The Western Bend ~ Karnali (10 days) Rapids : Freight Train, Touching the Void, Snapshot, Flip 'n' strip, Juicer, Inversion, Jailhouse Rock, Human for lunch, Shake, Rattle & Roll, Sweetness and Light. Nepal's mightiest river, the Karnali, lies in the " Wild West" of Nepal, an area only recently opened to tourism. Rising in the vicinity of Tibet's holy Mount Kailash, the Karnali carves the Himalayan landscape into a series of magnificent gorges and canyons as it descends slowly into the jungle forests of western Nepal. Seasonal snow melts and storms can cause the river levels to swell drastically, and create…
The Western Bend ~ Karnali (10 days)
Rapids : Freight Train, Touching the Void, Snapshot, Flip ‘n’ strip, Juicer, Inversion, Jailhouse Rock, Human for lunch, Shake, Rattle & Roll, Sweetness and Light.
Nepal’s mightiest river, the Karnali, lies in the ” Wild West” of Nepal, an area only recently opened to tourism. Rising in the vicinity of Tibet’s holy Mount Kailash, the Karnali carves the Himalayan landscape into a series of magnificent gorges and canyons as it descends slowly into the jungle forests of western Nepal. Seasonal snow melts and storms can cause the river levels to swell drastically, and create the extremes of whitewater rafting. In high water the Karnali is a serious undertaking with fairly straightforward, yet huge rapids. Even at lower levels it is still not a walk in the park, as the rapids become more constricted and the gradient steeper. One highlight of this classic river journey is a 7 km long gorge “Thrill-a-minute roller-coaster ride” with rapids at every bend. Truly though, any season suits the Karnali
There is normally a pre-departure meeting at our Kathmandu office the day before the expedition. Any last minute questions can be addressed at this point. Bring along some money if you plan to drink beer or sodas on the trip. We will arrange a staff member to go off and purchase the goods. We will give out personal gear bags and also go through the logistics of luggage storage and delivery to the takeout point if you are not returning to Kathmandu. If you are joining the group directly from Pokhara our office staff there will brief you and coordinate a meeting point in Mugling. If you leave on a morning bus from Pokhara you will be there by noon and our bus should roll to a stop there at about 1 PM.
We meet at our sales office at 6 am where we serve you tea and coffee to freshen you up. After the drinks we take a short walk through the narrow and winding street of Thamel to our waiting bus. From here we begin our trip to the wild west.
We stop for the night at a small town called Kohalpur (25minutes drive from the Nepalgunj Airport). Here we spend the night at a guesthouse. In the morning of the next day after the breakfast we hop onto the bus passing through the low lands and climbing the Churia hill through Bardia National Park and on to the remote village of Surkhet. As we transverse the Terai the scenery is varied and splendid. It’s a good chance to see some of the wildlife and birds while driving through the National Park area, so keep your eyes open.
We get to Surkhet early afternoon on day 2. Here we stop for a while just to check that everything is fine before we proceed with our drive to Kalyani Dada as this is the only town where we can buy any goods if we have forgotten. After being sure of everything we drive further through the wild forest of the Karnali zone leaving behind the civilization for the next 10 days.
At around 4 p.m., we reach Kalyani Dada (Dada means hill), the end of our bus journey. We camp the 2nd night at this peaceful spot, overlooking the Terai and the sub Himalayan region.
In the morning of 3rd day, you will be served with a hot drink while our guys re-pack and divide the gears among our Sardhar (head porter). We now head down the trail (one and half hours easy hike) to reach the Karnali riverbank . Once we reach the river, we inflate the rafts and tie the equipment. A breakfast will be served to you at around 8 am and the first part of the morning is spend explaining the finer points of how to paddle through whitewater and stay in the raft as it bucks and contorts through the rapids.
For those who missed a point in the previous lesson, there is a lesson on how to swim through whitewater, using your flotation device and paddle to keep your head up and your feet to push off rocks. The guides will also teach you what they are looking for when they run the river – the innocuous looking rise in the water that hides a hole, or the way you can use the pillow of water rebounding off a rock to push the raft where you want it. Whitewater rafts are amazingly versatile and stable crafts, and in the care of an expert raft guide it is possible to run exhilarating lines safely and confidently. Your guide is a professional, someone who has devoted their life to learning and running the whitewater rivers. Under his careful indoctrination the raft crew learns how to work as a team, practicing on the smaller rapids we encounter on the first kilometer of the river. Teamwork is what makes it possible to run any river safely and this extends beyond your raft.
On the next day on the water, we face the biggest day of rafting as we paddle down to jungle ghat. We normally stop at the only village of any size on the upper section of the river, to go and have cup of tea and check out the local scene. It’s always good to have a break here as 10minutes downstream we pull over into the surging eddy above Jailhouse Rock. Below all you can see is the pulsing plumes of spray accompanied by the ominous rumbling of the river, a really good indication that this is a rapid worth looking at. From the side of the river the line looks pretty clear – be warned though, the water is a lot more powerful than it looks! Inversion rapid follows this, a series of massive stranding waves that leads down into a steep canyon with a 300 foot waterfall cascading into the river.
The most sustained challenging section of the river begins with God’s house, a mirror image of Jail house rock, and continues in a series of canyons for about 7km with 16 odd rapids. This is what we are here for – it’s real “thrill-a-minute roller-coaster ride” with rapids on every bend. The whole river narrows down into the bowels of the Earth as we run such classic drops as Juicer, Flip’n Strip, Totali Ghat, Snapshot and Freight train before stopping at a sweeping sandy beach in a beautiful canyon for the night.
Camping on the Karnali is awesome. The night camp at the Scorpion Beach, will be home for our layover day as well. The massive floods of the monsoon deposit huge tracks of pure whitesand along the river, making it ideal to camp on. Hello Beach Party!! volleyball, sand sculpture, footbag, sunbathing and eating are the favourite activities for the layover day. You can also take in the advantage of the layover day to trek to a peak or nearby village or take part in the kayak workshop the safety boaters offer.
On the 9th day, from our last campsite nestled in the rock formations of the lower canyon, we drift down to Chisopani. The first town we’ve seen after 10 days into the wilderness. Chisopani isn’t much of a town…………basically just a couple of dal bhat( famous nepali meal) shop and an impressive bridge. But even so it is hard to get re-acclimated to the sounds of human chaos. After 10 days without any motors, car horns or screaming of children, even a little town like Chisopani serves to remind us of just how quiet the last 10 days on river have been. Most people want to crawl back up the river at this point, but alas, the river only flows one way. So from Chisopani we board the bus for the return trip to Kathmandu.
The option best to combine with Karnali expedition:
If you hit Chisopani and cannot handle the transition, take the opportunity and head off to the Royal Bardia National Park for a few more days of peace and quiet. Royal Bardia National Park is generally considered among the wildlife parks in Nepal. The number of visitors is strictly limited, and the park boasts the highest number of tiger sightings in Nepal. Other wildlife which make their home in the park are Indian one-horned rhinoceros, Asian elephants, leopards, sloth bears, barking deer, blackbuck, sambar, an the occasional mongoose as well as a staggering variety of birds. While at Bardia you can enjoy a variety of activities ranging from elephant safaris (undoubtedly the best vehicle to view rhinoceros and tigers), canoeing with the gangetic Dolphins, jungle walks and bird watching. There are limited yet varied options for accommodation depending on your preference and budget. Let us know if you will be extending your time in Bardia for the best wildlife excursion. We will assist you with the required arrangements.