RAFTING NEPAL

TRISULI RIVER TRIP

The second morning on the Trisuli, Nepal’s most popular rafting river, we pushed off early, Belinda and me with three vacationing Israeli soldiers, in a big rubber paddle raft.  The cook team would pack up our camp, load everything into the bus, follow the highway down river and meet us at the lunch stop.
After visiting a number of tour offices in Kathmandu, and talking to other tourists, I’d booked this trip at a very reasonable price.  The company bus, already loaded with supplies and towing an equipment trailer, had picked up the group in the center of town about nine in the morning.
The first day, guests and guides got acquainted and practiced paddling in unison.  That night, sometime around mid-night, our dome tents shook and shuddered.  A storm roared in and we were nearly blown away by a big wind, accompanied by an incredible deluge with lightning and thunder.  All our sleeping bags got wet.  We’d slept late to make up for the wild night, and that meant our breakfast of porridge and tea and fruit was late too.  It was nearly ten and already growing hot when we got on the river.
In the first white water, not ten minutes out, we hung up on a rock, our raft sideways in a roaring current.  Some of us pushed off with our paddles and others pulled at the water until we eventually slid free.  Not far beyond that spot we hit a class five rapid called Upset, and we nearly did.
Ripping into a big hole, we teetered on one edge before the raft fell back.  Someone’s paddle knocked hard across the back of my helmet.  I sat low and took wave after wave of cold water, holding on for my life in the noisy torrent.
Juki yelled and grabbed for Belinda.  Then I saw Belinda in the water, a shocked expression on her face.  She fought to regain her composure in a bubbling swirl.  Before she could grab the paddles held out to her, we were into the next hole, out of control and all of us yelling.  I hooked my feet into a strap.  The raft spun.  Thrown into the side by the water’s force, I braced hard with my legs and tried to do something useful with my paddle.
As soon as we hit a calm spot, the guys pulled Belinda in over the side.  She was in excellent spirits despite being a bit winded, a very good sport.
The sun burned a hole in the blue sky.  Some of the guys leaped in to cool off.  Our guide Sanu, and Juki, one of the Israeli’s, dove in and started wrestling in the water. Sanu, about five feet two, tossed much bigger Juki right into a chilly eddy then graciously reached out to help him.  We heard a roar up ahead and the swimmers quickly climbed back into the boats.
As our raft dove into the churning confusion, a wall of cold water crashed over my body.  We raced along with the heaving white billows, straight for a boulder field, then turned at the last instant to zip past a glistening wet wall of rock.  Sucked over the next brink, we bounced and tossed into a run of big standing waves.  Then it was over.  We floated free into stillness and serenity, and lay back in the warm sun to watch the cliffs float past.  Some time later, Juki shouted and we sat up.  There was our cook team waving from a beach up ahead.  It was lunch time.
The rafts plowed through lots more rapids that day, but none as crazy as Upset.  It was a joyful afternoon of relaxing without a care, sparked by intervals of sensational hyperventilating fun.  I’d started this trip scared of big water, but by the end of the second day could truly savor the crazy stretches, snatching scraps of eternity in those brief moments of absolute fearlessness.  Three days raced by.
At the Mughli Bridge, we changed out of wet clothes in the company bus. The Israeli guys were off to Pokhara, waving as their bus pulled away.  Happy with a wonderful river experience, I slipped Sanu a hundred rupee tip just before he put Belinda and me on a plush bus going to Tandy Bazaar.  He seemed amazed by the money, and incredibly grateful.  Now we were the ones waving goodbye.

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