Middle Fork River Expeditions
Middle Fork River Expeditions

International River Expeditions

Join MFRE owner/guide James Ellsworth on the following International River Expeditions to India in 2024.  James was International Rivers Program Director for www.mtsobek.com for 10 years from 1997 until 2006.  He was in charge of operating a First Raft Descent every year as well as manage dozens of International River trips.  He is excited to continue offering amazing trips to far flung destinations.

August 18- 30, 2024- The Zanskar River in Ladakh, India (See detailed itinerary below) and Click on Link Here

MFRE’s International Affiliate is Wantok Adventures, which is run by John Yost, c0-founder of Sobek Expeditions.  Since 1973, John has spearheaded the exploration by raft most of the major rivers around the world.  Sobek did over 70+ First Raft Descents around the world, including the Yangtze in China, Indus in India, Zambezi in Zambia, Bio Bio in Chile, Tatshenshini in Alaska, Coruh in Turkey to name a few.  He continues to push the boundaries of rafting, not only reviving many of the classic trips of yore, but always on the lookout for new rivers to explore too. His encyclopedic knowledge of raftable rivers and of local whitewater outfitters around the world make it easy for Wantok to zero in on the very best available adventures.

Call James on his cell at 415-342-8011 or e-mail him at middlefork@idahorivers.com to discuss these trip offerings or John Yost ‭at 510-517-8953‬ on his cell to sign up.  John’s e-mail is wantokadventures@gmail.com.  Please note these are Wantok Adventures trip offerings and you will be signing a Wantok waiver and paying them directly.  Middle Fork River Expeditions is not the outfitter for these departures.  James will join these departures as the Trip Leader and be working with local river guides to provide an amazing trip of a lifetime.

August 18-30, 2024- The Zanskar River in Ladakh, India

It doesn’t get much better than this! The Zanskar offers all of the elements of the perfect river trip—Exciting but safe whitewater, spectacular canyon scenery, extensive cultural contact, lots of diversity, great monasteries and palaces, beautiful campsites, dry and pleasant weather, remoteness, and an excellent local crew. It’s an immersion in Tibetan Buddhism with a touch of Moghul majesty, a photographer’s paradise.

When George Wendt, founder and owner of OARS, the biggest rafting company in the world, did this trip with us in 2012, he declared it the best international river trip he had ever done and promptly chartered two Zanskar departures through Wantok.

John Yost, Sobek Expeditions co-founder and long-time international river guide, rates the Zanskar as the #1 river experience in the world, combining true adventure and wilderness with superb off-river activities. It is remote and wild enough to keep the crowds away, a truly special place. The Zanskar takes you into a world of awe and wonder, of whitewater action and scenic overkill.



DAY 1, Aug 18 ~ Delhi

After you have passed through customs and immigration, you are on your own for transport to the hotel unless you have booked your transfer arrangements in advance through our office. The cost is $50 per transfer. Arranging your transport on arrival can easily be done using Uber (your US app works here too). The Uber pickup point is to your left after you exact the terminal and is reasonable well-signed. Alternatively, you can take advantage of Delhi’s extremely reliable and convenient system of Prepaid Taxis, either the very inexpensive (less than $10) ordinary taxis or the air-conditioned radio taxis. Look for the booths labeled Prepaid Taxis or Radio Taxis slightly to your left and set back across a couple lanes when you exit the terminal, give them the address of your destination, pay the fee and go outside to board your taxi. No hassles or bargaining needed.

No activities are planned for the day except an orientation meeting at 8 pm in the lobby of the hotel. Dinner is on your own. If you arrive early, we suggest you check out some of the monuments that we do not plan to visit on our city tour, like Humayun’s Tomb, the National Museum, or Qutab Minar, the world’s tallest brick tower set amongst Hindu temples. Visits to the monuments can be arranged through us or at your hotel. If you’d like to visit the Taj Mahal, you’ll need to arrive on the previous day and book a hotel room for the extra night.

(hotelmetdelhi.com). We can book the day tour to the Taj and get you back in time for the group meeting.

Metropolitan Hotel or similar

Note—Due to the International Date Line it may take two calendar days to travel to Delhi. The date and time of arrival in Delhi varies greatly from carrier to carrier. Most flights arrive in Delhi either very late in the evening (between 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.) or early in the morning (between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m.). We are holding reservations at the hotel in Delhi for the group starting the afternoon of Day 1. If you arrive early in the morning of Day 1, you will need hotel accommodation for the previous night in order to check in immediately. You should make the necessary room reservation directly at themethotel.com.

 Day 2, Aug 19 ~ Srinagar

After breakfast we drive to the airport for a morning flight to Srinagar, the historical capital city of Kashmir. Nestling in the midst of the great peaks of the Karakoram, Zanskar and Pir Panjal ranges at a height of 5,676 feet, Srinagar is a truly beautiful city. The summer capital (May – October) of Jammu & Kashmir and the center of the valley, this city has been eulogized by travelers, poets, kings and saints alike for its scenic splendor and delightful ambience.

Srinagar is renowned for its enchanting lakes filled with houseboats and shikaras (gondola like boats) set amidst forested mountain slopes. The most prominent natural feature of Srinagar is the Dal Lake, a large lake surrounded by luxuriant chinar and poplar trees. The waters of the Dal Lake are dotted with small willow covered islands that give an ethereal ambience to the lake on misty mornings. A unique feature of the lake is the Mihrbahri people, trading in flowers, fruits and vegetables grown on floating gardens on islands in the lake.

We stay on deluxe houseboats on the lake, usually made out of cedar that resists water-logging for a very long time, and elaborately furnished and decorated. The famous Dal Lake houseboats are floating homes with all the modern facilities.   Our meals are prepared on board, and handicraft and rug vendors will come to us to pitch their wares to anyone interested

After lunch and a rest on the tranquil houseboats, we’ll ride shikaras back to town to visit a nearby Hindu temple. At a height of 1,100 feet on Shankaracharya Hill is the Shankaracharya Temple. This ancient hilltop shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva is said to have been built by King Gopadatya in 371 BC. Over time, the temple was renovated and reconstructed by several rulers, including Lalitaditya, Zain-ul-Abidin, Sheikh Mohi-ud-Din and finally Maharaja Gulab Singh.

All meals–Royal Houseboats or similar

DAY 3, Aug 20 ~ Kargil (8,780’)

We get up just before dawn to ride our shikaras to the morning vegetable market, a pageant of sound and color. In the quiet of dawn, the noisy life of the market seems even more vibrant. We paddle back to the houseboats, enjoy breakfast aboard, then head back to dry land.

On the way our way out of town to the mountains, we’ll visit one of the Mughal Gardens with their terraced lawns, cascading fountains, and palette-bright flowerbeds. The Nishat Bagh (Garden of Bliss) was designed in 1633 by Asaf Khan, the brother of Empress Nur Jahan, and features terraced layers with water channels flowing down its center. The larger and most elaborate garden of the Mughals is the Shalimar Bagh (Abode of Love), laid out by Emperor Jahangir for his wife Nur Jahan. On the topmost terrace is the pavilion reserved for the royal visitors. Supported by stunning black marble pillars, the pavilion had tiny niches that were used to keep fragrant flowers in the day and light up the pavilion with lamps at night.

We drive about 6 hours through magnificent mountain scenery from the Kashmir valley into the Zanskar region. The first half of the drive is a scenic ascent to Sonamarg and steeply up to Zojila Pass (11,572’), the Gateway to Ladakh. We continue our drive towards Drass, which claims to be the second coldest inhabited place in the world, with Buddhist manuscripts in the form of rock carvings along the roadside. From there another 2 ½ hours take us to Kargil, a dusty commercial town where we halt for tonight at a nice riverside hotel.

All meals—D’zojila Hotel or similar

DAY 4, Aug 21 ~ Rangdum (13,100’)

Today we’ll take a spectacular 6 hour drive past the villages of Panikar and Parkachik, with magnificent views of the Nun and Kun massifs (23,409’ and 23,218’ respectively), hanging glaciers, and large meadows. By the roadside fat and sassy marmots scamper, curious to watch but timid, and dzos (a yak-cow cross) plod decorously. Our destination is a campsite near the village of Rangdum, with incredible views of the high mountains when the weather is clear.

All meals—Camp

DAY 5, Aug 22 ~ Remala (11,930’) & begin float

After an early breakfast, we drive to the nearby Rangdum Gompa (a gompa is a Buddhist monastery and religious center), founded in the early 16th century and currently home to about 40 monks. Rangdum has a small “museum” with fine artifacts. It is perched picturesquely atop a centrally rising hillock within the arms of a bifurcated mountain stream. We then continue on the 4 hour drive to Remala, the starting point for the rafting trip on the Doda River, a tributary of the Zanskar. Our drive takes us over the Pensi La (14,500′), which affords us grand views of the Zanskar peaks and the Darang Durong glacier that feeds the Zanskar River 25 miles below, into which we venture this afternoon. Without loading all of our gear we will paddle light boats for 2-3 hours down to Karsha (11,470’), where we meet the rest of our expedition crew and gear, and set up camp. We ease into the rhythm of the river with gentle Class II rapids, a good introduction for first-timers. And what scenery: We’re surrounded by 19,000-foot-high peaks of startling beauty, while closer by the villages, chortens (Buddhist monuments), colorful meadows, and local peoples enthrall!

All meals–Camp

DAY 6, Aug 23 ~ Zangla (11,270’) or similar

In the morning we drive to the foot of Karsha Gompa, a 15th-century monastery clinging to steep cliffs, presided over by a brother of the Dalai Lama, and hike steeply up to the monastery. Three chapels contain numerous statues and other art objects, among which is a set of exquisite silver and copper chortens. Of particular interest is the temple at the top of the gompa, where frescoes believed to be more than 300 years old adorn the damaged walls. Once we are done there, we’ll use our transport to drive back to our river camp for lunch.

After lunch, we leave our camp and the river begins to pick up speed. We enjoy more Class II rapids. The landscapes continue to be otherworldly, and the cultural interaction with villagers who rarely see outsiders is fascinating. We’ll try to select a campsite tonight that is not only comfortable and lovely, but that has access to a remote village or a monastery too or perhaps an intriguing cleft in the sandstone to explore. 

All meals—Camp

DAYS 7-9, Aug 24-26 ~ The gorge

From our camp it’s not far to the gorge, the highlight of the river trip. The Zanskar Gorge is steep and deep, complete with towering walls, breathtaking geology, waterfalls, and challenging whitewater. Camps are scarce, and it is uncertain where we will spend these nights—since we will be looking for new camps and hikes, we just don’t know what we’ll find. We plan to limit our river hours so that we can explore some of the many tributaries that beckon the adventurous hiker in this mini–Grand Canyon that never ceases to amaze. We are sure to see some wonderful sights, including some that will be a surprise even to the crew!

We may stop and hike up to a village named Nyerag, where the friendly locals show us their traditional homes and clothing, and offer for sale Tibetan-style rugs that they weave.

We run more than 25 miles of thrilling Class III-IV rapids, with a pause to line or ghost boat a new Class V rapid created by debris from road construction in the area which we call Jackhammer. There may be a couple Class IVs depending on water level, and the last full day on the river has the best action of all. NOTE—In high water the river becomes a solid Class IV rafting experience.

All meals—Camp

DAY 10, Aug 27 ~ Leh

This is our last day on the river. The rafting pace slows down, but the scenery never stops. We usually have lunch at the take-out just after the confluence with the Indus, so our boats will at least taste a few minutes of the waters of the mighty Indus. On the way back to our hotel in Leh we will visit at least two monasteries from the many along the Indus. Some possibilities are Basgo, Likir, and Spituk.

Basgo monastery, built on a spectacular ridge above the village, features a giant statue of the Maitreya Buddha and 16th century murals. It is built around the ruins of a castle from the middle ages. Likir, founded in the 11th century, combines the old with the new. It features several temples honoring Tara, Avalokitshvara, Sakyamuni, Amitabha, and the founder of the Gelugpa or yellow-hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism, plus a newly completed 75 foot tall statue of a seated Buddha, resplendently painted and beautifully finished. Spituk is a large 11th-century monastery, with over 100 monks in residence and several subsidiary gompas around the valley. It features two lovely temples and several more halls filled with thangkas (elaborate scroll paintings), murals and statues of several different Buddhas and rinpoches (teachers).

Hot showers and cold beers await us at the hotel, as does a great meal to top off the day.

All meals–Omasila Hotel or similar

DAY 11, Aug 28 ~ Leh

We drive upriver along the Indus to Hemis Gompa. The Hemis Monastery on the west banks of the Indus River belongs to the Drugpa order and is perhaps the largest and the richest monastery in central Ladakh. The monastery treasures a copper-gilt statue of Lord Buddha along with other gold and silver statues. It has a very impressive museum of Buddhist art too.

Then we head back towards Leh, stopping first at Thiksey. Thiksey monastery is known as one of the most beautiful monasteries of Ladakh region. The monastery is famous for the images of Shakyamuni Buddha, Maitreya Buddha, Dharamkaya, Mahakali and Bhairava. We’ll have our lunch at a small restaurant near the monastery. Shey, our final stop, is an abandoned palace built in the 17th century. It has a huge two-storey high image of Buddha made of copper and gilded with gold – the largest metal statue and the second largest Buddha statue in Ladakh. The lower storey has a library with fine murals.

What remains of the afternoon is free to shop and pack, then anyone who still has energy can take an optional sunset excursion out to the Shanti (peace) stupa on the outskirts of Leh. A magnificent white-domed structure, the Shanti Stupa offers spectacular views of the sunset. The stupa looks best at night, when it is beautifully illuminated with glittering lights.

All meals–Omasila Hotel or similar

DAY 12, Aug 29 ~ Delhi

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Delhi, where we’ll be met and driven to our hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax and prepare for the journey home, or to depart this evening or night (as many of the flights leave in the middle of the night) or spend a night at the hotel before you fly out. Rooms will be provided for everyone regardless of your time of departure. Lunch & dinner are on your own. Transport to the airport is easily available through Uber at a low cost (currently about $10). Taxis can be arranged through the hotel as well if you prefer.

Breakfast only–Metropolitan Hotel or similar 

DAY 13, Aug 30 ~ Depart

If you didn’t fly out during the night, breakfast is provided. You’re on your own for transport to the airport for your departure on homeward-bound flights.   See notes on Uber and taxis above.

Breakfast only


August 18-30, 2024

$2999 per person for 13+ participants

$3250 per person for 9-12 participants

$3950 per person for 6-8 participants

Trip costs are based on double occupancy. Should you prefer single rooms and tent, the single supplement cost is $600. Should you be traveling alone but willing to share rooms and tent, we will try to match you up with a roommate. If we are unable to do this, the surcharge for involuntary singles is $525.

Airfare Delhi/Srinagar & Leh/Delhi is not included. Projected cost for these tickets varies from $175-250. We’ll issue tickets about 120 days before the trip and add the ticket amount to the final invoices. Late bookings may pay higher airfares.


  • Wantok leadership on the trip and planning assistance before it
  • accommodations in hotels or inns in cities and villages
  • all arrangements in the field, including camp meals, cook staffs, group gear and rafting equipment
  • meals as noted
  • drinking water throughout the tour
  • airport transfers on group arrival and departure days
  • sightseeing and activities as noted in the itinerary
  • ground transportation
  • monastery and monument entrance fee


Excluded from the basic trip cost are

  • international airfare
  • domestic flights within India as listed above
  • insurance (see Insurance section below)
  • tipping off-river and to leader, guides, river staff (see Tipping section of Pre-trip Info)
  • airport transfers if arriving earlier or later than trip dates
  • excess baggage charges
  • airport taxes
  • any meals noted as “on your own”
  • personal items like drinks, laundry, souvenirs, etc.


Wantok, a word from the Tok Pisin language of Papua New Guinea, literally means “someone who speaks my language”, which by implication means someone from the same village or nearby, and by extension a friend or a mate.  We, a group of veteran international river runners, chose the name to celebrate the spirit of camaraderie that brought us together. We are not a business in the traditional sense. We cooperate to create and market exciting river trips.

Our goal is to bring you great whitewater at great values, maintaining the highest standards of professionalism and safety on the water while minimizing the tendency towards luxury of the large adventure companies. We think trip participants are fully capable of being a bit more self-reliant, that 3-4 star hotels with lots of local flavor are preferable to the big chains, that a great meal in a lively local restaurant is more enjoyable than the same meal in a fancy tourist place, and that a sense of adventure should be part of every trip.

Our price structure is simple, omitting the many hundreds of dollars others add on to every booking to pay for their printing, their mailings, their offices, and their staff. We devise the best and most cost-effective itineraries and negotiate the lowest fair price with the best local operators to offer you a terrific trip at a good price. A local outfitter, our guides, and you—that’s all we need!


For years travelers have been visiting the great ruins, monuments and cultural attractions of the world. Their more adventurous cousins have been going to the same countries to challenge the rapids of whitewater rivers.   Why not combine the two, we thought? So now we have. In 2024 we are offering six trips that combine the tourist highlights of a country with rafting on its best rivers, spending most nights in hotels along the way: Georgia (Caucasus Mountains), Bhutan, The Alps (Austria, Italy & Switzerland), Veracruz and two new additions to our World Rivers Portfolio, New Zealand and Rwanda.

This enticing collection of journeys will offer something for everyone who loves the thrills and beauty of a great river. Wantok’s encyclopedic knowledge of rivers and river outfitters in a hundred countries, compiled during a lifetime of travel and river exploration, has been applied to devise the very best itineraries with the top operators around the globe.

Perhaps you’ll be lured by the exhilarating whitewater, ancient Orthodox monasteries, great food and welcoming people of the Georgian Caucasus. You won’t want to miss the Alps, with all the comfort and glory of Europe paired with four great rivers and fine wining and dining in three countries. In Bhutan, the hidden kingdom, we’ll be overwhelmed by the splendor of the monasteries, temples and palaces, enjoy stunning walks through the hills, and raft some of its lesser-known rivers. You might opt for Veracruz and its fabulous whitewater, MesoAmerican ruins and deep green forests, a complete adventure experience. Or go all out and experience a first by joining one of our new programs. New Zealand is famous for its sparkling rivers, and our itinerary includes the best ones on the South Island, including a couple heli-rafting experiences. Rwanda is a cultural and wildlife extravaganza backed up by a series of lovely, challenging rivers. We’re sure that one of these treats will compel you to try or try again this new way of seeing the rivers of the world.

Or you can take advantage of our Roll Your Own option and get together a group of four or more people to create a departure on any of our existing World Rivers itineraries in Peru, Ecuador, Morocco, Japan, Southeast Asia, Nepal, East Africa, Bhutan, Chile, Veracruz, Rwanda, New Zealand or Guatemala. If you have a country in mind for a World Rivers-style trip, let us know and we may be able to put the perfect itinerary together for you.

All of the trips take you out of the US for less than two weeks, and most nights are spent in picturesque hotels and inns as we seek to avoid the blandness of the international hotel chains in favor of small, family-run properties with local flavor and a personal feel.

Sound appealing? All the details you’ll need to pick the right trip for yourself are available in on our website, www.wantokadventures.com. Take advantage of the opportunity to tour some of the most interesting countries in the world and get your whitewater fix too. But watch out: Once you try your first Wantok World Rivers trip, you may become addicted.


Most of this trip is spent above 10,000 feet, and we sleep one night at 13,000 feet. The itinerary is planned for gradual acclimatization in order to allow your blood to adjust to the need to carry more oxygen as the air thins out. We fly into Srinagar, at an elevation of 6,000 feet, drive the next day over a high pass then down to sleep at 9,000 feet, then up to a night at 13,000 feet, then back down to 12,000 feet to begin the float. Most people are thoroughly acclimatized, having suffered only headaches of varying degrees, by the time we sleep at the highest spot. On all trips so far, anyone who feels dizzy and nauseous that night has recovered by the time we are on the river. We carry a canister of oxygen for the drive (when we are at the highest elevation). If you have had previous difficulty with altitude sickness, please discuss with your doctor the possibility of taking Diamox or a similar drug to facilitate adaptation to the altitude gains. Chlorophyll tablets and melatonin for sleeping at altitude may help. Please consult your doctor.


Neither the guides who are part of Wantok nor Wantok Adventures LLC, which is a loose association and not a formally structured business, carries liability, evacuation or other insurance for the participants.

We VERY STRONGLY recommend that you check what your current insurance will cover on a trip, and then purchase additional insurance for anything else you feel you need. We particularly advise buying trip cancellation, medical and evacuation insurance in case of last-minute changes in plans or a need for emergency medical treatment or evacuation while on the trip.

You can find good insurance policies through WorldNomads, Ripcord, Squaremouth, Travelguard, and Travelsafe. Another excellent option is MedJet. At a modest cost they will supply evacuation insurance from anywhere in the world to any hospital, promptly and without questions.

You will be required to sign a liability waiver acknowledging the insurance situation to participate in the trip.


A deposit of $800 per person will hold your seat on this trip.

If you’re ready to join the trip, please mail your check for $800 per person to Wantok at 1678 B 16th St, Oakland CA 94607. If you prefer to pay by credit card, you can do so via Paypal, www.paypal.com, using our email address wantokadventures@gmail.com to identify us. Payments by Zelle or Venmo also accepted. Please inquire.

You will receive an email on receipt of your deposit with the detailed information on the trip, including a registration form, liability waiver, packing list, and travel details.


Final payment is due 90 days before trip departure. Final payments using Paypal will be charged an additional 4% of the amount being paid to cover Paypal fees.   Checks should be mailed to Wantok, 1678 B 16th St, Oakland CA 94607. Payments by Zelle, Venmo or direct transfer will not be surcharged by Wantok.

If you cancel your trip up to 90 days before departure, your deposit minus $250 penalty will be refunded. The penalty rises to $500 for cancellations received 89-60 days before trip departure. Cancellations between 60 and 30 days before trip departure incur a fee of 50% of trip land cost. No refund will be made for cancellations within 29 days of departure date.

We strongly recommend purchase of trip cancellation insurance (see above). 


Contact James at 415-342-8011 or John Yost at  wantokadventures@gmail.com


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