While most people in Assam avoid crossing the swollen Brahmaputra during floods, two adventure-loving Assam men rowed a bamboo raft nearly 400km.
Rishan Doley, 30, and Shekhar Bordoloi, 26, started from Majuli, the world’s largest river island, on September 30 and ended their 8-day-long trip at Umananda, the world’s smallest inhabited river island near Guwahati, on October 7.
“Our aim was to show the tremendous potential for rafting and water sports in Assam in the Brahmaputra and its tributaries. Using a non-motorised bamboo raft when the river was flooded added to the thrill,” said Bordoloi, an engineer.
The two friends who connected during a mountaineering trip few years ago planned the expedition a year ago, but it took the Covid-19-enforced lockdown, which prevented them from going out on trips, to make it a reality.
They built a 25 ft long and 17 ft wide raft with 170 bamboo shoots in a week. They named the raft Shibuk, a word used by the Mising tribe to describe the loud sound made by the Brahmaputra waters when it enters holes in the earth.
The expedition was flagged off from Kartik Chapori by Padmashri Jadav Payeng, known as Forest Man for planting a forest on his own. To document the trip, Nayan Bordoloi joined the duo as a videographer.
Rafting on the Brahmaputra is not easy even during winter, when the river’s water level goes down and the current slows. During the eight days, the friends had a tough time staying on the mainstream as the river meanders. They also experienced harsh winds and whirlpools.
“Our most memorable experience happened on the fourth day when the raft got stuck in a sandbar in the evening as we were crossing Kaziranga National Park. As elephants and water buffaloes paced on the banks, we used all our strength to move it and continue rafting,” recalled Doley, who runs his own adventure tour company.
The friends carried enough provisions for the trip, a small LPG cylinder and stove to cook meals and a mini-generator to charge their phones and other devices. At night, they halted on the banks of the river and set sail in the morning.
Both Doley and Bordoloi hope to embark on more such adventures and promote water sports among tourists as well as provide employment to locals.