RiverIndia: Building a Sustainable Alternative

My friend, Roland Stevenson is proud and passionate about the Siang River in India. He founded RiverIndia in 2005 and in 2006 I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in his first expedition down the Siang River. Today, a company wants to dam the Siang River.

RiverIndia and SARSI need your help!  SARSI is a grass-roots Himalayan partnership training locals in sustainable river-tourism on the Siang River in Arunachal Pradesh, India. Since inception in 2005, SARSI promotes an economic alternative to dams: a local river-recreation industry that shares a healthy and protected Siang. Visit riverindia.com/​kickstarter to contribute or learn more.

For information on the trip that Emily I took in 2006-2007, I have taken the excerpts from my former blog: Amanda in Kenya.

My blog post from RiverIndia:

River India’s 1st trip- Siang River January 13-24, 2007

On the flight to New Delhi I realized that I had no idea what to expect of the River India trip. In fact I had only skimmed the itinerary and really had no idea of where I was headed. It turned out that what I experienced on the River India trip far transcended anything that I could have expected. The trip was absolutely incredible!!

When Emily and I arrived in New Delhi I was immediately taken aback by the crowds and pollution surrounding the city. This was once a “haven” for the Coolidge’s from Pakistan. I remember thinking how progressive India was compared to Pakistan- its ideals, views towards women, and the modernization of the city. This time around I kept thinking- where is the blue sky and will people stop pushing me! I was aching to get into the outdoors and away from the bustling city. However Delhi did have its great moments- like riding in a jammed Rickshaw with Roland and another River India client through the streets of Delhi, meeting up with all the River India folks who would be on the trip, and seeing all of the beautiful Hindu temples that surround the area.

On the 13th, all 7 clients and Roland boarded a plane to Dibrugarh- this was the beginning of the realization that where we were going was FAR FAR AWAY! It would be a 5 hour flight, then an 8 hour ferry ride, and an hour 8 drive to our put in. I really had no idea. When we put in at the Siang River we were close to the border of Tibet- incredible!

The trip itself is hard to describe in words because it was so enlightening and inspiring. The scenery was incredible- with lush jungle areas, huge rocks engulfing the river, and the occasional sight of the Himalayas in the background. We camped each night on a white sandy beach. We ate an incredible assortment of food, had great fireside chats, and enjoyed all that the river had to offer.

While on the trip I met some incredible people and in my diary I wrote down some of their words of wisdom- which I will share:


  • Never be afraid to quit or lose your job.
  • Happiness and material possessions are not linked
  • You never need that much stuff (he travelled the world for one year with 17 kilos)
  • No matter where you live, there are always positives and negatives


  • Don’t rush things and don’t always follow a schedule, sometimes the best things that happen are spontaneous events.
  • Money doesn’t make happiness.
  • So many people spend their time and energy saving money and putting it away for retirement vs. living in the moment and living life now.
  • Don’t always plan far ahead into the future.
  • Sometimes you need to go through the worse things in life to gain the best.


  • You should always keep exploring to find your passion.
  • Pay attention to the coincidences.

Hindu Philosophies from a pamphlet at a Hindu Temple in New Delhi:

  • “May our longings and aspirations, our ideas and ideals be genuine and generous”
  • “Do not make thy life a continual sadness and sorrow”


Overall the River India trip was incredible and the adventure is something I wouldn’t trade for anything!! I will post pictures up in the next day or so, however when I returned to Nairobi and to my office I discovered that my laptop had been stolen from the office… so for the next couple of days I will be sorting that out. However, I seem to be taking it all in stride- maybe the Hindu and Buddhist philosophies of Northern India have influenced me more than I realized!

Emily’s post on Amanda in Kenya

Emily’s email re: our Rafting Trip

FINALLY PICTURES (well some of them):

Here is Emily’s email she sent out to everyone about our rafting trip. She went into way more detail then me so I thought I would insert it for ya’ll!!

Hi All!
I hope everyone is doing well and having lots of laughs whatever you are doing. Amanda and I got back from India last week, so I guess that means that it is now time for me to send the report on fabulous River India trip!

To bring you all up to date: our friend, Roland (from Pakistan, Acadia, and UBC days), started his own company organizing river rafting trips down some rarely-rafted rivers in Northeastern India. The company is “River India” (http://www.riverindia.com/), and I recommend that you all go check it out! Amanda and I joined Roland for the inaugural public trip of his company, rafting down the Siang River in the corner of NE India near the Tibetan border. In total, there were 7 rafters (including Amanda and me) and 6 guides (including Roland).

We spent two days in Dehli, and that is one hustling-bustling city! I had been to Dehli back in 1992 and 1994 with my parents, but Dehli as an adult on your own budget is a very different experience! We stayed at a quaint little guest house off a main drag (or at least it seemed like a main road considering it was 3 lanes turned into 5 plus rickshaws and tuk-tuks). Amanda and I tried to spend our first afternoon exploring bazaars and walking seemingly familiar streets, but stepping out in Dehli was completely exhausting for our overnight-traveling bodies, so we opted to sit in the courtyard of our guesthouse and read books. J Day two in Dehli proved to be more successful, and this time we were prepared for the constant rush and noise of the fighting traffic, as well as the mobs of people, cars, and cows. We spent the day sightseeing Hindu temples, a world peace temple (Aksharamdam), and a Ba’ahi temple. (Katy, I was thinking of your grandmother!)

So, Dehli aside, let’s get to the heart of the trip: We met our group of rafters at the Dehli airport, and after introductions and a search for coffee, it was apparent that this was going to be a great mesh of people to spend 10 days with. To give you an idea of how remote our rafting trip was, we had to take a 5 hour flight from Dehli to Dibrugarh (Assam), overnight in Assam, take an 8 hour ferry up river to Pasighat (Aranachal Pradesh) (where we met up with the river guides and our rafting gear), overnight in Pasighat, and then drive 8 hours through winding roads to Pingkong (Aranachal Pradesh), where we set up our first camp and eventually launched the boats on the Siang river the following morning. Basically, if I had travelled directly from Vancouver-Siang River, it would have taken 6 ½ days to “put-in” (extremely technical rafting term for the first launch of the rafts).

If I were to just tell you what we did on the rafting trip, then it would be a pretty regular schedule for 6 nights/7 days of rafting and camping. So, here it is: 6:30am wake up call to coffee, chai, and breakfast, take town tents and pack dry bag, launch boats off beach by 10am. Paddle, paddle, snack, paddle, hit a rapid (Class 2), paddle, find gorgeous beach to dock for lunch and fill bellies. Then, paddle, paddle, rapid (Class 3), paddle, bigger rapid (Class 3-4, paddle, find even more spectacular beach to set up camp for the night. Unload rafts, set up tent, collect firewood, start Happy Hour, build fire while guides cook up a delicious dinner, sit by fire with some rum and attempt to discover the secret of life from the guides and rafters. Asleep by 8:30pm. Repeat as desired.

While the rafting was great and exciting, what made the trip so memorable and amazing was the group of 13 people we were with for the 10 days. We were a journalist, a travel writer, a probation officer, a novelist, a windmill technician, a chemical engineer, a vintage BMW collector, an entrepreneur, a yoga instructor, a corporate developer, an educational technologist, and a post-MSc trying to find herself. As you can imagine, conversations were never dull, and everyone was genuinely interested in each other. Everyone had a story to tell, some great insight or quote to offer about living your life, a good laugh to share at the end of the day, and a great attitude about the constant presence of sand and lack of showers. Unfortunately, I can’t recap all the inspirational and enlightening moments we had in just an email, but believe me when I say that it was a wonderful group to be surrounded by!

So after 6 nights of camping and living out of a shared 40 litre dry bag (affectionately known as “Mom” because Amanda and I were teased that we were hiding another family member in there), we ended the inaugural River India Siang River trip back at the base camp at Pasighat. The next morning, after hugs and email address exchanging, we hopped back on the ferry to Dibrugarh, and then flew to Dehli and went back to our respective corners of the world. However, goodbyes did not come without talk of a reunion trip, possible meet-ups here and there, and promises to keep in touch.


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