White Water Rafting!

Sunday I joined up with a crew of adventurers, had a great time rafting and seeing the beauty of Nepal while meeting some new folks.

A nice fellow (S) going on a kayak trip organized the trip. At 7am-ish, we cruised out of Kathmandu, westbound, on a pretty nice tourist bus operated by Borderlands, a company specializing in treks, trips, etc.

Leaving the valley, I noticed the buildings becoming more sparse, and the air clearing. Everything gets greener, the further one goes. Still, being the first day of the work week, business was bustling. What appears to be run of the mill, construction with crews shoveling gravel or other stuff into baskets on laborers backs, bicycle repair, bicycle chariots carrying lengths of rebar, and highly decorated construction trucks going in and out of town.

About an hour from town, passing brick factories and going through a pass, we hit a traffic jam. Since this was the only road out going west, we waited. Then we got word that there ha been a landslide the night before and it would take hours to clear. Time for plan “B”. B for Bhotacosi River.

Back down the mountain, back through the valley, back around south of the ‘Du. We drove east past Bhoktapur and down into another valley. The bus driver and his team had a cadence of sorts, zooming down around the hairpin turns, the lush valley a thousand feet below us. We passed assorted gold-emblazoned temples, little mountain-side villages, and folks on their way to or from somewhere. We would often “move to overtake” other buses, cars, or construction vehicles, sometimes around blind curves.
As J. said on the bus, “I’ve never been anywhere that flashing one’s lights means ‘I am going to run you down (oncoming), please take the necessary measures to avoid this.” This would frequently happen when we were passing one vehicle, and another would round the bend, coming at us in our maneuver.

We stopped for a tea/pee break and pushed on. By 12:30 we reached our destination, a non-descript spot on the side of the road, in the bottom of a lush green valley with a river running by it. The Re-Unity Education School, a tibetan flag flying (we were very near Tibet) was across the river, and some students were heading down to the river.

We de-boarded and our crew began inflating rafts and assembling gear. A short while later, our very friendly tour leader issued instructions about our gear, and began distributing helmets, oars and life vests. We made our way down the river side, past the goats, and hung out while our guide issued more instructions about how the boat captains would say “all forward” or “right back” and how they would rescue us if or when we managed to be ejected from the raft.

We boarded, five people to a raft, and all three rafts plus S. in his kayak and a couple crew members in kayaks. The rapids (3+ by one experienced person’s account) immediately pegged my funometer, and threatened to toss one or more people, including one of our crew, from the raft. We lifted and dove, paddled and spluttered and managed to get through the first, toughest bit. Unfortunately, the river quieted down to near Disney World water attraction levels, but this didn’t dampen (ha ha) my spirits, as the scenery was incredible.

We drifted through valley turns where the mountain sides sported tiny rivulet water falls, jungle foliage, white egrets (of sorts), little houses and huts, locals living their lives, etc. The clear blue sky (a rarity in the monsoon season) made all the colors come out. We passed under the occasional foot bridge (someone said put their by the swiss) and the even older cables with dumbwaiter-style boxes attached, for ferrying goods and small children.

We stopped for lunch by a place constructed for the sole purpose of feeding lunch and refreshments to river-goers, perhaps even only for this company. Large ants tenaciously attempted to drink the coke from our bottles. There were little huts made of bamboo, and rock pathways lined with brick edging. Pretty surreal to have that out in the valleys of Nepal. Nigh Disney World even. Remembering the Animal Kingdom of the latter brought back eerily prescient memories.

After lunch we had a short (45 min) run to the take-out point, where the bus was parked beside a pig farm (“Pigs are clean,” says J2.). We dressed, the crew packed up, and we journeyed back to the ‘Du, a two-hour bus ride. A note on that. It’s a beautiful sunset one gets coming back to the valley, but very surreal coming through the small towns that are still doing business well past sunset to the light of CF bulbs, oil flame lamps, etc. Traffic is no-less congested, and the jolting, bumping, stop and go is pretty crazy. Still didn’t keep me from sleeping on the bus though 🙂 I’d recommend this trip to anyone who doesn’t mind swimming in a river!

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