Rolling down the river
Trip Start Dec 28, 2004
272Trip End Ongoing
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some things seem like a good idea mostly because you dont stop and think about it. white water rafting has been something ive always wanted to do ever since i visited the grand canyon as a kid and was amazed that for enough money they would let you ride a raft through it. living in illinois has hampered my oppurtunities to ride the big rivers and when i found myself in nepal i figured "how can i not try it?" Flash forward past a 4 hours bus ride to the banks of the river where we are receiving a crash course in how to row the rafts and also how to survive a fall into the churning water. our instructor (who ended up being the guide for the boat i was in) taught us how to pick someone out of the water by the life vest and not the arms because the arms will come out of the socket quite a bit "man elbow out of socket 2 day ago". He also taught us how to float through the rapids until we reach calm water where we can be picked up. "on back, legs straight. no bend leg. break many many leg bent". we all kind of look at each other as we stand gathered around the rafts, our life vests and helmets dangling from our hands seem a bit more important now. someone gets the nerve to ask "has anyone died on this river?" and the reasssuring answer is "not many".
there are 16 people in our little expedition, 6 (plus the guide who steers and gives rowing commands) in 2 boats and 4 in the other. im in the boat with 4. my 3 companions are a friendly american and 2 middle aged british guys who are really quite funny even though one of them seems adverse to actually using his paddle. we have quite a few arguments over football and soccer and the curious phenomenom that is known at british cooking. the first day is mostly a training day where we learn how to row through class II and III rapids. what you have to understand is that rowing these rafts is not for propulsion since the river takes care of that just fine but instead the guide uses us to help steer the boat.
im sure you have all seen these rafts before on tv, and you see that there are cross sections between the two sides that you would assume are seats but you actually sit with your ass hanging over the side of the boat, so every time the boat takes a dip you feel like you are going to fall out. when the boat takes a big dip well then thats when it gets exciting. during a really rough part of the river the guide may yell out "hold on" or "get down" get down meaning get off the edge of the raft and crouch in the boat. as i said before, the rowing is part of the steering and the really fun parts (and im not being sarcastic it was a blast) was when you were heading into just the most obscenely rough rapids and instead of yelling out "hold on" or "down" he yells "forward.......HARDER!!" because if we dont steer then things go very badly. so now the raft is leaning down a rapid at a 45 degree angle and you are actually leaning forward and OUT of the boat trying to get your paddle in the water that is now 6 or 7 feet below you. as your raft lands the ice cold water rushes in and about drowns you but all you hear is "HARDER....DIG IN!!!" and oh shit this is one big rapid and you just pray you dont fall out as you go flying down the river drenched to the bone.
for those of you who are the worried bunch and ask well what the hell happens when you do fall out. the answer is that there were 2 safety kyakers(SP!) one would wait at about the middle of the rapids and the other would wait at the end of the rapids just in case someone went in the drink. in the 2 1/2 days of running this river no one fell out which i suppose is a testament to our guides but was a little disappointing since we didnt get to laugh at the people at the end of the day.
the river and rapids were amazing but the scenery was just as impressive. for most of the way the river slithered through almost sheer cliffs that rose thousands of feet up into the air. smallish water falls fed the river at almost every turn and where there were a few flat pieces of land there would be a village clinging to the banks, with terraced farms rising high up into the mountains. on the last day we were floating by a village and there was a pretty good fire by the river bank. our guide informed us that it was a funeral pyre and as we got close you could see there were four seperate fires with four seperate bodies burning. apparantly a family had commited suicide in the river the day before (or so our guide heard). really kind of made you stop and think about your mortality and life and all that good jazz until you were thrown down a class IV rapid 100 meters later. The guides were great and really enjoyed their jobs. the funny part is that most of them work in japan and america in the summer as river guides so next time you are on the colorado look out for the nepali's.
the nights were spent at a place called the borderlands resort which really wasnt a resort but was REALLY nice. it was built right on the river on an old rice farm so the whole thing was terraced and just filled with flowers and bamboo patches. for those who wanted to spend a bit more money you could stay in a safari tent with beds and all that but as for me i pitched my tent on a piece of terraced grass right next to the river so i when i fell asleep the sound of the rapids filled my dreams. all in all it was a great time and a great deal. i mean $30 a day for rafting, food, transportation and the nights stay at borderlands? cant really go wrong can you? the only dispointment was that the rapid called the "Great wall" which is the only class V rapid on the river was unrunnable due to a HUGE landslide a month ago. we had to take the rafts out of the water and carry them around this particular rapid. all in all it was one of the better things ive done in my life. if i have a bit of time i might go on another trip who knows.