Compass Blog

Brett On The Water: Ganges River, Part II

Locations: India & Area

In his blog, Brett on the Water – Ganges India, Brett Rogers shares his adventure of paddling the Ganges River as an intrepid explorer and story teller. From his arrival to the bustling city of Delhi and travels to the foothills of the Himalayas to his introduction to the Ganges, Brett brings this holy river to life with the enriching experiences and new friends he gained along the way. As Brett would say, “See you on the riv!”

In Part II of his blog series, Brett finds honesty and truth in humankind when his lost phone is returned to him by a poverished, local man. Then shortly after starting his voyage on the Ganges, Brett begins to define India for himself;  as place and an experience of a “million moments of extremes”.

Who Is Brett Rogers and what’s he doing on the Ganges?

Explorer in Residence, Brett Rogers, has led expeditions on the Mackenzie, Yukon and Mississippi Rivers. Over a total of 10 months, he spanned a total distance of 9,000 kilometers without burning a tank of gas. The focus of these expeditions was never about being the first, the fastest or to re-enact past expeditions. Rather, the goal has always been to capture the unforgiving experiences of the modern day journey; propelled by the compelling people, secrets and dangers encountered along the way.

Brett believes storytelling can change the world.

His latest expedition took him to the Ganges River, on a three week trip to discover the real story of India’s sacred river. The expedition began at the meeting of the Yamuna and Ganges Rivers, the two holiest rivers in Hinduism, in the city of Allahabad. Here, a traditional wooden boat was purchased and a local boatman hired to undertake the expedition. Brett and his crew then traveled 10 days on the Ganges River from Allahabad to Gazipur.  During the expedition, all food and water was purchased along the river and every night, camp was set up on shore. The ultimate goal was to travel the Ganges through an unfiltered lens – not as a western tourist.

Brett On The Water: Ganges River, Part II

December 13, 2013

24 hours ago after a 15 hour day of travel that encompassed a series of planes, trains and automobiles our luck seemed to have run out. Somewhere between a bus and a tuk-tuk ride to the hotel one of my bags with our DSLR camera and my phone went missing.  It was not until the next morning when I went to check the time that I realized what I had lost.

I felt sick.  I was mad at myself.  I could not believe I put myself in such a situation. But… I also knew I could not let a material lose define this trip. As a team we accepted our  lost and we decided to move on. We went down to the river to check out our boat and toured around Allahabad gathering some last minute supplies. The camera and phone was gone, there was nothing we could do.

At around 6 PM when we returned to the hotel to pack bags. Two young boys greeted us. They were from the tuk-tuk and they had come to tell us they had my bag at their house. I will finish this story later when I can properly share the humanity of this experience through the pictures and video that back up this story.  What I will say is the man responsible for this incredible gesture of honesty was also a man with a broken arm (who could not afford medical help to fix it and is now crippled because of this) who from an incredibly poor family where making $10 a day is a good day. His name is Mohd Ahmad.

When I get home I will help tell his story and with your help we will raise enough money to have his arm repaired. I hope I can count on you.

I haven’t even been in India for a week but what I have experienced has been as powerful as all my years combined. And we haven’t even hit the river yet…

December 14, 2012

Just about to head down to the river and I realized I could access these pictures after all (unable to download 64 GB cards at the moment).

You will see Mohd Ahmad in the picture above - his eyes will pierce your heart. His mother, a widow, brought us to a family friend who is also a lawyer whose name is Haroon Ahmad. Haroon went through my phone and eventually contacted my Dad although it was Mohd Ahmad’s tuk-tuk assistant who actually tracked us down.

You can see Mohd Ahmad arm is severely injured. It’s been like this for years. Of course he is in pain and his injury has made taking care of his mother and three sisters very difficult.

Again, I cannot believe he wanted to return the camera case. It would have been more than reasonable for him to sell it to make some money for his family but he is a man of honour and wanted it to be returned.

Now you can understand why we must help him. If it’s $2, $20, $200 or more… it’s the season of giving and the truth is the things we buy one another back home we don’t really need.  Let’s help change a life. Mohd Ahmad has already changed ours.

December 19, 2012

Five years ago when I worked for Waterkeeper I met a renowned environmental lawyer in Vancouver, B.C by the name of Douglas Chapman. I stayed at his place for a week. Last year he passed on; I think he was in his mid-70′s but I am not sure. I will never forget what he told me during my stay.

Douglas had traveled the world as a younger man including Afghanistan. One night after sipping on some brews I asked him some questions about his travels.

First I asked “what was the best country you ever visited?” He said “India”. I then asked “what was the worse country you ever visited?” He said “India”. His answers intrigued me and so I knew I had to come see India for myself.

We have arrived in Varanasi. We’re also recovering from some river sickness minus Doug who has managed to stay healthy. But we knew that coming in. We had to be ready to take the good with the bad because that’s India; brilliant but dark, kind yet cruel, spiritual and forbidden. And of course, life vs. death.

Nowhere else is the line between life and death so visible than here in Varanasi. Perhaps it’s Hinduism ability to accept death as a part of life? Whatever the force both extremes are ever so present here. The beautiful cremations, the ancient Ghats, the vivid flowers, the bloated dead pig floating in the river.

The River Ganges is a contradiction onto herself. No river on Earth feeds more people than does Mother Ganga; her fertile soil feeds over 7% of the world’s population. Yet she is arguably more polluted by human waste, rubbish and dead animals than any other river. She is a river of extremes.

I now understand what Douglas Chapman was talking about.

One second your puking into your rubber boot after you just took your only antibiotics for a bad case of the runs that won’t go away. And only a few days before, a young man in extreme poverty returns your lost camera expecting nothing in return. The worse with the best, the best with the worse and on and on it goes.

So if you have never been to India this will be my only attempt to explain what India is. A place, an experience, a million moments of extremes – all in your face all at once.


As a filmmaker, Brett has been mentored by Les Stroud, (Survivorman), who has helped guide Brett into becoming a storyteller. Les is the Executive Producer of Brett's last two expeditions, the Yukon and Mississippi Rivers. The Yukon documentary, 100 Days, is a firsthand account of Brett's expedition down the Yukon River from Whitehorse, Yukon to the Bering Sea. The Old Man River Project, was a 110 day undertaking on the Mississippi River from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in a historic York Boat that was constructed specifically for this expedition.

Aside from his own projects, Brett has worked in television on Survivorman, Les Stroud’s Beyond Survival, Megaworld, Mighty Ships and Top Chef Canada. As an instructor of TV Documentary at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario Brett continues to emphasize that passion and creativity are the fundamental elements required to tell compelling stories. Brett has undertaken camera assignments in Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Peru, Chile, Antarctica, South Georgia Island, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and throughout the 10 States that boarder the Mississippi River.

Brett is a recent and proud member to The Explorers Club. Founded in New York City in 1904, The Explorers Club is an international multidisciplinary professional society dedicated to the advancement of field research and the ideal that it is vital to preserve the instinct to explore.

Brett has been featured on Breakfast Television, Daily Planet, Canada AM, The Weather Network, ABC News, the National Post, KW Record, Toronto Sun, Advocate of Baton Rouge, Hamilton Spectator, Waterkeeper Magazine, CBC Radio, and National Geographic Traveler, The Documentary Channel & more.



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