I was still having trouble bringing myself to leave Pokhara so I signed up for a 3-day/2-night rafting trip through Paddle Nepal/Ultimate Descents. I chose a trip on one of Nepal's holiest rivers, the Kali Gandaki. It offered class III and IV rapids, so I knew it'd be exciting without scaring the hell out of me. I'd been rafting twice before in West Virginia (remember Michele?) and Costa Rica, however both had been day trips. Taking a 3-day trip meant one full day on the river without bus rides.
The group consisted of 13 customers and 5 guides. There was a guide for each of the two rafts, the oar boat (which carried the heavy equipment), and two safety kayaks. Amongst the customers, the USA was represented well with 5 people. Australia offered 3 people, Holland and England 2 people each, and Canada 1 person.
We were on the bus for about 2.5 hours the first day. We unloaded it by the river, and lunch was prepared. Once on the water, we almost immediately had to get off the rafts as they were pulled through a class V rapid that recently overturned a raft, causing one fatality. After passing on “Little Brother” we hit our biggest rapid of the trip, class IV “Big Brother.” All I can remember was watching the left side of my raft head straight toward a giant boulder. We bounced off of it safely and only had another hour or so on the river before we arrived at our campsite for the night.
I paired up with Richard from Australia, and we shared a tent which was good because I can't remember the last time I had to set one up. He was one of the first people I'd met in Nepal who had done a more remote camping trek (not one of the big 3 – Annapurna Circuit, Sanctuary, and Everest Base Camp). He had also summited a 7,000 meter peak in South America!
In the evening, we all got to know one and other. Everyone was drinking beer and rum punch except me, as I had decided to take a few nights off. The guides had us playing silly games, and a good time was had by all. The stars were out and it felt great to sleep in a tent by the river.
The next morning we were up by 7am, eating by 8am, and on the river by 9am. We hit our second biggest rapid of the trip within the first 10 minutes (a class III). I was disappointed to learn there would be no more of that size (partly due to the low water level this time of year). All the same, I was in the front of the raft for most of day two so I was soaked regularly.
On the second night, we skipped the games and spent the time after dinner talking to one and other around a campfire. The stars were out again, and our guides even helped a groom and best man to cross the river as they were late for their own wedding (we could see and hear the party up on a nearby ridge).
Our third day was especially quiet. The first 30 minutes had small rapids (class II+), followed by about two hours (9 km) of near still water (due to our approach of a dam). The lack of rapids allowed for a few water fights between our boats, and another group of rafters, as well as a chance to guide the rafts. All along the trip we passed dead bodies buried under stones along the sides of the river. On the last day we literally passed a cremation in progress, a sight I am sure to see up close and personal once I reach Varanasi, India.
We helped carry the gear up to our awaiting bus, ate lunch, and hit the road for the 5-hour bus ride back to Pokhara. It was a ride full of hairpin turns along mountain cliffs, yet I felt fairly comfortable the whole way. In the evening, we went to dinner with our guides at The Love Shack, and followed it up with drinks at The Busy Bee.