day 4: fishling - water rafting - nArAyaNghAT

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september 17, 2011:
we start the morning by exploring the grand premises of the dalima resort at kurintar, with views of a bend in the trishuli river and the manakamana cable car start point to the left. we catch a good breakfast - bread is not available for toast, but the cook makes me a pancake instead. then comes check out, where we need to complain about last night; along with our two nepali motorcycle friends, we confront the manager. he is very apologetic, and offers that we pay whatever we feel is appropriate. following the lead of our two nepal friends, we end up paying 50%.

the dalima resort at kurintar is quite nicely laid out - but rather poorly managed... a red-vented bulbul on the premises. our letter to the manager.

we get to fisling by 10, to find several boats ready and inflated by the roadside. a young boy, santosh, accosts us - do we want to go rafting? we say yes, but they should charge us a nepali price. he asks how much we are willing to pay, and we settle with the team leader purna at about half the prices they were asking at pokhara. fortunately they have seats on the boat - we'll be joining a group of four clients who have made a booking from pokhara. they'll be coming at eleven. so we set off to explore the bridge in the daylight and also the village across.

water-rafting route map - trishuli river. fisling to five kilo (simlital). editable at []

a little past eleven, we are issued life jackets and helmets and trudge down to the river's edge where a red raft is being inflated. there are some large breakers a few meters down from us, and i wonder why we aren't starting a bit further upstream.

from the village across the bridge. you can see the last bit of the surprise rapid - the main drop is upstream.

the four other guys with us on this boat are from gwalior; this is their first water experience. none of them are swimmers. we are briefed on how to hold the oar and how to follow instructions and what to do in case of emergencies. the front row positions are suggested for the more responsible rowers. santosh, the boy we met first, is on the crew while manoj is the captain. next to us, another group of foreigners are being briefed on a blue raft captained by a pony-tailed man, and we have al bahadur gurung on a kayak - he will be accompanying us for safety.

we are to follow instructions such as forward, "left back", etc. in case of emergencies, if we fall into the water, the nearest person is to hold out his oar and pull us back. if we are too far out, they will throw us a rope which unfurls upto 15 meters - we must grab it not by the bag at the end which will keep unfurling, but by the line itself. they will then reel us in while we float with our feet towards the boat and rope at shoulder,

as we finally board the raft, our four co-rafters are shouting slogans like "jai bharat" and announcing how our raft will "beat" the foreigners' boat. i remonstrate that this is not a race but it is lost in the din. they take the two front rows while we are on the third row - i am left and binoy right. the two crew are behind us.

the start was all upbeat and peaceful. within minutes, we were all in the waves...

after a short practice session we set off towards the middle of the stream. we notice that some of the others are not holding the oar properly, and not pulling in sync, but we are already entering the main flow. manoj turns the boat, shouting "left back", before we know it, the first big wave hits us, throwing us up and leaving us stunned. it also turns the raft to the right, so that before we can recover from the first wave, the second hits us broadside on the left and the world turns topsy turvy and dark and we are underwater with the flipped raft on top of us...

next i know i am being whirled up and down and under but somehow i end up beside the flipped raft and quickly grab the rope running around. the two crew members have already managed to clamber on and are working to set it back right. borne on the rapid current, i am turned up and see the bright sunlit rocky gorge flashing past - and then i am wrenched out from the boat and pulled under. after a few somersaults, i try to keep my feet up in a swimming position, so as to avoid hitting any rocks that may be close to the surface. i find the helmet quite a hindrance for swimming, but the life jacket is clearly a life-saver; it makes it impossible to sink.

as i surface, i find myself amid yellow oars and black sandals roiling in the water. i see binoy being picked up by the blue boat. it's not clear where the others are. our raft is a little off and i reach it and am holding on to it along with two others. then the crew ask us to let go so they can set it upright before taking us in. i let go immediately, but one of the others is clutching on to me (and to the raft), uncomprehending panic written large in his eyes. i push off and don't know how they get him to let go, for around now I am pulled under again. by the time i come up, the raft is bobbing three bodylengths ahead of me and i numbly try to catch up. at this point manoj throws me the line and i grab it. though i remember the instructions, i am in no state to re-align myself and allow them to drag me in head first, but floating horizontally. and then someone grabs me by the lifejacket and pulls me up and i am inside the raft again. i sit dazed and recovering behind the middle seat while the crew are doing things, until i can sit on the edge again and help them. but there don't seem to be any others to rescue. three of us are in the blue boat - so where did two people go?

fisling village and the "surprise" rapid (google map satellite image). water levels were much higher when we started (september, post-monsoon period).

as i am thinking this, manoj and shashank are coolly grabbing the oars floating by. eventually i realize that my arithmetic is somewhat fuddled - there are four people in the blue boat and the last client comes towards us soon, holding onto the bahadur's kayak. but after he is pulled up onto the boat, i realize that he is completely traumatized and numbed beyond human endurance.

we transfer the four others by pulling up to the blue raft. now binoy and i are in the front; the other four are in no state to pull the oars. the raft is back in order. it has been perhaps ten minutes since it flippped, but to us it seemed a lifetime.

a disembarkation stop at kuringhat ... the gwalior four get dropped off here.

the gwalior chaps have had enough and they want out. they want to be put ashore _right now_. when manoj says that it is pointless to drop them off just here because one can't get back to the road, one of them says "kyA Ap zabardasti hame marwAoyenge" - what, will you force us into our deaths? eventually we take a rest stop, and then continue to a cove (maybe kuringhAT) accessible from the highway. here we find purna and his team, who have arrived here after seeing the boat flip from the put-in point itself. the gwalior four leave, but the two of us continue, with another person added as crew.

rocky-one rapid on trishuli river - about 3km downstream from the bridge at mugling

we now go over a still stretch where both binoy and i jump off to enjoy the fast stream. after some smaller rapids like S-bend, we come to junction of marsyangdi and the trishuli, beyond which is the pinball rapid, which throws us around a few times before allowing us to pass under the familiar bridge at mugling. we then have some other smaller rapids until rocky one, the last named rapid on this stretch. we come up at the five kilo point, (5km milestone from mugling), near simlital, at which purna and his group, as well as the four gwalior chaps, are waiting.

celebrating the end - at "5 kilo" - 5km downstream from mugling. al bahadur tries out binoy's bike.

bicycling to nArAyanghAT

after lunch at one of the small roadside food joints (quite tasty), we take our bicycles out and i go up for an exploratory ride to mugling to shoot some videos of the rapids we crossed. then we ride the 35 km down to narayanghat.

trishul river gorge, just downstream from mugling. after the water-rafting, cycling to nArAyanghAT seemed rather tame.

sunset on the trishuli river.

here we find a very nice rooms at the guest house maintained by the chamber of commerce; our third floor room is overlooking the trishuli - now calld narayani after the kali gandaki has flowed into it at dev ghat a few km upstream. it is a peaceful river now, but still a fairly fast current. after a bath we explore around a bit - narAyanghAT closes early, it seems - and we too hit the sack soon, tired after the day's exertions.

today's coverage:

see maps of nepal page for more maps.


* [ day 1: lumbini-tansen]
* [ day 2: tansen-pokhara 120km]
* [ day 3: pokhara]
* [ day 5: chitwan]
* [ nepal cycling tour (home) ]

[bumpy trails bicyclists homepage]     

amitabha mukerjee for the bumpy trail bicyclists. sep 2011.     feedback: mukerjee [at] gmail