A team of British kayakers have been exploring a region in India called Meghalaya for years. I have heard countless stories about how brilliant of a kayaking destination it is but never got the chance to go. This year I squeezed in a quick smash and grab trip in.
It takes a lot for me to book an international plane ticket, especially for a short trip, in country logistics and inopportune water levels can quickly take days on the water away from you. However the boys have written a brilliant guide book to the area and I felt confident that I could get in, kayak until my arms wanted to fall off and get on the plane home a happy and tired man.
Flying to Meghalaya means grabbing a flight to New Delhi and then a smaller flight with an airline named Indigo. This airline was a new one for me and they were chill taking kayaks but they also charged $25 per kg over your 15kg allowance… With a 24kg kayak and a 20kg gear bag +15kg of camera equipment this could have been hideously expensive… had myself and Adrian not walked onto the plane with 35kgs of hand luggage each.
Three flights and a car later we made it to the whitewater village. This base camp on the Lower Umtrew river is paradise; big chillout spot, delicious food, and with a class 4 slalom course in the back garden I was doubly stoked on it.
We loaded up to check out one of the few day runs in the area, the lower Umtrew. This river was a treat, about 12km of beautiful class 4 and a couple of flat sections to catch your breath and talk about how good the last rapid was.
We went to the Kymchi river as our first multi day and this thing exceeded all expectations. Chocked full with rapids that range from fun and easy to “ummmm, it sort of goes maybe, but I don’t want to try?”. We had a descent amount of water in the river which was creating some huge holes and pushy lines. It was awesome.
I fired up the Shillong in a box waterfall, this thing was so aerated at the bottom that I felt really good about just sending it and trying to stay on top of the flow. I boofed it as hard as I could but it wasn’t enough and I was sent deep when I landed, eventually getting ripped out of my kayak and getting some good downtime while swimming to the side. Shout out to the Scottish boys for the help with rescuing my kayak, it would have sucked to have to walk out of there.
From there we drove towards the Kopilli, which is widely regarded as one of the best pieces of whitewater in the world. Unfortunately the dam blew and subsequently the only water in the river was from the natural tribs that feed it. We paddled it anyway and it was still a fun day out, it reminded me off many a trip to Scotland where there is no water. You go kayaking, you have fun but you know it could be sooooo much sicker with more juice. Next time the Kopilli, next time.
We had multiple days in the car driving to check other rivers, more laps on the Umtrew, a few sessions messing around on the slalom course, a reggae festival and then all of a sudden it was time to leave. I didn’t get everything I wanted on this trip but that’s the way it goes on a short trip sometimes but I am pretty happy to get to check out the rivers of Meghalaya. I’ll be back.
All photos by Carson Lindsay, Kalob Grady and Jonny Chase