A couple of hours drive, just east of Pokhara lies a small valley through which the Madi Khola flows. it’s one of the smaller Himalayan rivers, almost alpine in appearance and is rightly described in the guidebook as a fesity little number and a jewel of a river.
The Madi is lower volume than the Marsyandi that flows through the next valley over and kept us entertained for 5 hours of continuous white water on the first day with little respite from getting on at Lamarket to our overnight at Karputar, hours of read and run water with only three very quick inspections, I shouldered my boat at a couple of the chosier sections I didn’t fancy, affording me the opportunity to take a couple of pictures of Daz.
The day starts at first light in Pokhara, waiting for KB and his 300,000 mile Toyota Corrola, our shuttle to the river. Kit loaded we negotiate early morning Pokhara, traders are already up sweeping the pavements in front of their shops, just rearranging the dust. We bump and bounce along the tarmac, KB avoiding the biggest of the crater sized potholes. We quickly leave the tourist Pokhara amd beging to mix with the melee of buses, taxi’s, goats, cows, motorbikes, workers and school children heading for their workplace and school.
Spaces between buildings change from wasteland tips to farmed, terraced fields, every useable fertile corner cultivated and in the space of a few hundred yards we are out in open farmland, rural Nepal with field workers already tending the land. Tarmac gives way to graded road giving way to jeeptrack, river bed and we begin to climb a track.
but the views……………….
The get in, a quick cuppa to set us up for the day and to really allow the pre river nerves to get going,
My day doesn’t start well, within 300 yards of setting off I am bank side with a broken set of blades. A clipped rock before I get my mojo working and I am upside down in shallow waters bouncing off the bottom, the blades take a rock in the middle of the shaft and separate leaving me clutching and end in either hand, the left being quickly abandoned allowing me to roll up and paddle one bladded to the bank.
Daz makes up the splits and we are underway in a few minutes. I settle into the flow and watch Daz drop a significnat horizon line, he takes longer to appear than I would expect and as approach the point of no return I see him rolling up from a white maw at the base of the drop, a draw left see’s me hit the diagonal before it becomes the hole that Daz has just visited.
Another significantly bigger rapid hoes into view and the last thing I expect or want to see is Daz going vertcial in his Everest, knowing we don’t have much in the back of the boats means that only the water has prompted his craft skywards. I take a different line a couple of feet further left, river right is an obvious no no and at least I may get a view round the bend from river left. A whole mess of white water awaits, boofing off the right blade onto a diagonal, left over a hole, right to change direction, a couple of strokes to avoid the cushion off the wall as we turn, boof another hole then spin round looking back upstream to see what where we had just been, with snow capped Himalayan peaks to backdrop the river, stunning, this is the jewel the guide book refers to.
I would normally have been inspecting many of the rapids and drops but Daz pace doesn’t allow for such luxuries, craning our necks for views ahead the river unfolds in a seemingly endless escalator of downward action. The pace is relentless, the enjoyment, endless, this is pure read n run and it’s exhilarating!
Our paddling day ends mid afternoon and we book into the kayak homestay, a riverside farm with a few beds in spare rooms to accomodate boaters, we add our names to the small guestbook kept by our host.
After ten hours sleep we are up early, 7.30 in the am on the river, through early morning mist to finish our trip and grab some early transport back to Kathmandu Finishing at Damauli after three or so hours of paddling the contrast to the previous day is marked, some early morning flow gives way to wide braided river channels before the roadbridge hoves into view to mark the end of two spectacular days on the river, Daz flags down some transport and we are heading back to the bright lights of downtown Thamel, a far cry from the peace of the river.