Ladakh: Rafting on the Zanskar

[Trip date: 28th June 2013]

And I finally got to see mighty Zanskar! In spate. Waters which we were told were pure blue just a few days ago, now a majestic muddy brown thanks to the rains and landslides. First the photos.

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Never thought so many shades of brown were possible. And that brown and barren could be so beautiful.

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All ready and roaring to go!

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Sigh.. instructions. And some more waiting

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Finally….

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Wooohooo!

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The Sangam. Our starting point. Surprisingly clear confluence of the rivers.

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Thank you Splash !  And thank you Raju ! Yep, the burly, curly, rocking rastafarian rafting instructor was named Raju. He totally rocks. Spends his time trekking, camping, organising trips between Ladakh and Nepal. Whatta life. Highly recommends the weeklong full moon rafting expedition.  Here’s his number incase you’re planning to a trip to Ladakh or Nepal.

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Our organizer was “Splash”. They have a setup right at the Sangam. Pretty barebones set up. A large room where you can change into the wet suit. All at once. Not for the squeamish. Don the cold wetsuits, rubber shoes, pile into the cars for 5 km or so drive to the actual starting point upstream. Single narrow, barely there roads. With work underway in many places. Work – some place to actually make the road, some places to clear the landslides. And every patch there’s work happening, the vehicles halt. Till there are enough in the queue to justify a break in the work to let them through. The 5 km took us upward of an hour. Heightening the anticipation, the apprehension, and the butterflies in our stomachs. Once we reached, it was another hour’s wait for all 60 ppl sdcheduled for that day to show up; and then the rafts and the oars.

The nervousness piled up. The other folks around giving us weird looks. 22 women! How are you gonna have an all woman raft?! Rowing is difficult!! You’ll have to mix up with the other groups and have a woman or 2 in each raft. Etc etc. By now were cold. Bladders full. Nervous. Anxious. Fuming a bit. And just plain eager to jump into the water.

The instructors came. A quick 5 min of instructions on land. Life jackets on. And in we go. No mix n match. No fuss about an all woman’s group. Everyone had to row. And by some quirk, I landed up in the front. My usual doubting self, I worried whether I could do it, whether I had the stamina, with all the random health issues and lack of energy and blah blah..

But once we were on our way it all melted away. The familiar adrenalin rush. All fears and doubts aside. Just looking out for the next rapid. Plunging in. It’s like the earth, sorry, river, gives way beneath the raft, the raft tips, rises and then plunges a coupla feet, my oar hung in mid air, waiting to hit the water again. Then plunging it in, with all my might. Rowing like crazy. Keeping pace. Screaming. Grinning. Drenched. And loving the view, the thrill, right up front.  Sigh…….

The last few km the rapids eased up. It turned into a lazy, lazy river. We had to row just to move ahead. And then we stopped rowing. To soak in the scenery. To let our heart beats stabilise. Until Raju instigated us to jump over board.

And I did. Into freezing waters. 4 degrees I’m told.  It’s really squishy. The way the water oozes into the wet suit. And though the river looked lazy, I could feel the under currents. Hung on to the raft and floated in lazily the last km or so to the landing point.

Hating to get out of the water. Wanting another round…. someday, perhaps soon, I’ll do that trip to Nepal.

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