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White Water Rafting

Tourists during river rafting on Beas river after the authorities eased some restrictions during Unlock 5, in Kullu.

PTI Photo

Tourists attempt river-rafting on Beas river in Manali.

PTI Photo

The Threat
Time is running out for Arunachal's wild river, as South Asia’s largest dam at Gerukamukh fills up the wilderness around its higher stretches. The dam is scheduled for completion by early 2013. When the dam waters are released, a massive 38,000 sq km of rainforest will be lost—as will its unique flora and fauna. On the last few trips, in fact, tiger tracks were spotted just five kilometres upstream of the dam.

Ahtushi Deshpande

The Beaches
A substantial stretch of the lower river run is through a remote, uninhabited canyon gorge with no road support. The pristine beaches along the banks here are fringed with dense rainforest, and the cool waters make swimming in the river here particularly pleasurable. The surroundings make for wonderful beach parties too; ours typically began with sundowners at an early 4pm, with excited talk of rapid-bashings and conquests around a bonfire.

Ahtushi Deshpande

The People
One of the many great things about this river journey is the peek it affords into local culture, especially on the first two days of the run. The Tagin, seen in the picture on top, put the plentifully available bamboo to good use: they live in bamboo homes built on bamboo stilts, and use it to make everything from swaying bridges to intricate woven baskets. The Tagin still hunt in the forests here but, of late, fishing has also become a major activity. New roads and cable TV are visibly changing lives and livelihoods in the region.

Ahtushi Deshpande

The River
Between the smoothsailing sections of this little-explored gem lie turbulences where the water hurtles forward furiously, throwing up frothy bubbles of pristine whitewater. These adrenaline-inducing rapids pack a mean punch from the upper section of demanding rapids to the almost continuous pool-drop rapids and long-wave trains of the lower remote section. Kicking off from So Nala on a descent to Koda, we spent eight days on the river, descending 925 feet on a 164km run.

Ahtushi Deshpande

Mellow yet dramatic, giggly and flirty, Subansiri—the ‘golden river’—trails a dazzling path. A major tributary of the Brahmaputra, it drains the waters beyond the Himalayan ranges spanning from Tsona Dzong up to the Great Loop of the Tsangpo in Tibet. It then enters the eastern Himalaya at Asaphila into the rugged, isolated hinterland of Arunachal Pradesh’s Upper Subansiri District. Flowing like liquid emerald through dense rainforest, the river then charts a different course. Very difficult terrain with vertical rock faces, no road support for 150km of its run and sparse habitation in the lower reaches has kept a major part of this river’s raftable run isolated and remote. The river itself is demanding because of its heavy volume and flow. Our interactions with the warmhearted hill tribes further enhanced the otherwordliness of an uncommon, sometimes difficult, but extremely rewarding journey.

Ahtushi Deshpande

Whitewater rafting near Neeralaya

Saptarshi Biswas