We gave ourselves two nights in Pokhara to recover after our trek before heading out on another adventure; a 3-day rafting and camping trip on the Kali Gandaki with Paddle Nepal. At 7.30am we pitched up at the meet point and climbed aboard a ropey looking bus for a 3-hour bus journey to the start of our rafting trip. There were eight of us on the trip, a family of six and the two us. We were very lucky to have great raft mates for the next 3 days.
When we arrived at the starting point the Paddle Nepal team proceeded to unload masses of equipment off the bus roof and assembled it whilst the English folk sheltered in the shade and felt a touch useless. Before we headed out on for the afternoon’s paddling we were treated to an excellent lunch and an insight in to great camping food we would experience over the next 3 days. Fully fed and watered we clambered in to the rafts for our first experience of Nepali rapids.The river we were rafting has rapids up to grade 4 but as this was just before the wet season the river levels were quite low and the rapids were not at their full potential. That being said, they were still a good size to have fun and we spent an entertaining few hours bouncing down the river and getting nicely soaked. We had been a touch apprehensive when we were only given splash jackets for warmth, which was minimal in comparison to the wet suit, thermals and splash jackets that we were given in New Zealand, but we were surprisingly warm. We pulled in to the beach which was to be our camping spot for the night and the Paddle Nepal team commenced a near military operation setting up camp. Within what seemed like minutes we were served with tea and coffee then soup and our tents were pitched and ready for us. The toilet for each night consisted of a hole dug at the other end of the beach surrounded by sheeting. A helmet was hung of the end of a paddle stuck in the sand and if this was gone, the bathroom was occupied. It was quite an ingenious set up and every part of the equipment on the raft had a dual purpose once camp was set up. If paddling hadn’t been a sufficient workout, squatting over a crumbling sand hole worked the legs more than we would have liked.
After an excellent dinner, we closed out the day taking in the stars, and chatting round the camp fire. It turns out that sand is not a comfortable mattress and we both, and the entirety of the family of six, had a fairly broken night’s sleep. The next morning, we were up early and enjoyed a cup of tea with the noise of the water rushing by, a very relaxed way to start the day. There was another trip on the river at the same time as us and there was a race in the morning to break camp so that we were on the river first to get the prime camp spot that evening. Unfortunately, we were a bit slow and the other group floated past. This added an edge of competition for the rest of the day as we pushed to be head of the pack again.
The morning was a collection of fun rapids with all of us getting soaked. We were given the opportunity to go for a swim and James was the only one foolish enough to take up this offer, the water was pretty damn nippy. Further down the river there was a body surfing rapid which none of us could resist so we all jumped in. It did not go particularly well. Several of the party struggled in the current and bumped off the boulders and James got pulled under the raft and inhaled a lung for of river water, something that would come back to haunt him later. We were all laughing at the time though and, setting our safety concerns aside, we managed to drag ourselves back in to the boat.
We pulled up at lunch still in second place in the race for the campsite and were again treated to masses of food. Given that we weren’t putting an enormous amount of effort in to paddling our calorie intake was absolutely huge and there was still piles of food left over after every meal. We made a quick turn around after lunch, got away in the lead and maintained pole position until we had secured the prime spot for that evening.
There were more rapids to tackle before we made camp though and as we floated down one section of river before setting up camp, kids ran along the river’s edge from the shacks on the hill side. At first we wondered what they were up to, but it turns out the crew donate all the leftovers from each meal to the local families and the kids had come to collect it. We were all really pleased to see that the masses f food prepared was going to a good cause.
Our crew offered us the chance to do some cliff jumping off what they described as a 3 to 4 metre drop. This sounded like good fun until we climbed up and found ourselves at least 6 metres from the water. We didn’t have a choice, we were already up there. Caro was the second off the cliff and screamed the whole way down but at least fell straight. Everyone else executed a smooth jump in to the river apart from James who slipped slightly and took a nice side impact as he hit the water. It was really funny. That night’s camp was set up as efficiently as the night before and we were soon enjoying tea on the river bank again. Shortly afterwards a local chap appeared and set up his mobile shop of booze and cigarettes on the sand nearby. An awesome evening followed with mountains of food and then beer and marshmallows around the campfire. By this point we had gotten to know the family quite well and it was an all-round convivial atmosphere. The next morning however, all was not so great. James woke up feeling a little ropey and initially put it down to the super strength Nepali beer but it worsened throughout the day and, even though James is now terrible at drinking beer, we had to admit that there must be another cause. We thought it was likely to be the dubious river water that he had inhaled the previous day. It turns out a white-water raft is not a great place to be when feeling sick, and James endured an unpleasant 3 hours as we made our way to the end of our rafting, unfortunately this was only the warm up of his misery, as we had a five-hour bumpy and windy bus journey back Pokhara on a bus which they appeared to have cut costs on by not investing in suspension. Several vomit stops later we made it back to Pokhara and deposited James in bed for the next 36 hours. Such a glamorous travel lifestyle we are living.
Despite the not so great end to the trip we still thought that it was great fun. The scenery along the river valley was epic, the rafting was fun, and the crew, the camping and the company all came together to give us an experience we would highly recommend and would do again, this time remembering to keep our mouths shut when in contact with the water!