Published: August 6th 2007May 26th 2007
view from cockpit
We had high hopes for Nepal. Partly because we were tired and hot in India and partly because we'd heard (and Ade had experienced some) of the adventure possibilities. It didn't fail to impress. We arrived at Kathmandu airport in the afternoon and were quickly swarmed by eager taxi drivers. We chose one and so set off to Thamel, the tourist district. En route we chatted to the driver and his compadre who both welcomed us to Nepal and commented on how hot it was at the moment. We replied that it was at least 10 degrees cooler than Delhi where we'd just come from and therefore, bliss. It was immediately apparent that the Nepali people were more laid back and willing to make friendly conversation with tourists than sell them something. Wohoo, a break from the touts! The Irish bar we directed the taxi to was shut, in the middle of the day. Yes we were surprised too. It didn't take us long to find a nice, cheap hotel close to all the action and we scoped out the adventure pursuits places within hours of arriving. After various question and answer sessions we settled with Borderlands booking a two day
rafting on the Bhote Kosi and two day canyoning trip. This included three nights at the borderlands resort up near the Tibet border. This gave us two days to kill in Kathmandu which suited us just fine as Ash, right on cue, caught a head cold that needed nursing. Also it gave us the opportunity to hang out and take in the Thamel vibe. This entailed a wide variety of tasty food (beef!), cool bars and loads of interesting shops to browse.
While we were waiting for our adventure trip to start we decided to take the lazy option to see Everest. We took one of the daily mountain flights that leaves from Kathmandu and flies parrallel to the Himalaya and turns in front of the Everest region. We were lucky enough to be in the cockpit approaching and while turning so got some great views and good pictures which were not possible at our seats due to condensation.
Day one of adventure camp arrived and we had to haul ass down to the booking office at 6am which was a whole 200 mts from our hotel. Fearing a lack of open food distributing units combined with our
inability to get up in the morning we availed of one of the many available bakery deals. A cinnamon roll and an apple strudle slice was purchased the night before after 7pm for half price. Unfortunately they had managed to decompose overnight and therefore provided minging nutrition for the day ahead (only Ade was able to stomach). Quite a crowd had formed outside the booking office and we began to fear, well foundedly, that there would be some logistic issues i.e. a bus spacial discrepancy. Despite the crowded bus with broken, bouncy seats and the pit stop involving stepping over the largest spider Ash had ever seen in real life (irrelevant that it was dead) we arrived at the launch spot in one piece and raring to go. Life jackets, paddles and helmets were distributed and instructions issued in the blazing sun interjected frequently by the stock phrases 'Yeah man', 'Alright' and 'Okay' in an American accent by our 5ft Nepali raft guide (it should be noted that despite his height he was clearly physically up for the challenge with bulging arm muscles that even Arnie would have envied in his prime). Somehow we managed to be one of the
last down to the four docked rafts and ended up with the issuer of instructions, a French couple, two American college students and one of their lecturers.
We only had three hours on the water on the first day with a lunch stop half way down. The rapids we tackled were only small from grade negative to a short 3+ at the end. After lunch we had many swimming opportunities and Ade and a few others went down some mini rapids sans raft much to their initial nervousness. Half of the group comprised of a sports club from a university in Colorado. They were spread out over the four rafts pretty evenly and after lunch had a competition going over who could get their whole raft singing in unison. We learned a few lines of Nepali drinking song but were pipped to the post by a raft who had cleverly chosen a song in english to sing and hence cut out the 10 minute learning period. We should have won on technical merit given the winning raft had uninspiringly chosen Row Row Row Your Boat. After we reached the raft evacuation point we got back on the bus and
drove for an hour to the resort following the river as we went, eagerly anticipating what tomorrow would hold.
Upon arrival at Borderlands Resort we were picked up by staff and shown to our deluxe safari tent. It was set in a forest on the banks of the Bhote Kosi river with stone steps leading up. There was a common shower block which, scandalisingly, had four shower heads in an open room thankfully divided by sex. Water was hot which was most important. Dinner was served buffet style in the chilled out bar area. All seating was cushions on the floor and food was quite delicious.
Day two we launched right from the resort into grade 3+ rapids which were much longer and more thrilling than anything we'd seen the day previously. Throughout the day the rapids were consistently great and we even navigated through a grade 4+ at one point. One raft flipped mid rapid spilling all occupants and trapping one girl in an underwater cave for a few seconds. Another girl got a black eye as a result of a 'Get Down' order, which means everyone jumps into the middle of the raft, and in this
case the person opposite her (her husband!) dived paddle handle first. The whole day was brilliant even when Ash was ejected from the raft mid rapid. Fortunately thanks to the lightning reflexes of our fellow raft buddies and Herculean strength of Kamal, the guide, she was reefed back in after about 10 seconds, still laughing. We rafted right down to the dam wall before getting out and carrying the equipment up to the bus nearly decapitating us along the way (yes, we carried the raft full of stuff on our heads)! We met our canyoning partners back at the bus and shared a jeep back to the resort, boys on roof and girls inside.
Canyoning was not what we'd expected. Ash had done it once before in Slovenia and has been raving about it ever since. In Slovenia she had swam through and fallen down waterfalls up to a height of 12 mts (althought the final fall had been attached to a rope held by the guide) and it was the most thrilling experience ever. In Nepal we solely abseiled down rock faces that happened to have small to medium sized waterfalls running down them. We assembled at the
equipment room and put our helmets and harnesses into our wetsuits which we wore on our back with arms through the appropriate slots and legs tied around our waists. We set off on foot from the resort and walked for 15 minutes along the road before detouring cross country. This involved a steep uphill incline through farms which was especially hard for the guide who had to pull Ash up most of it. At the top we rested for awhile contemplating the insanity of what we were about to do while paddling in a cool shallow pool, during which time the guides attached the safety ropes and tightened our harnesses. As each of us walked backwards off the first cliff the fear was apparent in our eyes and in our hands which are scarred, perhaps forever, with rope burn. It did get easier on day two, the gloves we got were a massive contributor to this, and we took the 25mt overhang and 45mt conclusive abseil in our stride/fall. The two days were 'character building' and we had a great laugh with our aussie partners in stress and our three exhibitionist Nepali guides (by exhibitionist, see running and leaping face
down a cliff!). Not for the faint hearted but highly reccommened!!!!!!
There are more photos below