The Tons River, Uttaranchal

'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

I’ve sat here for hours going over old tattered notebooks trying to remember where I first read the statement. It seems it was twice long ago, when much of the world existed in my dreams and imagination. I wish I could remember because I have always been compelled towards accuracy, but here goes. “When moisture falls in the Himalayas, it eventually flows into one of two of the worlds oceans. From there, that one-drop of moisture moves about our planet in those broad ocean currents, eventually and on average, seventeen years later it could fall again on that same spot.” Hopefully I haven’t gotten this too far wrong; the statement creates a rich image. Many years ago northern India was the setting for my first overseas rafting adventure. That river is spat from the Garhwal Himal and its name is the Tons.

We stood beside the river, shaken from bouts of dysentery and drinking, but willing and eager. The raft before us had seen better days. It wasn’t a good raft to begin with and was now a patchwork. I wondered if it would hold air. One of the others in the crew questioned if it would even float. It did not matter, we were young, we were eager. We would foolishly try anything, consumed by youth and invincibility. Still, there was the raft and the beckoning roar from the river. The guide for our descent was a small dark glistening man with sparkling eyes and overly large mustache. His name was Kumar. He said he had rafted every river in India and the Tons, his favorite. He told us it was the most difficult river in the world to run. We appraised this small man. We, the young American rafting demigods with inflated egos and bulging biceps, just wanted Kumar to get us on the river. Our guide was older and certainly more experienced than any of us, yet we offered no favor, no respect.

Kumar explained how many days and how many rapids. He explained what he expected from us and how he hoped we would perform. He was kind and full of compliments. He also explained how dangerous the Class V rapids would be and how much fun the lesser rapids would be. He described how he would flip the raft in the smaller rapids. “Flip the raft intentionally!” We almost mutinied. Kumar explained how this was always done for the clients. It added more thrills and adventure. This disturbed our group, we had all been taught to keep the boat open side up and everyone in. I wondered how many had drowned in this river. I wondered if we were doing the right thing. I looked to my companions, but no one was willing to question or back away. With great trepidation, we loaded the raft and pushed off, our descent began.
Next month, the descent of the Tons, one of the wildest rides of my life, until then, take care. Cheers.

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