Every year I make it a resolution to do something new. Something that's out of my comfort zone. And so in 2016 it was white water river rafting. I love my Himalayan mountains and its terrain but, river rafting? Never crossed my mind until now.
I am a water baby in every sense. My dad threw my brother and I into the swimming pool when we were 3yrs of age. What's more (and please don't judge my dad) when we grew a little older, he would push us down in the deep end and gently hold his hand over our head. Why such torturing World War 1 techniques to poor innocent chubby kids? Simple - to remove the fear of water. Fast forward 25 odd years later, it worked. The water and its depths are now alluring to me.
So a travel buddy of mine and me decide to end the year 2016 with a bang. Literally. We booked ourselves on the Subansiri Expedition with Aquaterra, an adventure travel company based in India.
A summary of the itinerary in one line: 12 days, 8 days on the river, 8 days no shower (true story).
Every adventure trip starts with the packing experience. For one week, all I was doing was packing, unpacking, repacking. How much is too much, too little? I made it a point to buy myself a red shorts to wear over the wet suit. "Just in case I fall into the river, it'll be easy to spot me!" I told my travel buddy. Or so I thought. Hmm.
Day 1: We arrive into Delhi airport early morning with only a credit card to save us. With the recent demonitisation saga, the well-to-do NRI (I'd like to think so) now couldn't even withdraw a single rupee from the ATM. So with no cash and only a credit card, we spent about 8 hours in the airport waiting to catch our flight to Dibrugarh, Assam. Vaibhav Kala, founder of Aquaterra, gave us a headsup to get the 'A' seats so we caught glimpses of the Himalayan snow peaks. He should have also said to stay awake because I slept through the entire flight :-/
Early evening the whole team gathered at the hotel's terrace in Dibrugarh. Meet and greets took place, a traditional Assamese dance show followed with a traditional Assamese meal.
I went to bed trying to recall the names of the people I was going to spend the next few days with. A very interesting group from a doctor and his belle, a Nat Geo photographer and his father (both kayakers), a jewellery designer, an artist (her 3rd run on the Subansiri!).
Day 2: The next day we make our way towards the put-in point. We cross the mighty Bhramaputra via the local river boat. As we drive towards Basar, I look forward to cherishing one more night on a bed, before we snuggle into tents for the next 8 days. We meet the Aquaterra team - the people we would be clinging onto in case we fell off the raft (or so we thought). This team was like the Avengers; they had the super powers to do anything and everything. Their love and zeal for the outdoors is beyond my understanding.
Day 3: As we drive close to our put-in point at So Nala, roads get narrower and less tummy-friendly. We set pitched our tents, gathered around the bonfire and listened to what would become our mandatory briefing time every night by expedition leader Dhruv Rana. That night was particularly stunning with the entire landscape graded in hues of silver and grey from the full moon above us.
Day 4: Task #1 is get into your wet suit. How can something be some difficult to get into. Between kneeling, sleeping on my back and rolling over, I finally zip my suit up. I wasn't alone in this mission, I realised as I noticed everyone break sweat trying to do the same. We're all finally geared up and with our paddles we fall (notice not step into) the raft. I hope we remember our paddle commands, I think.
"Ok guys, brace yourself" says Rana. I can see us approaching the rapid. "Listen to the commands and don't stop paddling" he continues. Gulp. I hope everyone's making mental notes. I'm running through the rescue drill in my head as well, just in case. "Hard forward, paddle faster! Ok GET DOWN". I duck into the raft and clenched onto the lifeline. Phew! We did it! Ok, so that's what it feels like. WOW! That day we encountered like technical 3 to 4+ rapids. Incredible, each one of them.
We camp at Koda.
Day 5 to 9: From Koda to Taliha, Taliha to Menga, Mega to Wilderness Camp (this is the point where there's no road access and we're deep deep into the forest greens). Wilderness Camp to Tree Log beach, Tree Log bench to our final Paradise Camp.
Each day had the same drill: Reach campsite, pitch tent, dry your wetsuits. Sit around the bonfire and talk about the day's events. Dinner at 7pm and to bed at around 9pm. Chai time at 6am, breakfast at 7am. On the river by 8am. But, what differed was our bond with the river and with one another. What also varied was our munchies on flat river. Everything from nuts, chocolates to namkeens made it's way from hand to hand, raft to raft. The best however, were theplas served with spicy chili pickle, courtesy the culinary kindness of our Gujarati couple. Nothing trumped eating theplas - Gujarati flatbread made with flour, fenugreek leaves and some spices - on the Subansiri river. Mmms and oohs between bites, completely riveted by the joy of enjoying our theplas on the river.
And so, when you're away from the city humdrum, no network connection, no roads then all you're left are conversations and experiences that draw you closer to nature and life. 100% recommend such trips before you seek counselling for stress or to find your purpose in life.
Experience the run - see our trip video: