My time in Kathmandu was limited in between two adventure trips (as it is now as well). After coming back from my bike trip, I was a little bit unsettled by the big mess that Kathmandu is. However my “To do” list was long and I only had one full day before setting off on the rafting trip. Most of the time was spent at the Indian embassy, starting the application process for my visum. The rest of the time was dedicated to good food, shopping and preparing for the rafting trip.
Early next morning I met up with the crew in Thamel. A jolly bunch of 13 foreigners and 5 Nepali guides who all had decided to dedicate ten days of their lives to raft the Karnali river. We had a 24 hour bus ride ahead of us to get to the drop off point, which gave us ample opportunity to get to know each other. The foreigners could easily be classified in three different groups: first of all there were five Australian guys who were working on a United Nations project in Bangladesh and were spending their time off in Nepal; secondly there were five people who were avid rafters/kayakers and had been following a raft guide course or working as a guide upon some of the easier rivers in Central Nepal; and final there was a threesome of individual travelers: a 66-year old adventurous Italian, an American lady on R&R from working in Iraq and myself.
Although the busride to the start was long and not very comfortable, I ended up enjoying it. People on the trip were pretty interesting and once the conversation died out a bit, we decided to sit on the roof of the bus. I can not think of a better way of traveling through Nepal. You’re sitting high on top of the bus, which offers you a superb view of the landscape you’re riding through and the combination of shining sun and a light breeze make it all very enjoyable.
Three meals of daal bhat, 520 kilometres and a night in a dodgy hotel later, we finally arrived at the drop off point. Road works had caused us some delay, so we would only start rafting the following day. It would be the start of a routine that we would repeat for the following seven nights:
– Everybody got busy unloading the bus, on the river this would mean unloading the boats. Food, cooking gear, dry bags, …
– As you might have noticed in the previous bullet point, I’m not mentioning tents here. Our sleeping location would be the second thing we would have to take care of. This meant dragging the rafts up to a flat location, flipping them over, supporting them with two paddles, putting a tarp on the floor and on the top as protection and securing everything with ropes. And so we slept every night in the open air, a great system.
– While the guides were setting up the kitchen and working on dinner, we would have to finish some minor tasks such as building the toilet and collecting driftwood for the bonfire.
– In the meanwhile all the kids from the surrounding villages would have crept closer and have thoroughly inspected us, our gear and our food. Some days we’d pass through little villages that were multiple days of walking away from civilization, so the sight of 13 white people was pretty rare for them.
– The rest of the night was spent with feasting on the good food we were served; reading books; playing football, volleyball or frisbee; sitting around the campfire; … until it started getting too cold and dark, after which we went to bed.
In the morning the whole procedure would be the other way around.
– Waking up between 6 and 7 am, luckily enough with a cup of hot tea to get you going and some nice breakfast to follow.
– Breaking down the campsite and pulling the rafts back to the river, where all our stuff was loaded back on again
– Leaving for another day of rafting on the Karnali river.
Some words about the Karnali river and why I’ve decided to raft this river.
– It’s the longest river in Nepal and is one of the important religious rivers for Hindu people.
– The succession of class four and five rapids make it one of the most exciting but also dangerous rivers to run
– Due to it’s remoteness we did not get a single sign of civilization during six days (no sounds of cars, no television or internet)
– You spend most the time cruising through a beautiful valley with good opportunity to spend wildlife (langur monkeys, gharial crocodiles and cormorant birds; (un)fortunately no sign of the Bengali tiger)
– The Nepalese government has planned to dam this river in the coming years, which will mean the end of rafting on the Karnali river.
The rafting trip itself consisted of one warm-up day, two intense days with class four and five rapids (I still tremble when thinking about God’s House), two days of mellow paddling and two final days of drifting towards our end point. After all that paddling I was happy to be back on shore on the last day, with another long busride ahead of me.
Right now I’m in Pokhara and packing up to trek the infamous Annapurna Circuit, depending on how I feel I might add the Tilicho Lake and Annapurna Base Camp trek to my schedule as well. Could be a while before I write another update here 🙂
In the meantime I leave you with a quote a dear friend once sent to me:
Clamence often speaks of his love for high, open places — everything from mountain peaks to the top decks of boats. “I have never felt comfortable,” he explains, “except in lofty surroundings. Even in the details of daily life, I need to feel above (Camus, The Fall)
More pictures of my Nepali adventures you can find here.