Karnali- 8 day trip

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After a week in Pokhara city getting caught up on academics and enjoying the comforts of access to Wi-Fi and pizza, we prepared to leave for our Karnali adventure. We anxiously packed our essential kayak gear and clothes and loaded up the rickety bus for what would a 36 hour bus ride to the put in of the Karnali River. We all knew it wasn’t going to be an easy journey and mentally prepared ourselves for the drive ahead. The group knew it wasn’t going to be an easy journey and were mentally preparing ourselves for the 36 hour bus ride ahead. But early Wednesday morning we anxiously packed the rickety and colourful bus with our waterproof bills bags and somehow managed to stack 21 kayaks questionably high on the roof. Knowing that the Karnali wasn’t necessarily about the whitewater it had, the group was looking forward to a change of pace and the intense beauty and remoteness of the river and its surrounding jungle valley had.

 

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It was difficult to get any sleep with bags constantly rolling on top of me and the bus constantly stopping for road stops of pee breaks on the more than dangerous road. The dirt roads appeared to have been cut out of the mountain and wound around cliffs. A few hours into our drive we met up with the enthusiastic raft guides from GRG Adventures, and made the final push to the Put in at the small town Sauli, just before the moon rose over the mountains. Unloading all of our kayaks, rafts and gear onto the beach. As the dew slowly fell onto our tents we all got some well needed rest after the long two days.

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We woke the next morning beside the emerald green river flowing down through the valley and right past us. All of students and staff were ready to jump right in the trip after a good night’s sleep. Packing up the rafts and squeezing in our first academic class of the trip worked out perfectly and we got on the water in time to have a later lunch and spend more time on the river. The first day on the river served as a great introduction to the Karnali and the style of whitewater that was ahead of us, big water spaced out rapids that were class3/4. Although it was cold inside the steep valley’s shadows we pushed on warm spots where the sun shone on us. We pulled up onto the beach at the end of the first day to set up camp, we hauled the gear up the sandy beach that was neighboured by a thick forest.
On day 2-3 we paddled through the best whitewater that the river had to offer. The next two days were filled with the best whitewater on the river. Big water, with fun lines on several of the main rapids. The highlights were definitely: ‘Jail House’, ‘Sweetness and Light’ and ‘God’s House’ these rapids exceeded our expectations with plenty of waves to surf and tricky moves to make. We lapped several rapids and explored new lines and fun moves including some extra-large kick flips. Each camp we stopped at for the night brought a new village community with it. Locals were brought to the shore to observe the unnatural kayakers who arrived seemingly out of nowhere. Their friendliness was inviting and they had no problem in wanting to join in on our fun and share a game of Frisbee or sit around the campfire.

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After the first three days of whitewater the river started to flatten out more and we slowly our way of the dense jungle. The river opened up to more open plains and more populated villages. We pushed through the flat-water on the last four days of the trip. The further we got down the river and by the fourth day we were only wearing a warm layer of clothing and several layers of Sun cream, and we spent long days in the warm sun hovering over us Jumping out at each new campsite to calculate our progress of the 180km that we have covered. It was amazing to be able to do classes on the sandy beaches and relax beside a big campfire after a day of paddling.

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On the last day on the river we rose early and got prepared to make the final push to the get out in the town of Chisopani. We relaxed for several hours and cleaned the sand from all of our belongings before we boarded the bus back to Pokhara. We regained some energy before heading straight to the Marsyangdi River for our next adventure.
If you do find yourself paddling in Nepal, a trip to the free flowing Karnali is a must! I would highly recommend the trip for the sheer allure of the sacred river that flows from Mt.Kailas in Tibet, especially if you are looking to enjoy the silent sand beaches and wildlife. The peace and tranquillity of the Karnali was a stark contrast to the busy cities of Pokhara or Kathmandu and a trip I will not soon forget.

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