The journey continues….

On 29th August, Ian Beecroft, Graham Helsby, Mattias Thomann and myself set off on an expedition to run the Tsarap Chu and the Zanskar. On the fourth day of what had been a amazing expedition and some of the best days of my life, a couple of hours from the Tsarap-Zanskar confluence, Ian got stuck in a hole and swam.  By the time we recovered him from the water he had passed away.  I am not sure we will ever know how he died, whether he drowned or whether a heart attack or other medical condition came in to play; but what I am sure of is that he will be missed and never forgotten by people across the world.  Over the week that I knew him I was inspired by his positivity, knowledge and encouragement to chase my own little missions.  I hope that his family and friends will take some comfort from the size of his smile only moments before he left us, doing what he loved.

I have made short video of the Tsarap-Chu. I hope it serves to show something of the happiness in the last few days of Ians life…..

From here I will move on with this story of my adventures.  You can rest assured that Ian, his family and friends are never far from my thoughts, though the Tsarap, and the people  I shared it with are now far away.

Following the accident I decided to stay in Padum, a the confluence of the Zanskar and the Tsarap; a slightly crazy place, full of slightly crazy people, while the rest of the team returned to Europe with Ians body.  The following day I returned to the Tsarap to recover the boat.  I soloed the final stretch of the Tsarap to Padum under the watchful eyes of the Indian police, a lonely mission that should have been shared with friends.

I stayed in Padum for 2 days, getting a taxi up the Doda for a good days boating on the fast flowing grade 3 waters of the other tributary that forms the Zanskar……

On 6th September the raft guides from the Splash camp arrived in town with 3 clients to raft the Zanskar, a trip which I had arranged to join as a safety kayaker.  I wasn’t really ready to see them when they arrived; they were buzzing after a 2 day non stop (somewhat drunken) jeep ride from Leh. But their happiness is infectious.  I found it impossible not to be positive around them.  I camped up with them by the river in Padum, drinking Indian rum and listening to Nepali songs into the night.

The next day we set off on the Zanskar, flat to begin with before you enter the most amazing canyon on earth….
There were some awesome rapids as well; and plenty of surf waves – nice to have an unladen boat.  On the 2nd day we reached a big drop caused by a landslide from the right.  All the kit was portaged around over the rocks before the raft was lined round and reloaded.  I carried my boat all the way down to do safety for the raft….. then carried it all the way back up again to run the rapid – the only person to run it…… so much fun, a big curler at the bottom fired me out skyward… crazy!
We camped by the river.  Every night we went on a mission to find alcohol (not having brought any with us). Somehow even in one of the most remote places on earth Raju (one of the raft guides) managed to find alcohol.  The first night in a mini shop in a cow shed at the back of a village (so well hidden most of the villagers didnt know it was there).  The protocall seems to be…… sit in silence in whichever house/ shed/ yard/ doorway with associated local for about half an hour, smiling and nodding from time to time….. eventually ask where you can get beer from…… get sent to another house/ shed/ yard/ doorway…. repeat until beer appears.  This means that I have visited many Ladakhi houses/ sheds/ yards/ doorways….. an experience not many tourist get I imagine 😉
On the 2nd night, Me, Raju and Neema ended up in the tiny stone box that comprises this dudes house.  He is 80, has the most gnarled hands I have ever seen, and lives in this smoke filled box with all his possessions in little alcoves around him.  After some Chinar (46%Indian rum) he started croning Ladakhi folk songs, giggling from time to time.  Soon other villagers arrived and joined in ( I dont know where from, I couldnt see any other houses anywhere around).  Such a dude!
We made it out of the Zanskar canyon on 9th September ending up back at Sanghams restaurant and the confluence of the Indus and the Zanskar.
As the Nepalis (and me) were leaving to go to Leh the next day, and a group of 5 awesome Americans finished the Tsarap on the same day; it was decided there should be a party at Sanghams that night.    It turned out to be a mental night…. so much dancing, so much Godfather (beer) – a good proportion of which was sprayed around the room formula 1 stylee, so much laughing, so much fun.
Following a second leaving party in Leh the next evening it was time to say goodbye to Ladakh.  Eight of us flew from Leh airport to Delhi, buzzing to be on the move again.

The journey to Nepal didn’t quite go to plan:  Delhi was unbelievably hot – I ended up stuck in my hotel room for about 8 hours after being left behind by the raft guides when they went out shopping.  After a restless night, a 4am wake up call  and a taxi ride to a bus in a back street I was not best pleased when the bus refused to take me as I don’t have a Nepali or Indian passport as it was taking the alternative route…. so Govinda, one of the raft guides, and I ended up in Govinda’s brothers shoe box of a room where he lives…. no windows, no air conditioning. We waited there for another 6 hours – so bored, so hot, before heading to the mental buzz of Delhi train station – I do not know how anyone can live like that.

The sleeper train was actually good fun… the highlight being trying to eat very liquid Daal Baat on a rocking bouncing train –  fair to say my truly ladylike eating skills didn’t do me proud! A taxi, a visa and two buses later and we finally arrived in Pokhara, two hours ahead of the other raft guides, happy days.

It’s fair to say monsoon has not yet left Nepal.  After the barren desert of Ladakh, Nepal is more green than you can imagine…. so so beautiful.  The day after reaching Pokhara I found myself on a local bus heading to Govindas sisters house on the Trisuli…..

Daal baat early bed and the next morning I found myself on my first Nepali river of the trip.  The last time I did the Trisuli it was about 10 metres wide, the river I found myself on was not the same river at all.  Valley wide and chocolate brown the massive wave trains and sometimes massive holes were fun fun fun in a valley of green jungle and pouring waterfalls.

The season is only just starting here in Nepal with very few trips running. The next day I found myself setting off to the Kaligandaki with Swissa, a company of mainly Israeli clients.  After 3 days of solid rain, as we drove up the valleys every river we came to was huge and churning – crazy crazy amounts of water. The kaligandaki was nothing like I remembered it, so so beautiful in a sheer sided, jungle lined gorge.  I think its fair to say the river was in spate, huge rapids…. so much fun.

It was only the second trip of the season for the rafts and the river level was about a metre higher that during the last trip.  I have done safety kayaking before, I have never done safety kayaking where the  rafts don’t know the lines and have to be mummy ducked down the river by the kayakers – crazy!

It didn’t stop raining, overnight the river rose another metre or so, finally flooding my tent during breakfast….

 When we got back on the river it was obvious that the raft guides and the safety kayakers were pretty scared, none of them had rafted the river at this level before… I think ‘off its tits’ is a good way to  describe it ;).  I was nervous, but it was great.  We took chicken lines with the rafts down a fair few of the rapids and it was still pushy.  So many great rapids.

So now I am back in Pokhara and after failing to drag the raft guides out paddling today, I have succeeded in doing washing and buying some clothes (it appears that Beth made clothes are not strong enough  for the life of a paddling bum which has caused pretty much all of them to spontaneously disintegrate …. this has meant I have been living in a raft guides jeans(!) for the last 2 weeks ha ha ha)

Today it stopped raining so tomorrow – back to the kaligandaki for round two – can’t wait!!!!

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