My route back to sitting in a kayak has been a recent trip to Nepal. Kayaking pretty much ruled my life between 2003 and 2009, circumstances change and whilst my head tells me I am a kayaker the truth is that the frequency of trips to the rivers had reduced to such an extent that that is probably no longer correct.
A couple of incidents and the loss of two of our group in separate well reported accidents has had a massive effect on people and the dynamics of my paddling group has changed. In addition the arrival of children in a number of households has understandably altered the focus of many.
I find myself wanting to kayak, very much so, we were planning a trip to the Zambezi in September but that trip fell through for a number of reasons. What to do? In a flurry of emails I had a flight booked to Nepal and wonder how good an idea that might be. Part of me wonders if its the fondness of thought for some of those great times in Italy, Africa and many other places that is luring me back to the river. Like a lost love, something we yearn for even though we wonder that returning to previous comforts will be a mistake. Time moves on, we must move with it, to dwell in the past does not fuel the fire within. Or does it?
Like kayaking, motorbikes have deprived the planet of good people, gone but not forgotten to coin the old cliche. I continued to ride bikes in the immediate aftermath of losing my best friend the day before his 25th birthday to a motorbike accident. One of those accidents beyond his control, “sorry mate I didn’t see you”, translates to a hundred people gathering a week later in Anfield to bid farewell.
In the months and years that following Rob’s passing, as much as I rode I could not bring myself to be comfortable at the speeds of others I rode with. It made for some uncomfortable trips. That changed. When? I am not sure but suspect it was the purchase and building of my GSXR1100. It may also have been a change in the circle of friends I rode with. Elsewhere on this site you can read of a trip from Antwerp to Le Mans. In those words I chose to exclude any real mention of the speeds we achieved. Suffice to say that evening there was no thought of what had happened before and all these years later I can barely believe the time taken to cover such a distance.
I probably ride my bike faster now than I did when I was younger, perhaps my kayaking will follow a similiar path and allow me to paddle rivers in good flows.
Driller has said and will continue to say that kayaking didn’t just get dangerous overnight. The dangers have always been there. Not recognised by some or worse, ignored. Is believing something will never happen to you the same as ignoring the blatant truth that the river environment is dynamic and can deprive us of our senses for a few seconds as we capsize. those seconds all too quickly becoming an eternity if we fail to right our wrong.
I started kayaking when I was 35, a late start. I have Driller to thank for that, a conversation over a few beers, followed by a course at Plas Menai led to our joining a club and purchasing our own kit. We were lucky to fall in with a group of keen boaters and soon found ourselves on trips to the lakes and Wales. We practised, a lot. three or four times a week. Laying a foundation, hard wiring the basics into our bodies and minds. I hope that those hours, early in my boating career will bear fruit on this trip.
A huge thanks must be extended to Daz Clarkson-King. I have known Daz for nearly ten years. A chance off the hand comment made by Gary his brother, who I worked with led to our meeting and paddling together and you will see pictures of days spent in Welsh Wales with Daz in terrible weather and good water.
Daz has been living and working in Nepal and India for much of 2014, coupled with his involvement in updating the Nepal guidebook, there was only one person to contact about a return to Himalayan rivers. I expressed my concerns in my first emails and within a couple of hours a trip outline is in place. Warming up on the Trisuli, Upper Seti and the Kali Ghandaki and see how we go.
The Trisuli down past Royal Beach is big and bouncy and provides an opportunity to blow off the cobwebs and make sure the brain can still send the signals to the body in the desired fashion. The support strokes through “Upset” are sketchy, mistimed, but successful and I am reminded that Himalayan water is bigger than what we are used to in the UK.
The lower Seti is my first self supported overnighter. Gear stowed in dry bags behind the seat and the first few strokes and rapids acclimatise me to the handling characteristics of a laden boat. A secluded beach in the gorge affords us our overnight accomodation, the stars our ceiling and the rising moon our bedside light.
The Kali Ghandaki a couple of days later steps up the pace. Little brother a smooshy opener is followed by Big Brother. Big Brother is the aggressive steroid munching power lifter some ten years older, to be treated with the deference he deserves. A long range inspection tells me little, so I pay attention to the river guru in my right ear. As the rapid unfolds I recognise the line, it’s the graveyard on the mighty T, just a lot bigger. We make the top eddy river left, breaking the rapid down into two. A ferry, turn and driving right through the diagonals avoids a Chelsea tractor sized hole mid river.
The upper Seti provides Pokhara locals with their just out of town afternoon run. Grey, silt laden water flows under the bridge as we launch, the river wide stopper near the end of the first rapid on my mind. I miss an eddy and continue in a flurry of strokes punching through the hole easily to eddy river left. Daz knows how much information he can pass on to me, perhaps more importantly he knows when to leave information out.
It looks benign, it isn’t. You’ll see the line, left of centre, head right at the bottom. The rapid is more significant than the description and I immediatley realise the kidology, understandably apparent. No time to dwell, just deal, my timing has returned and I deftly place my stokes to steer, boof and punch chaotic waters, a wobble on exit as the boat slows from rapid to eddy. An exchanged look and big grins all round.
The Madi described elsewhere provides the most continuous day of river action I have ever had, simply stunning..
We wind down with some comedy old skool boating action on the upper Sun Khosi, I am paddling some slicey Perception semi submersible that I never seen before, with typical Nepali outfitting!
Trip done. Nepal has changed since 07 and continues to do so, at an ever increasing rate. Rivers harnessed for their power no longer flow for the white water tourist, go visit while rapids described exist.
Thanks Daz, for listening and making it happen, real special.
Daz Clarkson-King is Pureland Expeditions:
I am a kayaker,