18 December 2009

Siang 2009: Trip of a Lifetime

The Brahmaputra or Siang as it is called in Arunachal Pradesh is one of the most remote rivers in India, and considered by many as the "biggest water" rivers for rafting in Asia. It had fascinated (and in my mind, challenged) me for the longest time.

I had decided long ago that I would be in a raft on the Brahmaputra one day, not the easiest task to achieve and it took me some time. I have caught the rafting bug over the past couple of years and it was almost inevitable that the Big One would come around soon. I signed on for the Siang earlier in 2009 and then spent most of the year looking forward to it... its strange when you look forward to something without knowing what exactly to expect.

We landed in Dibrugarh and took a day-long ferry ride to Pasighat. It was a very slow ferry since it was going upstream but it was a great experience. We started off pre-dawn at about 4 am and by 8 am there was a round of Jack Daniel shots doing the rounds! We reached Pasighat late in the afternoon and had just enough time to take a walk around the town. Had a look at the lovely foodstuff that the local arunachali's enjoy - including rats......

The following morning we left Pasighat for Jenging. It was going to be a day-long drive in Tata Sumos and not one we were looking forward to. The sunrise (as always) was breathtaking, we saw it from the newly completed bridge across the Brahmaputra.

And the customary 'before' photograph of the entire group on the bridge.......
Along the road to Jenging we came along this incredible iron bridge and we just had to do a "boys are back in town" photo... thats Sanjay, Abhay, Richard and Me.

We stayed that night in Jenging and boy what a night it turned to be.... a group of us were partying till very late in the night and what happened next.... well, the less said the better. Lets just say much rum was consumed and much havoc was created.... poor old Jenging town will never be the same again......We left the next morning from Jenging to Tuting, which was going to be the put-in for our rafting expedition. The anticipation was beginning to build and we had already spent 3 days together as a group - we were getting to know each other and realised that it was a great bunch of people. We went into Tuting town the next day and spent a relaxed time preparing ourselves for the big run down the river.

The rope bridge across the Brahmaputra... very very scary to look at but great fun to cross, exhilarating.

We started the expedition at Tuting after blessings from Buddhist Monks and local Adi priests, just below the Class 4 Ninguing rapid. The big story that day was the Palsi and the Palsi's Bitches were immortalized forever. Richard had the ride of his life on the wrong side of the front of the raft down Palsi and Sanjay had the best view in the house ! Lord Paul was in the water and not alone... Amit, Aaron and many others joined him... They all had the best stories to tell. Other than Palsi Conquerors, of course.... Vik, Abhay, Vivek, Atul, Claudia, Deepika and Sonal... Take a bow!
We camped that night at Pango which was arguably the best campsite, spacious, lots of beach and beautiful stream flowing right next to us. We slept that night in our 2-man tents with the soft gurgling sound of the stream and nothing else.

On Day 2, we rafted down the Pango rapid and entered the Ninguing and Marmong gorges. These are some of the remotest gorges in the world and quite inaccesible.

That day we ended up at the Class 6 Toothfairy rapid. Easily the most intimidating rapi I have ever seen in my life. It was impossible to run and so we portaged across and set up camp right above the rapid. The rapid roared all night while we slept peacefully by. The following morning Norbert decided to run the rapid in his Kayak - what an incredible sight that was.

That day we rafted down to the camp where we had our rest day. Unfortunately, it was raining almost through that one and a half day period and all our clothes were wet and damp, not pretty. I think the weather cleared up just long enough for us to have the Aquaterra Beach Olympics and what a laugh that was. Heads spinning, people spinning, coins up strange places and finally the decisive tug of war!

Campfires at the end of every day... Naren, Me, Vivek, Deepika, Sejal, Vaibhav, Sanjay
Sejal's Yoga Class (which Abhay enjoyed from the 'other' side)
What a great bunch of people in the group... Deepika, Amit, Vivek, Naren, Sanjay, Me, Lullu, Paul and Richard
The last big rapid on the trip was the Ponging which needed a scout and was quite the honker.

The rafting run ended back under the bridge at Pasighat. It had been an amazing journey down the river with a bunch of great people and good friends now.

The "after" photo....
But the trip was far from over, not with this bunch ! The next day was my birthday and it was going to be special... they made sure of that. We took the ferry back across the river from Pasighat to Dibrugarh and straight to the airport for our flight back to Delhi.

It was going to be a long day for all of us getting back to Delhi and everyone was kind of resigned to that.... at the airport they decided to break into song in the Security lounge "Happy Birthday to you"... very very embarassing! and nothing like anything that Dibrugarh had ever seen before...
was that it? oh no... there was more to come.... my friends made the purser announce in the flight that it was my birthday and then proceeded to cut a pastry and smear it all over my face..... embarrassing but great fun and i really enjoyed it... a birthday to remember forever....
To go with the trip to remember forever..............