The River of Gold ~ SunKoshi (8/ 9 days) Rapids : Meat Grinder, Punch & Judy, Valentino, High Anxiety, Harkhapur, Jaws, El Wasto, Rakshi Roller, Dead Man's Eddy, Big Dipper and more… This is the longest river trip offered in Nepal, traversing 270 km through the beautiful Mahabharat Range on its meandering way from the put in at Dolalghat to the take out at Chatara, far down on the Gangetic Plain. It is quite an experience to begin a river trip just 3-hours out of Kathmandu, barely 60-km from the Tibet border, and end the trip looking down the hot,…
Rapids : Meat Grinder, Punch & Judy, Valentino, High Anxiety, Harkhapur, Jaws, El Wasto, Rakshi Roller, Dead Man’s Eddy, Big Dipper and more…
This is the longest river trip offered in Nepal, traversing 270 km through the beautiful Mahabharat Range on its meandering way from the put in at Dolalghat to the take out at Chatara, far down on the Gangetic Plain. It is quite an experience to begin a river trip just 3-hours out of Kathmandu, barely 60-km from the Tibet border, and end the trip looking down the hot, dusty gun barrel of the North Indian Plain just a week later.
The Sun Kosi starts off fairly relaxed, with class II and small class III rapids to warm up on during the first couple of days. Savvy guides will take this opportunity to get the teams to work with exquisite precision, as on the third day the rapids become more powerful and frequent, with high water trips finding themselves astonished at just how big a wave in a river can get. While the lower sections of large volume rivers are usually rather flat, the Sun Kosi reserves some of its biggest and best rapids for the last days. At the right flow it is an incredible combination of powerful whitewater, stunning scenery, villages, and truly quiet and introspective evenings along what many people consider to be one of the world’s ten classic river journeys.
Please note there will be a pre-departure meeting at 6 PM at our Kathmandu office the day before the expedition. This is a chance to get the group together and discuss the Sun Kosi journey. At the meeting you have a chance to meet your guides, and we can answer any last minute queries, give out personal gear bags and collect money for the beer kitty. This is also the time to coordinate the logistics of luggage and valuable storage or transfer if you are not returning to Kathmandu after the trip. Afterwards we will probably all wander to a nearby restaurant for a relaxed meal.
After an early breakfast at Northfield Cafe we walk 10 minutes to our chartered bus. The put in for the Sun Kosi is only 3-hours away, through the ancient city of Baktapur and out of the Kathmandu valley to the village of Dolaghat. On a clear day the views of the Himalayas and Mt. Everest are extraordinary.
At our put in point we inflate the rafts and make a large lunch. The guides tie all of the equipment into the rafts, which is quite a thing to witness. 16 years of running rivers has taught us a lot, not the least of which is how to tie a load so it stays put no matter what. After lunch we push off into the current leaving roads behind for the next 8 – 9 days.
Below the suspension bridge at Dobhan Tarr the river enters a beautiful small canyon with waterfalls and lush tropical growth. As the canyon opens up there is a large bat cave on the right. If you’re quiet it is possible to drift up near them. Be careful not to disturb these sensitive animals, as they are in this isolated cave for security. Kuseshwar Mandhir is a Shiva temple situated amongst large Banyan and Pipal trees at the confluence of the Roshi river. It’s a great place to wander around and perhaps collect the blessings of the local priest for the river journey.
A raft trip down the Sun Kosi isn’t just a vacation, it’s an education. Our river guides spend the first part of the morning 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 whitewater rivers. Under his or her 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. All the rafts and safety kayakers work as a team, communicating with, and supporting each other– it’s impressive to watch. You are never in a rapid alone. By the time we get to the harder rapids, with names like Meat Grinder, High Anxiety, and Harkapur 2, the crews will be working together with exquisite timing and precision. It’s a good thing too, because the first time you line up above a big water class IV rapid you’re not going to believe what you see, hear and feel. The water above a big rapid is as soothing and quiet as a children’s bedtime story, and it’s not until you look down into the churning, digesting, gut-twisting white abyss that you realize the story is written by the Brothers Grimm. Gravity seems like a seductive and cruel mistress, pulling us into something we want. We drift smoothly along and watch as our fate is sealed… the watery conveyor belt undulating and throbbing finally giving way to the liquid cheese grater attachment of life’s Cuisinart. Most people find that time slows down and fear vanishes, replaced by a primal resignation and sharpening of all senses to a point usually only attained during an automobile crash. The heart-shaking roar of whitewater dims to the thundering beating of your heart and the echo of breathing in your head. Now this is livin’!
River trips are much more than gravity powered rollercoaster rides; they are incredible journeys taken on the most magical highways in the world. From Dolaghat we have 270 blissfully motor-free kilometers before we hit the next road. 270-km of living for no other purpose other than to see how much fun we can have. Life is reduced to eat, sleep, and play. In accomplishing these things you’ll be amazed at how much you learn and, perhaps more importantly, how much you’ll forget. In no time at all the amalgamation of your concerns will seem distant, unimportant and eventually unworthy of your attention.
Most of the rapids on the Sun Kosi are formed by monsoon debris brought by side streams and loose rockfall. These rapids change from year to year depending on the severity of the monsoon rains. After stopping at Tokshel, Harkapur, and spending time there checking out this porter town we drift down to a rapid called Harkapur 2. Pulling over on the left to camp for the day it’s interesting to go down and look at the rapid and contemplate the start of the next day. Harkapur 2 becomes the main topic of conversation that evening. There is a large rockfall on the right and on the left the rapid is further constricted by a massive mudslide. Boulders from the mudslide have washed into the middle of the river forming large ledge holes and some nasty pourovers. Harkapur 2 is always an interesting rapid, and there is plenty more to come. A few kilometers downstream watch out for the famous Dudh Kosi, the ‘river of milk’, which tumbles down from Mount Everest. The Dudh Kosi is a lot colder than the Sun Kosi. Below the next suspension bridge is a small rapid that is followed by Jaws, then Dead Man’s Eddy. Sculpted into the rock wall on the left-hand side is a huge eddy that had the reputation of collecting anything that float its way.
The Jungle Corridor is an outrageous section of rapids in a hard rock canyon with tropical forest right down to the river. At the end of the Jungle Corridor a series of waterfalls cascade in from both banks so keep your soap and shampoo (biodegradable of course!) handy for a really refreshing shower.
Camping on the Sun Kosi is awesome. The massive floods of the monsoon deposit huge tracks of white sand along the river which are ideal to camp on. We will have at least one layover day where we stay at the same river camp for 2 nights. Volleyball, sand sculpture, hackysack, Frisbee, sun bathing and eating are favorite activities on the layover day. You can also take advantage of this time to trek to a peak or a nearby village, or take part in the kayak workshop the safety boaters offer.
The last big rapid of the trip is called The Big Dipper. Tie your shorts on tight, because the other name for it is The Quick Stripper. We needn’t elaborate. If we all make it through this one with our dignity intact, it’s a quiet cruise down the confluence with the Tamur and Arun and the beginning of the Sapta Kosi, or the Seven Rivers. The confluence is called the Tribeni Ghat and has an interesting temple to visit. Before emerging onto the flatland Terai there is another larger Hindu temple called Baraha Chatara. Every year on the day of the full moon in January, thousands of Hindu pilgrims mass here to pay homage to Lord Vishnu. Legend has it that once a demon god inhabited this area and troubled the villagers, holy men, and pilgrims. Hearing of this, Lord Vishnu, preserver of the universe, took the form of a pig and slayed the demon in battle. Inside the temple is a pig-headed figure of Lord Vishnu, and the annual Baraha festival commemorates the victory. Just a little further downstream lies India and its functional chaos. By afternoon we have reached the takeout and all the expedition equipment is cleaned, broken down and laid in the sun to dry, then loaded on top of our private bus. It’s a 15-hour drive back to the capital, and we arrive early morning in time to find lodging and rest after a long long journey. If the bus ride doesn’t appeal to you, there is always the option of a 45-minute flight from the nearby town of Biratnagar to Kathmandu. There are several options of destinations other than Kathmandu if you don’t feel prepared to deal with the city’s hustle and bustle. Chitwan makes for an ideal getaway, and we can drop you off in front of the Regal Guest House on our way back to Kathmandu.
** End of Arrangement**