A three member team, Harish Kapadia, Motup Chewang and Wing Cdr. V K Sashindran travelled from the Brahmaputra, along the Siang river to the Tsangpo Gorge where it enters the Indian territory . Though few parties have explored the ‘Great Tsangpo Bend' in the north (Pemako area in Tibet ) there are no records available of approach to the bend from India to the border of India-China. After the 1962 war with China the area was out of bounds. Now in 2004 a team of three Indians reached it from the Indian side, the entry point of the river into India , thus completing the final exploration of the Tsangpo.

The Tsangpo (as it is called in Tibet ) originates near Lake Manasrovar at foot of Kailash. After a long journey eastwards via Lhasa , it reaches the eastern Tibet . Here it's progress is blocked by the great massif of Namcha Barwa and Gyala Peri. The river takes a huge turn between these peaks. This has been termed as the ‘Great Tsangpo Bend'. It was matter of several explorations from early days. The Pundit explorer Kinthup was one of the first explorers to reach the gorge in disguise and he observed the ‘Rainbow Waterfall' where this mighty river falls. Here onwards the Tsangpo descends steeply towards south on the Tibetan plateau to the Himalayan divide leading to the McMahon Line, and India .

As the river enters Indian territory at 580 m (Arunachal Pradesh) it takes two ‘U' loops, which can be called the ‘Tsangpo/Siang Bend'. In Arunachal Pradesh it is called by different names like the Siang and Dihang and is joined by various tributaries. On reaching the Assam plains it is joined by the Dibang and Lohit rivers and onwards is called Brahmaputra river.

Due to the various names and vast terrain it covered, it was a matter discussion whether the Tsangpo is the same river as the Siang and whether it flows into Brahmaputra or into the Irrawaddy further east. This was solved by modern map makers and Satellite imageries.

2004 Exploration

The party travelled from Dibrugarh crossing the Bramaputra by a 2 hour long ferry to the northern bank. Travelling via Itanagar (to obtain ‘Inner Line' permits) they followed the road via Ziro, Daporijo to Along. Tuting was reached in two days of further travel, in all covering 985 km by vehicles. The team trekked to Kopu, Bona, Gelling and Bissing, the last village on the Tsangpo. Many precarious Foot Suspension Bridges over the Tsangpo, known here as the Siang, were crossed. From Bishing a peak of about 3200 m was climbed and a wonderful view of the Namcha Barwa and Gyala Peri massif was obtained..

From Bishing the party descended to banks of the Siang and old Korbo village and soon had to climb steeply across several ridges to camp in the forest near the Kasi nala. It was an experience to cut through very thick forest with undergrowth. Two local guides led the way hacking a route through inhospitable jungles. Though they had to most careful, due to the excellent clear weather enjoyed all through not much leeches, snakes and malaria infested insects, most common here, troubled the party.

From this camp, following a similar terrain they climbed steeply to Guyor La (1760 m) on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The pass was covered by thick forest and offered no view but it was a historic moment for the civilians to reach here. By late afternoon party descended to the Kasi nala camp.

Next day a route was hacked through forest leading down steeply to the banks of the Siang. They followed the route along the Siang, a 2 km wide and about 150 m high rock cliff barred the way and with water of the Siang rushing at it's foot blocking the way. The party climbed high along the edge of the cliff and after covering a difficult patch with ropes, again a route was hacked through forest above to traverse and descend on the other side. Going over rocky terrain finally the spot where the Tsangpo takes two ‘U' loops and enters India was reached. They photographed it extensively in background of mountains, hills and a river in Tibet .

After retuning to the camp on the Siang the party returned along the river bank to Bishing. Crossing steep cliffs and exposed rocks. They returned via the same route back to Tuting and drove back via Along to Dibrugarh.

Dates: 16 th November to 7 th December 2004.

Harish Kapadia

Article, HJ 61 

The expedition was dedicated to the Memory of LT. NAWANG KAPADIA of the 4th Battalion of the Third Gorkha Rifles.