SEND in India

The magnetic pull of the Malabar river fest was too strong to ignore for many of the World’s top kayakers this year. Following the incredible week-long event certain competitors remained to follow the rain, crush the Kerala classics and to explore the Indian jungles for undiscovered gems. One crew, led by the legendary expeditioner Olaf Obsommer leapt over hurdles and ducked under red tape as they worked through the list of Google maps inspired runs they had documented prior to arrival. A second crew, known as SEND also hit the ground running in search of new rivers in the area after being shut down over and over on logistical plans for big waterfalls in the North.

The SEND team explored the upper reaches of the classics around Kodencherry, crossing off high water descents on Malabar and the Chalipuzha whilst opening up new sections and new lines. After a stellar week of kayaking around the festival grounds, SEND took to the road in search of new joy sections. The search commenced with endless hours on the road, and multiple “almost” car crashes throughout the week led the crew to be more worrisome off the water, than in the canyons of a first descent. SEND had a few options, choosing in the end to move towards a picturesque triple drop, yearning for some form of freewall after a few days of steep creeking.

With thundering rain, a flashing river and one too many roll of the dice moves, the boys were left watching from the sidelines as the entire river flowed into a thicket of tree’s below the final drop. The section below this waterfall, impressively hidden on the Phythaalama River did open up for SEND to first descent a section of the river and the overgrown jungle imposed itself over the pristine river in places. But the continuous pace, and occasional steep slide motivated the team into a second lap and encouraged this to be considered a win, and that the long drive had been worth it!

Following a semi-successful mission into the mountains, the boys took a day to regroup, hid from the rain and made a new plan. An enticing river drew attention on Google Earth, with a combination of factors that make a first descent desirable, and questionable. The river in question (remaining unnamed so we can return) began as a trickle at a steep triple set of slides that starred as a local tourist attraction. As the river flowed away from the slides, it appeared to fall off the face of the Earth, before settling out in the far, far distance. Google Earth showed what could be one of the best rivers on the planet; but an unsettling combination of illegal access, being fully exposed miles into a canyon with thousands of feet of gradient, and no clear picture of a way out led the team to save this one for a later date and the 8 hour drive home from this one was bitter-sweet. Bitter in knowing the potential that lay within the canyons of this incredible country, and sweet knowing the number of obstacles that were avoided by calling the mission off.

One thing is for certain, and all previous teams that have ventured into the Kerala jungle must agree, the potential in this area of earth is endless, and with the right effort, finding gold is guaranteed.

Stay safe out there.

Author, Kalob Grady