After a few weeks in Uttarakhand, Rory and I decided to head to Himchal Pradesh to try and catch some good water levels and some new rivers.
After yet more uncomfortable overnight bus rides being vomited on, we arrived in the tourist town of Manali at peak holiday season for the Indians.
Travelling with a kayak is awkward at the best of times, but with millions of Indian tourists as well makes it impossible to even sit down without being inundated with people wanting photos with you, interrogations about what we’re doing, and being told that the rivers we want to go to are impossible and we should go down somewhere the river is nice and flat.
We stayed in Old Manali Town, one of the most ridiculous hippy places I’ve been to yet, consisting primarily of Westerners with terrible dreadlocks and carefully selected hand made clothing complaining that 5 people in a Jeep was a bit crowded (plenty of space for 14 we found).
But it did mean we could have a beer and a burger for a change.
The Manalsu Nala river runs through the town, which we put on and provided some entertainment for everyone watching, before joining the Beas river, which had a surprisingly good (high) level.
It started off with several kilometres of super continuous, steep IV+ (probably some V) biggish volume rapids. It reminded us of the North Fork Payette in character, but a little bit scarier.
After a bit it calms down to more manageable level as the river flows down the valley.
We paddled it again after some hot days and rain at an even higher level, which was even scarier, and a bit tiring from frantic paddling for several kilometers.
Next we headed up the Parvati river valley, the flow at the bottom looked promising, with some brown really big volume rapids.
The further we got up the valley the more it looked like the river might actually be quite high, with the water level above the tree line. At the top we found some fairly unrunnable stuff and were told the river was at its peak flow.
Putting on below some of the unrunnable stuff we carefully worked our way down, with some good chicken lines available through the banks, and some big rapids to test our nerves with monster holes hiding behind every little thing.
Completing the river was a relief, only one awkward portage out of a gorge and back in again, although it did have a tea shop at the top. Well worth the effort, but perhaps not again at that level.
After spending the next few days recovering from what seems to be an endless series of illnesses from paddling in some horribly polluted rivers, we took a bus over Rohtang Pass to go and kayak the Chandra/Chandrabaga/Chenab river.
A stunning valley, with an ice cold river running through some ice-gorges and whitewater that gradually increased in volume, culminating in some long, huge volume rapids. We had a good leisurely multi-day trip down, using villages along the way for food, and spending the afternoons lounging around in the sun warming back up and drying our kit. We took 3 days to go from Chattru to Udapur, with only around 8 hours of actual paddling, relaxing as we had a little while until we needed to head to Delhi for a train down south.
Heading back over to Manali to get the rest of our kit we left behind at a hotel, we stopped in the town of Keylong, where we found that the bus to Leh was running, meaning that we could get on it to the Zanskar & Tsarp Chu if we got a bit of a move on…