After a month in Nepal helping out after the earthquake, our visas were running out and we thought it time to head to India before the monsoon took hold. The quake had made huge fissures in a lot of mountain sides, and a lot of landslides looked imminent, with a huge one falling and blocking the upper Kali Gandaki before we left.
Taking the bus out to Mahendranagar and crossing into India on a horse was surprisingly simple, with no border faff on either side, even after staying a few days over the Nepal visa.
From the Indian side of the town on Banbassa, there was a 7pm bus to Rishikesh where we could sort ourselves out for some kayaking.
The Indian summer was just starting, and the weather was scorchingly hot already, but a blast down the Ganga (Ganges) in just a rash vest was the perfect way to keep cool and warm up into kayaking again after a while off.
India was quite a change from Nepal, things were that bit busier and more hectic, and the towns a bit more grim with mounds of rubbish and raw sewage running through the streets, or at least in some places.
With perhaps less than ideal water levels we set out to the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers for some more easy but fun big volume whitewater.
After some good curry in Karanprayag we had a long day on a low water Pindar river, and another on a low Mandakini river, adding a few scratches to my boat from an actual river instead of pointy bus roofracks.
In search of some more interesting whitewater and some better river levels we headed up to the top of the Tons river on yet another bus with a suicidal driver, but thankfully good brakes.
The Tons forms at the confluence of the Rupin and Supin rivers, which we needed a permit for we didn’t have, and they were looking very low and rocky too.
Spending 2 days paddling the Tons gave us plenty of time to enjoy the sun, have a good dahl bhat lunch, and stay in a hotel overnight too. Luxury multiday boating.
The river had a few good rapids in the start and a couple of fun bigger volume ones further down, enjoyable but left a feeling of wanting a bit more. The scenery was fantastic though, pine forests and palm trees together, and isolation away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of India.
After dropping off Jonny for him to go back home, Rory and I headed back up to Yamunotri to paddle the Yamuna river after a quick morning hike to do some culturey things at the pilgrimage site.
The river was a bony ditch at the top, so we put on the Hauman Ganga tributary after convincing the local police force we weren’t going to hurt ourselves.
There was a good combination of paddleable choss and some scarier rapids down to Rana Chatti.
From there to Sanya Chatti was a big gorge with some fun rapids, a series of stacked up holes in a tight boily gorge, and some more fun choss.
The final part of the river down to the dam had a series of long landslide rapids that very nearly all went if you felt brave enough, and one fun boof.
We took 3 days over it as we were in no rush at all, but if you were keen for a mission, it could be done in one.
Leaving Uttarakhand we headed into Himchal Pradesh for some new rivers, and for some beers.
The region contains some good rivers, but just left a feeling that we didn’t have quite the right levels for it to be at its best. The tonnes of sewage and litter strewn through the area also made the experience on the rivers a bit odd, being so used to pristine wilderness and rivers of drinkable water over the last few years.
India is a remarkably different place to anywhere else, and is still taking some getting used to, but I have the time and hopefully the next months will show more sides to India I’ve yet to see.