Aug 31, 2018, D-minus-20

Slow Boat Down the Ganges Update 8

You know what? There is still a month to go before the expedition is launched. At least till tomorrow when we will be counting down the days. I am still in August and the expedition launches in September. Long time yet to go. Different countdown status starts tomorrow.

I was taking a relook at the route. Almost everything seems to have changed. I was really looking for most recent imagery by Google. More recent they were, but largely from February. Consequently, the route I had charted previously, going over water and avoiding sand banks, was now more over sand banks and less over water. But, the monsoon has been good and the water level and volume will be high.

One thing has really surprised me. I just cannot seem to find a list of the dams and barrages on the Ganges. Some sites mention that there are two dams on the Ganges - one at Haridwar and the other at Farakka. But I know for a fact that there is a dam at Kanpur. Digging a bit deeper, I found a couple of more dams at Bijnor and Narora. I will be starting downstream of the dam at Haridwar, but that still leaves me with four dams to cross.

Ganges and its tributaries

Crossing dams pose three problems for me.

First, I will have to portage, stopping well before the dam itself since the current might be strong. I will have to stick pretty close to shore a couple of kilometres short of where the dam is. That brings me to the second problem. The portage itself.

How long will it be? How difficult will it be? What kind of terrain can I expect? Particularly right next to the river. Will there be a beach of some kind? I am praying for the goodness of well-wishers, and hope that they help me in the portage, and at the same time, do not help themselves to some of my gear and equipment.

Now the third problem. Since I do not know how long the portage will take, or indeed at what time of day I will be able to start the portage, I plan to camp at the city where the dam is. And since I plan to camp, I will have to find a relatively secluded spot to do so. Not in the middle of a hundred people keenly following my every step. Maybe I will have to paddle a few kilometres further downstream to find a spot and camp there. A decision I will have to take once I reach the spot.

I heard a disconcerting news today. A country boat carrying 27 passengers capsized near Bijnor, resulting in the death of a few people. Search and recovery is affected due to the flooding and the muddy waters. I understand that the waves were so high that the boatman could not control the boat, resulting in the capsize. The surrounding area is flooded and a couple of access roads to Haridwar are submerged. What is disconcerting is that Bijnor is the first dam I will encounter on the route.

Talking of capsizing, I have to look very carefully at my bags. All of them are heavy duty dry bags and will keep water from wetting the contents, even if they go overboard. However, in case of a capsize, I do not want the bag along with their dry contents, to sink to the bottom of the river. I will definitely need to trap a lot of air inside the bag before I seal it, to add to the buoyancy. I will need to check each bag for floatation properties before I launch. In case any bag seems to fight a losing battle at staying afloat, I might have to break the contents up into two separate bags. This decision will have to be taken before launch, which is why I plan to be in Haridwar at least three days prior.

During these three days I also plan to film the upper Ganga. A trip down the Ganges will be incomplete without a story about where the river officially takes on the name Ganga, with the confluence of the Alaknanda and Bhagirath rivers at Devprayag. The evening arati is a sight to behold and that too needs to be filmed. I also plan to speak to some people about their thoughts on the Mother Goddess and their ideas on whether it is clean and/or polluted. If I find time, it might make sense to film the Tehri dam, the highest dam in India and one of the highest in the world, and the reason that the drying up of the river is getting accelerated, despite it producing 1,000MW of electricity. From an environmental point of view, there is a lot of controversy behind the dam. One major worry is the possibility of a major earthquake hitting and damaging the dam, that could result in one of the worst man-made disasters in human history.

Food-wise I’m almost there. Salami is in the dehydrator now, and it is dehydrating quite nicely. Two hours on, I tasted a couple of pieces and they are crunchy, yet retain their taste. I will not have to rehydrate them after all, and have them as jerky.

I will fry the sausage, cut them into thin strips and then dehydrate them. The sausage strips can then be added to the rice and cooked together. Protein is something I will need, and even though the salami and sausages are chicken, they will provide some protein.

The only thing left is shredded chicken which will get on the dehydrator probably tomorrow evening, once the salami and sausages are done.

Oh, yeah, the energy bars. That still remains. But that is a comparatively much faster process and I should have my two month quota of chocolate bars in about an hour’s time. These will not be bars, but cubes since I am looking at molding them in ice trays. A couple of cubes for breakfast, and a couple more for lunch, should do it. This in addition to the eclairs, trail mix and beverages. For sixty days, I am looking at about two to three hundred of these dipped in thick chocolate. Yum. Each of these will be wrapped in a layer of kitchen foil. Chocolate is known to melt and would rather bite into the cube instead of having to lick the wrapper clean. These will be stored in dry bags, so a bit of temperature control will be there, but I suspect I will not be able to prevent them from melting.

One possible idea is to take out a couple of cubes, put them in a plastic bag and dump them in the water for some time. The water will definitely be cooler than the surrounding air, and that should harden the chocolate just a little bit. Let’s see.

Just finished making a kilo of chocolate energy bars and they have come out so good. They do not look anywhere close to what one would buy in the market, but believe me, they taste just as good. And compared to the ones available at the market, these have a whole lot more of cashew nuts, raisins and almonds. Really, really tasty.

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