The Kynshi river in India is one of the best new river finds in recent history, discovered by Palm’s Joe Rea-Dickins and his team. A series of stacked rapids wind their way through the wilderness of India. Offering up everything from boulder gardens to wave trains to ledge holes and a fifteen metre waterfall named ‘Shillong in a Box’.
This waterfall is wild, the entire flow of the river falls down a fifteen metre crack and creates one of the craziest landing zones I have ever seen. The power of the water and remoteness of the run should have been enough to have me picking up my kayak and portaging, but sometimes a line on a river just speaks to me. I had been feeling good all the way down the river and just couldn’t pass this waterfall up.
The power of the landing zone and the story of Daniel Egger breaking a rib on a reconnecting piece of rock on it made me decide to air-out and boof it. Trying and stay on top of the water and get away from the curtain of water on the right and the rocks on the left. The aeration and size of the pillow at the bottom made me feel good about landing flat and being able to take the impact and be okay.
Kayaking up to the edge was wild, normally with a waterfall this size you want to go slow, at the same speed as the water and gently roll of the lip and plug it. I sprinted to the lip, pulled the hardest stroke I could and all of a sudden I was flying, I couldn’t spot my landing because the nose of my kayak was in the way, all I could do was get forwards and brace for impact. I was expecting a big hit but instead I felt myself slip from the air into the water, it was almost gentle. Until the curtain of water on the right hit me like a tonne of bricks. I felt my kayak fold around my legs and thought that it would break my right leg. Thoughts of trying to get out of the gorge with a broken leg flashed through my mind and I cursed myself for not being more conservative. My kayak was full of water and dragging me further and further underwater when another powerful undercurrent ripped me out of the kayak. I was delighted that although it hurt, my leg definitely wasn’t broken. If I hadn’t been ten metres underwater I would have smiled.
I popped up just in time to gulp a big breath before getting sent down again by a seam line further down the river. I knew that I had would pop up eventually, I just had to stay calm and wait for my PFD to bring me to the surface. After around eight seconds I popped up and saw my mate Frazer heading towards me to help, I gave him the okay signal and told him to get my kayak.
I climbed out of the river panting and watched Frazer struggling with my kayak, gulped in a breath of air and started running to try and be in a position to help grab the kayak. I got over the next set of rocks and could see Frazer and my kayak edging closer and closer to the edge of the next waterfall ‘Griff’s Gash’. Far worse, I could see Frazer starting to abandon his rescue attempts. I think a stronger person with more experience being above waterfalls probably could have wrestled my kayak to the side, Frazer unfortunately couldn’t. Which I totally understand what with not wanting to put yourself at risk for a lump of plastic and being smart and all that. I looked on as my kayak went over the edge of the next waterfall. Frazer paddled up to me.
‘I’m sorry, I just … the next drop …’
‘No worries mate, I get it, thanks for trying. Can I please have your kayak and your paddle? Oh and your helmet, mine got ripped off.’
Frazer lent me the gear I needed and I started sprinting towards the next drop. I couldn’t reach the footrest, had been in too much of a rush to do up the back rest, had never used the kayak before, oh and the next drop was a clean but stout eight metres that I had only seen in photos. In summary it was hideously reckless but without my kayak I was jolly rodgered. I am from the city and without Google maps, pavements and road signs I am hopeless at navigating. If I had to hike out I would very likely spend my time wandering around the jungle hopelessly until I was bitten by a snake or died of dehydration.
I landed off the next waterfall cleanly, having been in a half slice kayak going back to a full sized creekboat felt like cheating. I went down the next rapid and saw something moving quickly out of the corner of my eye, this thing was going so quick a first glance I thought it must be some sort of animal. I looked over to the left to get a better luck and realised that it was Gareth Lake steaming across the boulders after my kayak.
I came to the next horizon line and could see exploding whitewater at the bottom. ‘FFS, I can’t risk losing two kayaks’ I said to myself. I reluctantly got out of Frazer’s kayak and started portaging. If being up a creek without a paddle is bad, I wonder what being up a creek without a kayak is?
I heard yelling and looked into the distance. Gareth was pointing to an eddy in between two rocks and I saw my pride, my joy, my only way out of this gorge bobbing vertically in the eddy, my kayak had only gone and rescued itself.
Gareth and I pulled my kayak out. I was expecting it to be mangled but aside from the crease line where the waterfall had bent, it seemed to be in good condition and certainly useable for the rest of the river. I could not believe my luck. I had a great lap down the river and used the kayak for the rest of my trip.
I was lucky at not getting hurt, lucky to not lose my kayak and lucky that there are so many great people in the sport around me.
I recently met up with Gareth, who lives in Scotland and he showed me down his local river, the Nevis for my fist lap. Palm’s new flagship PFD is called the Nevis and so I got one sent to his house by way of thanks for the help with the rescue, the hospitality and because the bloke that lives next to the Nevis river should have the Nevis PFD.
*Frazer if you’re reading this, I owe you beers for life. Please feel free to claim them at any point.