Having just about recovered from my trauma in the River Trisuli here in Nepal I thought it would be wise to write it up for others to learn something about the dangers of whitewater rafting down 3+/4 rapids.
I booked a two day trip with Adrenaline Nepal rafting down the Trisuli for $80 to include overnight camping plus transport onwards to Pokhara (My intention was to cut out some of the very dangerous Kathmandu to Pokhara road and have some fun).
I started at 6.30am and waited till past 7 to be picked up still on my own. My heart sank to my feet when we stopped to pick up 7/8 very overweight and unfit looking Israeli tourists with their mountain of bags! At this point I should have opted out and got my $80 back. First point choose your fellow crew carefully!
We proceeded to the river with a couple of thrash the ash breaks. At the river the ex East Londoner Maxim then did a detailed safety drill (some of the Israelis ignored this and just went for a paddle much to Max’s annoyance) at this stage we learnt several couldn’t swim and seemed posively frightened of the water. I’m not sure if they were expecting a Rhine type cruise or punting on The Cam. We were then split into two boats plus a safety Kayak. I was made the front right person in the boat piloted by a local lad whose command of English was poor plus he muttered his commands. I noticed a couple of the folks were those who couldn’t swim!
We set off and all went well for the first stretches to where we had lunch on a pleasant sandy beach with the local dogs and kids. After lunch Maxim declared that the most dangerous rapid was just around the next corner re-emphasising his safety instructions and making the point the full force of the river flow was against a 15/20m high vertical black rock!
On the water again we followed Max until (Max told me later he had deliberately slowed down) we hit his boat in the side causing us to spin. At this point we were nearly in the rapid, due to the collision we were now heading for the aforementioned black cliff and the most dangerous part of the river!
We were travelling across the current towards the cliff when suddenly the front right of the boat reared up, I clung onto the rafts safety rope but quickly realised that I was in danger of toppling the craft so I let go! flying over the front left person (who apparently slid into the water) I entered the water according to my GPS at 16mph at 05m.55s (my helmet must have come off at this point) under I went, fortunately my lifejacket stayed on although it rode up (Why can’t they have a crutch strap to keep them in place). Round and round I went, me desperately trying to get on my back but the sheer weight of water had other ideas. On one of my surfacing the front of the kayak was there so I managed to get my thumbs in the strap and legs straddling the deck. The poor lad couldnt get out of the whirlpool with my 90kg weighing him down. Over he went, I thought I had better let go as he would never right the thing with me on it! A few more spins in the malestrom and I managed to get on the back of the kayak – no use, exactly as before over he went. Desperation was beginning to set in!
On my next circuit I noticed a jagged bit of rock which I might be able to grab, a couple of circuits more and I reached a calm bit of water against the cliff, no way could I reach the jagged bit but I looked up and miracles of miracles I could see the yellow safety rope been dropped down by some kids on the top of the cliff (later I learnt the kayaker had hurled the safety rope to them from the river up 15m) Lesson make sure the safety kayaker keeps the safety rope on his back (like mine did) not hidden in the kayak!
I clung onto the rope but no way were they going tobe able to pull me up. I rested thanking my lucky stars. Time now 06.01 ie I had been in the water for 5mins. A short while later another rope came down from Max (He had had problems getting his crew to stop!) this time with a hitch in the end, I threaded my left wrist into it and made it tight. I now had a hand to climb with. They pulled me up to the first foothold. I then with difficulty and their pulling managed to climb the cliff! Utterly exhausted I arrived on the ledge where the first thing I did was do a big dump in front of my rescuers (sorry guys). A bit more clambering and we came to the road where I discovered why the kids had been there – a truck had come of the road and was perilously resting on a ledge! One persons misfortune had greatly helped me.
So the lessons I learnt are:-
- Choose your crew carefully and if some can’t swim think twice! They are a liability to the team.
- Make sure you have a safety kayaker with you and that he keeps his rope ABOVE the kayak skirt!
- Only have one raft at a time in rapids!
- The pilot should have a booming voice!
- Make sure you are used to being underwater.
AAt the beginning of any rafting trip, personally, I would park the rafts on the opposite bank and make the folks cross the river using the safety rope! That way you can be sure no one is scared off the water!!
Here is the GPS trace from my Garmin HCX kept in my shorts pocket:-
All in all a never to be repeated experience. I’m still surprised that neither the pilot of my boat or the lad I knocked in came to say anything back at the boathouse! Full credit to Maxim a great guy and thank god he knows about knots!