Monday, December 08, 2008

Namaste Nepal

The funny kayak with no spraydeck and half a paddle! Photo by Lilli

"So you paddle this canoe with no sprayskirt and half a paddle down the river? Can you roll it?" This is a typical react from a Nepali kayaker or raft guide upon seeing me on the river in my Spanishfly. I do not intend to accuse the Nepali paddlers of being ignorant, simply to highlight their amazement on seeing a white water canoe, in Europe and North America OC1 paddling is also not so common but the kayakers don't really seem interested in us, in Nepal they were fascinated by the canoe and I spent many happy hours discussing the advantages and disadvantages of paddling a canoe on whitewater with the local paddlers. These discussions got me thinking a lot more about my paddling style and equipment than I normally do, these thoughts shouldn't be wasted so here are a few of them to chew over.
Trying out a dugout canoe in Chitwan National Park. Photo by Lilli

I spent a great deal of time deciding which boat to take to Nepal, the rivers a generally big volume with longish rapids, big waves and uncomplicated lines. There are also smaller creek type rivers with steep, continuous class4/5 rapids. Finding a canoe suitable to paddled both types of river, carry kit for mulitday expeditioning, some rivers are over a week long, not too sluggish for the inevitable flat sections that come between the big rapids and most importantly one that fits on the aeroplane. A lot of factors to consider but only one good answer, the Spanishfly, one of my all time favourite OC1s. When I left Pyranha to paddle Robson canoes I sold my 'fly and have secretly quite regretted it, it is a superb river running canoe, luckily Esquif have recently acquired the mold from Pyranha and have started to remake one of the classic whitewater canoes of our time, Hooray! If you could solve the aeroplane problem I am sure middle size Royalex whitewater canoes, Ocoee Spark etc, would also be fine on the rivers of Nepal, maybe even more suitable.
Big volume rapids on the Sun Kosi. Photo by Lilli

For multiday trips the canoe is a great craft, there is plently of easily accessable space near to the middle of the boat, this makes packing and carrying your equipment much easier than if you are in a kayak. I used Gaia Stowfloats, airbags with a zip in, to transport my equipment safely down the river, simply put they are great, completly dry, easy to pack and unpack, perfect for mulitday canoeing.
The Bohte Kosi, a superb Alpine style river. Photo by Lilli

The Tamur, read and run class 4. Photo by Lilli

I paddled 4 different rivers in the month I was there; the Bohte Kosi, steep technical Alpine style whitewater with long class 4/4+ rapids, very enjoyable, my favourite river from the trip. The Sun Kosi, big volume easy class4 rapids seperated by long flat bits, stunning views in every direction and lethal "local wine". The Tamur is a bit of the cross between the too, lower volume than the Sun Kosi, and a bit easier than the Bohte Kosi, a very enjoyable river and worth every minute of the challenging ride we took to the put in. The Trisuli, the venue for the 2008 Himalayan Whitewater Challenge, an easy class 3 river with one harder rapid, ideal for a first river intro to Nepal.
Standing, looking and waiting for the LandRover to fix itself on the way up to the Tamur put in.

The Himalayan Whitewater Challenge was brilliant, over one hundred crazy paddlers, 4 fun events and a monster party. I was the first person to compete in Himalayan Challenge in a canoe, this meant that I was able to win the C1/OC1 catergory of the event, I did manage to finish 13th in the mens freestyle which I was quite proud of and not last in the slalom. I also finished forth in the raft race as a part of an international mega team consisting of 16 paddlers!

The all conquering mega raft team, thanks guys and girls it was a blast.

Nepal was great, lots of friendly people, loads to do, great cooking and I can't wait to go again
Big shouts go to many people for helping to make the trip a superb one, so here goes;
My sponsors Nookie, Esquif, Kober and Gaia for providing me with superb stuff to keep me happy on the river day after day.
White water Nepal for helping out with logistics, planning and generally being really helpful people, thanks Bidur, Olga and the rest of the team.
Finally to Lilli and all the other cool people I met on the way for great times on the river, in the bar and on the back of trucks.
On the back of truck between Fishling and Mugli. Photo by Ron

Enjoy the winter and ride safe,