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The moment I started paddling back in an Indian river after a two year hiatus, I felt an immense rush of excitement and satisfaction. It had taken three and half exhausting days going directly from my front door to get to that river in Meghalaya, India, but it was the best possible start to a three month SE Asian traveling and paddling adventure. Meghalaya is a very newly known paddling destination, having seen only a few groups over the last couple years, but it is of such quality that there should be many return trips. It has escaped attention because the mountains here are separate from the Himalayas, much smaller, and rivers are rain dependent. Big smooth boulders, warm water, and heaps of first descents make it a great paddling option in India. I paddled with brothers Dan and Joe Rea-Dickins, who had been there the year before and led me down a classic, California-style river called the Kinchee, where we later completed a first descent on the upper stretches.

After these rivers in Meghalaya I know I’ll be back, but I had to leave and meet up with Ben Stookesberry and Pedro Oliva to start our own 50 day paddling adventure in India, Laos, and Nepal. We would be filming the sixth season of our Brazilian television show KAIAK(, and had a serious schedule of destinations to cover. From the plains and steppes of central India we went back to Arunachal Pradesh and some of the best big water on earth on the Siang River. And no kayaking trip with Ben Stookesberry would be complete without a breathtaking first descent, so up the mountains and almost into China we went for the Siyoum river. Too little time and never enough paddling in Arunachal and we had to leave the mountains and go back to the airport for a trip to tropical and warm Laos.

The Mekong at Khone Phapheng along the Cambodia border is truly impressive and one of earth’s most amazing whitewater playgrounds. With fairly high water, we stayed out of most of the main channels but had a world of opportunity in the smaller, more numerous channels. The diversity in difficulty from low volume class V to high volume class II, and some of, if not the most impressive big water rapids I have ever seen(but not paddled) make the Mekong unforgettable. Throw in cheap, easy living, great food, friendly, mostly helpful locals, and you have a hard to beat destination. It left us itching to get back to the mountains though, and we turned back toward the tallest mountains on earth in Nepal.

A young kayaker, Surjan Tamang, met us at the airport and began regaling us with stories about his mentors Sano “Babu” Sunuwar and Anuup Gurung, both great Nepali adventurers, and how we were going to try some rivers they had been the first to do. From his stories about their exploits including crazy first descents and Babu para-gliding from the top of Mt. Everest then paddling out the Dudh Khosi to the ocean(, I knew we were going to get into something good! I thought I had seen big mountains before, but seeing the peaks in Nepal was something else. Driving toward them, then hiking closer up the Seti and Madi rivers gave us new perspective on what big mountains really are, and the steep rivers that tumble down their flanks. Trying to keep up with Surjan on the trail gave new meaning to fitness, and to keep up with his excitement and enthusiasm just as difficult.

The diversity and quality of experience possible in these places, especially India, impressed and carried me into the new year, making me more excited than ever for another year of adventure and kayaking. Thanks to all along the way for so much hospitality and generosity that truly made for an amazing and unforgettable trip.

Find more information on paddling in India and meet some local paddlers:

Nepal Info:

Great adventure story!
Nat Geo Adventurers “Babu” and Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa

Photos by Dan Rea-Dickins, Ben Stookesberry, and Chris Korbulic