Jan 8, 2009

Pakistan – Indus River, Day Eleven

The beauty of traveling is that each day offers up the promise of the exotic. Eating beef in most countries is a rarity, and these guys look stoked about the prospect.

On the water for Rafa’s last day, Ben Stookesberry, Chris Korbulic, Rafa Ortiz and Phil Boyer.

Looking back upstream I was still in amazed by the bareness of the Karakoram.

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.

Children loved to watch us figure out the puzzle pieces of the Indus.

Rafa Ortiz figures it out once piece at a time.

Phil Boyer follows through the entrance.

Rafa Ortiz finishes the rapid, dwarfed by the vastness of the Karakoram.

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.

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.

Below the bridge we had seen a large rapid, we were perched above it sooner than expected.

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 happen.

Rafa Ortiz finishes off his Indus adventure with great style.

Ben Stookesberry gets welcomed to the fold.

I loved the rocks from the above angle, but it didn’t do justice to the size of the drop, here is Chris Korbulic about to hit the hole and get an amazing ride in the fold.

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.

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.

Looks like it got cold while we were on the water, fresh snow above the Indus River.

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

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