Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Thuli Bheri

The Thuli Bheri is often talked about as the best grade 4 multiday in the world and so I eagerly agreed to join Dom, Jamie, Jake, Steph, Mark and Bob to see if it lived up to such a prestigious title. After arriving in Nepal and exploring Thamel, Mark and I headed for the Bhote Kosi for a warm up. A little swim half way down the river did not provide the ideal warm up I was hoping for but with no time for anything else I found myself travelling back to Kathmandu to meet the rest of the team. We took over the Buhhda Garden hotel restaurant to prepare and once our flight was confirmed I rather nervously boarded the bus to Nepalganj and then our private plane to Juphail.

Unloading kayaks in Juphail. Photo: Steph Higgins
The flight was breathtaking and gave us our first slight of the river while highlighting just how remote we were. Landing in Juphail we were greeted by our porters and told surprisingly there were no need for permits to get to Tarakot. We decided to walk a day up the river to make the most of being in such an amazing part of the world. This turned out to be a mistake. After a long day walking we found no rapids of interest and the only thing accomplished was some blistered feet and a confirmation the river was low, which at least for me was a relief. We set up camp and prepared for the next day when we would start our descent.

Walking towards Tarakot following the porters. Photo: Steph Higgins
After a short relaxed paddle back down to Juphail, the pace quickly picked up and from then on the river relentlessly loss gradient with pretty much everything runnable but nothing below grade 4. The days past in a blur along with the rapids as there was no way of telling where one ended and the next began. 

One of the many rapids leading to the Golden Canyon. Photo: Jamie Greenhalgh
I hadn't paddled much in the build up to the trip, so getting back in a boat, let alone one that was loaded with kit, made the first couple of days very daunting. I was happy to just survive down the rapids through the golden canyon and down to Tribeni. As the river grew in volume, I grew in confidence, but every horizon line was met with nervousness which was mentally exhausting and I was more than relieved to reach the bank safely at the end of each day.

Camping in the Golden Canyon. Photo: Jamie Greenhalgh
Camping at Awulgurta. Photo: Steph Higgins
Each night we camped on the river banks with spectacular views of the Himalayas and slept under stars. Surrounded by mountains and listening to the river we cooked rice, lentils and jerky on an open fire, which after a hard days kayaking was surprisingly tasty. Along with noodles and dal bhat from the local villages kept me well fed as we travelled downstream. Walking through the villages also allowed me to experience a more relaxed side of Nepal, even though there were hundreds of children watching everything we did, including bathroom breaks.

Jamie enjoying a rapid. Photo: Steph Higgins

Setting safety. Photo: Jamie Greenhalgh
Slowly I got into the swing of things just in time for what was described as the hardest section of the trip. After portaging around Awulgurta, I followed Jamie and Dom, boofing, punching and charging my way down what seemed like a never ending rapid for the next 20km. It was with great relief when the river eventually eased and a little way along we finally paddled into Ramnaghat and got the local bus back to Nepalganj and then onto Kathmandu, something which I think I am still recovering from.

Steph boofing. Photo: Jamie Greenhalgh
The Thuli Bheri lived up to its reputation as an amazing multiday in an even more amazing location. As for being the best of its grade in the world, I will have to do some more before I can make that conclusion.


Thanks for Bob Ashcroft for organising the trip and Jamie and Steph for the photos