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White water rafting can be experienced right across the globe, but Nepal offers some of the best water in the world set against the stunning backdrop of the Himalayas. Rodney Appleyard and Dan Thory tried white water rafting for the first time during their visit to Nepal and share their experiences in this article.

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White water rafting thrills in Nepal

During their visit to Nepal. Rodney Appleyard and Dan Thory tried out white water rafting, enough of a thrill in its own right, but one which was capped by the experience of doing it surrounded by the beauty and grandeur of the Himalayas. The mountains make a dramatic backdrop and the rivers, fed by the melt waters from these mountains, are amongst the best in the world for white water rafting and kayaking. The rivers range from grade 3, which provides a safe thrill for the novice, to 4, 5 and even 6 for experienced white water rafters and canoeists. So let's see how they got on ...

'Nepal is probably best known for its world class trekking expeditions in the Himalayan mountains, including Everest, but it also has some of the most challenging, exciting and scenic white water rafting facilities in the world. Which is why we had to try our first white water rafting experience here.

Rivers are graded from 1-6, 1 being flat water and the safest and calmest and 6 being the most treacherous, dangerous, exhilarating – whatever you want to call it, depending on your experience. We chose grade 3, because we didn't want to be too safe but we also didn't want to risk our lives. There are three main rivers to experience in Nepal – the Karnali, the Sun Kosi and the Trisuli. We journeyed along the Trisuli River, which provided unforgettable, breath-taking scenery and many memorable thrills.

Cruising along
At first, you might think to yourself: 'Do I really need this life-jacket? This is just a gentle cruise along the river.' It certainly starts off that way, as you admire the grandure of the hills and mountains around you as you float downstream. The guides had planned the trip so that we weaved through valleys, whilst watching the sun hovering over an horizon of mountain tops, the sun gently lowering towards a rich sunset as the hills decreased in size. When it finally set after our five hour trip the guides pulled up the boats into a quiet, scenic spot for camping overnight and eating under the moonlight.

Frantic paddling
But there were many surprises along the way before this point and many reminders of why those life-jackets were so important. The rapids start off steady and quite calm. At the first small rapid everyone experiences a few splashes and we hear the occasional 'woo' of excitement. Then, the waves and rapids get bigger and bigger, until you can hear them in the distance before you see them. Once you do see them, there is no way of escape, you just have to paddle. So everyone starts paddling frantically, trying to listen to the guide, but fear and excitement causes mass confusion and unsynchronised paddling – which just adds to the excitement!

On many occasions, we bounced in the air over rapids and felt as if we were about to capsize. The six of us in the boat went through about 10 big rapids and were all drenched from head to toe by the fifth. However, bouncing over rapids, avoiding rocks and falling into the water is all part of the fun of a grade 3 level river, as well as taking in the serenity of your surroundings when the water is calm.

Bigger rivers and longer trips
More experienced and adventurous rafters can go on longer, higher graded trips of up to 12 days, on the most exciting rivers in the world. The best time for rafting in Nepal is between September to early December and fram March to early June.

Expeditions to the Karnali River can take about 7 days and include camping on the riverbank each night. This river is said to include some of the most breath-taking canyons, jungle scenery and waterfalls in Nepal. Although, during the Spring, the snow melts, causing the rip tides to rise rapidly when you least expect it.

The Sun Kosi river is the other world class river in Nepal which is rated as one of the ten classic river journeys. It is also the longest, stretching over 270 km and involves some of the best scenery. Many of the trips on this river take about 10 days to complete.

Gurkha's Encounters Overland Adventure Company
We spoke to Krishna Raj Bhattarai, who organises trips at the Gurkha's Encounters Overland Adventure Company in Thamel, Kathmandu:

"I heard that Nepal has the second biggest resources for white water rafting out of any capital city in the world. First is Brazil, then Nepal. We have the greatest potential for white water rafting. Those people who like the adventurous feeling should go to rivers such as Karnali and Sun Kosi to experience the best excitement, but if you haven't done this kind of rafting trip, then those wild rivers will be too frightening for you. Sometimes, the people will leave the boat, and the guide might have to resort to taking air out of the dingy in the water to rescue somebody!"

Is Nepal a safe place to visit?
Despite the fighting between the rebels and the government when we went rafting (in December, 2002) our safety never felt threatened. Now that there is a ceasefire, this should give everyone more encouragement to visit Nepal and revel in the wonders of the white water rafting and trekking facilities. Nepal will always be a special place because it has so many resources to provide you with the best experience on these epic journeys.

Text © Rodney Appleyard; photographs © Dan Thory (top), Gurka's Encounters Overland Adventure Company (centre and lower), 2003

Recommended company for trekking and white water rafting in Nepal: Gurkha's Encounters Overland Adventure (P) Ltd. Gurkha's Encounters Overland organise treks throughout Nepal including the Everest Region and Kanchanjunga. They also offer jungle safaris, white water rafting, bungy jumping (second highest in the world), mountain flights, sightseeing, hot air ballooning, paragliding and organised trips to Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim and Northern India.

Also try the travel-quest white water rafting directory for more companies offering rafting in Nepal and beyond.