A guide to kayaking Nepal
By Christian Chester
August 25, 2003
Sitting above a large waterfall and being the first on the team to run it can be quite daunting. We had just scouted the falls from the top and
decided it was probably around 6 meters high, and that we could get away with boofing it and landing flat.
I peeled out, caught the main flow,
built some speed, and
with a few strokes lined up the exact point on the lip of the falls. I went to put in the boof stroke, sank the right blade,
pulled back, and didn't quite get the boof I wanted. Instead, I was flying towards the bottom at around 45 degrees and at that moment
my thoughts were, "this is a lot higher than I thought." Then came the sudden impact of hitting the water. The boat planed out, and after
a quick session
of self-congratulations, I caught an eddy to watch Denis's line.
His was sweet as he landed slightly more vertical than me, went a
little deeper and had to roll after resurfacing upside down. We both looked back at the falls realizing it was around 10 meters high. We were
lucky we both didn't get the flat landings we had intended. An impact from that height, landing in green non-aerated water, can
break your back. We both gave ourselves congratulations and jumped out of our boats to scout the next waterfall
out of a series of three.
Why Nepal? It was coming towards the end of the season in Norway and the question that always comes up in any river guide's life is 'what is
going to be the next destination?' Africa sounded good, playing on the White Nile for a couple of months before having to be back in
New Zealand for work, but it's only one river and the plane flight was going to be very expensive from Bangkok.
Trent piped up and said he had a dream of paddling a river called the Humali Karnali in Nepal. He started up with stories of a river
over 400km long that starts from the spiritual mountains of Tibet and runs to the dusty plains of India. It has series of gorges with
more class five than all of us could handle. We were hooked, and mustard up a team. Equipment lists were drawn up, logistics were planned,
and tickets were booked. We had a floor in the plan; Nepal was having a problem with Maoist gorillas, a communist party that has been
using violent and forceful methods for their cause. It was decided we would go first to find out the political situation, and then e-mail the other
guys to say how things were.
On arrival our first mission was to contact Dave Allardice, an old school raft company owner and general guru of that part of Asia. According to him,
wasn't good as the Humali Kanarli lay in the depths of western Nepal, the heart of the Maoist territory. The thought of being in
the middle of nowhere and walking out with only our underwear wasn't a nice one.
What to do? Back to the guide book, there were the Arun gorges which involved a flight to the eastern reaches of Nepal, a four day walk, then
a four day paddle in some of the most committing class five gorges in the country. But, the gorges were not runable until
mid November and it was currently the middle of September. We had a little time to pass.
The monsoon was raging, so we went to a beautiful lakeside town called Pokhara, where the Himalayas serve as the backdrop. We found cheap motels, and a great
nightlife. We spent a month there running the classic creeks of the Annapurna ranges, hanging out and going back to the same restaurants where
you could get a meal for around $1. Finally, we
headed towards central Nepal and ran the mighty rivers whose sources are from the same ranges as Everest.
It was now getting towards the end of November and people were turning up in time to start planning our big finale. The monsoon season had run late and
the Arun gorges were still running high. Money was fast disappearing, and I was just about missioned out, bartering for bus rides and sleeping on wooded
beds. I pulled the pin, and like they say, got the hell out of Kathmandu.
So we never pulled off our big expedition, but I ran a lot of rivers that I had been wanting to do for a long time and most of all made some
awesome friends. After talking to a friend Benjiman, who went up to do the Upper Tamba Kosi, he had said that he'd bumped into the Maoists,
who had held him at gun point for a contribution, but were very friendly and had only taken 300 rupees which is about $5.
In a period of six weeks while I was there we ran the following:
Difficulty: class 4+
Volume: Sept, 200 cms
Summary: We ran this in late September, which was at the tailend of the monsoon. It was a raging brown torrent running at three times
its normal raftable flow, which made for an exciting and fast paced, big volume run.