10 days rafting in remote west Nepal!!
11.05.2009 - 19.05.2009 30 °C
Back in January when Nepal was a hundred years away and the Irish winter had us needing adventure and excitement the suggestion of a 10 day rafting expedition in the far flung reaches of West Nepal seemed like a genius idea...Damien's genius idea..and we all jumped on board!! (except aoife who proclaimed she wasn't a water baby and chose the wimpy Everest bas camp route out...)(wuss)
All too soon it became a reality and suddenly we were paying up and signing declarations that grievous bodily harm was par for the course, risk was inherent, writing details of closest and dearest for "emergency" contacts, and giving every last detail of travel insurance in case an air-lift out was required....hmm...suddenly the spa retreat was looking more appealing. Of course being us we chose the cheapest option, not looking at the fine print..as in the transport aspect of getting to said far-flung reaches of Nepal. the $700 quote had a private mini-van...ours was public buses...and they make CIE look like 1st class limos!
Me and Anna were in Kathmandu and arrangements had been made to pick up Kate and Damien from Mugling (a one-horse back water town a 3 hour drive from us). We were instructed to be at a meeting in the office at 2pm...met the guides (and the TRAINEE kayaker..our rescue!!) for 5 minutes, then close to 4pm were walked 20mins to the bus station....or all our gear and the guides waiting at the edge of a road with no stop signs anywhere?! met a cool french couple too (Claire and Will) who had also been told that there was a meeting and had been there at 2..after 10 mins of "but we were there and didn't see you..etc..." we realised that we'd booked with 2 different companies!So our bus turns up with miraculously 8 empty seats, all gear thrown on top and off we went at 4.30ish...2 hours we stopped in an endless traffic jam...for 9 HOURS!! A landslide apparently...so we got to poor Kate and Damo at 4am instead..9 hours late..not happy bunnies! they'd rung the company owner who had told them that we were only 1/2 hour away at 11pm. Happily re-united and full of confidence that we were now on the way we ran instantly into another jam..another landslide..and another 4 hours...but we'd run out of food and water!!It eventually cleared and the driver took it upon himself to make up the 13 hour delay by driving at breakneck speed and passing out EVERYTHING regardless if the oncoming road was clear! Got to Surket at 8pm that evening and breathed a sigh of relief, until the guides told us only 6 hours left!! Thinking we could get some sleep we settled into our seats and then 6 hour roller coaster began...like driving off-road on unfinished roads with ravine to the left in a bus with NO suspension!! Arrived at the put-in point tired, sore and grumpy, but a few hours later (after delicious curry-chickpea, roti, onion and biscuit breakfast!) were togged out in beautiful blue cags and paddling!
Day 1, 2 and 3 the rapids got progressively bigger..the 3rd day we were faced with some beauties titled "God's House", "Flip and Strip", "Raft Trap", "Contionuous"....amazing fun but pretty hairy! spent a lot of time paddling air or hanging on for dear life!!Every night we camped in the most amazingly remote beaches beside the river, the guides cooked up a feast and we sat beside a campfire chatting under crystal clear starry skies, complete cliche stuff!! 2 nights we had big thunder+lightening storms and rain, and a landslide into a neighbouring river turned our river into the equivalent of mud-soup on day 4-but we still got thrown in regularly; tasted a bit crunchy but otherwise fine! On the 4th day Anna got pretty sick and the guides were so cute, built her a little shelter on the gear raft and gave her drugs..of course being Anna (along with paracetemol effects) she thought she was "fine" after lunch...we soon realised she was lying (the fact she lay hunched up and groaning after the slightest bit of effort was a small hint)..so we threw her back onto the other raft; we weren't going to have dead weight on our cool raft!
The first few days food was incredible then as suplies ran low it got progressively more like scout camp..but on the 4th night we camped beside a village and the locals brought a chicken which a little kid disposed of with a machette and we licked it up. It was a bit chewy which was either because it was a very old chicken or because they left it tied to the raft for about an hour before they killed it and fear doesn't = tender chicken!!! The further we went down the river the bigger the villages and the bolder the kids...on the 5th night we must have had 40 of them in the camp and Anna has an incredible talent at attracting them! We were followed EVERYWHERE...every shower had an audience of at least 10 kids. Of course Anna had to take it to another level and invited them all to join her and use her wash-stuff, then brushed all their hair after....she denies inviting them and says them swarmed her but we know the truth..trying to be the popular one!!They then insisted on doing her hair (and yes they all had nits and yes they used her hairbrush so tonight we have the pleasure of a "just-in-case" de-lousing session!!) They were very cute but privacy just didn't register with them!
The last 2 days were flat with the odd rapid so lots of paddling and swimming...we saw a snake (after the guides told us there were no water-snakes...but there are land snakes that swim..??!! and yes they're poisinous!!), a jakal, lots of monkeys and there were cat paw prints at one campsite that the guides looked a bit suspiciously at and said were leopard tracks but they were pathological liars (see snake story above) and we ignored them! On our day off we were taken trekking..in 40degree heat...one village invited us to teach in the school so we had a go...ended up with the entire school in 1 room, kids hanging out of rafters and us trying to get them to sing "head, shoudlers knees and toes"! We then went across a dodgy steel bridge to another village where we bought a 40 kg pig to cook for dinner (!) and were fed chang (rice wine)+walked back tipsy!! Had a big BBQ for our last night and drank local raksi (Nepali equivalent of Poitin...didn't realise quite how potent it was til we got up to go to bed and found walking a bit trickier! Don't even ask about the drunken squat toilet logistics...)
Was sad to leave the river but had enough of the relaxing paddling (bloody hard work). We hit the end point in Chisapani, changed on the river bank (watched by a horde of local men in y-fronts), carried all the gear up and drank ice-cold Coke..mmmm...and waited for return bus. Me, Anna and the French decided to head straight to Pokhara while Kate and Damo went back to Kathmandu. The guides decided the direct bus would be much better for us than getting the Kathmandu bus and switching in Mugling. They failed to mention that the direct bus went through every village possible and waaaaaaaay off the main highway into the foothills. It was torture..1/2 hour in got a flat tyre, fixed that but spare had a slow leak! Next village 12 goats were loaded into the boot and onto the roof and the bus floor was packed with bags of cabbages, onions and rice (smell got progressively worse). Then the spare tyre had a slow leak so we stopped on the highway and switched tyres with another bus..which was also faulty...so we found a repair place that tried (and failed) to fix it.for 2 hours..then at 3am they woke up another repair man who spent 3 hours fixing it and at 5am we were on the road. Me and Anna both had dodgy tummies and had to repeatedly dash into the darkness to find bushes..only to be caught rotten by oncoming headlights!! At 7.30 we hit a check-point and weren't allowed to pass due to the goat/cabage smuggling racket on board..so U-turn, unload some rice and re-position goats mroe discreetly+change drivers, and 1.5 hours later get across the same check-point and they all celebrate. Our 13 hour trip turned into 24 hours, with goat pee running down the windows (goats on the roof terrified at G-forces of taking bends at 90mph!) Miraculously all 12 goats survived and so did we!! Arrived in Pokhara at 2pm..shattered...the fact our bags that were sent from Kathmandu had disappeared didn't really bother us! They too miraculously appeared a couple of hours later......
Moral of the story...take a plane in Nepal and don't make silly decisions in January....
lots of Love,
Ruth, Anna and Kate (and Aoife up a mountain somewhere who really did get the easy way out in the end!!!)