Eddie Bauer guides Jake Norton and David Morton, along with adventure filmmaker Pete McBride, are currently embarking on an expedition to Chaukhamba IV, an unclimbed 7,000-meter peak in India at the head of the Gangotri Glacier. Their goal is to travel the length of the Ganges from its source to the sea, experiencing and documenting its 2,600-kilometer journey to the world’s largest delta in the Bay of Bengal. Their inspiration flows from a desire to better understand the relationship between a dramatically growing population and the crisis of securing clean, drinkable water for all. For the next month we’ll be tracking their progress on the Eddie Bauer Facebook page and with their dispatches on the Live Your Adventure blog.
To stay up to date on the Ganga Source to Sea Expedition, follow #GangaS2S on your social networks. Updates also available on Beyond the Edge, Surface, & LiveYourAdventure blogs. It is shaping up to be an epic adventure to focus attention on the worldwide crisis of clean water, and this is Jake’s first dispatch from the subcontinent.
Words by Jake Norton, Images by Pete McBride and Jake Norton
With whispered prayers, she deftly lit a match with hands dripping Ganga water. Amazingly, it lit the first try, and so did the tiny wick poking from a pile of marigolds. Soon, the flame was vibrant orange, wisps of smoke arcing through the air. Her slender fingers picked up the tiny diya, a small bowl made of leaves, and placed it gently in the river. Then it was off, bobbing along the gentle waves and slowly making its way downstream.
We were on the banks of the Ganges River in Rishikesh – a holy town along the sacred river – watching the Ganga Aarti, a nightly ritual offering of flame to the goddess Ganga. Simple and beautiful, the Ganga Aarti is open to anyone who wants to partake in the purifying waters of the Ganges.
As I watched the tiny diya follow the flow of the river, I couldn’t help but think of our journey just beginning. Today we really started, with a 150-kilometer drive from Rishikesh along a ribbon of road shredded and mauled in countless places by monsoonal landslides that have been especially bad this year. Seven hours brought us to Uttarkashi and the foothills of the Garhwal Himalaya. Tomorrow, we’re off to Gangotri and the start of our trek to Chaukhamba IV: the short 100 kilometers will be a difficult one, as landslides have destroyed the road in a dozen places.
From there, like the diya, we’ll be bobbing along, much of our journey beyond our control. Our climb of Chaukhamba will depend much on the whimsy of the monsoon, our health, our strength, and the challenges of an unknown route on an unclimbed peak. From there onward, our journey down the 2,600 kilometers of the Ganges, from its source in the Garhwal to its terminus at the Bay of Bengal, will be subject to the currents of India, the ebb and flow of the river, the countryside, and our place within it.
It’s an exciting time for Pete McBride, Dave Morton, and me as we start an adventure and a story that has been more than a year in the making. We’ve got a long journey ahead of us, but with blessings from the Ganga Aarti last night, we’re optimistic it will go smoothly, just like the diya’s course downstream.
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