'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

Born of the sacred lake, Mansarovar, our river of adventure this month is first known as the Yarlung Zangbo, “the Purifier,” or more commonly the Tsangpo. The Tsangpo flows across it’s own vast windswept plateau before bending south, rushing through a cut in the Himalayas to India. At the border, the river changes name and speed to become the Siang. Near the town of Pasighat, the Siang joins with several tributaries and then is formally known as the Brahmaputra. From Pasighat the river flows flat and quiet all the way to the Bay of Bengal, interestingly the Brahmaputra is the only major river of India whose name is a derivative of the male gender!

The wild stretch of river from Tuting on the Chinese border to Pasighat can be considered one of the world’s great rafting adventures. Access to the river at this point is via helicopter (!) and jungle trekking. If you are not familiar with leeches, you will be by the time you arrive at the river put in. If you are lucky, this area of India has large numbers of wild elephant, buffalo, one horned rhino, red panda, hog deer and the very seldom seen clouded leopard. Tiger tracks and tracks from the common leopard are normally sighted on the many sandbars. Mugger crocodiles are sometimes seen basking on those same sandbars. There is a lot of wildlife here, 500 species of bird including hornbills and cranes with exotics such as white winged duck, Sclater’s monal, Temmick’s tragopan, and the Bengal florican. There are also 500 varieties of orchid; sometimes the damp quiet morning area smells richly scented. Further down the river nearing Pasighat the fields can come alive with pheasants, there are more types (10) and numbers of pheasants here than anywhere else in India. I have an amazing tiger/pheasant story from here and hope to relate this terrifying tale in a later saga.

The river is very remote and contains many roaring rapids to class V. The people living in the villages seldom see outsiders and some will trek through the jungle for miles just to sight you! I can’t overstate how remote this area is. There are no roads in this area where China, Myanmar and India converge, just mile after mile of jungle. The villagers and farmers have many different languages and ethnic backgrounds with Adi and Bori being the most common. All worship the Donyi-Polo, the Sun-Moon, and the river because of its fierce nature. Not feeling well? The local Bori shaman might treat you using different species of tree frog! Access is difficult, be prepared both mentally and physically for your two-week journey down the Siang. November through April is the best time. The monsoon begins in April and travel at that time would be most unpleasant. A one-day float from Pasighat is available and one day of rafting here would be better than missing it all together. As always, take your time and take the time.

Contributed by John H.Eickert

Num Bum Adventures or call 406-777-2228.

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