Friday, October 20, 2000

Nepal: Sun Kosi and Tamur

The Sun Kosi is billed by Peter Knowles as "one of the 10 best whitewater rafting trips in the World. Big rapids, warm water, beautiful scenery and great camping make this a classic multi-day river trip. A great trip for intermediate and advanced kayakers"

Kathmandu proved to have changed little in the 18 years since I had last been there - still vibrant, colourful, noisy, smelly, still the horns of rickshaws and the incessant approaches from street vendors "tiger balm / rickshaw / hashish / cheap hotel … sir" - I loved it. We spent a day sight seeing and organising supplies and kit before heading off to the river the following day - a short 3 hours away from the city.
The Sun Kosi flows East from Kathmandu, forming the watershed for most of Eastern Nepal. It drains the highest mountains in the world before emerging into the Northern plains of India where it joins the Ganges.

We put in near Balephi on the Upper Sun Kosi, some 30 kms from the Tibetan border. Our trip was to take us some 280 kms to Chatra, close to the Indian border.

The paddling starts gently and gradually builds up. The first two days at grade 2/3 give plenty of opportunity to warm up and get used to the volume of water. Each of the following days saw one or two major rapids (Meatgrinder, Hakapur, Jaws, High Anxiety, El Wasto, Jungle Corridor, Big Dipper to name a few) together with many smaller quieter rapids with play waves and friendly holes.
The volume of water increased as each major tributary joined us to reach around 800 Cumecs at the Jungle Corridor. This was BIG volume water - huge wave trains, swirling eddies, whirlpools, bus swallowing holes and grabby 'funny water'.

Once adjusted to this volume of water, however, the rapids proved, in the main, very straightforward - while there were huge holes to avoid the lines were generally obvious and were little more than roller coaster rides along huge wave trains.

There were exceptions of course. Hakapur (G5) is perhaps the meanest fall on the river and I experienced the kind of whooping you get from missing your line in big water - I clipped a hole at the run in, rolled up just in time to crash backwards into Hakapurs maw which promptly caved my deck in and off leaving me pirouetting vertically in a swamped boat with little option than a long hard crashing swim. (After watching my efforts all other Kayakers elected to walk this one!)
The Tamur flows into the Sun Kosi shortly before Chatra. Having completed the Sun Kosi we bussed up to Mulghat and spent a day running the 25kms back down to the confluence. This proved the best days paddle I think I have ever had - 5 hours of almost continuous big volume grade 4/4+ rapids. About 45 rapids in all, most 'read and runnable' but some requiring careful scouting.

By this stage I had learnt lots about paddling big water and Ash's Ashram provided a great finale - a long technical rapid with several 'must-make' moves - what a blast!

A normal day saw us paddling from around 10am to 4pm - under scorching sun. Nights were spent camping under the stars on fine sandy river beaches. Almost invariably local children would appear from nowhere and would sit for hours watching the goings-on. Evenings were spent preparing meals, sitting and chatting around fires with beers and Rum punch. Sometimes we shared beaches with dead bodies or large spiders on other occasions we would wander up to a local temple or shower under a waterfall.

We finished the trip with a another day in Kathmandu - washing the sand from our kit/hair, eating fine steaks, spending rupees and lapping it all up before we had to return to our real lives. I had crammed a load of fun, a wealth of experience and memories into a short two weeks I would advise anyone to do the same! You don't have to be a 'hair boater' to paddle in Nepal.