I remember being amazed by the sight of adventure seekers, most of them foreigners, rafting upon the swelling waters of the Trishuli River. These sights were always witnessed from windows of moving vehicles. I would gaze, somewhat longingly, at the people and their rafts from my bus as I’d make my way from Kathmandu to my hometown of Tanahun (or vice versa) during school vacations. They would float and flow downstream like dry leaves on the water’s surface making patterns in red, green, white and yellow. The various rafters’ groups—in their multitudinously coloured life jackets and boats—lined up the river, snaking along its shores in a riot of life and vibrancy.
I always made it a point to get myself a window seat. I looked forward to seeing rafters navigating their way through the Trishuli River and the blue-green waters never dissatisfied me. My eyes vigilantly kept the river and its occupants in sight. Only the odd dense tree or roadside home blocked my view of the Trishuli. It kept me constant company throughout the journey from Malekhu to Mungling otherwise. I was a school boy at the time and remember wanting to touch the waters of the great Trishuli. As the bus made its way from one lap of the mountain-road to another, I dreamt of serenity, of floating upon the river’s waters some day.
More than a decade has passed since and the then common notion that held all adventure sports to be the forte of the tourist and foreigner has passed. Thousands of Nepalis go rafting, trekking, canyoning, rock climbing or bungee jumping through Nepal these days, and adventure sports have become a great, adrenalin-pumping way to spend the weekends and holidays. Indra Rai from Rafting Star, an outdoor and adventure sports agency from Thamel, says that the past few years have seen the number of Nepalis partaking in adventure sports rise exponentially. “We get up to 4000 clients during the peak months, and nearly 80 percent of them are Nepali,” he says. “The general conception of adventure sports has changed tremendously here.”
My long-held desire to navigate through the waters of a flowing river came true last week, although the river itself was not to be the Trishuli but the Bhote Koshi. I was among a group of 13 journalists who were part of GPA (Global Peace Association) Nepal’s two-day nature tour. We were taken to a resort on the banks of the Bhote Koshi River, camped on its banks and went rafting the next day.
The journey up to Bhote Koshi itself was a fun one, although it certainly did get off on the right foot. I ended up waiting for two hours at a bus stop in Tinkune because a few of my journalist friends were running on what I assume must be the infamous ‘Nepali time’. Once I stepped into the micro-bus that was to lead us up to the camp site though, I forgot the long wait, immediately getting into a different groove. With a madal handy, and a bunch of more than enthusiastic would-be singers, we began playing Antakshari, and the rest of the journey was pure, undiluted fun. Amidst mirth and laugher and music, we passed through Bhaktapur, Banepa and Dolalghat, my eyes awed by the ripping beauty and greenery outside.
To be honest, the group was beginning to feel quite uneasy inside the vehicle for want of air after a while; the windows did not open and it was beginning to get a little queasy inside. The first glimpses of the Sun Koshi and the Bhote Koshi rivers made everything seem all right once again though, and the road and the picturesque hills above us completed the utterly enchanting sight. When we finally reached the Rafting Star camp site at Sukute—a little alcove nestled in the lap of lush hills and blissful isolation just 65 kilometres east of Kathmandu—I felt truly one with nature. The rest of the evening was spent discussing the next day’s schedule and talking about GPA’s environmental agenda.
By the time we had dinner and headed off to sleep, my head was reeling with images from the day that had passed and the day that was to come soon. The sight of the half silver moon on the vast navy sky was enchanting, almost as magical as that of the river and its bank, glistening pure silver in the moonlight. I soon got into my tent though and fell asleep, listening to the symphony of sounds created by the chirping of insects, and the steady flow of the Bhote Koshi River that stood only a couples of metres ahead of me.
The next day, we were to go rafting at 7:30 am. I was excited and cruised through early morning table tennis, badminton, volleyball and breakfast. For most of the journalists there, including myself, this was to be their first rafting experience.
Our starting point was a little distance away from the Khadi Chaur Bazaar. After being briefed by our guide Dinesh Rai, we headed towards the river in three groups of six, safely helmeted and jacketed for the ride to come. As we navigated our boats along the river, we were a little nervous. The guide’s commands felt somewhat weird initially, for none of us were accustomed to being told how to paddle through a river. What the experience soon made me realise though was the beauty and harmony in paddling as a group. I felt pretty safe anyway, for we had two professional kayaks following our boat to ensure nothing would go wrong. One of the most memorable moments for me was when we screamed “Bhote Koshi!” after navigating through the strongest of currents. We even managed to sing songs like Sunkoshi Bagera and Macha Panima while we were still inside our rafts. It was a 15 kilometre journey by raft, and by the end of it we were so high on excitement and energy that none of us felt the least bit tired. Our three groups had even managed to compete amongst each other, and whenever we’d reach calmer waters, we’d make it a point to dive into the river and swim to our hearts’ content.
We rafted for three hours that day, and the memory of each moment remains bright and clear in my mind. The time I spent floating on the river’s waters was magical, momentous. The experience of touching the cold water almost felt pious to me. Flowing through a beautiful river that ran between two lush hills, interacting with the local people and splashing in the white waters, I lived a cherished childhood dream of mine. As I sat upon that raft, singing songs about rivers and streams and feeling rather adventurous every time a strong current nudged our boat, I could not help but feel happy. I felt all of life’s stress ebbing away from my body, and the feeling of community that exists in paddling as a team is something I will have with me forever.
All anxiety had left me by the time I stepped off of the raft, and looking back I can only say that happiness knows no bounds when you’re able to fulfill a long-cherished dream. It doesn’t matter how momentary the experience itself is, or how subtle it might seem to others, to you (and only you) it matters more than anything else in the whole wide world.
Published: 06-04-2013 09:03