When I booked my flights to Meghalaya 6 months ago the Kynshi seemed like a thing of legends. Tales of an amazing river with hard white water, which had previously handed out a few beat-downs to some pretty good paddlers, made me both excited and apprehensive for the trip. Despite booking so far in advance, in true fashion I left everything else to the last minute and after a hectic week I set my out-of-office for three weeks time and was on my way.
After a quick warm-up day lap on the Umtrew, we set off for a mass trip to the Kynshi – 15 people with only Jamie having run it before! A day of impressive driving down some pretty bumpy “roads” (understatement of the century) brought us as close to the put-in as the cars could take us, so we set up camp ready to start our adventure the next day. I am not sure if it was anticipation, nerves or jet lag but I spent most of the night lying awake wondering about what was to come.
The river starts off with a mellow lead in, giving time to appreciate the scenery and get used to paddling a loaded boat. Fairly soon we were in the thick of the white water, with world class rapids followed by beautiful flat pools to give you time to catch your breath.
The first day I had a few ups and downs with my paddling. I was quite nervous at the start and was feeling quite tired from the jet lag and lack of sleep. I made the mistake of not looking at the sloping waterfall rapid, going down too far right, missing my boof, swimming and losing my gopro (an expensive mistake!). However, the quality of the river makes it hard to stay grumpy for long and by the end of the next rapid I was back to grinning from ear to ear. A bit later, I flipped on one of the smaller rapids, hit my head and ended up feeling mildly concussed. Thankfully it was almost the end of day one but it did mean I walked around the last big rapid before our camp spot, and it took a little while to feel better in the evening.
After another night of limited sleep, I was not feeling overly confident in the morning and was wondering if this trip had been a step too far. A pep talk from Beth over our porridge quashed some of these feelings, but not quite enough for me to fancy my chances on Triple Step – the first rapid of the second day which features some pretty sizeable holes. Watching some of the carnage unfold did not make me regret my decision to walk.
After that the river just kept on giving. The rapids were incredible; with each one I felt myself relax further, my confidence building and my smile growing. The river often splits into different channels, which means that the character of each rapid is different, providing amazing variety and feeling like you’re on two different rivers. One of my favourite rapids started with a low volume slide / drop into the main flow where the rest of the channels have rejoined, giving a big volume feel to the rest of the rapid. After powering over some big waves you’re at the eddy at the bottom, buzzing. Another fun rapid has a boulder at the top splitting the flow, before the river turns a corner and you have to charge to the left. You scout this one from quite high above the river, leading to a classic case of “shrinko-vision”. Dropping in, you realise just how impressive the force of the water is!
I wanted the river to keep going forever, but all too soon we reached our camp spot for the night. This marked the end of the main rapids, but did provide the opportunity to cliff jump and swim in a warm lagoon. In the evening we were joined by some friends who had paddled up from the take out and we lay out underneath the stars and enjoyed a few bottles of celebratory rum. A few laps of the last rapids in the morning followed by the mostly flat paddle out saw us back on the road on the Shillong that afternoon, knackered but buzzing from the adventure.
So is the Kynshi the best river in the world? It certainly must be a contender with its beautiful scenery, amazing camping and, let’s not forget, the phenomenal white water. For me, it will always hold a special place in my heart because I experienced it with Beth Hume, who tragically passed away on our first descent of the Umngi river later in the trip.
Beth has been my partner in crime for the past few years and has taught me what it really means to go on adventures. Whether lost in remote jungle in Indonesia, trying to find rivers to paddle in Norway by driving to blue lines in an atlas, or partying hard in a cold bunkhouse in Wales, we would re-live the stories with a giggle when we next saw each other.
Beth always knew how to make the most of her life and was never one to do things by halves. She has played a massive part in my kayaking progression and, although it may sound clichéd, Beth has helped make me who I am today. I will always be grateful for the awesome times we had together and I will treasure those memories forever. I always think of Beth, with a massive smile on her face, proclaiming “hashtag love my life”, and if I can live the rest of my life half as well as Beth did, I know it will be a happy one.