Riding the Tons

'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 water in the Tons River wasn’t just cold, it was numbing. Last month I regaled everyone with my introduction to international whitewater adventure. This month completes that wild ride, that breathless ride, down the Tons. We launched ourselves into the river high in the Har-ki-Doon Valley, not far from the glacial source of the Tons, the mountain named Brandarpunch. Each day we paddled, shivered, and survived. Each day our guide Kumar urged us to dump the raft in the smaller rapids. We continued to refuse. Finally, on the second to last day, in a rapid I think was named the ‘horn of the Tons’ Kumar got his wish, and he flipped us. I fought my way out of the river and lay heaving on the bank under an enormous tree. It smelled like a cedar tree and kind of looked like one. I lay on my back letting my body warm while I watched the sky through the branches of the ancient tree. The deliberate incident in the river left me ready to end the trip and go on to something else. Eventually, we were all united with the raft and the next day ended our adventure.

Seventeen years later, or the time it would take for one drop of water to fall on Brandarpunch, find its way into the Tons, down to the Indian Ocean, dissipate up into a cloud, and return to Brandarpunch; I was walking in a botanical garden in Singapore, a long way from the Indian Himal, to be sure. Each plant had a sign explaining where the plant was from, its ecology, and range. I sat for a bit on a metal bench under a tree. I looked up through the branches into the sky, in the sky rode fluffy cotton, moisture carrying, clouds. The branches, the tree, seemed familiar. I turned and read the sign. The tree was a deodar, one of four species of cedar extant on our planet. It went on to state; deodar is derived from the Sanskrit devadaru or literally ‘the tree of the gods.’ I also read that the largest deodars in the world are found in the Har-ki-Doon. I sat wondering if I had crawled from the Tons on my own that day or had been plucked from the glacial water by the tree and the will of god. I sat for a long time, under those spreading limbs and contemplated my existence, my worth.

The Tons is easy to reach from Delhi. The Ichhari dam has changed some of the river, but there is still a wild white water descent to be had. The valley itself is cool and pleasant, worth visiting on its own merits, especially when contrasting with the rushing and crushing of Delhi. I hope you find yourself compelled to go there and I also hope you find time to sit under the spreading branches of an ancient deodar. Remember to watch the clouds and wonder where you will be in seventeen years!

Visit or call NumBum Adventurers at 406-777-2228

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