Tag Archives: white-water rafting

Mhadei River Run: Rafting in Goa

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Rafting down the Mahadayi (Mhadei) river in Goa will give you an adrenaline rush like no other, describe ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY

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For a river that runs for just a hundred odd kilometers, the Mhadei’s waters are indeed turbulent for its relatively short journey from source to sea. Originating from a cluster of 30 springs at Bhimgad in Karnataka’s Belagavi district, a major portion of the river flows through Goa as the Mandovi.

The region where it enters Goa is one of the most pristine patches in the Western Ghats and the river skirts the scenic Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary before it meets the Arabian Sea at Panaji, forming the lifeline of the state. While the sharing of Mhadei’s waters may be a contentious issue between Goa and Karnataka, the river’s bounty knows no boundaries.

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With the advent of rains in June, the Mhadei drains the surplus waters from the South West monsoon, which lashes the slopes of the Western Ghats. The otherwise placid river transforms into a gushing torrent with Class 2 to 3 rapids as adventure seekers converge on it for the untamed joys of white water rafting. Unlike the usual rafting season across the rest of India between October and May, in Goa it’s a monsoon activity from June to October when all the action shifts from the beaches.

John Pollard of Southern River Adventures, who pioneered rafting in South India, has introduced 6 stretches from Dandeli to Coorg since 1999. In 2012, he started rafting in Goa, in partnership with Goa Tourism. John considers rafting in Goa, especially the upper Mhadei-Tilari belt, as ‘the most advanced rapids south of the Himalayas.’

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We’ve had our share of crazy escapades in Goa – from full moon parties and coastal treks to an adventure bike ride to Dudhsagar waterfall. Yet, we were filled with a sense of expectation as we left for Valpoi to take on a 10 km stretch of the lower Mhadei. The Goan hinterland seemed awash with the first rains as we drove through the lush countryside of Sattari taluka. From our meeting point at The Earthen Pot restaurant minivans transported us to the river, a short 25 min drive away. It was a 10min walk to the launch point at Ustem village.

Pleasantries were exchanged between the rafters and the motley bunch of river guides from the south, North India and Nepal as we shared anecdotes about our rafting adventures from Rishikesh to Bhote Koshi in Nepal. Mohammed, who has been with Southern River Adventures for the past 14 years, briefed us on equipment, safety instructions and rafting commands. “All Forward, Back Paddle, Hold On, Over Left, Over Right,” he announced with the seriousness of a drill sergeant. After a quick mock paddling session, we carried the raft to the river down the bank. It was overcast and drizzling steadily.

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Raising our paddles in salutation to the river, we heaved off. We paddled through nearly 10 Grade II-III rapids starting off with Big Daddy, which lived up to its name. Giant Haystacks has high waves that start stacking up when the water level is good. The strangely named Y-Fronts owes its strange moniker to a funny incident during a trial run. John’s journo friend Monty Munford had such a churn in the rapids that when he emerged he was left wearing only his y-fronts! Between the white water stretches we stopped paddling to admire the lush forest backdrop and jungle scenery.

After the Pipeline we reached some flats, we jumped off the raft with our guide’s permission for some body surfing. The water was cool and invigorating. We disembarked at the finish point at Sonal and squelched our way up to a tea stall for some hot chai and pakodas. The minivan dropped us back to The Earthen Pot Restaurant where we devoured some poi and Goan sausages, before heading back. The Mhadei is perfect for first-time rafters as well as seasoned paddlers and ought to be on everyone’s ‘must do’ list for in the monsoon.

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FACT FILE

Where
10km on the Mhadei River in Sattari taluka of Goa, about 45km from Panaji

Grade of Rapids
Class II to III

Meeting point
The Earthen Pot Restaurant, Sayed Nagar, Valpoi

Timings
Season: June to September
Arrive by 9:30 am for 10am departure
Arrive by 2:30 pm for 3pm departure

Duration
Approx 2-3 hours (1–1hr 45 min of rafting)

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Wear
Swimsuit or comfortable swimwear, t-shirt, shorts/tights, fixed sandals or secure sneakers.

Don’ts
Loose clothing or slippers strictly not allowed. Avoid any intoxication before the trip because you need to be alert to follow the rafting commands.

Age
12 years and above (age limit is relaxed in case of low water levels)

Tariff
Rs.1800/person

Contact
Southern River Adventures
Ph +91 9545305734, 8805727230
Email goarafting@gmail.com
www.goarafting.com

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 16 June 2018 as the cover story in the Travel supplement of Deccan Herald newspaper. 

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Kundalika River Run: Mumbai to Kolad

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ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY go rafting down the Kundalika at Kolad, Maharashtra’s only white-water rafting site

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Jaded city dwellers from Mumbai or Pune needn’t go as far as Rishikesh or Dandeli to experience the rush of white-water rafting or wait for the monsoon to ride the waters. The Kundalika River in Kolad, Maharashtra’s only white-water rafting site, is open all year round. Being a dam-fed river, it’s doable 365-days-a-year, as easy as morning poha! We set off early from Mumbai to avoid bottlenecks at Pen and took a diversion off NH-17 towards the undulating Mulshi-Pune state highway, punctuated by scenic fields, farms and the Kundalika river.

Since the waters are released from the hydroelectric power station at Ravalje on the Bhira Dam around 8.30am, we needed to be there well before water levels receded. Purists often dismiss a ‘dam-fed river’ as a tepid choice against the thrill of tackling natural rain-fed torrents. Not true. The 14km stretch had as many Grade II-III rapids that transform into Grade IV during monsoon. A few rafts had already been launched, as we geared up and practiced our commands.

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While the first river run took place at Kolad in 1996, the sport became immensely popular only over the last few years. Like most white-water tracts, the rapids have ingenious names. The river kicks off with a prayer – ‘Good Morning Buddha’, the first rapid.

Thereafter, our raft bounced past ‘Hilton’, ‘Pumphouse’ to ‘Fisherman’, named after a fishing spot for local villagers and tribals. At ‘Butterfly’, waves curled and gracefully flapped around the rocking raft, drenching us and eliciting delighted squeals before swooping into a wicked eddy called ‘Crow’s Nest’.

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The next series of rapids come fast and furious forming the main highlight of Kundalika. ‘Key Wave’ unlocked a portal of waves, ‘Bush on the Bend’ glided us smack into a tree growing in the water and before we recovered, we were engulfed in the thick of ‘Morning Headache’.

Pema, our Nepali instructor explained, “If you go overboard in this 2km stretch of rapids, it’s a headache to haul you out!” If that wasn’t enough, the most ferocious rapid ‘John Kerry’ whacked into us before hurling the raft drunkenly into ‘Johnny Walker’.

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From here, we were dragged aboard ‘Rajdhani Express’ a set of non-stop rapids and floated into ‘Boom Shankar,’ which concluded the wild part of the ride. The tame course from here, prompted us to fling our paddles and dive in to swim and bodysurf, soaking in the beauty of the surrounding forests and hills. Friendly villagers along the banks chatted and cheered us along.

Clambering into the raft near ‘Broken Bridge’, we rowed to the finish line – Kamath Village; completing the exhilarating journey in one and half hours! The workout tempted a grab of vada paav and kanda bhajiya (onion pakoda) at the local tea vendor’s stall though the drive down to Orchard Café (10km) and Namrata Dhaba at Kolad offered a wholesome bite.

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While many do Kolad as a day trip, some extend it into an overnight stay at camps and farms like Sai and Sanskriti in and around Kolad for a taste of rustic life amidst paddy fields and groves of betelnut, coconut, chikoo and guava. The food is simple besides gharguti or ‘home-style’ meals of chicken, rotis, rice, dal, vegetable fry and salad. Explore the scenic countryside, laze on hammocks or chat around a barbecue or bonfire. Poojas Farm has cottages set on the backwater’s edge with riverside walks and bullock cart rides.

Adventure outfits offer rafting packages that include lunch, stay or activities like treks, river crossing, kayaking, canyoning and rock climbing around the area with expert instructors. Nature Trails Empower Activity Camp offers ATV rides, river crossing, paintball and corporate training programs while Kundalika Rafting Camp run by Nature Trails has luxury tents, and given rafting experiences to 33,000 adventure enthusiasts since 2006. Being Maharashtra’s only rafting site right in the midst of nature, Kolad is just the shot of adrenalin you need to escape from urban tedium.

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Distance: 138km from Mumbai, 96km from Pune
Time: 3-4 hours from Mumbai; 2hr 40mins from Pune
Route: Take NH-17 (Mumbai-Goa highway), cross Nagothane and 1km after Kolad, turn left on to SH-60 towards Pune via Mulshi. Saje village, the start point is 22km from the highway. The 14km rafting stretch from Saje to Kamat village has 14 Grade I-III rapids. Catch a Goa-bound bus and hop off at Kolad.
Link: goo.gl/AkbDYP

Raft: Kolad Rafting; Ph 9820299088, 9821454434 https://koladrafting.co.in; Wild River Adventure; Ph 98801 31762 http://www.indiarafts.com; Quest Adventures; Ph 8657195551 https://adventurekolad.com; Mercury Himalayan Explorations; Ph 92728 82874, 7276061111 http://www.kundalikarafting.in; Snow Leopard Adventures; Ph 9209265657 http://www.snowleopardadventures.com

Costs: For rafting Rs.600/person weekdays, Rs.1200-1500/person weekends, Rs.400/meal, Rafting+lunch+activities weekend package Rs.1400-2000, Farm stays range from Rs.2,500-4,000/day, Parking Rs.50, Local autos charge Rs.700/auto for ferrying people between the end/start points.

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Stay: Empower Activity Camp, Sutarwadi; Ph 9422691325, 7720873330 http://www.empowercamp.com; 6 AC cottages & 12 Swiss tents, 2 AC dorms (each 20 beds) Tariff Rs.2,600-3,900/person/night including meals. Nature Trails Resorts, Kamath Ph 8080807341 http://www.naturetrails.in; 20 luxury AC tents, Rs.3192 (luxury), Rs.3864 (super deluxe), includes tax, meals and adventure activities (Zip-line, Tarzan swing, Kayaking, Burma bridge, Treasure Hunt). Check-in 5pm, check-out 3pm; Sanskriti Farm, Muthavle; Ph 9987501613; Sai Farm, Ainwahal; 6 rooms, 2 cottages Ph 98691 18763 http://www.saifarmkolad.com; Tariff Rs.1500-1700/person ; Poojas Farm, Dhagadwadi; Ph 9209484178 www.poojasfarm.com; 11 cottages, 4 tents. Tariff 1500/person, including meals

Excursions: Sukeli waterfall, 10km from Kolad and a 1½ hour hike through a forest. Carry drinking water and snacks.

Top Tip: Timings for rafting are strictly 8–11am, so start from Mumbai by 5am. Late-risers may leave a day prior to stay overnight at Kolad. Wear light clothing, swimwear and apt footwear. Carry a change of clothes and towel. The last 5km is flat and requires strong paddling, though ideal for a swim and bodysurfing. Minimum age 14 years, not suited for asthmatics and heart patients. Weekday rates for rafting are cheaper by about Rs.600.

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 28 Dec 2017 in Mint Lounge. Here’s the link to the original story: https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/76T8vxnYFoJ4yNkZs6YbxI/Mumbai-to-Kolad-Kundalika-river-run.html

 

High on Adrenaline: Top adventures in India

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Surfing, diving, paragliding, zip lining to white water rafting, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY profile the top adventure hotspots in the country 

Until recently, if you said you were going to Goa for white water rafting and Rameshwaram for kite surfing people would think you were joking. Not any more. India’s fast changing adventure scene holds many surprises with diverse activities that go beyond terra firma…

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Paragliding in Kamshet & Bir-Billing
For the longest time, people were content with the thrill of parasailing or being tugged into the air by a parachute harnessed to a jeep or a boat. But ever since mountaineers figured it’s easier to fly off a mountain than descend on foot, things have never been the same again! Kamshet in Maharashtra is the best place to learn the ropes. Its mild altitude, dynamic wind, moderate weather, profusion of flying institutes and proximity to Mumbai and Pune, make it ideal for beginners. All year round access means you clock more air miles here. Basic and advanced courses like EP (Elementary Pilot) and CP (Club Pilot) are offered, but for more serious stuff like XC (Cross Country) flying, head to Bir-Billing in Himachal Pradesh. The 2400 m high meadow at Billing, 14 km north of Bir, is the launch site with the landing site and tourist accommodations in Chowgan. Manoj Roy, founder and president of Paragliding Association of India, explains that the sport is catching on at Panchgani, Sikkim, Vagamon and Varkala (Kerala), Yelagiri (Tamil Nadu) and Goa. Beaches with hillocks like Anjuna and Baga have soft laminar winds blowing continuously from the sea that let you fly the whole day. An annual paragliding tournament is conducted in Bir in Oct with the PG Fest to be held in the North East in Dec-Jan.

Getting there: Kamshet is 110 km from Mumbai and 45 km from Pune. Bir is 65 km from Dharamsala.

When to go: October to May (avoid rainy season and peak snowfall period in the Himalayas between Dec-Feb)

Cost: Around Rs.18,000 for 3-4 day course, includes stay, food, travel to the hill and equipment

Contact
Indus Paragliding, Karla
Ph +91 7798111000, 9869083838
http://www.indusparagliding.in
Run by Team India pilot Sanjay Pendurkar, the only Indian to take part in Himalayan Odyssey 2010.

Nirvana Adventures, Kamshet
Sanjay Rao
Ph +91 93237 08809
http://www.flynirvana.com

Temple Pilots, Kamshet
Avi Malik
Ph +91 9970053359, 9920120243
http://www.templepilots.com

Hi Fly, Bir
Ph +91 9805208052
http://www.hi-fly.in
Run by Debu Choudhury from Manali, the only Indian pilot to be in the Top 50 of
Paragliding World Cup Association and India No.1 several times

Paragliding Guru, Bir
http://www.paragliding.guru
Run by Gurpreet Dhindsa, BHPA certified paragliding instructor

For more info, visit pgaoi.org, appifly.org and paraglidingforum.in

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Snorkelling & Scuba diving in the Andamans & Pondicherry
Nearly 1000 km from the Indian mainland, ringed by pristine forests, beaches and coral reefs, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands have the best diving and snorkelling prospects in the country. North Bay, a 10 min boat ride from the capital Port Blair, is a good curtain raiser. The 280 sq km Wandoor Marine National Park, a 40 min drive away, is a cluster of 15 islands like Jolly Buoy and Red Skin with decent diving opportunities. However, the best dive sites are found in Ritchie’s Archipelago accessible from Havelock Island, an hour’s boat ride from Port Blair. After introductory sessions at Hathi Tapu or Elephant Beach divers head to remote dive locations like Barracuda City, Dugong Dungeon, Turtle Bay and Barren Island, India’s only active volcano. Numerous dive shops offer a range of PADI courses – from basic one day jaunts to more specialized programs. For some action closer home, Temple Adventures at Pondicherry is a good bet. Named after an artificial reef built 5km offshore resembling the Mahabalipuram Shore Temple, they offer basic training at their facility followed by open-sea dives – 50m at Temple Reef (20 min by boat) or the Wall, an inter continental drop (15km offshore, 45 min by boat).

Getting there: Pondicherry is 160 km south of Chennai. Port Blair, the capital of Andamans is 1000 km off India’s east coast. Regular flights operate from Chennai and Kolkata (2 hrs) besides passenger ships from Vizag, Chennai and Kolkata (56-66 hrs). Frequent ferries connect Port Blair to Havelock (4 hrs) though the Makruzz cruiser covers the 45 nautical miles in 90 min.

When to go: The best months for diving are September-November and February-April, with clear waters and good visibility.

Cost: Rs.6,800/person for a 1-day introductory Discover Scuba Diving program

Contact
Barefoot Scuba, Havelock

Ph 044 24341001, +91 95660 88560
Email dive@barefootindia.com
http://www.diveandamans.com, http://www.barefootindia.com

Dive India, Havelock
Ph +91 99320 82205, 99320 82204
Email vkalia@diveindia.com
http://www.diveindia.com

Andaman Bubbles, Havelock
Ph 03192 282140, 9531892216
Email andamanbubbles@gmail.com
http://www.andamanbubbles.com

Temple Adventures, Pondicherry
Ph +91 9940219449, 9003122231 www.templeadventures.com

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Surfing in South India
Despite a 7,000 km coastline, India has just woken up to the prospects of surfing. Kaliya Mardana Krishna Ashram (aka Ashram Surf Retreat) at Mulki, run by Krishna devotees, offers surfing lessons besides yoga, mantra meditation and healthy veg fare served as prasad. With no smoking/alcohol allowed, it’s the perfect place to detox and learn to ride the waves! Ride the Zodiac boat to local surf breaks like Baba’s Left, Tree Line, Swami’s and Water Tank. Ganpatipule near Ratnagiri is home to Maharashtra’s only surf school run by Ocean Adventures while Kallialay Surf Club at Mamallapuram south of Chennai provides surfing lessons with wakeboards and equipment on hire. For hardcore kite surfing head further south to the temple town of Rameshwaram. The steady wind speed, sparse rains and deep blue sea make it ideal for a certification course with wave-style riding, freestyle or jumps at Swami’s Bay, Lands End lagoon and Fisherman’s Cove.

Getting there: Mulki is 30 km north of Mangalore, Ganpatipule is 300 km south of Mumbai, Mamallapuram is 56 km south of Chennai and Rameshwaram is well connected by rail and road – 3 hr drive from Chennai and Madurai airport.

When to go: Good all year round, with Summer South Winds blowing between Apr–Sep and Winter North Winds between Oct–Mar

Contact
India Surf Club, Mulki
Ph +91 9880659130
Email gauranataraj@gmail.com http://www.surfingindia.net
Cost Rs.3,500-4,500 (double occupancy), surfing lessons Rs.1,500/p/day

Kallialay Surf Club, Mamallapuram
Ph +91 9442992874, 9787306376
Email kallialaysurfschool@hotmail.com

Ocean Adventures, Ganpatipule
Ph +91-99755 53617
http://www.oceanadventures.in
Cost: Rs.2,500 (4 hrs) or Rs.5,000 (3 days)

Quest Expeditions, Rameshwaram
Ph +91 9820367412, 9930920409
Email booking@quest-asia.com
http://www.thekitesurfingholiday.com
Cost: Rs.15,000-30,000 for private or shared lessons of 6-10 hours over 1-2 days. Stay in beach huts for Rs.1,250/person, including meals and transfers to kite spots.

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White water rafting across India
Splashes of cold water, an untamed river and rapids with colourful names, what can be better than the thrills of white water rafting? Criss-crossed by rivers tumbling down mountainous tracts from the Western Ghats to the Himalayas, India is a rafter’s paradise, with each river posing different challenges to the adventure seeker. In Karnataka, grapple with Adi’s Beard or Stanley’s Squeeze on the Kali river at Dandeli or tackle Wicked Witch and Milky Churn on the tumultuous Barapole river in Coorg. At Kolad, Maharashtra’s only white water rafting site, a 14 km section on the Kundalika River boasts a dozen Class II-III rapids like Good Morning Buddha, Johnny Walker, Rajdhani Express and Boom Shankar. India’s latest rafting hub Goa offers a 10 km stretch on the Mhadei from July to September featuring Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Y-Fronts. Tilari River Gorge 10 km from Dodamarg on the Goa-Maharashtra border is open between October and May. South India rafting pioneer John Pollard describes Tilari as ‘the most advanced rapids south of the Himalayas’. However, nothing beats the rush of rafting in snow-fed Himalayan rivers. In Ladakh, raft down the Indus near Leh or take on the challenging 14-day Zanskar river expedition (July till September). In Spiti tackle a 25 km stretch from Rangrik (4km from Kaza) to Sichling. In Arunachal, raft on the Subansari or Siang from Tuting to Pasighat. Uttarakhand’s mighty rivers offer Class IV’s with expeditions on the Tons, Alaknanda and Bhagirathi. Rishikesh, India’s most popular rafting run has a 36 km rollercoaster ride from Kaudiyala via Marine Drive, Brahmpuri and Shivpuri to Lakshman Jhula as you go giddy with Three Blind Mice and Sweet Sixteen.

When to go: October-May is the usual rafting season in most places though dam-fed rivers are accessible all year round.

Cost: Rs.1,200-1,500/person

Contact
Red Chili Adventure, Rishikesh
Ph 0135-2434021 Email info@redchilliadventure.com http://www.redchilliadventure.com

Ibex Expeditions
Ph 011-26460244/46 Email ibex@ibexexpeditions.com
http://www.ibexexpeditions.com

Aquaterra Adventures
Ph 011-29212641, 29212760, 41636101 http://www.aquaterra.in

Goa Rafting
Ph +91 9545305734, 8805727230
Email info@goarafting.com http://www.goarafting.com

Coorg White Water Rafting
Ph 08276-2346289 http://www.coorgwhitewaterrafting.com

Wild River Adventure, Kolad
Ph +91-9819297760 www.koladrafting.com

Mercury Himalayan Explorations, Kolad
Ph +91-9272882874 http://www.kundalikarafting.in

Superb Jodhpur Zip Tour Photo Jan 2013_Flying Fox

Ziplining in North India
Ziplining in India promises aerial adventures over battle-scarred ramparts of medieval forts as you feel the heady rush of history and adrenaline. Flying Fox, India’s zipline pioneers, started South Asia’s first zipline at Neemrana in 2007. Story goes when Flying Fox founder Jono Walter met Neemrana Hotel’s Aman Nath, he remarked “I want to fly you over your fort like a vulture.” Aman retorted, “No, no. I don’t want to fly like a vulture, I want to fly like a god!” And so will you, as you zipline five sections over the 15th century fort and the Aravali countryside. From the 330m Qila Slammer launched from an old lookout to the 400m Where Eagles Dare or the Bond-themed Pussy Galore and Goodbye Mr Bond, ending at Big B, named as a tribute to Amitabh Bachhan who zipped from that very spot into the Fort-Palace in ‘Major Saheb’. At Jodhpur, launch from ridges and battlements of the historic Mehrangarh Fort accessed through secret tunnels as you tackle Chokelao Challenge, Ranisar Rollercoaster and Magnificent Marwar, a 300m flight over two lakes landing on the tip of a fortified tower. In Punjab, Flying Fox Kikar at an old hunting lodge is the longest zip-line tour in South Asia and the first forest-based zip-line adventure in India. Upstream of Rishikesh at Shivpuri, zipline from the Snow Leopard Adventure camp over forests in the Himalayan foothills and raging rapids 230 ft below as you span 400 m stretches of High Times and White Water Flyer.

Getting there: Neemrana and Kikar are 2 hr drives from Delhi and Chandigarh respectively, while Shivpuri is a 15 min drive upstream of Rishikesh. Jodhpur Airport is well connected by flights from Delhi and Jaipur.

When to go: All year round

Cost: Rs.1,399-2,299/person

Contact
Flying Fox

Ph +91 9810999390, 011-66487678
Email neha@flyingfox.asia http://www.flyingfox.asia

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the October-November 2015 issue of India Now magazine.

Dangers of Another Kind: Adventure Sports in Nepal

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Bungee-jumping, white-water rafting, paragliding, canyoning, canyon swing, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY try it all to get high on adrenaline in Nepal

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It wasn’t exactly the most auspicious start. Amidst news of a coup and a bird flu epidemic, we landed at Kathmandu Airport, where a flurry of masked attendants with drips and stretchers waved official forms in red, blue and green. The bleak sky offered the perfect welcome and we cursed ourselves for not bringing any rain gear. By the end of the 6 weeks we spent in Nepal, we were chiding ourselves for a dozen other things.

Like diving off Jumping Rock into the river and being bailed out by a kayak, barely surviving a toss from a raft in Nepal’s most challenging river, barfing like sick puppies after a heavy breakfast while paragliding over Pokhara, bungee jumping from a 160 m high suspension bridge and the world’s highest canyon swing, getting stranded in a cable car mid-air at Manokamana Devi and escaping a sudden landslide near Mugling. Our journey was in many regards a survivor’s guide to Nepal.

jumping rock

At a small café in Thamel, Megh Ale of Ultimate Descent stared pensively at our seemingly unfit bodies. ‘Have you rafted before? Can you swim?’ Perhaps he secretly hoped our blubber would help us stay afloat. ‘Umm… sure, but not very elegantly.’ Intrigued by the pamphlet about the Bhote Kosi being “the most exciting thing you can do in Nepal without risking a social disease”, we convinced him we’d be in time for the 6 am mini-van.

Luckily it was a short hop from our hotel, the iconic Kathmandu Guest House. The evening was well-spent pub-hopping, souvenir hunting and sampling traditional Newari cuisine at Thamel House. The next morning we said goodbye to ‘THAMEL: To Homely Atmosphere & More Enjoyable Living’ and headed for Barabise, a 3 hr drive to the Nepal-Tibet border, 100 km away.

scaling a mountain half-asleep in frog pyjamas

As we passed Dhulikhel, the Langthang peak and the lofty Ganesh Himal range loomed on the horizon. After tea at Jiro Kilo and fish fry at Dolalghat, we climbed steadily. On seeing the angry white rapids below, several alarmed voices asked in unison ‘Are we going to be in THERE?’ Our rafting guide smiled sagely. The glacial waters of the Bhote Kosi descend from the tenth highest mountain Shisa Pangma in Tibet to create the steepest river in Nepal. This was a river that had wiped out entire villages in the plains of North Bihar. We wondered what it would do to us in its own hilly backyard. The van swung into Borderlands and we were ushered into a large thatched dining area with low seating. A row of tents peeped out of the foliage and the crash of the river constantly reminded us why we were there.

Prem Dai, our adventure expert outlined the program – 2 days of canyoning or abseiling down waterfalls followed by 2 days of rafting. After a crash course in knots, harnesses and basic techniques, we donned our wet suits and set off to conquer the nearest khola (mountain stream). Day 1 was a beginner’s course at Golung Khola aka 95 (located 95 km from Kathmandu), a tough climb that pitted us against eight levels of 5-20 m drops. Finding our footing against the slippery rock face and overhangs was tricky but soon we caught on. Some sections ended in deep pools and our guides encouraged us to jump in before we reached the base.

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Day 2 was a five-level obstacle course at Kabre Khola that involved sliding, jumping and abseiling down torrential chasms of up to 45 m! As each candidate leaned out to glance at the final descent, a gasp of ‘Oh…My…God’ inadvertently escaped his lips! A relentless jet of water battered our helmets, blinded our eyes and deafened our ears as every muscle ached to get back on solid ground.

The next day was designated for whitewater rafting. We drove to our put-in point just below the Sun Kosi dam. Rafts were inflated and after a riverside lunch, we went through paddling instructions and safety manoeuvres. Ideal for beginners, this stretch had Class III-IV rapids and the half-day trip was largely uneventful, except for the Jumping Rock misadventure. On Day 2 the waters of the Upper Bhote Kosi had swollen with the previous night’s rain.

Rafting on Bhote Koshi DSC03128

Kicking off from Borderlands Resort, we went through Gerbil in the Plumber, Frog in the Blender and understood why Carnal Knowledge of a Deviant Nature was so named (after the compromising position you end up in). At Barabise, we stopped for lunch, where twelve (barah) times twenty (bis) Nepalese soldiers had supposedly been killed in an ancient battle with the Tibetans. That afternoon, while co-ordinating photography, we nearly added one more casualty to the list. ‘Man overboard, man overboard!’

Despite a bruised knee, we trudged up 4 km from Borderlands to The Last Resort, a Mecca for adventure buffs. From the metal bridge, the wild Bhote Kosi 160 m below seemed like a white ribbon carving its course through the craggy gorge. Our guide instructed us in his accented English, ‘At the bridge, No cry mummy daddy, I don’t wanna jump, yea! When I say 3, 2, 1, Bungee, you jump. Ok?’ The earnest query of ‘What if the rope swings and we slam against the rocks?’ was met with utter contempt. ‘You don’t control rope ok, rope control you!’

Bungee jumping from 160m at The Last Resort DSC02881 Anurag Mallick

With jittery nerves and jelly knees we awaited our turn. No amount of psyching oneself could silence the alarm bells clanging within. As we were strapped up, the video guy joked ‘Any last words?’ And we thought he was there to document our plunge! Like in a screen test, we displayed a wide range of emotions – fear, excitement, anxiety, nonchalance, hysteria. But it all ended the same way – a series of long guttural screams accompanying each jump.

In comparison, the Canyon Swing offered a different thrill. After 8 seconds of free-fall, you oscillated like a giant pendulum in a wide 240 m arc, yodeling like Tarzan. Suspended over the Bhote Kosi, we clutched at the bamboo pole extended to us and scrambled to the riverbank for the long trudge to the top. We skipped the High Ropes obstacle course, but the adrenalin rush propelled us to go higher to the Tibetan border.

Cable car ride to Manokamana Devi DSC01917 Anurag Mallick

A constant bustle of traders and tourists headed for Lhasa and Mansarovar, Kodari was a typical border town. We were warned not to take pictures, especially near the Friendship Bridge. It was clearly a misnomer. Chinese agents tried to pass off as Nepalis but their icy glare and stony expressions gave them away. However, we had perfected the ‘ditsy Indian couple on honeymoon’ routine to perfection. A shaky snap, a quick snack of baph mah mah (buffalo momo) and we soon returned to the comforting warmth of Kathmandu.

After a night at Dwarika’s Heritage hotel, we boarded a rattling flight to Pokhra to see if we could survive paragliding. The friendly staff at Shangri-La Resort put us on to Blue Sky, the best in the business. Sarangkot, the sunrise point was the ideal perch as we waited patiently for warm currents to kick in. Strapped to the chute for a tandem flight, the instructor asked us to start running and literally jump off the mountainside. It was going great until we were stumped by the trick question ‘You want some ‘woo woo’ stuff?’ A sharp left made us regret our decision immediately.

Pokhara Paragliding DSC_02880001_Anurag Mallick

The chutes hit the pockets of warm air and climbed instead of descending. It was like zig-zagging through invisible traffic. We didn’t crash into Phewa Lake as feared but eventually had the gentlest of landings on the water’s edge. As we unstrapped ourselves, our eyes traveled to a large hand-painted ad for Orangeboom beer. ‘Life ma boom boom chha?’ asked the tagline. We smiled weakly.

FACTFILE

How to get there

Jet Airways runs regular flights to Kathmandu from Delhi and Calcutta. From there, smaller flights connect you to Pokhara, Bharatpur (Chitwan) and other destinations in Nepal.

When to go

Though the trekking season stretches from October to May, October-November and March-April are ideal for white-water rafting

with chandan giri baba from motihari bihar at durbar square

Where to Stay/What to do 

Borderlands Eco Adventure Resort Ph +977 1 4701295, 4700894 www.borderlandresorts.com

The Last Resort Ph +977 1 4700525, 4700730 www.thelastresort.com.np

Blue Sky Paragliding, Lake Side 6, Khahare, Pokhara Ph +977 61 464737, 463015 www.paragliding-nepal.com

Dwarika’s Hotel, Kathmandu Ph +977 1 479488 www.dwarika.com

Shangri La Village Pokhara Ph +977 61 462222, 460200 www.hotelshangrila.com

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the February, 2011 issue of JetWings International magazine.