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Old 12-07-2009   #1
Avon, co Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 36
6 Day Ganges Raft expedition India, Raft rescue, trip report

5 turned 6 day Ganges river Ramble...
Here's a long story to hold over the buzz till ski season really kicks in.

I arrived in Dehli India in Early November, got picked up by my new employers Yash and Abhay of Ravers Rivers. I'd done just two days of safety kayaking for Ravers Rivers www.raftingganga.com on the Ganges "Ganga" Out of Rishikesh, India but my friend Nesto had been scheming this 150 km raft trip down India's holiest river Since him and Annie had arrived two months before..

Nesto helped me negotiate my work terms as well as talk Abhay into letting the 3 of us rent a raft for a 5 day self-guided river trip on the Ganga.
"Do we have to take the Nepali guy with us" Nesto Pleaded...

"You must take one guide cause if other company see's you with no guide, company's will complain. they do not allow...You do not pay for guide, only raft."

1000 rps a day to rent the raft and 2200 for jeep shuttle...a good inside deal!

You can take Ketan he go with you no problem, Ketan is Guide.

...He'll just be our "cultural consultant"...ok...we ponder.

we will borrow from other companies and get all equip for you.

Nesto and Annie buy 5 days of western-ish food and we gather our camping gear. With borrowed raft and miscellaneous items, not so dry drybags, a nearly seatless oar-frame, 3 paddles but no extra oar, we jeep out up the canyon, super winding road. 3.5 hrs later they pull over in a town and point down a steep set of stairs 150' down to the river.

"You start here!" Ajay says.

"3.5 hrs is surely not 150 km (not at all in india),, We go up farther,,no propblem, we'll find another place to put in."

...the river is just starting to look real consistently fun III...

nearly an hour later and already late in the day the road joins the river in another town...

"ok we start here, no problem."

Consistent but manageable class III for a couple of hrs and we pull out on a nice big beach.

A cold night sets in quick and we scramble to find only the tinest bit of wood to make a fire..This was my first first-hand eye-opener as to the effect of india's sprawling population on its resources... although we weren't near any large villages local demand for wood for cooking fuel left not even a piece of finger-sized driftwood on the huge beach and gravel bar.

"Ketan, you have tent?...You have sleeping bag?" --"No, No, I ok.."

WHAT! We can't believe they sent our "guide" with no sleeping bag even though they said he had all his own stuff. our cultural consultant had a small drybag that consisted on a plate, a pair of jeans, a sweater, and a cell phone!

Day 2

15 Indians see us off from the beach in the morning. after a cloudy, cold couple of hours of twists and wave trains we pull off on a beach and scrounge fire wood, make a fire, strip down and warm up. this turns into a full lunch stop, and Nesto and i break out the booze in true river trip fashion. shots of rum and charras. the suns comes ourt and I'm back rowing. good fun waves and boulder gardens. One wave chute narrows to a river-wide hole and ejects Ketan and I as I push the raft through. I take a nice bruise and scrape falling on the propane tank but we climb back in no problem. Nesto decides he should take a turn at guiding for a while, and we pull over to scout a long confusing rapid., "You want me to guide this one?" No I'll do it, you just got ejected and you're half-drunk." Annie made one supportive comment, "well Mike did prove himself as a black-out oarsman in blossom bar on the rogue in Oregon." anyways, Nesto spins us through just fine. (we were overly nervous). But I'm back in the drivers seat shortly as the horizon lines start coming quicker. A tricky slant hole catches the raft and we are surfing back and towards the meat of the hole, ohh man i think, but then a well timed blade stroke and a lucky surge of the hole pops us back out. "We were totally surfing that hole" Nesto exclaims boastfully. Our confidence in the unknown section of river rises! We are getting splashed and having a good time.

A thunderous wave train leading into a narrow gorge beacons a scout. Annie waited patiently by the raft while we scrambled a 1/4 mile of talus along the wave train trying to look into the meat, already into the steep walled canyon. It was straight forward. power strait down the 1/4 mile of overhead rollers and cut hard left through a surging lateral to make the narrow "gate" channel without getting pushed right into a huge rock with adjacent "room of doom" swirling Eddie river right. What we couldn't see was that the rock was super undercut and most of the water was pushing right into it and into the "room of doom" (obvious Westwater reference)

"Ok we see the move lets just do it no need to over-anaylize"...I say reassuringly. I look at Nesto smiling, "You can take it if you want to..already knowing his answer.." Nesto takes me aside for a brief 'man to man'

"You know you and me if we flip or swim, we'll be fine, and get over it, but if ANNIE has a bad swim, she's not gonna want to go on ANY more river trips, and then we're screwed...ok"

I swallow a lump in my throat and smile. "Challo" (Lets go)

Nesto, Annie, and Ketan clinch staps and dig their feet under the tubes. I power down the wave trin hard, straight on and then turn the boat slightly and pull hard backstrokes away from teh rock shooting for the gate. Our fwd speed was overpowering and the raft slammed straight into the rock in an instant crushing pin. Ketan dry exits right onto the rock, Annie gets spat into the "room of doom" and Nesto and I get tossed left making the gate. Nesto farther downstream yelling back at me "Where's Annie, Where's Annie" I swim fast to river right and catch our "food bag" drybag as it floats by. I can't see the raft but know it's just 60 ft upstream on the rock. Horrors of Annie pinned inbetwe4en the raft and the rock flash in my mind, as i shimmy upthrough a donut hole in the rock and climb to the top. I gasp in relief to see Annie and Ketan on the rock as well. Nesto's way down stream but is fine and will find a place to climb out of the canyon eventually, I explain. Examining the raft surge and pinch on the rock with our remaining attached dry bags being tossed violently in and out of the raft shuddered my skin. I Immediately acted to push the raft off the rock, and Thought Ok helmet-cam on time...(See Video but read rest first) I get the throwbag off the raft and run it through the chicken line on the raft handing both ends to Ketan, who stood there confused.

"hold this, don't let go of raft"

(Story continued in next post)

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Old 12-07-2009   #2
Avon, co Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 36
Ganges 6 day river trip report continued..

(Story continued)

I climb down the rock and attempt to push the raft with my legs, bracing my body against the wet rock. the river is surging over my legs. ahhh... I climb back onto the rock to examine any change in position.. I don't know what to do I shout out, a bit scared. It seemed like the raft which was taking such a violent beating would pop at any minuet. Then Ganga Maiye (Mamma Ganges) moves the raft slightly and slip.... it slips off the rock! In the same instant Ketan freaks and lets go of one end of the rope...the raft! The raft drifts by slowly in the flat water after the rapid. I follow it along the steepening cliff debating whether to jump in after it, "If the water is shallow I could break my leg...its not too far though..." Knowing Nesto was downstream I decided to run up along a trail and try to beat the raft down the the ghats (stairs to the river) that i noticed downstream. "Run, Run Annie down to the Ghats.." the helmet-cam times out on the run and we don't beat the raft but find Nesto down there with the Raft pulled to the shore. Nesto heroically dove in after the raft and retrieved it and every other piece of our gear that floated by. After i hiked all the way back to retrieve Ketan, the food bag, and jump in to a boiling eddie to get Ketan's own bag, we had everything except the stove top, Of course the two Oars,,,long gone with brass oarlock snapped, AND MY drybag with tent and sleeping bag inside.

"I saw your bag floating by,,, but, but I was getting other stuff and couldn't get it," Nesto pleaded... I grumbled, and we got back into the raft in the fading light. All Forward. we were now R3 paddling a 16' boat, with all wet gear. two turns later we see MY drybag floating in a big eddie. Thank God, praise mamma Ganga.

Note: many of our drybags were buckled into the raft frame but the force of the water in the pin popped the plastic buckles undone.

The next beach was camp, and we laid out our tattered ensemble, setup 1/2 wet tents and made a fire. Good thing Nesto brought a backup stove or we'd be without dinner. my sleeping bag was miraculously pretty dry floating in an open drybag. Annie's was soaked so she gave it to Ketan who was more than happy to have any sleeping bag and nesto and Annie shared... What a day...Natually we celebrated not dying and not completely destroying the raft with stiff rum and cokes, getting quite rowdy singing with the ipod.

Day 3

We Successfully R3 eaisy class III all the way down to the mandatory "dam Portage"
had the fun time and hidden expense of finding a jeep to drive us 10km around a newly constructed Dam at Shrinigar. We buy a new stove top in Shrinigar no problem but put back on the river at sunset and find camp at dusk to make for an extremely long day.

Day 4

we wake up to teams of horses being led through our camp for watering and taunting school children. We make good progress on the slow river in the morning, and decide we are due for an early camp after the last two days. Although Nesto refuses to paddle we make it to our best campsite yet on a big beach away from the road still with ample sun in the canyon. Ketan Sleeps and we leisurely prepare camp. Then at sunset. we see ketan once again talking on his cell phone, breaking a major river trip rule! He hangs up the phone, and points to the road high on the other side of the cliff.

"Yash, Abhay up there... I go now." What? Apparently he had phoned into the company owners add said he wanted off of this shitshwo trip and they were waiting 800 feet up on the mountain road. We are stunned.... "Ketan, we are through all the bad stuff, why don't you stay?....Hey we Start as a Team we Finish as a Team! ," Nesto pleads, "I go Now" was all he said. We watched sipping indian whiskey at our super sweet campsite as Ketan ferried the raft across the river. and climbed up out of the trail-less canyon in the twilight. Eventually we were laughing and taunting his name, "ketan! AHNA (come here) Whiskey!... The Subsitute guide "Stefin" comes over but they forget to give him Ketan's Life Jacket. which involed another night hike down into the canyon.

Confused but celebrating, we hand Stefin the Whiskey bottle and say "here welcome to the team!"

That night we finish the booze and celebrate a great camp with a roaring fire. to my utter disbelief, Nesto managed to burn into two a massive log by next morning's breakfast. "Eric Aguilar is a Winner"

Day 5

A hard day of Class II paddling to make good progress through a scenic canyon, the road is well above us and out of sight for most of the day. We stop at the holy confluence of the Bhagaritti and Alaknanda to get more food as is is apparent that we will need 6 not 5 days to finish the trip. a "Very clever Baba" invites us into his cave for stories and words of wisdom, but when he finds that we are uninterested in paying him for the wisdom he shuns us out. "You Scoundrels!" Another nice beach camp away from the road. with out booze though we are in bed early.

It wasn't until the next morning that we decided on "our team name" for this epic trip. Nesto who inspired the trip raved on how half of Jerry Garcia's ashes were deposited in the Ganga. Nesto who specially requested that i bring him the complete grateful dead garcia-hunter songbook for his guitar practicing insisted that the trip be named after Jerry... Anyway over our best and biggest fire of the trip on that last night we went back and forth on the name..finally the next morning Eric shouts out "ship of fools"

We played it on the ipod, and it stuck.

Thus the official name became:

The Greatful Garcia Ganges Ship of fools Ramble....

We debated the addition of ramble to the take out but I eventually just gave into Nesto.

Ramble on rose...ramble on goras!

Day 6

We packed up the camp early in the cold and were on the raft before sun hit on our campsite. a good morning fire helped us get going.

Annie made mention at least 10 times how she was would be walking the Class IV "wall" rapid we were likely to hit midday. It was obvious and we pulled out for the scout. The constricted wave train entry was guarded by several house size rocks and we could not see the monster hole but the line seemed obious left to right and there was a big eddy pool at the bottom....whew no real consequences, no pin spot, we wern't nervous anymore.. No problem. tie every thing down real good and we the R3 down sticking the left ro right line but the hole which appeared left from the scout was really more river wide and way huge! it instanly thew us back and ejected nesto and Stefin in the back, I got surfed in and the raft quickly fliped. it was still getting worked in the hole when i looked back from the eddie. It spat out and nesto and I dragged it into the eddie no problem, annie missed the pic, would of been classic...we had all 3 paddles though and flipped the raft over to find everytrhing still attached...we finish off the day tired but proud...

Ajay comes and picks up the ship of fools, near dusk on our 6th day. We drop the raft off and arrive back at high bank village at dark and enjoy the post river meal. No sooner than the tea arrives, Stefin and another guy arrive on a moto with an extensive "damage bill" from Abhay...oh maN

The next day we had A SOLID 2HR "meeting to negotiate oar loss payment, and explain the ridiculousness of it all"... Bottom line, Annie didn't fake cry and we made a reasonable compromised damage payment to Ravers for the missig Oars. The meeting ended satisfactory for both..I'm still with Ravers...and Still alive in India

Ganga Maiye Kei Jai!


More Expeditions to come, next spring. Off to Goa soon.....India Day 30 ish...Bhramaputra in Feb?

India....remember: More dams to come on the Ganga and Alaknanda, so paddle now,, not long till 1.2 billion becomes 2 billion as well.

Hopefully nesto who is now in another part of India will post pics!

The raft rescue captured on camera link again:


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Old 12-07-2009   #3
The Russian
kazak4x4's Avatar
SLC, Utah
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 1,380
Thanks for sharing, great story! Post more pics if available?

I am just curious how much your bill was at the end for the lost/broken equipment in US Dollars? And how is the equipment over there?
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Old 12-08-2009   #4
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Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,128
That is adventure at it's finest - or worst, either way a good story. Enjoy it.
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Old 12-24-2009   #5
Avon, co Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 36
pics of ganges ship of fools finally!

Some pics from the epic trip finally from Nestos camera after I caught up with him and Annie on Gokarna beach for christmas!

In no set order:

-The Raft with oars (day 2 ish)
-Sleeping Guide Ketan
-R3 guiding on the expedition
-Nesto shows the ultimate servant burned in half the morning after the big rally night
-The holy confluence of the Alaknanda and Bhagarritti to form the offical Ganges...
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Old 12-24-2009   #6
Avon, co Paddling Since: 2000
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ok pic 1

ok pic 1 india upload sux
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