November 6, 2007

Uttaranchal update

In search of some more 'Big' water paddling we headed up the Alaknadra River. The lower section is run often by rafting outfits but the upper reaches don't really see a lot of action. Also, the tributaries to the Alaknadra showed promise for lower volume steep creek paddling.

The India 2007 team practicing 'rafting up'
From the left: Zak, JJ, Sam, Steve and Shalabh.
Abscent: Ben Jackson

So with high hopes we drove up stream to the Dali Ganga, the largest tributary. On the way stopped in town to check out the permit situation. If we planned to paddle in the National Park we needed to get the right paper work . From here we drove the dusty, windy road and found a great section of river. Fours kilometers of great road side boating, good gradient, good flow. What could possibly go wrong....

The Dali Ganga
Image: Sam Hughes

The first day went without a hitch. The boys ran nice lines and had a great time on the water. After spending the night sleeping outside the local school we decided to give the section another run because it was so much fun. Good lines, good times and we even had a group high on the river bank to wave us on.

With spirits high the boys shouldered the boats back to the road to meet Sangroup with the car. Waiting with Sangroup and Shalabh were some stern faced uniformed men with big guns.

A local lady eyes up Zak and JJ

As it turns out, the people waving to us from the bank were actually park officials. They instructed the guards to impound our vehicle and all our gear. With an armed escort we were driven back to Josimath the the district headquarters. He we were interrogated and help over night for paddling 'near' the national park. It was decided that we could either pay a R20 000 rupee fine or be dragged through the court system and face a two month jail sentence.

Sam Hughes punching through

With venom running through the veins we reluctantly paided the fine. We were informed that had we obtained a 'permit' for the section 'near' the national park all would have been good. With this fresh information we the tried to get permits to paddle a section on the Alaknandra. We were declined because kayaking permits don't exist. Indian bureaucracy is very frustrating.

The irony of this whole ordeal is that we were charged with paddling on the river and therefore causing potential damage. All the while a massive dam is being constructed in this World Heritage Area. Go figure aye.

Don't take a kayak to a gun fight

With pockets empty we cut our losses and continued our journey further east. Grrr!

In search of some stress relief we sort out a 'legal' big water section further down stream. The day was going well until we ran into some locals. A car had crashed into the river two weeks earlier with 14 people on board (this is India after all) and one of the bodies had washed up on an island. It was good to help out the locals but body recovery is a pretty grim task.

The team with the grim task of recovering a body

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