Thursday, June 20, 2024

Paddle pleasure


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Meghalaya’s rivers are ideal for kayaking and canoeing, says Ibankyntiew Mawrie

 MEGHALAYA AS a kayaking destination? You bet!

     Popular adventure sports among westerners, kayaking and canoeing entail paddling to move on water. A kayak is defined by the International Canoe Federation as a boat where the paddler faces forward, legs in front, using a double-bladed paddle.

     Four youths from the United Kingdom tried out kayaking on some rivers of Meghalaya during their maiden trip last month. One of them, Joe Rea-Dickins said these rivers were among the best in the world for kayaking. “And what is special about Meghalaya is that everything is pretty much untouched and nature is still intact,” he added.

     Joe and Don Rea-Dickins, Chris Griffiths and James Smith were assisted by Shillong’s very own Zorba Laloo, a kayak enthusiast who had travelled around the world to kayak on some of the major rivers.

     The four kayakers had brought along their own lightweight canoe to conque Kynshi, Rymben, Umngot, Wahblei and Umrew rivers. “Despite being the wettest place on earth, why is kayaking absent from the main picture?” Don asked.

      Sharing his experience, Joe said the risk of kayaking is high but the rivers are forgiving. Pointing out Kynshi as the best of Meghalaya’s rivers to kayak on, he added the beauty of the river and its surroundings made them kayak twice.

     The kayakers were perturbed by reports of a dam proposed to be constructed on Kynshi. The dam, they felt, would rob the river of its natural elegance and affect kayaking prospects.

     About river Umngot, Joe said its steep gorge hindered their expedition.

     “Meghalaya offers world class paddling on the rivers, which could attract many travellers from all around the world,” Griffiths said. The state has a lot of potential for boosting economy and generating employment through adventure tourism, he added.

     The UK-based kayakers were, however, pained by state of the rivers in Jaintia Hills. “It hurts to see rivers there polluted due to unscientific mining,” Griffiths said. 

     When asked whether kayaking and canoeing could grab the attention of the local youth, Laloo said it was possible if the right kind of training is imparted. “It will take some time to catch on, but with proper channelization of their skills and better access to training, it wouldn’t be long for our rivers to be filled with local kayakers and we can have many outdoors sport because the youth are willing to try out something new,” he added.

     Laloo also sought commitment from the government and civil society to regenerate Shillong’s Umkhrah and Umshyrpi rivers in 10 years. “Who knows, with proper planning, one day we can see small boats in the rivers, with cafés along the banks like in Singapore and Munich which once upon a time suffered the same fate as Shillong,” he said.


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