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October 28th, Sunday

During the last few days, we got better and better organized and hence, packing up our camp and loading the boats has by now become a well-oiled routine. Consequently, we were off and on the river in good time in the morning, hoping that we would be able to reach Kawlchaw, another sand-mining town and the location of the only bridge spanning the Kaladan / Kolodyne River. We reached the village of Tuipui F (the “F” standing for “Ferry”) where we decided to stop and visit the village. Today being Sunday, there was no activity whatsoever as everyone was in church, the man in their finest garb and the women in their traditional “puans” while church prayers were accompanied by the beating of goat skin drums.

A few bends further downstream from Tuipui F, we stopped at one rapid and inspected it on foot but determined that we could take it with full load. We passed through several, sometimes mean looking rapids without problems and reached Kawlchaw, our destination for today, in the early afternoon. We went to explore the village, knowing that we would have to sleep near here, so that we would be able to buy food the next day.

Our mission was also to find out more about the river South of Kawlchaw as we knew that the stretch between Kawlchaw and our final destination of Longmasu at the border with Burma was full of dangerous rapids. We were lucky in that we met two boatmen, an older man and a younger one. The two had been leading the Indian government-organized exploration of the river between Kawlchaw and Burma further downstream and both were adamant that there was no way our boats would make it through an extremely dangerous gorge in that stretch of river.

In fact, the only way locals can get through the gorge is in April when the water level is at its absolutely lowest and even then, they actually have to walk their boats down and even port them at one point. Hence, we had to realize that risking our material (and maybe more) would be pointless and therefore our next goal was to find local transport so that we could get our boats to below the gorge or possibly even to Longmasu from where we could explore the river upstream.

The younger boatman stayed with Zorba and Apal to try and find suitable transport while the rest of the team went upstream to set up camp for the night. Unable to get confirmations on a Sunday, Zorba remembered that we had seen a sand-mining truck by the river shortly before arriving in Kawlchaw and, as Armin came down from the camp to pick up Zorba and Apal, we decided to look for the truck and talk to its driver.

The younger boatman was good enough to accompany us in order to help with us with negotiations. Finally, it was decided that we would meet again at the same location tomorrow morning at 8. a.m. and that two trucks would be waiting for us for the 8-hour journey to a village just below said gorge on the river. Back at the camp, we had rice, roast potatoes and fried eggs (the eggs being about the only thing we managed to buy in Kawlchaw on a Sunday).

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