Monday, May 3, 2010

Nepal, Easter 2010

Just back from a recent trip to India and Nepal.

The plan was to fly into Delhi, then travel overland to western Nepal. This was supposed to be easier and cheaper than flying into Kathmandu!

Many hours driving, and a long tedious (5hrs) border crossing later, we were finally in the kayaking shangri-la of Nepal.

Our group was larger than the normal. 15 of in total, of which 7 would head to the Thuli Bheri, whilst the others paddled the lower sections of the Bheri. Upon completion of those rivers, we would all re-convene, and paddle the Karnali together.

The Thuli Bheri is a river none of us had paddled before, but one with a great reputation as a multi day classic. Described as day after day of read and run grade 4/4+. It takes a lot of effort to get to however. The journey we had already undertaken was just the start. From our staging point in the small town of Surkhet we boarded our charter flight, and headed up into the mountains for the 40 minute flight to the town of Jupail.

Hiring some reluctant porters, we eventually made our way down to the river.

For the next 5 days, we paddled some of the best whitewater in the world. Through open valleys, and deep canyons the rapids just kept coming. Most of it was on the limit of read and run. Others however involved inspection, or worse, the dreaded loaded boat portage.... The river had everything, low volume creeky pool drop, continuous screaming non stop kilometer long rapids, big volume hole dodging. All too soon the river was over, and the next stage of our adventure started. The river extraction...

Unfortunately information was a little sketchy about where our section of the river ended, and the road began... No doubt there are some very confused locals on towns along the river... Eventually, we found a town that we hoped would have a bus that may go somewhere where we wanted to go (this is Nepal...) but we had to wait until the morning, only to find the bus would only take us part of the way. But somehow, despite all Asia could throw at us, we made it back to Surket that very next day (three buses, and one porter carry later).

Comparing stories, the other group had just as much excitement on and off river, but without even pausing for a rest day, we re-stocked, and headed off to the Karnali...

Mark and I had paddled the Karnali before, dubiously engaged as safety kayakers for rafting companies, who ran the Karnali as a 9 day trip. We would be aiming to spend 5 days on the river, with less faff loading and unloading rafts each day.. We would have a particularly large group of 15 paddlers though.

The Karnali was a definite warm down from the Thuli Bheri, and a definite step up from the Bheri, a change of pace for both groups.

We spent three days over the classic big volume water grade 4 section. Enjoying the great camping beaches and jungle scenery. The last day on the river is mostly flat, and this was a long day paddle before reaching the dubious pleasures of Chisopani, the take out town.

From here we headed to Bardia National park for some R&R. The park is famous for Elephants, Tigers and Crocodiles... We only saw the Elephants, Rhinos, Monkeys and Crocs.

Our trip was nearly over. The dreaded border crossing still took 6 hours, and we got back to Delhi to find that we would be staying a little longer than expected, thanks to the Iceland Volcano crisis...

9 Extra days in Delhi. Unfortunately, Delhi was in the grips of a 45’C heatwave. The entire city is a dusty hot construction site prior to the 2010 Commonwealth games, that the city is somehow supposed to be ready for. Good Luck Delhi!!.

Our days were spend alternately visiting the airport, trying to advance our expected repatriation date, and taking in the delights of the city and surrounding areas. Delhi has alot to see, but the temperature, demonstrations, bomb scares, and terror threats subdued our enthusiasm for straying too far from air conditioned hotels and restaurants.

Home at last, what a trip.. Great kayaking, fantastic time in Nepal, and can’t wait to go back (Kathmandu flights, casino and steakhouse please!). India, well at least we’re not planning on going back now we’ve seen the sights...

I’ve never appreciated British climate, until now. Clear crisp air, refreshingly cool temperature... Lovely.