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By Darin McQuoid

The beauty of traveling is that each day offers up the promise of the exotic. Seeing a bull being slaughtered roadside was certainly unique, and the village looked stoked for the feast!

One of the few industries on the Skardu Highway is semi-precious gem mining. From what we gathered, it’s a temporary dangerous job that pays well. Families camp out while men mine for a few months.The children would always run down the river banks to watch us run the nearby rapids.

In route to lodgings we had seen a good chunk of the rapids from the road, and many looked intimidating. The assumption was made that we would be scouting a lot. Ben Coleman on paddling big water; "you just have to let go".

And let go we did! Rafa and Ben would lead into long rapids, catching eddies, aggressively boat scouting as far as possible and then pushing past the point of no return. Not wanting to slow the team down we all followed as best we could, as the lead paddler would disappear behind massive waves. Drive right squeezing past a hungry hole, then quickly turn and paddle as hard as possible back to the left avoiding yet another equally scary hydraulic.

Rinse and repeat the same cycle for many miles, until we found ourselves at the portage that made the cover of Kayak Session. Rafa took a good look at it,but do to serious hydraulics and nasty caves, it didn’t get run.

While carrying our boats we all got a chuckle of the cover photo, once in location it was obviously a staged photograph. It was Rafa’s last day on the water, and this was a possible take out but it was still early in the day and we knew of a bridge downstream that we were sure to make it to.

Perfectly setting a perfect tone for the end of his Indus journey, the bridge cataract flowed through a large hole and into a river wide fold where anything could, and did happen.Some of the group came through with no problems, which some got deeper in the fold, which made for some entertaining video footage that will be in the teaser Ben is working on.

Our euphoria from running the rapid quickly faded as we were forced to bid farewell to Rafa, knowing his infectious personality, enthusiasm, and confident boating would be missed. He was forced to return for finals week in the pursuit of mechanical engineering.

We floated downstream with a keen eye out for a remote campsite that would give us an excuse not hike to the road. Camp was found at the ideal time, so we enjoyed the sandy beach, estimating we had covered at least twenty five kilometers in our read and run frenzy.

Look for this trip in Clear H2O Film’s upcoming release: Hotel Charley IV.


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