RAFTING IN ZANSKAR VALLEY

The eddying waters, the thrill of anticipation of the next turn, adrenaline pumping through your veins as you grip the paddle tightly doing everything in your strength to manoeuvre the raft to safety. Sounds like a scene from a ship wreck movie where you are vying for your last breath? But actually it's not. This is something that you can experience if you go river rafting in the white, swirling waters of the rivers flowing in Zanskar Valley. Ladakh is one of the coldest places to be inhabited on the face of this earth and Zanskar Valley is a part of this cold desert town. The Indus River, locally known as "Singhe Khobabs" (literally meaning out of a lion's mouth) flows through this quaint place providing a perfect stretch for thrill seekers among the Zanskar Range. The part of the mighty river flowing through Zanskar offers white waters of difficulty grade II to IV on the International Scale of River Difficulty.
The Indus originates from the Mansarovar Lake at the gigantic Kailash Mountain in Tibet and traverses through the crown of India, Kashmir, and merges with Shayok to become the major Indus in Pakistan. The water levels are usually low in the Ladakh region but during the monsoon months of June to late August the measly water flow gets a new lease of life and roars forth and becomes an impeccable destination for white water rafting.

INTERNATIONAL SCALE OF RIVER DIFFICULTY

As mentioned above, the waters of Zanskar offer a difficulty level of grade II to IV. But how is the difficulty of water flow measured? There is a standard scale accepted everywhere that divides the rapids in a river according to the threat posed by them to the adventurists.

GRADE I
Level of difficulty is extremely easy and requires only very basic manoeuvres at the paddle. There are little or no obstructions and placid waves.

GRADE II
Level of difficulty is novice. The rocks or occasional boulders in the water are easily missed by skilled manoeuvring. The channel is wide and the rapids are straightforward.

GRADE III
Difficulty level is intermediate with powerful currents and eddies forming in large volume waters. It's advised to scout for comparatively safer locations if one has not mastered complex manoeuvres to overcome irregular waves and obstructions.
 
GRADE IV
This level is for the advanced. The part of the river offering unavoidable, strong waves, stronger currents and constricted passageway requiring fast handling and presence of mind falls under the category of grade IV rapids.

GRADE V
This river section is the expert level. The waves are turbulent and the path is treacherous. One will face many tight turns and unavoidable drops down chutes during the course of grade V rapids.

GRADE VI
Classified as extreme and exploratory rapids this stretch is so dangerous that there is no scope for error as the result can lead to a certain death. To be undertaken only by a team of experts after a very thorough medical examination and equipment check.

ITERNARY
The first step towards this eventful and adventurous excursion is going to Leh which is at a height of 3466m above sea level. You can stay here for a day or two and acclimatize to the new height and environment and also to bolster your energy reserves. You can walk about and explore the beautiful Tibetan culture at Leh at various monasteries.

The next step would be to make your way towards the Kargil district which is a 180km drive. On the way you will cross the Fotu La which is a high mountain pass; an exit out of the Indus Valley. Next up is Rangdum, the drive to which offers views of Panikar and Parkachik and also scenes of hanging glaciers and large meadows. You should also pay a visit to Rangdum Gompa.
 
RANGDUM GOMPA
After all the travelling one finally reaches the commencement point of their rafting experience at Remala. The Stod River is the starting point offering grade II rapids which are ideal for beginners or first timers. The Stod River is a tributary to the Zanskar River and is surrounded by the Zanskar range. After camping at an amiable spot at Remala, rafting begins through the grade II level of the river and continues till Karsha Gompa near Padum (the administrative centre of Zanskar). After another night of camping under the clear star struck sky you paddle your way through grade II and III rapids to Honyo or Pidmo.

After a break the currents get stronger and require more swift manoeuvres as you move down towards Nyerak, you can prepare yourself to encounter gorges and chutes which can be overcome by quick paddle work. The river narrows down and is like the Grand Canyon in its own right. The next day is set aside for a day of camping and regaining your muscle power which is essential for rafting through the next grade of water difficulty.
 
The river stretch from Nyerak to Lamayuru will throw advanced challenges your way with grade IV rapids. Enhanced hand-eye coordination and a presence of mind will make this experience something you will never forget. The spray of the cold water on your ecstatic face, heated up with all the exertion is something that has to be felt to be understood. This stretch is 35km in length and runs through the heart of the Zanskar River. One further row down to Nimmu encountering 40km of grade III and IV rapids and thus ends this exulting experience of rafting.
A drive down to Leh and a pocket full of tales to tell is how your trip will end.