When you think about Nepal, whitewater Rafting and Kayaking are not the first things that spring into mind, well at least it wasn’t for me. More likely images of Kathmandu, rice paddies, Everest and the mysterious Himalaya pop into your head. So you can imagine my surprise when I got to Nepal and ended up rafting and kayaking in excess of 10 times!
When you arrive in Thamel or Pokhara (the main touristy area’s in Nepal) there are travel agents all over the place, and I immediately decided rafting was something I had to do in my time in Nepal. The first decision to make is which river to go on. Nepal offers many of the worlds best rivers, ranging from a gently flowing river to some of the fiercest whitewater in the world. So depending on your experience and thirst for adrenaline, there’s most certainly something for anyone! The best times to go are between March-June or September-October; although trips will run all year round the water will be at its highest, fastest, and most exhilarating during these months.
Choosing a company to go with can prove a bit tricky though! There are plenty of travel agents lining the streets, however, choosing one between the other is almost impossible…They all offer virtually the same prices, nearly exactly the same trips and promise the best time of your life! However there are a lot of companies out there, it’s a shame to say that are just after your money. It is important to find a registered company that have safety procedures in place. I ended up going with GRG’s Adventure Kayaking. Having met Maila, the company owner, a few times around Thamel I trusted that he would deliver what he promised, and after doing a bit of research I discovered that he is currently the best Kayaker in Nepal, having just won the Himalayan Championship for the second time, I felt I had made the right decision and would be in safe hands.
The journey to the river was amazing in itself. Coming out of the valley you are greeted by a more traditional way of life. Women working hard in the rice paddies in their saris, looking more glamorous than I could ever achieve! Children carrying their books on their heads walking along the highway to school; Gorgeous mountains in the background; Random Buffalo dotted all over the scene to name but a few things we saw on our journey to the river. After 2 hours of staring hypnotised out the window we arrived at a small village geared up for all your rafting needs. There was a small shed (a bit like the one you can imagine Mary and Joseph stumbling upon! ) for you to get changed in, toilets, tea, biscuits, water, all you need before you start a day on the river!
When arriving at the start point, I realised I had made the best decision in going with GRG’s. There were about 20 rafts lined up and waiting to go with various companies and ours was the only one with any safety kayakers. You can see where GRG’s got their logo ‘SAFETY FIRST’ from!
And this was it, Maila and the team got us all suited and booted in life jackets, helmets, (depending on the weather, splash jackets were available) and after a very informative safety talk we were off! Immediately greeted by our first rapid, aptly named ‘Good Morning’ as that first splash in your face and down your T-Shirt definitely wakes you up!
As soon as we set off, I was hooked, the exhilaration of the rapids and not knowing what was coming round the next corner was so exciting! The team of raft guides and safety kayakers we had with us were amazing, they put us all al ease, and at the first sight of flat water they had us all doing back flips of the raft, playing games and swimming away in the water. With the safety kayakers always near by at all times, not once did I feel unsafe, they were very professional but great fun at the same time and made the kayaks look like extended parts of their bodies. Seeing them in the river would make any one not to give it ago (and I have to say after trying kayaking several times, I have even more respect for the guys as it is no where near as easy as it looks!)
The Trisuli, the first river I rafted in Nepal was the best choice for a first timer. It gives you the confidence in the river and the enthusiasm to tackle something a bit more challenging.
Working our way down the river you could hear shouts of ‘ALL FORWARD’ and ‘BACK PADDLE’ filling the valley. When the water was flat and we had a change to take in our surrounding you suddenly realise the scenery was simple stunning. There were eagles, monkeys, and gorgeous hills all around us, heaven!
After one of the best days of my life, laughing, screaming, holding on for dear life the whole way down the river, I had had a very good work out. I was so surprised when we arrived at the beach to see tents already set up and tea waiting for us. The GRG’s team had literally thought of everything. I don’t know how they did it, but the food was the best I’ve ever had, and I promise I’m not exaggerating! It was great that everyone working for GRG’s came and sat with us around the campfire and joined in the party, then we all camped out under the up-turned rafts and admired the stars, the Milky Way even graced us with its presence. (Tents were available for those not up for staying outdoors all night.)
It felt really nice to see that GRG’s used all local produce to cook the food, and only used wood that had already fallen, rather than buying wood from the villages and therefore not encouraging deforestation. It was also nice to see that every thing that came with us came all the way back again and was disposed of properly. They only employ local staff and that is worth more than you can ever know. The knowledge these guys have to the river is beyond belief, having grown up on the river, they know its every turn and every hole like the back of their hand.
After a great nights sleep we set off for the second day which was as much of an adrenaline rush as the day before. And the safety kayakers proved their worth after a few off us popped out the side of the raft when the ‘S Bend’ rapid caught a few of us off guard! GRG’s were so professional, they got us back in the raft and safe within seconds and with minimal fuss, keeping our confidence and making us feel safe.
Unfortunately the trip had to come to an end. We pulled up, had some more lunch (ate more than was strictly necessary because the food was so good!) and jumped on the bus back.
After one of the best weekends of my life, I was hooked; I ended up spending my Christmas with GRG’s learning to kayak and going on more trips than I can remember with them on several rivers. Whitewater Kayaking and Rafting certainly made my trip to Nepal, and I would urge anyone heading out that way to give it a go. Whether you have two days to spare or two weeks, there’s something there for everyone. Just make sure you choose a reliable company.
For more information have a look at GRG’s Adventure Kayaking’s website on http://www.grgadventurekayaking.com and get you whitewater adventure started!
Some rivers to think about when you go to Nepal are the Trisuli (class 3+/4), Kali-Gandaki (class 4/+4), Karnali (class 4+), Seti River, Sun Kosi (class 4-/5), Bhote Kosi (4-/5), Marsyandi and The Tamur (class 4-/4+).