I've now been in Nepal for a week and have been pretty busy.Â I arrived in Kathmandu and was amazed how much quieter, calmer and less chaotic than India is.Â There are restaurants selling food from pretty much everywhere around the world, shops selling loads of clothes that makes it feel a little like Camden LockÂ - particularly in the Thamel backpacker area.
I decided to use my week to learn how to kayak and so signed up to a 4 day course in Pokhara.Â This meant catching a bus through the stunning valleys and seeing mist creeeping across the high hills.Â Pokhara is really beautiful too with a huge lake and views of the snow capped Annapurna Mountains including the famous and instantly recognisable fishÂ tailÂ mountain.
I met my guide Daya (a Nepalese adrenaline junkie who has no fear of death or injury - either mine of his!) and spent the next four days with him.Â On the first day we paddled around the huge lake and he tried to teach me how to do eskimo rolls by using an emersion therapy technique in its literal sense.Â He did this by tipping me upside down in my kayak numerous times to try and get me to right myself using my paddles.Â I did not manage this once and was either put upright by him or flailed around choking water until I fell out of the kayak.
It appears that Pokhara has massive thunderstorms every afternoon with booming echoing around the mountains and huge forked lightening.Â Â This is accompanied by a torrential downpour of rain,Â hailstones the size of golfballs and really strong wind.Â This did not bother Daya in the slightest and nor was it a reason to end our lesson early - so I was battling against the elements and trying to control my kayak and not capsize on the way back to shore.Â I asked Daya if carrying a piece of metal in the form of my paddle in theÂ middle of a huge expanse of water was sensible in a thunderstorm and he commented that many people had been struck by lightening in the hills when standing close to metal - not exactly what I wanted to hear!Â
I was so scared after this experience that I asked to have an extra days tuition on the lake to try and improve my skills before hitting the river.Â Daya agreed and he gave me a similarly petrifying day on the next day.Â By this time my arms were killing me, I had bruises all over my legs from knocking against the kayak and was slightly less panicked about being upside down trapped in a kayak. However,Â I only managed an eskimo roll on one occasion!
The next day we took a local bus with our kayaks on the roof and then a wide loaded cycle rickshaw to the river Seti.Â I was so scared at this point, had no sleep the previous night (other than dreaming I drowned) and was really regretting doing the course.Â I had no faith in Daya that he was going to look after me as he clearly thought I needed to sink or swim as a way of managing the river.
We set off in the kayaks on bumpy waters with little waves, rocks etc.Â We then reached bigger choppy waves and Daya had to shout instructions to me on where to paddle towards and hitting the waves head on as they will capsize you if they hit you from the side.Â We then came to a huge rapid with a drop into a narrow channel with waves crashing, big rocks on either side and a massive rock formation in the middle that you had to steer around.Â My reaction was 'you are having a laugh?' to Daya and I knew that I could barely manage on a choppy lake never mind attempting this.Â I would capsize on the drop and then be upside down in my kayak as I crashed into the central rocks.Â I refused to do it and could tell he was annoyed with me.Â He took my kayak through and navigated the drop, flew over the high waves and skidded past the rocks.
After that I knew I needed to try a little harder so went through some of the Grade 1 rapids (which were still pretty big with big choppy waves hitting you from various directions).Â Daya kept lying about what was coming up and telling me there were 'just waves' before we landed in rapids with whirlpools, rocks and waves that hit you from both sides at the same time.Â At one point I hit a rock that was partially hidden and managed to stay upright, but then there was a big drop behind it that I fell down into and had a huge wave hit me from one side capsizing me instantly.Â I had rehearsed in my head how to get out of the kayak and bent forward and pulled the safety release and pushed with my hands whilst kicking my legs.Â I came out and up into the rapid and Daya was close by for me to grab onto his kayak.Â I was a bit shaken but got back in and carried on.
We had too many rapids for me to remember (or maybe I have blocked out the trauma!) and got to our overnight point.Â I stayed in a homestay with a family that Daya had said he was related to.Â It was a tiny little cluster of houses in some fields next to the river and a wooden structure with a courtyard that the women, children, men and animals all sat in.Â The Grandmother came out of her room and I stayed there.Â They cooked on a fire and gave me great hospitality.
The next day I was not brave enough to go through the Grade 3's, but did all the 1's and we linked our kayaks together for the Grade 2's.Â I refused the Grade 3 + at the end as the drop was enormous and you had to run the gauntlet of rocks.Â However, Daya again tricked me and made me get back in the rapid for the last section.Â Unsurprisingly I was hit by a huge wave that capsized me and had to escape again.Â However, this time there were rapids close by so I had to go through them hanging onto Daya's kayak.Â My kayak was full of water and everytime he tried pulling it it loosened.Â In the end he asked me to hold it and I was stretched between holding his kayak and my own, which was being pulled by the really strong current.Â We almost ended up in a third rapid, which has a big whirlpool and even Daya was looking a bit concerned about this.
However, we made it to the end of the river and I finally relaxed and collapsed in a heap on the shore.Â As we caught another bus back to Kathmandu I realised that some of my money was missing and I recalled seeing some of the family members go into my room.Â I was still in shock from the kayaking and so could not get angry but felt pretty sad that my idyllic view of them had been shattered.
I tried reporting it to the police in Kathmandu today, but they were all drunk and so sent me off on some wild goosechase to find another office.Â I gave up in the end and will just put it down to experience.
Anyway, I am off tomorow to go and climb up to Everest Base Camp and met my trek group today who all seem very nice.Â I will update when I get back in three weeks.