Sep 28 - Gear unpacked at Haridwar base camp, Mittal Dham

Sep 21, 2018, D-minus-11

Slow Boat Down the Ganges Update 18

I have been packing today. And I came to a revelation. There is only so much I need to carry on the canoe since there is a car to transport most of the equipment in. The camping stuff, clothes, food, etc can all get transported in the car. The stuff that will be on the canoe is the bare essentials ... paddles, PFDs, pumps, water filtration devices and storage containers, camera gear, solar charging equipment, GPS, compass, flashlight, strobe, etc. Yipee. This reduces the weight on the canoe by a whole lot and there will so much more elbow room. Even the electronics like the laptop, hard disks, cables, etc can go in the car since I will need access to them only after I camp out in the evening.

The problem is that I now have two spare 62 litre dry bags that have no use. These were the two that would have pretty much carried all my stuff when the expedition was a solo one. I will still carry at least one of them and put the smaller dry bags that will be with me on the canoe, in the larger bag. The only problem is that most of the stuff in the canoe with me are items that I will require through the day. And taking stuff out of multiple bags will become very frustrating, very soon. Here I am talking about charging the inverter from the solar panel, charging camera batteries, charging the phone, etc. Why do I need a phone? Well, I am planning frequent live videos to be unloaded on social media, probably Facebook or YouTube. Plus, the live tracker will be on, as will be mobile data and location. All these are battery guzzlers. Maybe I will pick up a spare battery for my phone too. Oh yes, and a couple of extra 64GB SD cards for the camera.

The two other items that will be on the canoe will be snacks and water. Water remains a bit of a concern. There is enough storage to carry more than twenty litres in the canoe. The problem is to filter and disinfect more than twenty litres of water. That takes a whole of time and effort. I hope that we will not be so dehydrated to finish off the twenty litres and the containers will only require topping up every day. I am not even thinking about the source of the water that one will disinfect. From around Kanpur, the water in the river is a toxic sludge and despite whatever these water purifier manufacturers might boldly and categorically state, I have no intention of drinking water tinged with chromium, arsenic, lead, a whole lot of untreated human sewage and bacteria from decomposing bodies.

Another concern remains with the solar kit. I have no worries at all about the 60W and the 30W PowerFilm panels. The inverter is new and even though I used it during the recent survival Course, there wasn’t enough requirement to give it a workout. Over the next few days I might put it through its paces to figure out how much abuse it can take. It is certainly not waterproof, and hence has to be kept in a dry bag while it is charging the batteries.

I placed an order for a solar charge controller. It is expected in the next three or four days, just by the time I plan to leave for Haridwar. The probable reason the Goal Zero unit stopped working is that there was no solar charge controller between the panel and the inverter. A solar charge controller provides this protection and I hope this works and the inverter does not give up on me in the middle of the journey. This will certainly protect the inverter from going the Goal Zero way, due to the fact that it will control the voltage fluctuations the solar panel sends to the inverter.

There is no revert from Goal Zero and I suspect I will not hear from them again. I was so happy with the unit and the support I got from them in the initial days. But now that I have a problem, they do not seem to care to come back with a solution, except to suggest I buy a new unit. This reality has been unfortunate to say the least. I sincerely expected them to come back with a solution quickly, and here I am not hearing from them one way or the other. Not expected from the market leader. And the Ganges expedition could have been a good testimonial for them.

This inverter batteries, Lithium Ion, has a stated life of 500 charge cycles. Over the two month period, or 60 days, that translates to about eight hours a day. I doubt if I will require to charge it that much, but I suspect, by the end of the Ganges expedition, I will need to seriously consider replacing the batteries to be ready for my next outing. As long as it works as required over the two months, I am happy.

I have an old 500W generator lying around somewhere, that was DIYed by a friend some years ago. This draws its power directly from the car battery. And it has an AC outlet. Now that there is a car available, I will probably carry that as a secondary contingency option. I hope I can find it among all the junk lying around in the basement. In case there is an issue that develops with the inverter, I can fall back on this alternative to charge camera batteries. Which also means that the canoe and the car will have to meet up during the day, maybe a couple of times to hand over drained batteries and replace them with fully charged ones.

Oh yes, a road support vehicle brings up so many possible solutions and opportunities. Even food. I have decided not to carry dehydrated food except rice, dal, noodles, chocolates and trail mix. We will pick up fresh food and eat fresh every day. Maybe even some Happy Juice every other day.
My electronic equipment has been segregated into two bags. One bag with stuff that I will require at the end of the day, while the second bag comprises all the stuff I will need while paddling. Then I required a cable and had to open both bags to figure out where I had stored it. And then when I packed the stuff back, everything went into a single bag, instead of two which is what I was planning. Maybe I will not take a chance and keep everything with me on the canoe, and just keep the 60W solar panel, laptop, hard disks, etc in the car.

I plan to leave for Haridwar Sep 27 which will give me four days in the region. I will use these four days to film the many aspects of the Ganges, including the rituals performed every day around the river, speak to people, and generally get into expedition mode.

What is saddening me slightly is the fact that I have not had too many people wanting to come to flag me off, despite repeated invitations. I understand everyone has work, but the presence of known faces when I finally set sail, would have been nice.

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