The water was ice cold and moving fast. My head was bobbing in and out of the water as I floated along, with next to no control. I had on my helmet, wetsuit, life-vest, and a paddle in hand. When I fell into the water, I managed to keep hold of my paddle. It’s one of the “rules” of white water rafting. If you fall out into the water, make sure you don’t lose your paddle. Our raft hit a swell of water that I underestimated, knocking me and only me off the raft into the chilly rapids. As I hastily floated along waiting for a kayaker to come save me, I saw another set of rapids and swirls dead ahead approaching. There was no point of swimming away, I was that rivers’ puppet at that point. The kayaker in our fleet of rafts and floats came from the reaches and when he came close enough, I grabbed onto the bow of his kayak, just in time before the next set of rapids arrived to toy with me. “You okay?” he asked.
“I’m good!” I yelled back with a thumbs up.
This was white rafting and I was loving every single second of it.
The rafting was part of a two-day outdoor excursion me and four others booked. The first day, Tané, Alexis, Tim, Jess, and I would be canyoning a few hours away from Pokhara on cascading waterfalls. Emre and Natacha were supposed to come along but they both fell ill right before we left on the bus.
We arrived in an area unknown to me and were given our gear for canyoning: a wetsuit, water boots, a helmet, life vest, and a waist harness to attach ropes to. The first part of the day sucked. We had to hike about 25 minutes up a steep slope with all of our equipment but soon were rewarded with a refreshingly cool waterfall that beat down upon our heads.
I had my GoPro attached to my helmet, kicking myself for not bringing my chest attachment instead. That would have suited better for this event. With the sound of rushing waters and my helmet covering my ears, I could barely hear the beeps I needed to hear to know if my GoPro was recording properly. I found myself constantly unfastening my helmet, to set my camera properly.
In addition to our group of five, there were maybe about 12 other people joined to our canyoning group. We began with a simple task: learning the proper way to jump in shallow water. Soon afterwards we began our jumps off of higher cliffs into pools of water left from the falls.
Among another cascade, we abseiled down the falls into another bowl of water. We didn’t have gloves so everyones hands were red and sore coming down. At least my harness didn’t hurt me like the last time I went abseiling on Table Mountain.
On the next cascade, our guides attached a rope to our harness and slowly let us down a waterfall that turned into a natural slide of smooth wet rock. I didn’t know what to expect as I was descending against my will, but it seemed each waterfall was that way. Not really knowing what to expect until you actually go. Each was fun and I couldn’t stop laughing every time I watched the girls come down the waterfall. Their expressions as the waterfall clogged their faces were priceless and I managed to capture most of it on camera. Though, the pinnacle of the amusement came from Alexis. We came upon one cliff where we had three choices on how to descend: slide, abseil, or jump. Most of us jumped off into the pool, maybe 8 meters high. Alexis drew up a pinch short of enough courage to jump. The cliff sprang outward, so instead of just simply jumping, you had to launch yourself forward with enough air in order to not hit the extending cliff on the way down. Alexis stood up there for a few minutes before she hesitantly started to tip toe as close to the edge as possible. The guide near warned her it was slippery, but his advice came too late. Alexis slipped her foot and instantly everyone around, including I, fell to a quick worried silence. Alexis fell down the cliff, remaining vertical the whole time, pinballing herself all the way down into the pool.
No one said a word until she rose her head from underwater with a big blushed grin on her face. Then we all began to die from laughter. Moment of the day for sure!
The canyoning continued with more of the same, and that was a good thing. We agreed that after it was done, we felt refreshed from all the crispy clean mountain water we played in all day. We collected back on the bus but that was the last time we would stay in our big group. The five of us were shipped off about an hour or so to a running river along sand that we would call our campsite for the night. Thanks to our buddy Arun of Simrik, he was able to setup tents on the beach, equipped with sleeping bags, and then he personally bought us chicken to grill over a campfire that night. It was the perfect setup. Private and secluded from everyone else.
Nepal is completely landlocked, so I didn’t count on getting sand from here. Low and behold, our campsite had sand! The sand here looked like someone took some salt and some black pepper and mixed it all together; much more salt than pepper though. I managed to bottle some to take back to the States with me to add to my growing collection.
The camping grounds along the river was just what we all needed. The sleeping bags proved to be a much more comfortable sleep than back at Thapa’s village. May it have been the fact that we were between mountains with the flurrying river to lull us to sleep like a sweet lullaby. May it have been the perfectly sound weather, not too hot and not too cold. Or was it that we were completely stuffed from the delicious grub we had earlier. A combination of all three perhaps yes.
The next day, we woke up
early kinda late and headed out by bus to our next location to begin white water rafting. Prior, I asked Arun to set us up with the best rapids possible. “The more extreme, the better!” I told him with eagerness. “I want to fall in the water. If our boat capsized then that would be great too!” I’m not sure if the others in my group would want that but I’m sure they laugh about it at the end of the day.
No one in my crew, besides Alexis, has rafted before. They were in for a real treat! We changed into our wet gear and our larger group that we joined were split into three separate rafts along with a couple of kayakers to rescue us in case we fell over.
The five of us managed to stay together in one raft but we also managed to get stuck with a short, runty, Nepali raft guide who had a stick up his butt. The two strongest men would man the front of the raft. That was Tim and I. But before we set adrift, he had our rafting group of eight practice quick gestures and rafting techniques, but he had a thick Nepali accent and spoke really fast. We all had a hard time understanding what he was saying and so he constantly scolded us, threatening to split us up into other rafts if we didn’t get the motions down. I spoke up for the group and told him he was talking too fast and we had difficulty understanding him. Either he ignored me or he didn’t understand me. No matter, because we began to paddle out into the river anyway. I’ve been having bad luck with the guides here in Nepal.
Fast-forward past after I lost balance and fell in, the part I mentioned at the beginning of the post. The parts after were a lot more fun! A class 4+ rapid was approaching slowly ahead. Our guide said usually, most rafting companies would stop here and walk around the storm of swirls and swells and then continue on, but our rafting company would go in full force. That’s when my annoyance for our guide turned into love. I was ready and this is all I ever wanted. “Go, go, go!” he shouted from behind. “Paddle, paddle, paddle!”
We all paddled as fast as we could, as in sync as we could before the whirls under us forced us to paddle at different jerky paces. We were splashed and bumped around from all sides as we quickly rode to a single cluster of rapids that was so disastrous, that it had its own name. I can’t tell you what her name was, I was too focused on the task at hand. We rode up the gush of water so harshly that at one point our raft was completely vertical and all I could see were bobbing yellow helmets, paddles, and raging water. Raging water everywhere! I thought for sure our raft would flip over with everyone on it. Instead, after the surge, we were free from the gushers and I found that Tim, Jess, and two others were gone and our boat was upright. How the other four of us managed to stay on the raft was beyond me. From a distance I saw Jess way across the river. How’d the heck she end up way over there? Tim was no where to be found and I couldn’t say much for the other two. Another set of chaotic rapids were fast approaching and that’s when Tim popped up from the water near our raft. All I could do was grab his arm and keep him close to the raft while the others remaining fought through the oncoming rapids. After we managed to get our crew back together, we came upon another set of rapids that knocked all of us except for one out of the float and into the river. Our boat never flipped over during the entire run but we all were falling out all over the place, where other rafts and kayakers were always able to rescue us.
Our guide started to lighten his mood during the trip, amused at how we would always lose at least one person every few minutes. I didn’t expect much coming into it, but these were probably the best rapids I’ve ever experienced yet!
After all that excitement, we took a long bus ride back to Pokhara and then to Simrik. Nothing was planned for the Sunday. But we would be saying farewell to Tané, as this was her last day here in Pokhara before she heads back home to Australia. We had the remainder of the day to relax and unwind and eat some food other than dal bhat. But in all honesty, I was actually craving Mina Thapa’s homemade dal bhat! I was also wanted to see the kids up at the village. It happens every weekend I’m down in Lakeside, by the following Sunday, I’m ready to go back up!