Order calendars via zakshawphotography@gmail.com or the secure Paypal option below.

Order calendars via zakshawphotography@gmail.com or the secure Paypal option below.
My 2014 calendar was entirely photographed on the western side of New Zealand's Southern Alps. "Land in the West" is printed at a size of A4 with twelve calendar month pages displaying stunning outdoor environment photographs. Take a look at my Facebook page to view all twelve 2014 calendar images! Order here via Paypal or email me at zakshawphotography@gmail.com if you would prefer to pay with online banking. Thanks for your support!
Calendar sales within NZ
Calendar sales international

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tenga, Dirang, Kameng, Arunachal Pradesh

Image - Zak Shaw , Buddhist Stupa in the heads of the Namjang catchment.

Doesn't every team scout like this? The most western catchment in Arunachal Pradesh is that of the Namjang. Its a big tributary of the Towang Chu. We took a morning to rest after our climb out of the Towang Chu, drank buckets loads of sweet chai and planned our next move.

Team scout, we take it pretty seriously.

The Namjang looks awesome if you have these two images painting the picture. We looked at it for a full day before paddling a short section close to the road. The lower gorge was calculated as being steeper than the Towang (not what we wanted) and yet most of our scouting from high above revealed a big lower canyon, lots of flat water, some easy stuff and several obvious portages where the river went ballistic.

Indian wilderness, Super scenic, Andy Phillips on the Namjang.
Image - Zak Shaw

Time was running low. Whilst we had been paddling the Namjang, Sangrup had hitched a ride back to Tawang to pick up a fax. Our permit was due to expire and before heading back east we needed a ten day extension.
We drove all night back up and over Se La, the summit pass road before dropping back into the Dirang drainage. That afternoon we quickly packed our kayaks and set off down the Tenga river. The Tenga gorge is 14km long before it joins the Dirang.
We had no real idea of what the gorge would contain. We estimated an average gradient of 20m/km but got a bit nervous when after three kilometres the small creek we were on slotted up into a bedrock box canyon.

Image - Leaving camp at the start of day 2. We all felt like the day would be great or it would be a massive hike out back to the put in, its just had that feel about it. As it turned out the whole gorge was tight and constricted but it dropped consistently creating some great rapids and clean drops. Around every smooth water-worn corner we waited for a big chocked up boulder jumble but it never came.

Image - Mikey Abbott gets a gets out and away off one of the many classic drops in the Tenga gorge.
Image - Camp 2 Tenga.

Image - More of the good stuff above the Dirang/ Tenga confluence. Sam Hughes and Al Ellard get amongst it.
At about lunchtime on day three we found the Dirang river and more water. It was great, one of the things we had talked about with the trip prior to starting was that it would change dramatically in size once the two big rivers joined.
We stopped for a huge feed of roti, rice, chai, beer, pork fat and dhal in a small village mid afternoon before floating down to camp. (Ah the beauties of rural asia!)

Image - Dramatic lighting on the Kameng River Day 4.

Day four we paddled 45km from the Dirang/Kameng confluence to a town called Bhalukpong.
It was an awesome last day, packed with big volume class 4 whitewater and huge surfwaves.

My last day on the river in India was a good one but hadn't quite finished when Shalab whilst loading kayaks onto the roof racks of the truck slipped and managed to get his leg caught in the bull bars of the truck. He fell with his leg trapped to the ground and snapped his Tibia, the noise was brutal. Our celebrations of a great trip were suddenly postponed as we splinted Shalab's leg, loaded the truck and drove to Tezpur and an Airforce base three hours away.

Zak Shaw

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dodging landslides, life on the Towang Chu, First descent completed, Nov 29th

We were forced to climb up above a heinously steep section not far above our camp for the night and the end of day one.
Mikey Abbott and Andy Phillips inspect the biggest drop of day one.
All images Zak Shaw
The sun didn’t hit our camp early enough for us to consider hanging around to dry gear out so with all equipment loaded in our boats we pushed out into a busy class 4+ section before 9am.With day one behind us and only seven kilometers covered we needed to get an early start. Darkness fell in the Towang Chu at around 5.30pm, so we began looking for campsites at 3.30pm each day.

Image - Typically Towang Chu, the team enjoy some of the continous whitewater day2.

Image - Mikey Abbott tries on a rural hand stitched fur garment!

The whitewater of day two was relentless. We didn’t find to many individual drops, each big move just seemed to flow and push into the next. The gradient was right on that wonderful verge of almost being to much the entire day. We took very few breaks in order to try and push through the steepest part of the canyon. That didn’t happen. I remember saying “I wonder if this river is going to take two days or four”

Image - Andy gets it right on a chunky lead in rapid above bigger things below. Note the slip and blasting debris upstream.

In the middle of the day climbed a slip overlooking a beautiful gorge. Not all lines to get through looked that great from our high vantage point, we looked at trying to get around things at water level but decided against it. I wasn’t feeling particularly sharp that day and after more discussion we all portaged. Whilst most of our attention was focused on things at water level, we also had to look up! BRO, India’s organisation with the responsiblity of road construction were at work all day everyday. Communities, shacks, people on the downhill side of all road blasting are not really a huge concern to them and their progress. These roads cut into massive hillsides and over summit passes opening up rural India. On river left the entire bank would look like a bombsite with trees slashed down the forest destroyed by falling rock. In our kayaks we made quick progress through these zones, and avoided dwelling in eddies for unnecessary periods of time in case of new landslides were set off. It was pretty nerve racking. The blasting meant we always had to keep an eye out for massive trees in the flow. In camp at the start of day three, another thunderous blast sounded. We had set ourselves up in river right hoping any landslide from river left would not make it to camp should dynamite be set off directly above us. Andy at the time had left camp to use the little boys room. Upstream of our camp the bus sized boulders ripped down the hillside and stripped the forest clean. Mature trees were literally slashed like blades of grass. The boulders then jumped and completely cleared the river without contact hitting the far bank, our bank! We got dressed and left quickly.

Mikey and Sam on breakfast duty early day three.
Day three was more of the same, continous, big and pushy. Using our topographical map and GPS in camp we had identified the rivers steepest section, it still lay downstream. We portaged easily on a well formed track beside the river and continued on.

Image - Mikey Abbott mid way through one of the last big rapids of day three.

The challenge with the Tawang Chu then came in finding a place to stop. Five kilometers upsteam of the border of Bhutan we found another steep bedrock gorge. Before starting our descent we had seen a few tracks that would help us during our climb out from river level to a road. We talked to Shalab and Sangrup on the radio before walking with our kayaks and gear, we also ate all our food! to save weight for the climb out.

Image - Nearing dark Sam Hughes packs his laden kayak and loves every minute of it!

We gained 460 vertical metres using an overgrown track to the truck. Half of our effort was in the dark but Sangrup had scrambled down to meet us as night fell, he then guided us up to the truck. After 2.5 hours we had the job done.

Image - Earned. Sam finds the rum and begins celebrations.

Image - At the top. When we arrived at the truck we didn't feel like moving much further.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Finding the Towang Chu, November 19th

The three day drive across Nepal and back into India went quickly. Along the way we gained impressive views of the Himalaya's and local people working the land.
Image - Zak Shaw
In Guwahati one of the major towns in the Indian province of Assam we met up with Andy Phillips our final team member. Assam is India's most populated province and the town of Guwahati never slept. Everything that happened did so at one hundred miles an hour. Stepping from the relative quiet of the hotel onto the main drag was such an abrupt change.

Kayaking travel isn't all about beautiful rivers, classic drops and glossy photographs. Make sure you pick the urinal which has its drainage pipe running under the floor and not on your feet! Allan Ellard holds his breath and gets ready to leave!

Chai stop, more masti more fun! One of the best thing about India is the signs! On the road we made regular stops to rehydrate by drinking Chai. As you can imagine we got alot of mileage out of the Chai Time Masti signs!

Will you make us Chai? Ah on second thoughts maybe not! Mikey Abbott not happy about what's on the menu!

Image - Zak Shaw - Sangrup pulls us through another turn.
From Guwahati we made good progress across the plains before the countryside got steep. In Bhalukpong we made our official entrance crossing the border into Arunachal Pradesh. India's roading is astounding. Near the border with Bhutan we drove for a full day up switchback after switchback until we finally topped out at Se La. Rolling over the 14,700ft pass signaled our arrival into the Towang Chu catchment. Jang is a village of reasonable size at river level in the heads of the Towang Chu, it was a great place to eat our favourite meal dhal with rice and roti. We gathered more info from the locals about the river before we continued on. Five hours later we had managed to gain 4 mere kilometres upstream before it got dark. Sometimes switchbacks are not to effective!

Image Zak Shaw - Mikey Abbott at sunset.

Image - our shelter for the night.
It was probably one of the coldest nights of our time in India. We crowded around a smokey fire inside the shacks drinking chai for a few hours before the smoke became to much. Their shelters were not eqipped with any form of chimney so we sat on the floor and drank with our bodies as low as possible. A group of local men were posted here for the entire winter, their job is to keep the road in good order.

Image Zak Shaw - The Upper Towang Chu valley
Its big country! to gain an idea of scale the river is the faint snaking white streak in the bottom left of the image.
With river access and proving to be more than challenging upriver we returned to Jang and set about gathering information about the 30km downstream towards the Bhutan border.
Buddhism is the main religion in this remote far western region. In Tawang we visited the Tawang monastery and did another day of driving downriver in an attempt to site a take out possibility before Bhutan.

Image Zak Shaw - Young monks heading off to attend one of the day's prayer sessions.

Image Zak Shaw - Inside the Tawang Monastery.

Image Zak Shaw - Local woman with a traditional spiked yaks wool hat.

Finally now some kayaking! After quite possibly the most driving weve ever done to get get wet on a river we geared up and set off down the Towang Chu. The first day of our three day, 30km first descent was brilliant. We put in at an elevation of 2000m below Jang. The first few moves were great and made the boys grin from ear to ear. We covered 7km of pushy whitewater mostly class 4+. At 3.30pm we pulled into a camp anticipating darkness at 5.30
Check in here in a couple of days for more action. Im flying home to NZ and should get some time on the plane to get a few thoughts written up!

Image Zak Shaw - Boatscoutable class 4+ Al Ellard enjoys one of the first moves during day one of our Towang Chu first descent. (November 27th)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Set to go! After a couple of days paddling here in Nepal we are now prepared to hit the road. Prepared meaning weve eaten enough yak steak and drunk enough beer!
Arunachal Pradesh is a good haul from Kathmandu with some poor roading along the way. The drive will take about two and a half days, thats a good honest stint of Guns and Roses! (Shalab and Sanggrup's favourite tape)
After crossing the border back into India and the province of Assam we will gather a few last minute supplies before climbing into the mountains once again.
Our plan is to start in the west and explore river drainages that feed the Kaming river. From there we will move east towards other massive rivers that drain from the Indian/Chinese border. The monsoon arrived late this year and there has been considerable rainfall in the last two weeks.
All river start points and predicted take outs have been detailed in our permits. Fingers crossed we will travel without drawing to much attention to ourselves and keep clear of the forest service radar! There is bound to be something unexpected lying hidden in the next three weeks though, im certain of that!
The team - Mike Abbott (NZ) Allan Ellard (UK) Sam Hughes (UK) Andy Phillips (UK) Shalab Gaulaut (India) and myself.

Zak Shaw

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

First Descent Upper Dhauliganga

First move Dhauliganga, Image Sam Hughes
This week we completed our journey across Uttranchal. The Kali river is what forms the dividing border between India and Nepal. Its a wild area and one that very few paddlers visit. We drove through the night a slept in a donkey shelter above a raging torrent, the upper Dhauliganga. In the dark we could hear big things below our camp but had to wait until daylight before we could get too excited. In the town on New Sobla we met the local people and gained their permission to head upriver to Tijamo.

Image Sam Hughes
Driving upriver locals asked us what time we would be passing by so they could stop work for a while to watch. The first move indicated how it would be downstream, intense. With a gradient of around 50m/km and 30 ish cumecs. The river pushed us around relentlesly for 8 full on kilometres back to New Sobla.

Image Sam Hughes
Its was by far the most full on whitewater we have found this trip. Steve had a lucky escape after being pushed into a cave on our first run. JJ was lightening quick in getting a rope into his hands during a brief instant where we his body surfaced.

I to suffered when I was surfed in two monster hydraulics in the main flow and then finished the rapid upside down whilst going over an 8ft ledge. I brought the team rum that night, swimmers buy the rum!

Image Sam Hughes
The local turned our in full force lining the banks and running downriver as we progressed. In town we were congratulated by swarms of kids and the atmosphere of friendly rural people. Image below - Sam Hughes

Image Sam Hughes
On run number two we moved downstream at a better pace and added an extra kilometre of class 4-5 below town. At this point the river drops away violently with a series of portages and sieves.

With time running short we quickly traveled to the Ghali ganga and paddled a classic 15km section the following day.

Image - Zak Shaw

Paddler JJ Shepherd, completes one of the bigger moves unscathed.

Image Zak Shaw
Before arriving in Kathmandu its important to look your best!

In Tanakeura; a town on the border we fixed the truck, helped Ben Jackson get on a bus to Delhi and although its a little late JJ felt obliged to start "movember07"

Image Zak Shaw
" Time for Chai" Its been a regular thing in India to arrive on someones doorstep in the dark hours. Weve found teashops, sheds, quarries to make for adequate roadside camping. Once again at 7am 'Nikita" came to take Chai orders!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Detained, fined and sent packing

With our tail between our legs we have traveled east from the Ton’s and Supin drainages looking to gain the upper hand.
During a days driving we passed by what is effectively now the source of the Ganges, the Tehri Dam. The project is an astonishing site as continual maintenance is needed to the fragile landscape.

Image Zak Shaw - Tehri Dam

The Ganges is the most spiritual river in all of India. The government was incredibly bold in their approach when they aimed and attacked at the biggest prize of all first. Proposing to dam the Ganges received widespread outcry.
The damming of the Ganges has set huge precedents over current and future hydro plans. In Shalab’s words “It has put a complete stop to the anti dam movement in India”
It seems that if a waterway as sacred as the Ganges can be altered on such a massive scale that moral ethics are being pushed aside and the floodgates of dam construction are now completely open. The spiritual significance of all rivers is irrelevant here now, the money in dams is astounding.

27th/28th Ben Jackson enjoys one of the cool moves during our two day 30km descent of the Bhilangna. Image Zak Shaw.

Some Italians were in this area two years ago according to locals so we are unsure if it has been previously paddled. Regardless of this fact it was an awesome overnight run with two easy portages.

Image - Zak Shaw Bhilangna camp
29th We spent two days in the Mandakini catchment and paddled a great big water run with impressive mountain views. Ben Jackson gets some local advice.
31st Pausing at the entrance to the Nanda Devi Wildlife Sanctuary Biosphere we made enquiries for the necessary permits we would need before entering the National Park.
A phone call to a local trekking company informed us we could venture into the biosphere and look at the Dhauli Ganga River without entering into the National Park. Along the way we passed two un-maned checkpoint stations and had no real idea that we were about to get ourselves in a whole world of shit.
We paddled an awesome section starting at 3000m and found the best whitewater of our travels thus far.

Image -Zak Shaw, Sam Hughes in the Upper Dhauli Ganga.

Locals offered us the school building as shelter as leopard in the area are common and have killed five people recently in other areas. We returned to the put in the following morning. Whilst paddling downriver we waved at locals and some smart looking officials in uniform. I thought nothing of it.
At the take out we we met by seven officers armed with rifles and shotguns and instructed that we would be escorted to the forest park headquarters two hours drive away. There faces held stern looks initially but they quickly warmed to us, we drank tea and held their guns! (they use these to shoot at wildlife poachers) One officer traveled in our vehicle while we followed JJ and his new found friends in the pilot vehicle. JJ liked their trucks curtains.

Back in Joshimath we filled out lots of forms, written statements, were interviewed/interrogated individually and we debated our case with the Forest Park director. This began at 4pm and we retired to the Forest Park/Police/Army compound and were detained for the night at 2am.

With maximum fines a potential court hearing and two month imprisonment over our heads we continued on with the interrogation and finally walked away with a fine of 20,000 rupees/ $500 US. This is the average annual income in India.
We had broken no laws or legislation as there is none for kayaking within the biosphere. We are bit confused with what we actually did wrong. Trespassing and environmental impact was mentioned but we were allowed on the road but not in the tress off the road….The ironic thing is that the forestry services has sold permits to hydro companies inside the biosphere to generate power, we passed six alone on the Dhauli Ganga The outskirts of the biosphere is being destroyed, roads blasted into hillsides, dams, barrages are everywhere.
Anyway we were all a bit fired up after a really long day with not alot of sleep and 30 hours with one meal.

With every forest service office in the state aware of our presence we were forced to leave the area or face fines of 10,000 rupees pp.
"Making the payment" Lovely doing business with you sir. Image Sam Hughes.

"India consumes you, its never quiet, never slows down and is always in your face”

The next day we pulled a 12 day old body from the Alaknanda river. Thirteen people had plunged in an overloaded bus. With kayaks and ropes we recovered the man and handed him back to his grieving family. They would then be able to collect insurance money.
We finished the 18km section of big volume whitewater but none of us were that focused on the river. My brain had no more room, our thoughts were elsewhere.

We are now in the far east of Uttaranchal. Yesterday we scouted the Pindar river to no avail in the morning. In the afternoon we drove to the banks of the Dhauliganga (two exist in Uttaranchal) We have high hopes for this river this week before we cross the border into Nepal.

Sam Hughes has captured some fantastic images. These are available to view at http://www.adventuresinpacland.blogspot.com/

Zak Shaw