Wednesday, October 13, 2010

river rafting in nepal

After a few days in the city, we got restless and booked a white water rafting trip to the river Tishuli, about a 2-3 hour drive out of Kathmandu. We decided on a 2 day rafting trip, sleeping one night in a tent next to the river. A guide came to pick us up at the hotel around 630 am and we walked about a mile to where the bus was parked. On the way, we met up with another backpacker named Deanna from Malta, and a British family. We all got along well and became fast friends. 

The trip to the river was super long. They told us that it would be a 2 hour ride to the river but it took SIX hours to get to the river, and by the time we got there around 1 pm, we were exhausted and starving since we had neither breakfast nor lunch. They told us that we would get lunch after rafting so we prepped the raft and headed down to the river on foot with the locals [locals here all live in shacks along the river in an area called Phisling].

The rafting was fun although the rapids were weak, but since it was a first time for almost everyone on the raft but us, it was fine. I would have liked to have some bigger ones to smack us around a bit, but it gave us an opportunity to swim in the river and just have fun flowing down the river in life vests. Everyone was in the water, which was surprisingly clean and deep. After rafting, we trekked back to town and they fed us canned tuna mixed with celery, carrots, and lettuce, Wonder bread, and beans. When you haven’t been fed since 530 am, and then ran around carrying random heavy things, rafting, and then swam for another hour, you would be HUNGRY. I literally thought it was the best meal I’ve ever had in my life after that day. Full, we sat and watched the traffic grow around the Tisuli river bridge. Busses with a maximum capacity of 36 crammed at least 50 people inside, and 20 more on top, were inching along, trying to cross the bridge that was near collapsing. To remedy, only one side of traffic can go at one time, and they switch back and forth. This takes about 10 times as long to just cross the bridge. 

Early on in the day, I decided that Jaman, our guide for the river rafting, was going to be my focal point. If we were confused about something, or if we need grab on to someone to ask for help, it would be him. He spoke decent English, was easy-going, and helpful where he could be. The three of us gravitated towards his raft and it was a good decision for later. To get back to the base, we were lost as to what sort of transportation to take. He pointed to an empty pick-up truck, and Kat and I hopped in the back. It started to fill up with more people so we scooted in as far as we could, but soon realized that 20 people were going to try to squeeze in after us. Not only that, but when the truck started to move, about 10 more people grabbed onto the railings OUTSIDE to hitch a ride back as well. We felt people on top of the canvas overhang too, so I calculated about 35-40 people on this truck total. Simply amazing. I was crammed in between Kat and another rafter that was on our boat, a gypsy 70 year old[?] woman, and about 15 other locals that spoke absolutely no English whatsoever. The old woman started talking to me during the trip back down the mountain, and she never stopped talking. We couldn’t understand her, so we just nodded and smiled. She seemed be blessing me in Nepalese, waving her hands up and down, but then her tone got harsher. I can only imagine what she could be saying, but at some point, I think her blessings turned into cursing! By the time we got to her stop, I doubt she had any good intentions about me, which I think is hilarious.

crossing a bridge over the river
our awesome group the first day
It was getting dark [the sun sets at 545 pm here], and we were anxious to get back to the base to set up camp in the tents, but we didn’t move after we made that stop. The driver randomly decided he wanted to eat, so he got out of the truck and started to make a sandwich and some tea. The rest of us chilled/waited/wondered in the truck, crammed like sardines, for a good 15 minutes before the driver decided to hop back in the truck and continue driving. I came to the conclusion that he was some sort of taxi service because he was exchanging money with some of the locals he just dropped off, but when he randomly stopped to eat while 15 people sat waiting for him, I was dumbstruck as to how this system worked.  Jaman told me, “Don’t worry chicken curry, It’s Nepal.” 

We kept going down the mountain, and finally got to where we left our large bags earlier in the day. From there, we were supposed to walk to the river again to camp for the night in tents. However, our bags were not there! The river guides told us that they accidentally took them into town, but on its way back right now. We sat down to wait and have some chai when drops of rain started to fall. Kat and I looked at each other, a bit worried. It was pitch black, and going down to the river in the rain did not sound neither safe, nor appealing in rain. We were really glad that a trained trekker was in our group and he was camping out with us as well.
A few minutes later, a car pulled up with the door flung open, and five bags were thrown out.  I ran over and recognized my bag. It was drenched with rainwater. No matter, I thought, at least it was reunited with me. We sat back down for dinner and had homemade thali, the traditional Nepalese dish, for dinner and watched the rain get worse. By then, it was pouring to the point of almost flooding. We realized that the tents may not last the night, and getting down to the river was dark and dangerous. The local man gestured to the room underneath his shack, suggesting we sleep inside. Kat went to look at the room, and saw it was literally a storage closet with a mat on the ground. The provided sleeping bags would still be ok, but there was nothing else in the room. I think it would have been fine had there been no bugs. We decided to find a nearby hotel instead but didn’t really know how to get there in this weather. Right then, another car pulled up and three people from the raft trip got out. The rest of the group had already split hours ago back to Kathmandu, Chitwan, or Pokhara…but these 3 unfortunate souls were forced to stay because they lost their bags.
When the bags were thrown out of the van earlier, only 3 of them were ours. The other two bags, we realized, belonged to someone else and they could be halfway to Pokhara and not know it. The two Chinese girls and Portuguese man were actually waiting for their stuff at the restaurant for THREE hours, with no one to tell them what the status was, or where their bags were. They were eventually brought back to this base and met up with us. We connected the dots and realized that the bags had made the trek about 3 times that day, back and forth from town, because the guides simply did not know which bags belonged to whom.
While the girls and guy were relieved to see their bags, I realized that with these newcomers, comes a ride. Since we were so unhappy with accommodations at the shack, her was a vehicle to take us somewhere else to sleep. We all piled into the truck and it drove us up the mountain again in the pouring rain to the hotel we had seen earlier. Six people crammed into a space for three in the backseat of the truck, and three other random locals sat in the front seat with the driver. As we left the lot, I see the windows fog up. Oh yes, the windshield wiper stopped working!! The driver had one hand out the window, wiping the window with the broken blade, and the other two people were wiping the inside window to keep the fog from coming up. I was sitting right behind the driver, drenched from the rain coming through the open window, but I didn’t care. My safety was at stake! Me getting wet, not that important when the driver could barely SEE where he was going! We got out at the first hotel, unloaded our bags, and then the receptionist tells us that there are no vacancies. Laughing hysterically, we loaded everything BACK on the truck and went to the next hotel. We were nearing the point of delirium when the third told us it had rooms available as well as a hot dinner.
The hotel staff were less than cognizant of our exhaustion. They took us on this long climb to the top of the resort, on wet stairs [of course there are a million steps], to show us the deluxe room for 4 people to share. We would have just broken down and taken it but there was no electricity in the room!!!!  We insisted on the economy room WITH electricity, and he walked us all the way back down again. We settled on the room and collapsed in relief. The bathroom was far out, so we didn’t even bother. All five of us crashed after eating a hot meal with milk tea.
thali, a nepalese meal
The next morning, at 730 am, a river guide came to my hotel room and banged on the door, calling us to get up. We were so groggy from the night before, and didn’t know what the hell was happening. He had told us to be at the base at 10AM! It’s 730! We packed up and headed out to find a ride. He flagged down a local bus to take us to the new base but when the bus actually arrived, he gave us the option of riding on top. UH YEA! We clamored up to the top where all of our bags were already strapped to the railing, and hung on for dear life. I sat on top of a tire, gripped the railing as it barreled down the mountain towards the river. I have never felt so exhilarated and happy to be on top of a bus before. All I could think of during that trip was how much my dad would have loved this. He would totally have ridden on top during his days in Vietnam, and he would have called me a scardy cat for not riding up there with him. The wind blowing in your hair, your life flashing before your eyes…it’s just one of those amazing local moments that you will never forget. The river guide rode with us on top so he told us about the farming terraces and the river. The pictures are blurry and close, mostly because I was scared out of my mind and didn’t want to let go of the railing, even just one hand. Other buses crossed paths with us, and we waved to them from the top as we veered out of their way on the tiny mountain road.

The meeting point is someone’s house. I’m not sure whose, but we sat there waiting for new people to arrive, sipping on the most amazing milk tea, and playing with the kids who lives in the house. There are two little boys, no more than 3 or 4 years old, and they are the most adorable things on earth. The older ones ignored us mostly, and minded their own business. One came over and somberly smiled at me. I asked him his name and he said it was Zuzu. He introduced his little brothers as Shimon and Sihar. I took pictures of them. Shimon was more talkative. He babbles on in Nepalese like there is no language barrier and I share my cheese balls with him. He grins playfully as he grabs a few in his dirty hands. When the bag was empty, he grabbed it and starts babbling again. Suddenly, I realize what he’s saying. He’s reading the letters on the bag…in ENGLISH! Spelling out each one, with an accent, but clearly, in English. It was incredible. He’s 3 years old, reading in English in addition to whatever he learns in Nepalese! This is why I will teach my kids as many languages as I can, as early as I can, and to stick to it, as hard as I can.

the local bus we just rode on top of...dropped us off in the middle of nowhere...
cutest kids on earth

I’ve been reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m just about halfway through with it and loving every page of it. It happens to be the perfect book to read for Tibet/Nepal for many reasons. I’m traveling around the world, a life changing journey to clear my mind, my body, and soul before embarking on the next stage of my life. Elizabeth Gilbert is doing something similar, and I find that her writing, albeit much more witty and inspirational, describes EXACTLY what I am feeling, thinking, and experiencing. Here is a quote that hit home with me:  “You don’t really see the impact that [a trip] has had on you until you leave the place and return to your normal life. Only then will you start to notice how your interior closets have all been rearranged.  You may find that lifelong obsessions are gone, or that nasty, indissoluble patterns have already shifted. Petty irritations that once maddened you are no longer problems, whereas abysmal old miseries you once endured out of habit will no longer be tolerated now for even five minutes. Poisonous relationships get aired out or disposed of, and brighter, more beneficial people start arriving into your world.” This experience happened to me the last time I left on a six month journey through Europe, and I came back so refreshed and focused. I then met my wonderful soul mate who has guided me through the last 7 years, become my confidante, best friend, and even computer technician.  But as Richard the Texan taught me, “a soul mate is not your perfect fit. A true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so that you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet in your life, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah, it’s too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you and then they leave.”  This cannot be truer for me. This journey has made me able to see the good, and there are many, aspects that have come out of that relationship, and I will treasure them for the rest of my life.

1 comment:

  1. hello babies, its the mama bear... love your blog, you guys are so amazing, Im so very proud of both of you...


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