Tracing The Ganges River…

….by cycle-rickshaw, foot, rowboat, and any other means possible.

Last weekend National Geographic Weekend host (and Traveler columnist) Boyd Matson interviewed documentary filmmakers JJ Kelley and Josh Thomas about their current trip: traveling along the Ganges River in India. Their videographer, journalist Dave Costello, gives an overview of their trip.

Most people who visit India snap a few pictures of themselves in front of the Taj Mahal, do some yoga, and call it a good trip. JJ Kelley and Josh Thomas, the comic pair of Dudes On Media and the makers of the award-winning documentary “Paddle to Seattle,” are touring the subcontinent a little differently, though. They’re scouting a new TV series in conjunction with Fine Films, following the length of the Ganges River from its source high in the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal where it empties into the Indian Ocean. A task in itself, sure, but they’ve added the extra challenge of doing it through rather unconventional means–by foot, cycle-rickshaw, rowboat, and any other unlikely mode of transport they can get their hands on. “It’s hard sometimes, but we’re trying to inspire people to face challenges and have their own adventures,” JJ says.

Josh and JJ are known for their habit of using only the simplest forms of transport and barest provisions. Their last two films, Pedal To The Midnight Sun and Paddle To Seattle, documented them respectively biking across Alaska and traveling for 97 days through the Inside Passage in hand-made wooden sea kayaks.

The team began their Indian adventure by hiking deep into the mountains of Northern India and jumping into the glacial headwaters of The Ganges River. “I hear jumping in the river washes away your sins,” JJ says. “I wish I would have sinned a little more.” Believe it or not, this is one of the saner things they’ve done.

During the past six weeks they’ve pedaled a cycle-rickshaw over 300 miles through rural India from Haridwar to Kanpur, where they swapped their glorified tricycle for a 13 foot rowboat with bamboo oars. They rowed about 250 miles through the heart of Uttar Pradesh to Varanasi, where they’re licking their wounds and trying to figure out how they’re going to make it to Calcutta.

“We’re completely winging-it,” Says Josh. “We don’t really know how we’re going to do it.”

“Yes,” JJ replies. “And I have a horrible rash.”

Dave Costello is a freelance writer and photographer traveling with Josh and JJ along the Ganges; his photos were used in the slide show above.