Contrary to what it might seem, Nepal is not only about mountain trekking but it offers a wide variety of outdoor sports amidst nature. For me, this whole trip smelled like an adventure and on the top of my “you have to try while in Nepal” list was whitewater rafting.
I decided to take the one on Trishuli River, mostly because the starting point is only three hours of drive west of Katmandu, which makes it a perfect spot for a short trip. So I could do it and return to the capital city of Nepal to attend the symposium (more about it HERE).
And now the best part – wherever you look for it in the Internet, you’ll read that the drive from Katmandu would take you ca. three hours. So you think – cool, it’s enough not to waste the whole day only for making your way there and begin the rafting at quite a decent time.
The Nepalese time it’s not a joke…
Here comes the lesson number one (I received it the next day after I arrived – probably better that so quickly). Well, there are two concepts of time – ours and the Nepalese one. The Nepalese do not take seriously the matter of punctuality. Most of the meetings begin an hour after the due time, what the local residents ironically call “the Nepalese time”. Of course there are lots of excuses, like traffic jams, which indeed beggar your belief, so it’s hard to argue with that. But in most of the cases people simply take their time and do not rush. Arriving at the meeting an hour late is rather a norm than an exception. And it concerns also the transport services (at the forefront of this rule are always late coaches and flights, which never arrive or depart on schedule) and the working hours of civil servants. Sometimes you have to wait for them for hours. You can’t find a way around it. But you can always be there on time and just wait. Like I did. I waited for the driver, who was to drive our international group to the rafting starting point. I shall only add that I took a loooooong flight from Europe, I was on a huge jetlag and I slept only four hours to come at the scheduled meeting on time at 7:30 AM. Well, the driver arrived at 9:30 AM as if nothing had happened. Match European gal vs. the Nepalese, 0:1 for the home team.
And this was only the beginning – I assume that you already guessed it – it definitely was not the promised three-hour long ride. Getting out of Katmandu in traffic jams is one thing. Then we had to take curvy mountain roads (and here I would like to send my love to my motion sickness, it had lots of fun!), that are also narrow and totally jammed by all the means of transportation possible: trucks, coaches, cars etc. So in brief – traffic disaster. There are few reasons: poor road surface, narrow roads and rebuilding after the earthquake. And that’s why we reached the rafting start point after 5 hours, so we started at 3 PM.
Whitewater rafting: what to know before you go
There are various types of whitewater rafting on Trishuli River and they take from 1 to 3 days (15 to 60 km). Most of the guests take the two day long trip. Every rafting begins with a short training and lecture how to behave on boat. You practice specific moves already on board, shifting your body weight in river turns and cooperation with the rest of the crew, which is crucial for keeping everyone on the surface of the water, not under it.
Whitewater Nepal, which we rafted with, provides helmets, plastic oars, life-jackets and first aid kit. So, we don’t have to worry about that. However, everyone should take special kind of clothes. The best choice are: swimsuit, shorts, quick-drying shirt and appropriate footwear, for example made of rubber, in which your feet would not slip. Talking about swimsuits, girls, bikini and two-piece bathing suits are totally off! First of all, because it should be practical – rafting is about being in a constant move, throwing yourself from one side of the boat to another etc. You wouldn’t have time to grab your costume or to tie the strings again. Second of all remember that Nepal is a country, where showing body off is offensive for the locals and means lack of respect for them.
Other useful stuff: you should always have sunbathing lotion, mosquito repellent and a towel would be handy too. Theoretically you can take a camera, because there is a special recess in the boat but I would not recommend taking any delicate or valuable equipment to a cruise on a rapid river.
I had my phone with me and I took some movies, that’s why this post has so little pictures. But soon I will upload a movie from Nepal and I hope that it would show you better, how this place looked in my eyes.
What can you expect?
The scenery of Trishuli River is full of small ravines and there is also a crossing of a rope railway, leading to the famous Hindu Manakamana temple. Most of the year the river bars are easy to navigate and overcome. Therefore this is a perfect river for those who are looking for a short trip, without super difficult challenges but with beautiful scenery and relatively peaceful environment. But in the monsoon season the intensity and pace of the flow increases. This is a good time for those who need a little more adrenaline than most of us.
I was there in June and it was the foretaste of the monsoon season, so the water in the river was already a little muddy bit not as rough as they are in the peak of the rainy period. Compared to what I experienced in New Zealand it was more like a pleasant rafting with a few hardcore elements, for example when the river bars were so vertical and the river so rough that we have to walk around.
I would say that this rafting was a moderate challenge but it had something that rewarded me in another way than with fear of my life (read: adrenaline) – with the views. After a crowded and polluted Katmandu, I felt like I was teleported to another world. This was such an environmental idyll – rich green of the hills around us and silence disturbed only with birdsongs and roaring water. On the banks of the river the swimming kids played in the most beautiful, careless way. Sometimes above our heads appeared also suspension bridges, looking so picturesque. For the locals they are the only way to cross the river, while going to school or to work. But they are also crossings for those who carry stones from one bank to another to construct bridges. I saw with my own eyes women my grandmother’s age, who labored hard, carrying on their backs (strapped with a strap to their foreheads) baskets full of bricks and they continuously minced to and fro on a suspended, unstable, wooden bridge.
What do we know about effort, sacrifice and hard work? Looking at those women I thought once more that I am very lucky (because it surely is not my accomplishment) that I was born in a developed and rich country (yes, Poland, compared to most of the other countries in the world is rich), in which my granny did not have to carry bricks on her back and I didn’t have to walk 10 miles to school. I wrote about it in my previous text about Nepal (HERE) – travels teach me humbleness and, although they are part of my life for the recent dozen or so years, they bring me back on earth and teach me gratitude every single time.
But back to the Nepalese timing, it reached another level after we reached the final spot. The rafting was planned (I don’t know why I still believed that if someone says that something would take a specific amount of time, it would surely be so) to take ca. 2 hours but it lasted more or less 4 hours. Well, we were not the fastest group but on the other hand I was able to admire the views.
After beaching the boat, we dashed hungrily towards the served traditional Nepalese feast (very tasty, by they way!), which supposed to be a lunch but in fact was served as a diner.
What else except rafting?
Our lodgings were about 25 minutes far away along the river and to reach this place we walked through the jungle in complete darkness, passing only single houses of the locals. Honestly, I had no clue, where we were going, because it was so dark. I saw the whole view in the morning, but wait for it.
When we finally got there it turned out that we were staying in a resort composed of beautiful houses, what was a real surprise, because it was intended to be more survival-ish. Not that I was sad because of that, as this place was really charming.
But I cannot resist the temptation, I have to tell a small anecdote, which is more of a cultural relish. After we went to our rooms we got informed that in 20 minutes they would be serving supper. If anyone lost this thread, I would like to remind you that an hour ago we ate the lunch, which was in fact the supper… But the schedule was rock solid and it doesn’t matter that everything moved in time and theoretically we could skip the supper, instead of “catching up” with planned meals one after another. It had to be checked on the list. Those are the cultural differences you experience in travels. For some, this situation might be absurd and inexplicable but for others such manner is absolutely fine and if there is a plan or a schedule, it shall be done point after point. That’s why we ate two huge suppers that evening (huh, try not to eat, when they are treating you to what they have best and want to show you their hospitality :) ).
But what convinced me that all these problems and efforts were worth going through, was the next morning. I was woken up by a loud birdcall. I walked out on the terrace and I literally became petrified with the view.
It turned out that our hutches were situated on a slope of a mountain, with awesome view on the river and surrounding Himalaya, overgrown with green, lush vegetation. This was the first moment when I really felt that I was indeed in Nepal and those who say that this place is magical are absolutely right. And this was only the beginning of my journey…