The Brahmaputra River

Northeast India, Arunachal Pradesh

As Sanjay and myself  walk up the rocks to the put-in, all I can hear is the roar of the rapid and concentrate on not slipping on the rocks. 15 Min’s of walking puts us at the top of Ningging. This is a rapid that is breathtaking in size, a 8ft kayak floats along like a little matchstick.

We get our kit sorted, spray decks on, paddles in hand we push off the beach and head out to paddle down the playful giant. Peeling into the current and heading toward the middle of the river, you feel dwarfed by the size of the river. The first wave towers over our heads, crashing over us we reappear back into the sunshine. Paddle forward, turn to face a 15ft diagonal, charge down the middle, blast past a curler on the left, and a crashing wave on the right. Cheering as we make it down to the bottom. Over all too fast. Welcome to the Brahmaputra.

After a plane ride, a boat ride, 2 days in jeeps we were set up in camp just below Ningging rapid. Surrounded by elephant grass, tents, and the sounds of the river, I zipped into my bivy sack trying to remember how high the river was last time.

Dreams were filled with with visions of rafts and huge waves, boils and the ever persistent Tooth Fairy, a portage on the third afternoon of rafting. The next morning we put on, it was a gray day as the sunny weather we had thus far had taken a turn to fog,(which is normal) and heavily laden clouds.

The first day on the river involves running Pulsating Palsi. Seeing the spray being tossed up into the air, waves 2+ stories tall is invariably enough to get the adrenalin going. Over the next few days we would be running a number of fantastic rapids, but this being the first big one of the trip creates a rush for the clients and guides.

While the crews hung out we made our way down the river to scout the line. It seemed good to go. Avoid the holes and waves coming off the river right, then head toward river right after the pour over to avoid the huge waves coming off the river left. We all checked in, it was go time.

The guides advised their crews, safety kayakers got in their boats and  off we went. Paddling into the rapid, past the first hole, then there diagonal waves, now turn right and miss the waves on the left.

It all seemed good till the cataraft hit one of the diagonal waves just as it broke and it  almost stopped, surfing 25ft to the left. Straight into the towering waves. It was a marvelous ride, but the river catapulted the guide into the river. Lost from sight he reappeared clinging to his cataraft shortly downstream. During this trip this would be one of our two bits of falling in that would happen.

The rest of the trip went well. We had great beaches, huge rapids, placid sections. The river was running at a very high level so provided lots of time to rest, play frisbee, beach olympics, and share stories around the campfire in the evening.

Look forward for the next trip to the Northeast of India.

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