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Global Spotlight: Siang River Trip
By David Dill, Global Descents guide
Fellow Global Descents guide Matt West and I arrived in Delhi Nov. 3rd and were met at the airport by Global Descents owner Duke Bradford. In the morning, the three of us set off with our driver at 4 am for Rishikesh, the Yoga Capital of the World, and the Ganges River, determined to get in some of our own kayaking before beginning our commercial Siang expedition. The 7-hour drive was unlike any road travel I have experienced. Our gracious hosts at Snow Leopard Rafting had us set up with first class accommodations on the banks of the Ganges. Our first day of kayaking we paddled by a funeral happening right along the river and saw monkeys, cormorants and what looked like a night hawk. The next day we paddled the stretch from camp down to Rishikesh-with some big class IV rapids-and that evening we attended the nightly ganga aarti ceremony at a riverside temple. The Snow Leopard has three amazing camps with very comfortable accommodations and a great staff that sets the bar in guest service. We hated to leave but it was time to get back to smoggy Delhi to reorganize and meet our clients, and we opted for a flight from Dehra Dun instead of the return drive.
After our first night’s dinner with the Siang River Expedition clients (Jim, Wally, Ted, Wiley, and Jim) at the luxurious Trident Hotel, we discussed the plan for the next few weeks and what to expect. The logistics of getting to our put-in at Palsi in the state of Arunachal Pradesh where challenging, to say the least. Thanks to our inside man Roland Stevenson of RiverIndia, who met us at the airport in Dibrugarh after our flight from Delhi, things went as smoothly as can be expected in India.
From Dibrugarh we hopped on a ferry for a few hours, crossing to a ghat on the other side of the Brahmaputra River. From here we took a Coach to the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. At the border we had to switch to different vehicles and continued on to Pasighat for the night. The next morning we got an early start and started up into the mountains for Jengging. It was a long day on the road but with incredible scenery, as we passed through villages and crossed many crystal clear tributaries and the occasional view of the Siang River.
We stayed in Jengging at the Circuit House, which typically hosts government officials. After another early start and long day on the road we finally reached our put-in at Palsi and met up with the rest of the crew, who had been rigging the boats and getting all of the gear ready.
Camp in Palsi was a little tight but we knew from our drive that the Siang was loaded with gigantic beaches and that this would be our only tight camp. After a good night’s rest we were finally ready to get on the water. But first we had to line the boats upstream in order to set up for Palsi Rapid. The plan for running Palsi was to enter left of center and move right to avoid the explosive laterals coming from the left. Jeremy’s boat with Graham, Roland and Bodke went first so they could set up for photos. We gave them a few minutes then Matt-who was rowing a cat-dropped in, followed by me in the 16 ft. paddle boat, then Rick in an 18 ft. oar rig. It seemed like we were on line in the paddle boat but out of nowhere we got the smack down and flipped. Between our two safety kayakers and Jeremy’s boat the mess was quickly picked up and we pulled in for lunch. But bad news: at lunch we found out Matt had had a swimmer in the rapid. One of the chickens he was carrying on the cat got out of the basket and took a bad swim. Evidently chickens don’t swim so well and sadly we lost a good chicken that day. Back on the water, we were blown away by the scenery, with waterfall after waterfall dropping into the Siang. The rapids continued and can be described as Lava Falls on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, only bigger, longer and more powerful. The estimated flow was roughly 40,000-60,000 at Palsi. After multiple large rapids we started looking for camp but weren’t finding much. Suddenly we entered another large rapid and again the paddle boat received a healthy smack down. Flip #2 on Day One! The river gods were angry that day, my friends. We finally found a large sandy beach and settled in with some wine and whiskey.
Day 2: More waterfalls and big rapids. We pulled in to lunch and camped above our possible portage at Marta Rapid. We had a relaxing afternoon and enjoyed the sight and sound of a very powerful and intimidating rapid.
Day 3: In the morning a few local villagers wondered into camp to check us out. They left and returned with a bunch of guys with guns. They passed by Rick sitting on the groover (toilet) and we all got a good laugh. They were just curious about us and we all posed for a photo with the armed villagers. The villagers roamed around near camp collecting some kind of beetle they like to eat. We spent the morning getting boats through Marta by lining the paddle boat and rowing the oar boats with a rope attached to the stern in order to belay them into the eddy at the bottom. We lunched at the bottom of Marta then headed directly into the next big rapid. Below the next rapid we crossed under a sketchy hanging footbridge and continue to enjoy waterfalls dropping in to the river. Things finally eased up for a bit and we pulled into camp near Gette.
Day 4: We stopped to scout Yingkiong rapid which was a bit challenging as the rapid seems to go on and on. After a lengthy scout and lunch the paddle boaters decided to walk and Dave Kashinski towed the paddle boat out behind his kayak, set it up for a good line and turned it loose. The paddle boat ran a clean line and Dave towed it to shore at the bottom. All day, there were truly impressive sights to take in.
Day 5: We passed by two of the most beautiful surf waves I have ever seen. The first wave had a nice fluffy pile and the second wave had a beak on top. It was a wet and rainy day so the paddleboat ran conservative lines in an attempt to stay warm. At this stage we experienced unseasonable rain fairly steadily for the remainder of the trip. As a result of the rain, we decided to push downriver and set up for either a layover at our last camp or to get off a day early if the rains continued. Sadly the rain continued and we opted to take out a day early. The rain continued for the next two days while we stayed in Pasighat, so in the end it was best we got off the river early.
We awoke the last morning on the river to find the river rising fast. We hurriedly moved the kitchen and a few guide tents and did so just in the nick of time. It was difficult to say what kind of flow we had on the last day. Estimates amongst the guides ranged from 60,000 cfs to over 100,000 cfs: who knows. No USGS river gauges there! Every day we experienced big volume, intimidating and powerful rapids, mean eddylines and deep seams. Every day we also experienced stunning scenery, waterfalls, hanging bridges, flora and curious locals.
Sadly, late in the trip upstream from Boleng we started seeing what I believe were benchmarks from survey and engineering crews looking for a suitable dam sight. The Siang River is a world-class river trip, unlike any other river I have seen in the world. Take advantage while you can, who knows how long before the dam construction begins. This trip can be described as an exploratory expedition style trip. The section from Palsi to Yingkiong sees very few river trips each year and the rapids change from year to year and have varying flows. Special thanks to my fellow crew members who put so much time and energy into this trip before, during and after. Also special thanks to Jim King, Wylie Greig, Ted Fouts, Wally Limburg, and Jim Martin for all your efforts and great attitudes.
Looking forward to my return to the Siang River next fall, Dave Dill.
Posted in Whitewater Rafting Blog
Siang River, India
Experience the mystique of Himalayan India, the intimate secrets of a little-known Indo-Tibetan culture, the thrill of whitewater exploration, and the comfort of world class service with Global Descents!
The Siang is known as the Tsang-Po in Tibet and after it merges with the Lohit and the Dibang in Assam it becomes the Brahmaputra. The river is steeped in legend and history. Only recently opened to foreigners, the remote north-eastern province of Arunachal Pradesh provides the backdrop for our 10-day expedition. And an expedition it is in every sense of the word!
This legendary river-system was only fully explored in 2003 by a team of National Geographic-sponsored kayakers. We begin our descent of the Siang just inside the border with Tibet. Many villagers in this region have only seen pictures of foreigners, let alone rafts, kayaks, lifejackets, and helmets. It is not unusual to see members of the Mishmi tribe with their ornamental, feathered head-dresses carrying hatchets known as “daos”.
This is tribal India, and a Global Descents expedition down the Siang is the only way to explore it! The Siang River Expedition mixes action-packed whitewater with pristine pools, scenic side hikes, and captivating culture.
We begin our expeditions with a flight to Dibrugarh, Assam, followed by a ferry ride up the Brahmaputra, and a road trip to the put-in town of Yingkiong, overlooking the Siang. High altitude tea-plantations, hikes, and cultural immersion are all on the menu. A seven-day rafting trip from Yingkiong to Pasighat ensues, plunging through exciting rapids and maneuvering through magnificent hydraulics.
Our Siang River Expedition culminates in an escorted ferry-ride across the massive main-Brahmaputra to the Assamese town of Dibrugarh. Here guests catch dream-laden return flights to New Delhi. Siang river trips are available November through April, with the ideal season being the months of November and December. Visit the Global Descents web site for more info, trip itinerary and pricing.
Posted in Whitewater Rafting Blog
The Patagonia Campaign aims to support the Chilean people’s fight against plans to dam two of Chile’s most powerful and pristine rivers, the Baker and Pascua Rivers. Electricity from these dams would be sent thousands of kilometers north to serve Chile’s biggest cities and its mammoth copper industry. The transmission lines for that electricity would require one of the world’s longest clearcuts–much of it through untouched temperate rainforests of a type found nowhere else on the planet outside Patagonia. (Click here for more details about the rivers, dam plans and transmission lines.)
International Rivers wants the world to know Patagonia’s rivers—and to keep them wild—unlike the huge companies that want to dam them. So, with much help from our passionate Chilean friends who have been fighting dams in their home country for many years, we have launched new pressure tactics against the companies involved in the proposed dams.
Recently we organized an expedition to walk alongside the Pascua and know first-hand what’s at stake for this river, and the life that depends on it. We hope you’ll read the full story of what we found. The Pascua is one of the most pristine and unknown rivers on the planet. It is a rip-roaring, roller-coaster of a river with rugged, impassable canyons and unsurvivable Class 6+ whitewater.
To keep the Pascua wild is just one of the many reasons we oppose plans to dam the Baker and Pascua rivers. You can begin to learn more by watching our 3-minute slide show. The dams would displace families, disrupt livelihoods and spoil tourism that brings local income. Transmission lines and reservoirs would destroy temperate rainforests unique to Patagonia. The transmission lines would divide many Chilean communities and several national parks. Victims of these dams would include critically endangered species such as the huemul deer, a Chilean national symbol.
Posted in Whitewater Rafting Blog
Excerpted from “Action Alert – Don’t Dam Patagonia” by Rick Ridgeway and Lisa Pike, Patagonia Environmental Affairs, www.patagonia.com
Patagonia: It truly is one of the world’s last unspoiled natural treasures – wild, vast and rich in its unique attributes and biodiversity.
As we write to you, an environmental study is undergoing review in Chile for a massive hydroelectric project that would dam two of Patagonia’s wild and pristine rivers, the Baker and the Pascua. The Baker River is the largest remaining wild river in Chile and runs right along the edge of the proposed 650,000-acre Patagonia National Park that we are helping to create. Damming the Baker would flood portions of this new park and hobble tourism that has just begun to bring new sources of income to the area’s small, traditional communities. The Pascua River is today a virtually untouched haven for wildlife that would, if dammed, be almost totally destroyed. Just as damaging, a 2,450-km chain of huge power-line towers is being proposed to transmit electricity to the north. The effects of this project would permanently blemish and scar an enormous swath of the spectacular Patagonia region.
Less destructive alternative energy sources are available. And the Chilean government has recently become fully aware of the significant tourism revenue opportunities that would be lost if plans for the dams and transmission lines move forward.
Despite this knowledge, and the numerous (though vastly understated) environmental impacts of the project disclosed in the dam company HidroAysen’s study just now undergoing review, the Chilean government has all but pre-approved the project. So we’ve partnered with International Rivers (IR) to illustrate another potential loss to Chile if HidroAysen’s plans move forward: fewer U.S. customers for Chilean products.
In September, International Rivers began asking consumers to sign postcards that ask The Home Depot to stop doing business with two large Chilean manufacturers of wood products, both of whom are heavily involved in the dams project. International Rivers is collecting these signed postcards and sending bunches of them daily to The Home Depot. For more info or to take action online visit the International Rivers Web site.
Posted in Whitewater Rafting Blog
River expedition was truly an unforgettable adventure. The Cotahuasi carves the second deepest canyon in the world (the first, the Colca, is a just few hundred miles away) and snakes through an arid landscape on the southern coast of . First run by raft in 2000, only a few expeditions have descended into its chasm and braved its mighty river. In June, our group of Global Descents adventurers took the plunge and conquered its rollercoaster of spitting Class V rapids.
Beginning our journey in the “
City ” of
Arequipa , where streets are dotted with mouthwatering cevicherias and the impressive colonial architecture shows ingenuity in its giant blocks of volcanic ash, we set off on the two day drive through ’s barren costal plains. Our first night was spent in the community of Chuquibamba, a convenient mid-way point to our final destination, the town of
Cotahuasi . Our second day’s drive took us over a 15,500-foot pass, along the flanks of the massive volcano Coropuña. Lama, vicuña, and alpaca were scattered through the high plains, grazing beneath glaciers and snowfields as our travel van cruised along the wide-open road. That night was spent in Cotahuasi, sitting just above the gaping canyon rim and surrounded by waterfalls, rock walls and views of the distant peaks.
The next morning we drove to the end of the road, loaded burros with our gear and, with a quick handshake to our driver, officially began our six-day river adventure. It was an eight-hour hike into the depths of the
Canyon and to our first riverside camp near the community of Velinga. The next morning was the final preparation – rigging the rafts, swim tests and a safety talk that confirmed serious whitewater lay ahead.
After lunch we climbed in the rafts and were off. Immediately the rapids were non-stop and steep, and we aggressively punched through Class III-IV rapids with intermittent Class II-III rapids to keep us busy. It was good preparation for the first big Class V drop of the trip, the frighteningly-named Broken Neck Rapid, a long 3-part rapid wrapping around a corner and out of sight from a possible scout. After making a plan, we pushed off to run this first major drop. Wow! Everyone survived, and from that moment on truly understood that we had embarked on a serious whitewater expedition with demanding whitewater – and lots of it.
The following days brought much more of the same – long, steep, and technical rapids, one after the other. Rapids that pinch down so narrow the boats don’t fit through and continuous rollercoaster rides through inner-gorges… challenging, exhilarating, and unforgettable whitewater like nowhere else.
With all the excitement had by day, night brought rest, good food and unparalleled beauty. Camping under the stars on flat platforms amongst long-forgotten Inca walls gave everyone a unique sense of discovery and exploration. We found Inca and pre-Inca ruins and neck-kinking views up toward the canyon’s rim. Though we were on a whitewater trip, we could have used extra days to explore more of the ruins and burial sites along the way. Incredibly, the sites seemed untouched as if they had survived hundreds of years without notice. No footprints, no signs of disturbance, not even a hint of anthropological studies! Interestingly, the trails that once were used by the Inca to run, yes run!, fish fresh from the Pacific Ocean to their rulers high in the mountains eventually washed away in the torrential coastal rains and rockslides, isolating these lost and forgotten ruins.
Downriver, where the Cotahuasi confluences with the Moran River, its character changes, widening and slowing down, with rapids spaced further apart and the views expanding as the walls recede toward the ocean. Feeling the usual adventurer conflict – so happy to have accomplished such an expedition and so sad to leave – we left the Cotahuasi with a two-hour 4×4 drive through small dusty communities to the coast and then another five hours back to Arequipa and our victory dinner. Cold beer never tasted so good!
Every river trip has its own character and magic, whether it’s a half-day Colorado Rafting float on a local waterway or a three-week luxury trip down the
Grand Canyon . But the allure of the unknown, the excitement of discovery, and the challenge of demanding and continuous whitewater are true and strong on the Cotahuasi. Nowhere else on Earth is like it. A word to the wise: It is not for everyone. But if you long for true unequalled adventure, the Cotahuasi should be your next trip. I hope to see you this coming season.