Tuesday, June 11, 2013

10 days and 180 KM of whitewater rafting in Nepal

Going from mountain goats to 'leave it to beavers'!

Rafting down the spectacular and remote Karnali river in western Nepal 

Our 33-day trek was amazing and after a week-long rest in Pokhara, we were ready for more adventure. This time, however, we wanted to give our legs a break so we opted for a 10 day, 180km whitewater rafting trip (3 days of travel plus 7 days of rafting). Getting set up to go whitewater rafting is super easy in Nepal. Operators provide everything: food, transport, tents, etc. All we had to do was sign up and hop on a bus!

Although we didn't choose this company, we really recommend Paddle Nepal based in Pokhara, they're a little more pricey than the other ones but they're VERY good at what they do.

The awesome but smelly rafting bus!
A two-day bus ride traversing most of western Nepal brought us to the amazing Karnali River. Like many adventures, ours was off to an interesting start! The guides picked us up in a tiny shit-hole of a town and as we were leaving the bus broke down. We had to push the bus to start it and after a short two hours, we were on our way.

The bus was not the most comfortable thing on Earth and, with no air conditioning or fans, it got blisteringly hot in there. Once the meat cooler started leaking, the meat juice started smelling really nice so we plugged in our earbuds and listened to "The Heist" album by Ryan Lewis and Macklemore. After finally arriving at 9PM we ate a late dinner, showered and passed out in our 'cosy' room.

Basic accommodation but with a shower!
We woke up at 4AM the next morning to continue the rest of our trip to the put-in point. The roads were actually not that bad for the most part; what made the journey extra-long was the dozens and dozens of military check-points along the entire length of the road. Commercial operators have to obtain a permit in order to be allowed on the road. The last few kilometers were killer, it was one of the worst unpaved roads we had ever been on and the bus couldn't go any faster than 5 KPH.

We finally got to the put-in point and brought all the gear to the shore. The town was intense: the locals just sat there eating peanuts watching us do our thing and the kids wanted to help us really badly in exchange for a few rupees (i.e. steal things from your bags when you're not looking). Our philosophy is: we never give out money to anyone, no matter what.

The encounters went something like this:

"Sister, hello?"


 "Banana?" as she motions to help carry it...

"Yes, this is a banana" [I was holding one]

"Sister! Sister! Banana? Madam?"

[keep walking, ignore, ignore, ignore...]

Sorry, but no thanks, we'd rather just do it ourselves -- if we really wanted help, trust me, we'd ask. Plus, we'd really prefer not to have our valuables snatched. Anyway, we finally got everything on the rafts and went down the river for just a few minutes and landed on our first beach as big dark clouds rolled in.

The staff had warm drinks and snacks ready for us and we wanted to set up our tent before it got too dark. We were told that we'd be given a tent but the staff had "forgotten it on the bus." Sweet. No tent for 7 days and a crazy storm was about to hit... we weren't too happy about this.

Gimme Shelter!
Fortunately, Gerry the super amazing kayaker/film director/Everest veteran came to our rescue and let us use his tent. As soon as we were able to set it up, an intense hail storm hit and we sat between the raft that we had propped up with paddles and a flimsy tarp we had managed to tie to another set of paddles. The storm didn't stop so we stayed there to eat our spaghetti dinner and played our first round of one of the most addicting and entertaining card games ever: Dirty Clubs (we will have an exclusive post on this game soon).

The rest of the trip was smooth sa-.... rafting! Every day we'd paddle for 4 to 6 hours and land at pristine river beaches, making camping logistics extremely easy. We headed to bed early after the the nightly campfire and woke up for the sunrise. The group of rafters and kayakers was wonderful and we all had a lot of fun together. Both of us even got an introductory course to river kayaking and it is a lot harder than it seems -- we have a lot of respect for those who run Class IV and V rapids on kayaks!

Most of the rapids we hit were class III and IV and it was a blast: the rush of adrenaline when the raft guide yells "paddlepaddlepaddlefasterforwardrightbackleftforwardfasterfaster!" as we are about to head into a wall of rushing water was just amazing! One of the best parts was called Jail House: we stopped to scout the Class IV rapids and then hit them straight down the middle.

Sleep tight
We often just jumped in the river and float down for a while. This was extremely relaxing and Andrea even got to kayak down some of the calmer portions of the river (Eliot was too tall to fit in the available kayaks). We were extremely impressed with the cleanliness of the river. It was almost impossible to spot trash floating down and the water was very clean. This was probably due to the fact that the Karnali River is in such a remote area, the biggest village we saw only had a couple dozen houses in it (no road or grid access for miles).

It was so refreshing to be in such a remote, clean and beautiful place, we really hope to find some more great rafting throughout our trip.

co-posted on www.eliotpeper.com

More pictures of our 10-day Karnali rafting adventure:

Beautiful fields en route to the river (Western Nepal)

Put-in point

Day 1 of rafting, getting all the gear together while being watched by the curious and intense locals

Our cook, our meal
A typical post-rafting afternoon on the beach

Tea time after a day's rafting!

Another typical beach set-up

The fantastic rafting and kayaking crew - all top notch people!

Nice views of the river on our way back to Kathmandu after the trip

Some crocs chillin on the river

10 days of no shower turned Andrea's incredibly straight hair all wavy!

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