Thrills of River Rafting
All forward !!! "Stop !!!" Topsang recited the drill of instructions we were to follow before we set off white water rafting in the river Trisuli in Nepal. In the mountainous regions near Kathmandu, the speed of the water is high and therefore ideal for rafting. The screaming flow of river is called a 'rapid' and depending on the speed of the water these rapids are classified from class I to class VI
We decided to go for a two days rafting camp. There are many travel agencies in Katmandu that arrange such camps. For beginners rapids till class III are recommended. Topsang, our guide for the trip was surprisingly young.
After an hour's journey by bus from Katmandu we got down on the highway near the river. The raft was ready with all the necessary equipment and our companions for the rafting expedition were already there : two Italians, one Japanese and one Nepali.
We kept all our valuables in waterproof drums in the raft and secured our life jackets and helmets. If you don't know how to swim then you have to be extremely careful. If you fall off the raft, the life jacket prevents you from drowning, but you have to be careful of the rocks in the river. We had planned to cover 22 kms on the first day and 18 kms on the second day. Ours was a six-seater raft. We took our positions and started paddling.
The post lunch session was even more exciting. Most of the rapids are of class III and class IV. Many times our raft was lifted to a 45 degrees angle at the front. Balancing in such high rapids is not easy. The base of the raft is flat and it is made up of a special type of rubber with huge air tubes stitched on it. The best way to balance in the raft is to put one of your legs below the tubes, but it is still at best a tricky affair.
At 4 p.m. the moment I was awaiting finally arrived. Topsang told me that I could swim in the next rapid. I jumped into the water and immediately got caught in the rapid. The water speed was quite high. I was facing the opposite direction from the water current. I struggled to change my direction as the waves were splashing onto my face. Somehow I managed to change my direction and then I was simply carried away by the water. It was amazing. Both exhilarating and thrilling.
At 5.30 p.m. we reached our camp. Our organizers had already set up two tents for us on the soft white sand on the bank of the river. We had a mug of strong hot coffee and some snacks and then we roamed around the riverside.
The water changes its color through the day. You are mesmerised by the beauty of nature if you allow yourself to be tuned to it's rhythm.
Soon after sunset we lit a fire and sat around the campfire, singing songs, enjoying it all. We had a delicious dinner of rice, dal, fried potatoes (bhajia) and macaroni with lots of hot coffee. By 9 p.m. it had become chilly. There was not a sound except that of the roaring river. The sky was clear and full of stars. I spent some 2 hours at the campfire, before retiring to my tent.
The next day I woke early. I crossed the river and walked up the hill. There are many hanging bridges across the Trisuli. Breakfast was ready by the time I got back. We had pancakes, toast, cheese and coffee. I watched fascinated at the way Topsang made the toasts. He kept a slice of bread near the fire with the support of a spoon and within 20 seconds the toast was ready.
At 9 a.m. we started our last phase of rafting. Again, the sound of "All forward !!!" reverberated till 2 p.m. That marked the end of our two-day rafting tour. It was an unforgettable experience, only to be recalled again and again.
If you wish to go rafting, plan ahead. Jan. and Feb are good months for beginners. In Oct. and early Nov. the water level is very high. In Nepal, the Trisuli is an ideal river to raft for 2/3 days. The rafting sites are just outside Katmandu and you don't waste much time in travelling to reach them. If you are interested in serious rafting for 6/7 days the Sun Koshi river is recommended. Such tours generally cover around 200 kms in 7 days with class III and above rapids. There is even a waterfall en route. Some waterfalls are classified as being equivalent to class VI rapids.
W hile rafting make sure that the raft is in good condition. There should not be patches on any of the rubber tubes. Use plastic paddles rather than using wooden paddles. Check the life jacket and helmet. You must have at least one kayak with you. Demand good hygienic food and an English speaking guide. Choose your agency with care, as not all of them give adequate consideration to safety norms.
Photo credit Makrand Zalkikar
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.