Adventure

Sutlej

'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
John H.Eickert

The bus broke down. I do not speak Hindi and the only thing I could understand to be true was, the bus was done moving. Everyone got off and carried their belongings away from the bus. As a traveler I was used to delays, what was different this time was, we were in a large city, Shimla. It was nice to be stranded somewhere other than ‘a million miles from nowhere.’ I had been on my way to Leh, taking a bus from Delhi over the Manali highway, headed for the province of Ladakh. I ended up staying in Shimla for a little over two weeks. There I learned about the classic epic the Ramayana and the classic river rafting experience, the Sutlej.


The Sutlej originates from a lake south of Mt. Kailas in Tibet cleaving the Himal in a forced attempt to reach the lowlands of India. This is a lush area of farms and fruit trees. My descent with a local company in Shimla began north of town and lasted one week. The Sutlej is a large unruly river with a rapid, Patakhra, which must be portaged! I was surprised to find such incredible water so low in the river system. Since then, I have read of the tremendous gorge of the middle Sutlej near the mountain pass of Shipku La. I hope someday to return and trek in the area around the gorge. The days on the river are long as there is a lot of water to cover, on average count on six-hour days covering 20 or more kilometers of water. In the middle of the trip, there is an opportunity to soak at the hot springs at Tattapani. This brings welcome relief, as paddling such distances is exhausting. The Sutlej offers an incredible outing only hours away from Delhi.


The adventure doesn’t stop at the take out point. The river trip ended at the Salapper Bridge on the Sutlej. There I boarded a bus for Kalka. From Kalka I rode the old narrow gauge train back up to Shimla. On the train, I found myself seated next to a young, energetic university student. We spent the five hours of train travel discussing the Ramayana. I enjoyed the train ride and the discussion. The train clattered up the tracks crossing kilometer after kilometer of bridges and passing though over one hundred tunnels. I was equally fascinated by the story of Rama and especially the antiquity of the saga and the oral tradition, which allowed the saga to be passed through generations. Finally, I returned to Shimla. Finally, I found another bus bound for Manali and its deodar forests, with Leh there beyond the many passes. I think of Shimla its cool air and fruit trees. I think of the river, huge hydraulics, and rapid descent. I wonder if I will ever find the time to see the gorge at Shipku La.
I hope you take the time and when you do remember to take your time. Cheers.

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