Rafting the Sun Koshi

Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
Trip End May 2010

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Everest! Lhotse! Nupste! The greatest concentration of big mountains in the world! That was one of the big dreams for us to come to Nepal—a big hike and some climbing in the Solu Kumbu region to witness firsthand the raw and awesome beauty of these prodigious peaks. Not just any old climb either, but rather an ascent of a beautiful 6000 meter peak—Ben’s second 6K meter peak, Lindsey’s first—with views of the giants in the background. Yeah… not so much!

But we could feel it before we came to terms with it. After our exhausting expedition into the Siguniangshan mountains in Western China and our somewhat epic adventure around the Annapurna, we were ready for a break. OK, we weren’t ready, but our bodies told us we were. We were drastically underweight, getting over the food poisoning was taking far longer than normal and, worst of all, our motivation was at an all time low. So we bagged the Everest trek and climbing itinerary and went for something different, something new for we which had basically no expectations. A rather half-assed “review of our options,” some cold hard cash and some idle chitchat with some tour guides in Thamel (a very touristy area of Kathmandu) bought us “two seats” on a nine-day rafting expedition down the Sun Koshi River, the so-called River of Gold.

The mighty Sun Koshi

One of the great parts of the trip is seeing all the village life in action alongside the river.

Our trip was run by the reputable rafting company, Ultimate Descents, who promised a mix of exciting rapids complemented by sections of relaxing flat water. The Sun Koshi is the longest river trip offered in Nepal, traversing 270km through the beautiful Majabjarat Range on its meandering way from the put-in at Dolalghat to the take-out at Chatara in the far east of the country. It’s quite an experience to begin a river trip just three hours out of Kathmandu, barely 60km from the Tibetan border, and end the trip looking down the hot, dusty gun barrel of the north Indian plain just eight days later. Now having done the trip, we have to say that the trip is an incredible combination of whitewater, scenery, villages and fun...and sometimes introspective evenings.

Our support staff brought another raft just for all the food, tents and other jazz we’d need! Those meals sure were something else! We and the rest of the clients had a lot of fun with all the UD staff on our trip. From left to right on the gear raft is Denis, Pradeep, and Muscles (our nickname) rowing.

Ashok (our main guide) hard at work filling up a jug of rum during our Safety talk. Almost all of the rum was lost in the rapids in the first two days :(. At least there was a village 2/3 the way down the river to stock back up :).

The trip was a participatory, meaning that we all helped out with the prep and often the cooking to make things work smoother. Lisa (UK), Michelle (Aus) and Diane (France) prepping veggies! The locals waiting patiently for leftovers. :)

Lindsey having an introspective moment while sipping coffee on another fine morning on another perfect sandy beach!

More cute Nepali kids from a riverside village

 While the trip wouldn’t have been a true Nepali trip without at least one of us getting a bout of food poisoning or some stomach issue, it was a minor one this time! Ben only withdrew from the socializing one evening and spent a rough day gripping his stomach while it churned through its issues. His sickness likely came from ingesting too much (polluted) river water while practicing his roll in one of the safety kayaks that surround our raft as we run the whitewater sections.

Ben rolling in…

That said, on the second half of day five, Ben swapped spots with one of the safety kayakers to run a few of the rapids by kayak. He managed not to flip in any of the rapids and the thrill of being tossed and pulled by such a high volume river was definitely one of his highlights.

Just one of the many suspension bridges we floated under. The locals all stopped and yelled greetings at we passed under.

Lindsey got her chance though! Each day we rotated who would be in the front of the raft (the scariest and most important position in the boat – well, besides the rear where the guide sits and steers the boat from!). It so happened that the day we ran the biggest and boldest rapids (several high volume class IV sections) coincided with the day Lindsey would be up front! Despite being nervous, she took to her paddle and navigated us through these hair-raising rapids without the boat flipping! In particular, the famous Harkapur rapids (I and II) are famous for flipping rafts. The volume of the Sun Koshi’s water can be downright frightening. We all kept saying to ourselves, “I just can’t imagine the river during the monsoon when the flow increased by up to three times what we are rafting this time of year! And crazy people even raft it then.”

Scouting and plotting a course mentally for the massive Harkapur rapids. This shot actually misses capturing the main rapids lower, but it’s a still a cool shot and captures the technical section of Harkapur I; navigating around the boulders and the raft-flipping hole (behind us standing on the rock).
We were promised by our guides that if we paddled hard on the flat sections, we’d gain a day to have a layover—essentially a day we don’t raft nor have to move camp. Our layover day sort of turned into a hangover day when we got a little carried away playing Nepali games around the campfire until the wee hours!

A typical sunset on our camp on the River of Gold. The guides just slept under a propped up raft—far better than worrying about setting up a silly tent each night! 
Nonetheless, nine days and nights with a group of eight and five support staff means a lot of bonding time. Thankfully, we had an absolutely marvelous mix of people and we had the time of our lives! A shout out to the crew at Ultimate Descents for making our trip so damn good—and for cooking such great food too!

The girls relaxing during some down time on the river!

The crew minus Denis. From left to right: Utom (aka Muscles), Omik, Ashok, and Daya.

Here's Denis! Denis and Lisa! Denis got style points all trip. He constantly had the best hair going all trip. The dude is seriously straight out of the 70s. He even talks like stoner from the 70s! He held a special place in everyone's hearts on our trip.
The gang saying our goodbyes before our final bus ride home… rather back to Kathmandu.

More photos on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benkunz/sets/72157622782153633/

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benglenn on

Another great trip report! Glad you enjoyed the rafting trip, sounds like it was a nice change of pace after our Annapurna excitement. Miss you guys!!

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