so we let ourselves rip a bit...we didn't get out to inspect at all and we tried to run everything down the centre; this mostly ended happily!

I did manage to run one steep stack of holes with my head under and boat vertically on end, apparently rotating gracefully as it went...just how I planned it of course. Other amusements included a sadistic form of 'follow the leader' where you lead paddler B as close as you can above a big hole, before sharply changing course...I'm sure this is all in the BCU Handbook somewhere.

Towards the end, the Beas went flat and we reached the confluence of the Parbati River; we'd imagined this to be a tiddly side-stream. Instead, it was at least three times the volume of the Beas, brown cold glacial water. The river was suddenly 200 metres wide, with enormous brown waves. Floating through these monsters with neither bank to hand was the most weird experience, like being out at sea... India is the most fantastic place for boating...we just wish they'd move the rivers all closer together, and stop pooing on every beach.

Simon sampling the culture.