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The Indus River through the Rondu Gorge
Northern Territories, Pakistan V+

Episode Nine

Phil Boyer a small speck in the Indus swift water.

Phil Boyer warming up for another epic day. 

    We weren't too surprised to have more long scouts. Ben Stookesberry takes a look at an unusual Indus rapid. On most rivers it would just be a gravel bar riffle. Proportions change on the Indus, we felt like miniatures, the "gravel bar" was big enough to be sievy.

   The rapids above had looked like nothing from the road, but soon enough we were perched above a road-scout noted rapid. We noted that it looked like an easy move, a consistent mistake for our group. 

Ben Stookesberry about to take a hit, quite a hole hidden by the rock.

Phil Boyer followed next, harvesting similar fruit.

   It looked like Phil and Ben were perhaps a little left of the ideal line, so I ran the entrance intent on getting further right. I came down the initial ramp and got in a central eddy, which was really a swirly, boiling mess that took me a bit too long to get out of, but I managed to get out where I wanted and came into the hole, only to have the same end product. The hole wasn't retentive, but the hit was more akin to running a waterfall than the big fluffy thing it looked like.

Ben Stookesberry probing a classic Lion River feature, big fun rapid into a ominous hole.

   High above we saw a rapid that looked terrible, and our assumption of a portage was correct. The river funneled down and cascaded over what was sure to be a pile of rocks.

As always, hard to put it in perspective. I shot this while scouting our next rapid.

Note Phil Boyer in the foreground two hundred yards downstream from the portage.

A large cliff loomed over the consecutive rapid, Ben and I climbed up to the over hanging ledge to get a different look at the river. Chris Korbulic enjoys a mellower rapid.

From the mellow to exciting, the Indus picked the level up a notch as we continued, Chris Korbulic threads the needle.

Chris Korbulic finishes the aforesaid.

   Approaching the succeeding horizon line Ben peeled off to the left while we scouted on the right. Immediately I found myself wishing I had gone left to. There was no portage on the right and it was too late to make egress across without considerable effort. Goliath center holes blocked any direct route, and going down the right required climbing over a few feet of boils, no easy task. What truly concerned us about the right side was a possible pocket hole at the bottom. 

Phil Boyer proclaimed it safe and probed down the right side.

   The boil surged as Phil came into it, rejecting him into the edge of the pocket hole, where he disappeared to resurface back in the main flow, well clear of any recirculation. Whew, it went, but we still were not too psyched about it. Option less I went next and got lucky with the boil, managing to get over it and stay away from the hole. Chris soon followed, was caught by the boil and pushed into the center of the hole...backwards....we all held our breaths for a moment, but he resurfaced back in the flow with a deft roll. We were all glad that water is generally more forgiving than it looks like.

Back on the left side of the river, Ben Stookesberry had scouted out an alternate line with a boof perpendicular to the current.

Ben Stookesberry lines it up, driving into the crashing waves.

Ben once again, note where he is hitting the wave...

Surfs up! Timing can make all the difference in big water, and the wave broke as Ben came in and typewritered him fifteen feet over into another crashing wave...

Whew now it was our turn. Ben's luck on the timing didn't fire us up, but in reality the rapid was just a really big class III. I chose to go next, coming out of the eddy as high as possible, trying to gain plenty of right to left momentum. I came trying to paddle at a nice steady stroke, as as I approached the wave I put my head down and kept paddling, tensed up and ready to take a hit and quick surf...but I got lucky, and the wave turned green as I came over it and past the center feature, barely getting my face wet!

Phil Boyer catching air before making contact with the wave.

The wave broke as Phil hit it, but he resurfaces on the other side.

Chris is fired up and about to hit the wave

   We were looking for a beach, and soon enough found a small patch of sand. As we unpacked and explored our local, we are stoked to find some driftwood. On the Indus most of the driftwood is picked up by locals, so the camping to date had been cold and ozone friendly. We were only too glad to sit around a campfire and soak in yet one more day of epic paddling on the Indus. How could any river be this good consistently, and would it continue?