First Descent of the Mekong in Tibet

John paddling “Twisted Sister” on the First Descent of the Mekong in Tibet

But Pete had already made up his mind: The river was too difficult and dangerous for the rafts to continue, which meant the trip was over! I was very disappointed, but I agreed with his decision. There was a chance that the kayakers could go on alone, but we needed to discuss it with the rest of the group.

I walked downstream alone, contemplating my life and this incredible river. Even though I was definitely past my prime, I was feeling pretty good. My neck was still sore from the five-day bus ride, but the pain was fading, and my old spirit was coming back. I also knew that, between the political situation there and my age, if I didn’t make it down the canyon this trip, I would probably never come back.

My thoughts drifted to one of my favorite lyrics by Tom Waits — “Opportunity don’t knock/He has no tongue and she cannot talk” — and I tried to think rationally, while my adrenaline was pushing me to continue.

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First Descent of the Mekong River in Tibet

“Crash! Boom! Bam! Crash! Splash!”

A loud noise startled us, so we looked downstream and saw a large rock avalanche crashing into the rapid — in the very spot where we had thought about lining the rafts. The avalanche also inundated one of the eddies I had thought about catching, and watching the rocks crash into the river brought back harsh memories of the Colca. The avalanche sent a very strong message to everyone else, as well, and as we hid from the rain and enjoyed a warm lunch, we all pondered how dangerous this river really was.

Intense portage through an active rockslide!

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