Goodbye Nepal

Posted: November 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: travel | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

I am sitting in what might be the fourth pre-departure area in the Kathmandu airport, waiting on SpiceJet Flight 046 to Delhi, which will mark the beginning of a month in India. I’ve spent just over a month here in Nepal, a week navigating the bureaucracy of getting an Indian visa, I learned how to kayak in a fast moving river and surprisingly didn’t capsize when going through Class 3 rapids, and I climbed up to where the air is thin well over 5000 meters above sea level.

To anyone thinking about visiting Nepal, I say do it, there’s tons to do and to be honest there’s a part of me that wants to stay and maybe do some mountain biking, or perhaps rafting instead of kayaking, or even to visit the everest region for more trekking.

If you’re thinking of doing the Annapurna Circuit (and I really recommend you put it on your bucket list) I would add to go either sooner, or ten years from now. The reason is that they’re building a road right where substantial portions of the trekking route lies, and I expect that in 5 years they’ll have blacktop road to most of the remote towns which will change their character irreversibly, so go in the next couple years to see the towns before easier access changes them. If you can’t, then wait even longer for them to establish new trekking trails, otherwise your trek will be for substantial portions on a road. I’m pretty confident once the road is in they’ll prioritize new footpaths, there’s too much money at stake from the tourism to do otherwise.

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Oh, and a wholehearted recommendation for Paddle Nepal, they were a great outfit and I had an awesome time (once I could consistently figure out how to get my kayak to go in a straight line) going through progressively difficult rapids on the lower seti river.

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Finally even though I hated the pollution and noise of Kathmandu, a big shout out to the walking tours in the Lonely Planet. I’ve had mixed experiences with these walking tours before, but this one was gold. It really revealed all the quiet spots that lurk hidden within the chaos of the city, sometimes it’s as simple as stooping down through a low doorway and all of a sudden you’re in an oasis of peace and quite with a giant stuppa covered with prayer flags.

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lean forward and keep paddling!

Posted: October 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: travel | Tags: , | No Comments »

I can’t remember the last time I was so angry, the damned boat wouldn’t do what I told it to. I paddled on my left side, which by all laws of logic, physics, and decency should have made the kayak go right, but somehow consistently pushed me further to the left after about a half dozen successful strokes in left right sequence.

That about sums up my experience kayaking for the first two days of a four day learn to kayak clinic I signed up for in pokkara. Day one was on the lake in town and left me sore, tired, and in bed by 8pm. Day two was on the river, which was a nominal improvement as at least there there was a current taking me in the general direction we were heading, however I hadn’t really considered how much of river kayaking is fighting the current, either because the kayak instructors told us to or because I overshot where we were supposed to stop and I had to make my way to the group. Not only did I spend more time than necessary paddling in circles, the tame class 1 rapids managed to capsize me on more than one occassion, a frightening thought when I knew we had class 2 and 3 rapids waiting for us on days three and four.

Imagine my surprise when on day three the kayak started listening to me, it actually generally went in the direction I intended. Even better, I somehow managed to successfully perform a roll with my kayak during the early morning practice and was able to make it through the class 2 and 2+ rapids of the day without capsizing. I even smiled a little! Ok, maybe I went as far as shouting while paddling through the rapids, or screaming, anything as long as I didn’t go under.

Day four I was convinced that day three was a fluke, I couldn’t seem to manage a roll anymore, I was sore all over, and we had the biggest rapids of the trip to look forward to. It is only through sheer dumb luck, and the coaching of my instructor Sam (who went through the biggest rapid _backwards_ and managed to keep himself positioned through raging water right next to me, shouting instructions to me) that I was able to stay upright despite ending up riding several 2 meter tall standing waves backwards.

I’ve heard that when learning snowboarding the first two days are just hell, but then it all starts to make sense and becomes fun. I think the same applies for whitewater kayaking. Lean forward and keep paddling the head instructor continually hammered into us, I must have listened because right now my ab muscles are sore as hell. It was a blast, and if you are ever given the opportunity to try it I very much recommend it, just push through till the third day, it’s totally worth it.