BootsnAll Travel Network

Trisuli River: Float on

Kelly poked her head around the door and in a thick, serious Irish brogue asked: “Dave, can I please see you for a minute?”

Kelly is the volunteer coodinator at Umbrella, and I felt as though I’d been called aside by the teacher.

“Ah yep, what is it?” I asked sheepishly once outside.

“We need a male volunteer to accompany two of the older boys from Gauri Shanka on a two-day white-water rafting trip.”
“Sorry, what’s that?” I asked, a little disbelieving.
“It’d be all expenses paid, courtesy of the Lincoln school. They’re paying for the two boys and a volunteer to chaperone them. Would you be interested?”
“Well, I was planning on taking a series of cold showers HELL YEAH!”

And so last Saturday, I was up at 5.20am to collect the boys and take a taxi to the Lincoln School (Kathmandu’s international high school). The trip was being run by the Lincoln School Outdoor Club, and so our party included twelve students (mostly Americans), two teachers (a lovely American couple), and four or five guides, all local Nepali’s, to run the show, plus me and the two boys from the Gauri Shanka orphanage, Netra and Rashan, who are both aged somewhere around 15.

Once everyone was sorted at the school, we piled into a shonky old bus and headed north-west out of Kathmandu. The bus chugged slowly up over the mountains that form the Kathmandu valley, and then began the slow decent down the other side; a seemingly endless series of switchbacks through the hazey sky. A few hours later, and we pulled in beside a small, slowly flowing river. It was great to be out of the city for the first time in two weeks.

I’d never even considered the idea of going white water rafting, let alone doing it in Nepal; probably something to do with my wearing glasses and having pasty white skin. Two days spent baking in the sun and getting splashed by water weren’t things I normally pined for. But by midday, I was clipping into my life jacket and helmet, gripping my paddle, and pushing off the bank in a big blue raft with six strangers (there were two rafts, and Netra and Rashan were in the other one).

Our guide was Harry, a local who had run trips down this river for many a year. Within a few minutes, he had our group of novices controlling the boat with ease. We were of course in water that was less choppy than a five-year-old’s bath.

Over the next hour, we gently drifted down the river, passing through the occassional small rapid and generally just admiring the stunning views. The river flowed through a valley between small green-covered mountains. It was hot that day, and all along the banks were groups of kids in their undies jumping in and out of the water, waving to our boats and yelling ‘Namaste!” (Hello!). Occasionally we would pass a lone fisherman, crouching barefoot on some rocks beside a section of faster flowing water, and holding a fishing net strung between two bamboo poles. Further along, we were taken under impossibly long suspension bridges that stretched across the river. Locals in colourful saris would stop on the bridge and watch us pass below. Sometimes they would wave.

Eventually, we came to some serious rapids. The river is rated Class Three on the international rafting scale thingy, which basically means it’s more exciting than an afternoon watching Days of our Lives, but not quite life threatening.

After running through a few practice strokes with Harry (“All forward! Left back! Right back! All back! Forward!”), we let the raft be taken by the fast flowing current until we dropped into the thick of some surging water. The raft bounced and bobbed and rocked and rolled over the powerful brown water. Waves crashed into the boat. Harry barked instructions. And then, we were through, safely onto calm water, and all taking deep breaths. High fives ensued, before turning around to watch the second raft.

They entered the rapid and dodged the first large rock before the water threw them down a small ledge. The front of their raft smashed into a standing wave and was thrown upwards until it was pointing at the sky. Bodies flew threw the air. Four of their paddlers were suddenly thrashing about in the water, including Rashan. Thankfully, it was he and not Netra who fell in, as Netra couldn’t actually swim in a children’s pool, let alone the rapids of a fast flowing river. Although, when I caught the look of terror on Rashan’s face as he flowed past our boat, I was more than a little concerned. Can’t say I would have looked any different had it been me in his situation though.

Eventually, everyone made it back to the raft, and we continued on.

In the late afternoon, after surviving a few more serious rapids, we pulled into a small, rocky beach to make camp. Camp for the students consisted of the two rafts propped up at 45 degrees, held in place with a couple of paddles, with a tarp sheet laid on the sand on which to sleep. The boys and I slept in a tent. Well, it was a tarp propped up by a paddle in the middle (making a pyramid shape), and held in place at the corners by a few rocks on the sand. Enough to protect us from the rain at least.

Whilst we set these things up, our hot dusty day turned into a windy, sandy storm. Black clouds drifted in over the mountains, and a fierce wind whipped up the sand, stinging our eyes, arms and legs. I grabbed my camera to take some short film to show Bec when I got back. Twenty minutes later, the wind died down. I relaxed, and then realised my hat, my beloved, eight-year old floppy hat, was gone. I’d put it down when I grabbed the camera. That hat had been everywhere with me during these few years traipsing around the world.

I frantically looked around. But the wind had caught it, for sure. I was shattered. My feet carried me slowly up the beach, searching in vain. The clouds grew blacker still, and thunder rumbled around the hills, sounding like a grumpy old fat guy sitting in his favourite chair and mumbling in his sleep.

Rain began to fall as I walked further up the shoreline. Big, fat drops of rain. Fat like Pavorotti is fat. Moist opera singers falling from the sky. I gave up, and trudged back through the rain to the camp, where one of the rafts had been blown over by the wind. Bec hated that hat. At least she would be happy.

“Dave,” Harry yelled up the beach, “is this your hat?” He held up a scrunched up dirty brown piece of cloth. Yep, that was my hat.

Ahhh, Harry. My old mate Harry. The greatest river rafting guide who ever lived!

A surpirisingly peaceful night’s sleep was followed by a another day’s rafting down river. I took the front seat in the boat, and my eyes nearly popped out of my head as we slammed into a huge standing wave, and I was enveloped by water. Exhilirating doesn’t even come close.

Later in the afternoon, as we floated through some calmer water, I jumped into the cool river and floated down on my back. It was cooler on this day. The sky was grey and moist. I laid back in the water, the life jacket keeping me afloat, and looked up at the sky, and at the mountains. My feet, clad in my trusty old Dunlop Volleys, poked out of the water in front of me. Thunder rolled down the valley between the mountains, chasing me down the river. It began to rain. I thought of friends back home, and I laughed at the absurdity of what I was doing. Then coughed as I inhaled a mouthful of water.

As we packed up all our gear, the rains came down in a rush. It was cold and getting dark. The bus took us back up through the mountains towards Kathmandu. The left side of the bus left the road as we dodged through some traffic in a small village, and the whole bus tilted to the point of tipping. As we regained the ashphalt, one of the guides sitting across from me simply climbed out the window of the bus and up onto the roof to check the bags.

Later, just when I thought this story had come to an end, as we approached the top of the valley mountains, the bus pulled over where a group of locals were crouched on the side of the road. Ahead of them, the land dropped away, deep deep down into the valley bottom. I didn’t want to stop, I wanted to get home and drink some water. But then, “A bus has fallen!”

Jumping up to look out the window down the valley, I saw a bus, just like hours, about ten or fifteen metres down the hillside. It had left the road on a sharp turn, and somehow was being held, prevented from tumbling hundreds of metres to the bottom. We took off before I could see whether there were any people inside.

And then the guide climbed back in through the bus window.

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One Response to “Trisuli River: Float on”

  1. ann Says:

    you’re out of your ever-lovin’ mind!!! (which means I’m jealous ……..had the honor of having one of my teenaged grandsons tell me–as we were discussing spelunking and their enthusiasm about it–“Grandma, I wish you were young again.”)

  2. Posted from United States United States
  3. admin Says:

    You’re not the first to tell me that!

  4. Posted from United States United States

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