A little excitement whilst rockhopping the South Hams coast, during the South West Sea Kayaking Meet earlier this month. The great pics were supplied by Glenn and Anne. No kayakers were harmed in the making of these pics. Much.
A little excitement whilst rockhopping the South Hams coast, during the South West Sea Kayaking Meet earlier this month. The great pics were supplied by Glenn and Anne. No kayakers were harmed in the making of these pics. Much.
Blakeney Point, Norfolk.
Plans have been underway for some time to produce a Pesda Press guidebook to the best paddling in SE England (Humber to the Solent) and also the Channel Islands, in one volume. The Channel Islands are a well known UK paddling highlight. Obviously SE England is less well known among paddlers, but we are already convinced that there is plenty of interest for paddlers in this area, if you choose to look for it. There may be great paddling closer to the doorsteps of the huge SE paddling population than you might think…
The Channel Island sections of the book are being written by a local paddler, whilst the SE sections were originally being written by ‘committee’ – various paddlers had taken on various sections to research and write, with local enthusiast Chris Wheeler as the central driving force.
Chris is no longer with us, and the project has inevitably stalled since we lost him. Now there is a pressing need to get it up and running again, to have the SE section of the book ready for Sept 2011.
Anyone interested in helping? A number of us are keen to still research and write our original commitment to the book, however there are many sections with an author currently unallocated. You’ll be a keen paddler local to the SE, able to write a coherent sentence and operate a camera; more importantly, you’ll be interested in exploring the potential of the SE and ‘selling’ it to others through your enthusiasm and passion. No one will get rich from this, but your work might well help other paddlers to appreciate and enjoy areas of the coast they otherwise wouldn’t have known about or perhaps visited. You’d be looking at taking on a largish commitment, writing at least 6-10 routes (in a book of 50 routes) based in Kent, Sussex and possibly Essex. Obviously we can provide more details on request.
Interested? Please get in touch ASAP… firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming to the SW Canoe Show in Exeter this weekend? Heather and I will be doing a couple of talks on the Saturday… in the bar of the Canoe Club, just along the road from AS Watersports on Haven Bank Quay.
1 pm Mark Rainsley – Thuli Bheri Adventures (Expedition WW paddling in Nepal)
2 pm Heather Rainsley – The Four Corners of Shetland (Five weeks spent exploring Britain’s northernmost isles by sea kayak)
Times to be confirmed – please check on the link below.
All welcome – much as I like the sound of my own voice, it’d be nice to have someone to share our adventures with!
After taking out the camping fees, the final total of money raised was just slightly less than £1000, but we’ve rounded it up to a neat £1000 and donated …
£500 to Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team (Ashburton) – these are the guys who cover the River Dart area, much beloved of kayakers. They also helped to retrieve Chris Wheeler from the valley one night last November.
£500 to Devon Air Ambulance. This is the chosen charity of the Pig’s Nose Inn (otherwise our use of the place came for free) and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a worthwhile cause of direct relevance to us paddlers.
Thanks all for your donations, which made the weekend a worthwhile undertaking, to my mind. If the event runs again (to be decided) it will be purely for the same reason – charitable fundraising.
Let me know if you have any more detailed queries about the monies involved. I assume that the charities will send me confirmation letters at some point, in the meantime I hope that the documents below will suffice to indicate that I didn’t spend all the donations on scratch cards and wine gums.
The following article was originally published in Canoe Kayak UK magazine. It describes our splendid Whitsun trip to the Channel Islands. Enjoy…
Exploring the Channel Islands of Guernsey, Harm, Sark and Alderney by sea kayak
Gannets! Thousands of ‘em! The sky is crowded full by our largest seabirds. Tidal rapids drag us inexorably towards to their colony, a series of isolated peaks rising from the sea like miniature Matterhorns. This alpine illusion is further borne out by the gleaming whiteness of the stacks, but the white isn’t snow; every spare inch of the soaring rocks is colonised by squawking gannets. Their two metre wide wingspan gives them a hunting range of hundreds of miles, but on this day all five thousand inhabitants of the colony seem to be roosting at home, or soaring in wide circles overhead. Paddling closer to the colony, one thing that we can’t ignore is the smell; but we are distracted from this stinky stench by the natural wonder commencing before our eyes. High above, a cluster of gannets tighten their circle as they spy a shoal of fish. They flutter their wings rapidly backwards to fix their position and take aim. In close succession, these huge birds roll over, fold their wings behind forming a sleek dart shape, and accelerate into a headlong plunge, terminating in jarring 50 mile an hour impacts. Air sacs in the gannets’ heads allow them to survive this dive-bombing onslaught, but their prey are utterly stunned. And so are we.
Our week of sea kayaking had been thoroughly planned, with one small caveat; we hadn’t actually figured out where we were going. The general idea was to head up to Scotland, because that’s where all the good sea kayaking is, right? However, as the date drew nearer, we kept dwelling upon the looooong drive up from our home in Dorset and wincing. The Eureka! moment came one evening whilst we were camping on our local coast. Watching the lights of passing ships in the English Channel, the penny dropped that there were islands only 65 miles south across the Channel that we’d never visited. I am embarrassed to confess that in fifteen years of living just a two hour ferry crossing away, I’d never seriously considered visiting the Channel Islands, and knew nothing about them. The very next morning we booked our tickets, job done! Other friends also abandoned their Scottish plans and decided to join us; we had ourselves a Convoy (I’ve always wanted to say that).
First impressions were confusing. We drove off the SeaCat ferry onto the left-hand side of the road on a grey and rainy island of Guernsey; very English. We then stopped for brekkie (um, petit dejeuner) at the first place we came to, which happened to be a French-speaking boulangerie. We should probably have read up on this stuff beforehand, but we quickly learned that whilst pledging loyal allegiance to Our Gracious Queen, the Channel Islands/ Îles Anglo-Normandes are not actually part of the UK. In practice, they seem to form an amiable buffer zone between John Bull and Johnny Foreigner. To greater or lesser degrees depending upon which island you’re on (and whether you’re drinking red wine or bitter at the time), you can imagine that you’re in rural south Devon (with French place names). Or on the Atlantic coast of Brittany (with pubs and chippies). Or something.
We drove up to the northern tip of Guernsey, and gazed out to sea. Every now and then, gaps in the weather allowed us to spot the island of Herm, a few miles east across a tidal channel known as the Little Russell. Sometimes we could see past Herm, across the Big Russell to the island of Sark. Just once, the rain briefly cleared enough to reveal the cliffs of Alderney, lurking a daunting twenty miles away to the north. The plan formed itself; islands exert a magnetic draw upon sea kayakers, and we knew that we couldn’t go home without having paddled to these isles. We arranged parking and launching at a friendly marina and worked our way though the general faff involved in loading and getting afloat. One member of our group was a wheelchair user; we were impressed to find that all manner of folk were happy to assist in shipping the chair out to the islands or even to arrange the loan of a chair on the island.
We hadn’t all paddled together up to this point, so it was morbidly interesting to see what would happen as we launched into a grim and grey Force 5-6 for the passage to Herm. Thankfully (but slightly disappointingly) there was no carnage, and all seven paddlers survived the squalls to reach Herm’s harbour pier. Rather obligingly, a group of islanders were waiting to greet us and to carry our gear away from the beach by tractor. We followed the tractor up the lane past quaint cottages, immaculate gardens, smiling locals and ancient standing stones; lovely, but perhaps ever so slightly ‘Summerisle’. Luckily, at the top of the hill we found not a waiting Wicker Man, but a campsite boasting panoramic views of the surrounding seas and reefs. Once the tent was up and dinner finished, my wife and I strolled Herm’s cliffs, and were delighted to spot puffins bumbling around their burrows. We love puffins. Everyone loves puffins. Back at the campsite, I found my tent festooned with streamers and balloons, with champagne and cake waiting. Yes, it was my birthday. My 21st, naturally…
The next day’s pootle across to Sark was conducted in slightly milder weather, but nonetheless involved a fair amount of excitement (for sea kayaking, generally considered to be a bad thing) and the odd nervous paddle slap. The tide flows in these parts never really cease motion, forming numerous tidal rapids and doing bewildering things like flowing fastest at high and low water (the opposite of pretty well everywhere else). Somewhere mid-channel whilst we were preoccupied by the choppy waves, something rather large and dark briefly surfaced among us. My book about these things tells me that it may or may not have been a pilot whale; we shall never know for sure! Arrival on Sark really is something. The island rises abruptly from the sea with impregnable cliffs on all sides. There is no naturally sheltered landing; the harbour walls back dramatically onto the cliffs, with a tunnel drilled through the rock to access the island’s interior plateau. Having arrived late, cold and soggy, we were pretty delighted to discover that Sark’s welcome topped Herm’s. A tractor appeared to carry not just all of our gear but also all seven of us up to the campsite, clinging onto the outside in a non-Health and Safety Executive-approved manner.
For centuries, tiny Sark was burdened by a quaint but ridiculous feudal government that was (in as far as we understand these things) only replaced in 2008 by something approaching democracy. Judging by the various island newsletters we read in the cafe over breakfast, Sark’s 600 locals mainly seem to exercise their newfound rights by publishing nasty libellous things about each other! The islanders are also reeling from an ongoing and bitter dispute with the über-rich Barclay brothers who own the neighbouring island of Brecqhou and have recently sacked all 100 of the ‘Sarkese’ who worked for them. One benefit of visiting beautiful and isolated offshore communities by kayak is that you are able to fully savour the local scenery, culture and welcome…but that you also have a paddle-powered getaway vehicle, ready to be utilised as soon as the apparently inevitable claustrophobia and ‘island-fever’ begin to take hold of you. Don’t misunderstand us, we loved Sark; but we gained the definite impression that staying there too long would mess severely with your head. As further evidence of this, we offer the Karaoke event which we chanced upon in the woods one night; experiencing a burly 6’5” islander murdering ‘Bright Eyes’ was only marginally less painful than being sacrificed in a burning Wicker Man…
Oh yes, this article is supposed to be about kayaking. I guess you’ll want to know that a circumnavigation of Sark is among the finest day paddles in British waters. The tidal rapids at every juncture would be sufficient in themselves to keep you amused, even without the spectacular cliffs and beaches, and the guillemot, razorbill and puffin colonies. Sarkese rock is riddled with caves variously accessible at different stages of the tide, meaning that you really need to do this trip more than once! The Gouliot headland near Brecqhou is frankly incredible. The tide flows swiftly through a latticework of dark tunnels, feeding plankton to the millions of multi-coloured sponges and anemones that completely plaster the walls through the full ten metre tidal range. Trust us; you have never seen anything like this. This unique underworld ecosystem is protected by ‘RAMSAR’ status (no, we also have no idea what this means, but it sounds important), but can be carefully explored by kayak and by swimming.
For no particular rational reason, I had a ‘thing’ about visiting the most northerly Channel Island, Alderney. Purely to satiate my obsession, everyone found themselves sitting bleary-eyed in their boats at the northern tip of Sark at precisely 0746 one morning, on the off-chance that the not-so-great forecast would turn out to be wrong. It was indeed wrong, so we all pointed north-ish and paddled off towards the horizon. Did I mention that Alderney was over twenty miles away? This long crossing was less boring than you might imagine; we dodged very big ships, ohh-ed and aah-ed at jumping dolphins, surged up and down repeatedly on the rather large ocean swell and at the end of all that, completely missed Alderney. That final point is slightly embarrassing, but how was I to know that the tide flows never do as asked in those parts? Instead, we arrived at an enormous solitary rock named Ortac, which was (rather alarmingly) surrounded by shallow surf-pounded reefs and huge rolling tidal rapids. Impressed as we were by Ortac and the population of gannets living upon it, we really weren’t supposed to be there and some frantic course alterations were needed to prevent us from being dragged to our doom. How we laughed.
Kayaking is one of those sports that takes you pretty well everywhere, but you’ve never been anywhere like Alderney. The island feels and looks markedly different from the other Channel Islands, whose residents describe it as, “two and a half thousand drunks clinging to a rock”. Our arrival by kayak was unusual enough to warrant a visit by the local press! Alderney’s isolation is enhanced by the fact that it sits amidst vast areas of tidal races, and by its epic defences; one side of the island is defended by sheer cliffs, and the other side is entirely covered by fortifications. There are forts overlooking forts guarding forts. We built much of this to keep the French at bay (they’re only eight miles away) but the Nazis are also responsible; arriving in 1940, they found Alderney totally evacuated. They set about transforming this sun-kissed backwater into Hitler’s dreamed ‘Festung Alderney’. The absence of local witnesses allowed them to indulge in their worst excesses; nobody knows for sure how many Russian prisoners died building the (pointless) concrete defences, but the toll was at least in the high 100s. Only the overgrown bunkers and tunnels now bear witness to these horrors; putting our tents up behind the dunes in stunning Saye Bay, it was hard to comprehend that this idyllic spot had been the exact location of an SS concentration camp.
We relished our time exploring Alderney by foot and paddle, including a visit to the teeming Les Etacs gannet colony (described at the start of this article). But, no sooner had we concluded that we never wanted to leave Alderney, than it was time to go. We were caught out one evening by a surprise weather forecast suggesting that the best ‘window’ to paddle back would involve getting up at the terrifying time of 2 am the following morning, just a few hours hence! Several folk were sinking beers in the pub when they heard this news, so some frantic sobering up was required. However, all credit to the team; everyone somehow managed to wake up and get packed in time to launch by starlight. Barely conscious, we drifted past sleeping puffins and out into the smooth ocean. By the time the sun rose behind Alderney, we had left the island far behind. We eventually arrived back where we’d first launched from at the Guernsey marina, just as the sailors were finishing their breakfasts! We crawled ashore, put up the tents and instantly flaked out…
Mark Rainsley channel hopped with Eurion Brown, Claire Cailes, Claire Cheong-Leen, Adrian Disney, Chris Evans, Heather Rainsley and 5000 pairs of stinky gannets.
Many more photos here.
The Channel Islands offer a surprisingly wide variety of fantastic sea kayaking experiences and really should be on every sea paddlers’ wish list. Our impression was that ‘island-hopping’ the Channel Islands is best suited to experienced sea kayakers, given the very strong tide flows. There are however many great paddle trips for all abilities along the coasts of Guernsey and Jersey. Guernsey’s south coast is a particular highlight, with its rugged cliffs and the Hanois lighthouse. On this trip we did not visit Jersey and its outlying reefs, but now plan to return and explore them ASAP!
www.condorferries.co.uk – You’ll need these folk, unless you fancy a 65 mile paddle across the English Channel? They will accept kayaks onboard with foot passengers, with prior arrangement.
www.quaysidedirect.com – ‘Quayside Marine’ beside St Sampson harbour on Guernsey sell books, charts and also a good range of kayaking gear.
The Channel Islands by Peter Carnegie – published by Imray, this book is indispensible. Tide flows, mini charts, lovely aerial photos to get you drooling.
Admiralty Leisure Folio SC5604: The Channel Islands - This huge folder of charts covers every rock and frond of seaweed in the archipelago; you should be able to buy it new for around £20 on eBay.
Wildlife of the Channel Islands by Sue Daly – a lovely outline of the local flora and fauna, and where to find it.
www.ukseakayakguidebook.co.uk – useful information and advice.
The following article was first published in Canoe Kayak UK magazine some months back. It describes a great expedition whitewater paddling trip we made in Easter 2010. Yes, I know that this is normally a blog about the sea and coast; please forgive me on this occasion, I keep getting enquiries about the Thuli Bheri river and this is the easiest place to make the information available.
Thuli Madly Deeply
I’m writing this in a hotel room in Delhi, India. The temperature is a searing 44 degrees Centigrade, and the tiny fan whirring overhead is failing to make the climate bearable. I was due back at work a week ago, but all flights home have been cancelled because of the ash cloud generated by the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull. I have no idea when and how I’ll get back. My stomach is suffering from the dreaded ‘Delhi belly’ and frankly, right now I’ve had enough of Asia and just want to go home. The only thing keeping me sane is reminding myself why I am here in the first place; I have just kayaked the truly wonderful and unsurpassable Thuli Bheri river.
Ten years ago, I spent several months kayaking the rivers flowing from the Himalayan mountains in the kingdom of Nepal. It was a fantastic experience, but I left Nepal with one disappointment; I had heard of a river called the Thuli Bheri, hidden away in remote western Nepal. Rumour suggested that this was the Shangri-La of Himalayan rivers, with outstanding whitewater and stunning surroundings. A group of us arranged to fly to this river, the Maoist insurgency was just beginning to dominate Nepal’s politics; news came through of an appalling massacre of fifteen policemen at the small town of Dunai, precisely where we had planned to begin our paddle. Understandably, no one would take us there, and our Thuli Bheri dream was dashed.
For ten years, the Thuli Bheri has been flagged up as ‘unfinished business’ on my kayaking wish list. In recent years the political situation in Nepal has improved, and paddlers have begun to return to the Thuli Bheri. I assembled an eager group of friends, but the logistics were daunting; our plan was to fly to Delhi, bus across India to Nepal and then to charter a plane to the river. Before we could even leave the UK, mountains of forms were filled in and notable sums of money transferred to pay for it all. More daunting still was the notion of the actual paddling, for me at least. I turn 40 in a few weeks (making me officially ‘old’) and I’m not exactly ‘Match Fit’ these days. I hadn’t taken part in a serious whitewater expedition for years, and three months before departure, I fell off my mountain bike and bust my shoulder. When the Easter hols finally came and I checked my kayak in at Heathrow, I had barely paddled at all in 2010 and the grim freezing drought that had gripped the UK’s rivers meant that the same went for the other members of the group. What could possibly go wrong?
It’s possible that getting to the Thuli Bheri was the riskiest part of the whole venture. Reeling from the twenty hour Delhi to Nepal bus ride, not to mention five hours stuck at the most fly infested border crossing on earth, we squeezed seven kayaks into the hold of a small aeroplane. The remaining space was filled up by ourselves; yes, we had our very own plane! The excitement that this generated was soon eclipsed by utter gibbering terror. Although our plane climbed steeply into the dawn skies, all manner of things kept whizzing perilously close past the windows. Things that shouldn’t rightly have been anywhere near us; trees, villages, water buffalo and most disturbingly, mountainsides. Craning our necks, we caught a brief glimpse of immense snow-capped Himalayan summits. Our attention was then diverted to the view straight ahead through the pilot’s cockpit, completely blocked by a rapidly approaching cliff face. Our fear-addled brains barely had time to compute that we were all going to die RIGHT NOW, before the plane came to a shuddering, jarring halt. Shocked to find that we were still alive (I really did pinch myself), the realisation slowly dawned that the pilot had landed the plane by flying into the cliff and at the last possible moment, soaring over the cliff rim to collide with an uphill-sloping patch of uneven stony ground, no larger than a football field.
We had arrived in style, but where exactly were we? The Thuli Bheri river drains the glaciers of Dhaulagiri (the world’s seventh highest mountain) and flows through Dolpo, a roadless and inaccessible region. Sat on a heap of kayaking gear on Juphail airstrip, we slowly absorbed our surroundings. Buddhist prayer flags fluttered in the wind, whilst ethnically Tibetan porters prodded and sized up our kayaks. Emerald green terraces formed staircases ascending the hillsides surrounding us, stretching upwards into the arid flanks of unnamed 20 000 foot peaks. Deep below us, our river was a winding ribbon of silver along the valley floor, at this distance giving no clues as to what it held in store for us. For a bunch of weekend warriors who short days before had been living our mundane UK lives, this was pretty mind-blowing stuff.
There is no such thing as paradise, however. Our Shangri-La illusion was dented somewhat by the quasi-official fellow who appeared from nowhere to exhort a large pile of dollars from us for … well, we’re not sure what. Thankfully it wasn’t long before we were packing our kayaks at the river’s edge, ready to paddle away and wash off the irritation of corrupt bureaucracy. Simon K took a bit longer to reach the river, partly as he had the heaviest kayak (his gear included an espresso pot) but mainly because his porter turned out to be the village drunk!
For those who haven’t tried it, paddling a loaded kayak is exactly like paddling an unloaded kayak, except that the kayak doesn’t work any more. As we veered clumsily from one bank of the Thuli Bheri to another, we were reminded of our complete lack of practice in previous months. We prayed that the river would at least offer a gentle initiation to its whitewater. We obviously didn’t pray hard enough, because the very first rapid we came to, located beside a Buddhist monastery, was rather long, steep and scary; thanks for nothing, Buddha. So, how did it go? Paddling gingerly forward on the brink of an intimidating horizon line, the first challenge was to remember how you actually paddle whitewater; it had after all been a long time… Boof the top ledge, struggle desperately to line up the sluggish boat for the gnarly main chute, tuck in and try to stay upright, whilst everything goes white and rocks fly past disconcertingly close. My memory of it all is rather vague as I was mostly upside-down, but I did thankfully recall how to roll. Simon K was less lucky, and took a swim; we chased him for some considerable distance before fishing him out, and he wasn’t a happy bunny after this confidence-sapping experience.
The Thuli Bheri is actually less committing than you might imagine, as a major trail follows the river along its entire length. A seemingly unbroken chain of brightly adorned ponies, mules and donkeys continuously plods along this highway, lugging rice and salt up the valley. This meant that rudimentary food and shelter was available in villages and huts, had we wanted it. However, we’d made the decision to ‘wild camp’ away from the trail and to cook for ourselves; partly to avoid being over-run by hordes of nauseatingly cute inquisitive children (not that this worked), partly to avoid stomach complaints (this didn’t work either) but mainly because Kevin fancies himself as the love child of Ray Mears and Bear Grylls. The first night’s camp set the template for the trip. Firstly, our kayaks would be emptied, yielding enough expensive gizmos to stock a sizeable outdoor shop. Next, we would scrabble to stake out the sleeping spot least infested by donkey dung. Kevin would then conjure up an impressively complex hearth from rocks, twigs and (we suspected) donkey dung, and we’d commence cooking. Is it appropriate to categorise pouring boiling water into a sachet of colourless lumpy powder as ‘cooking’? The resulting ‘meals’ provided the main focus of conversation for the rest of the evening, as we hotly debated what precisely it might be that we were eating and whose meal tasted the worst. Incidentally, any leftover discussion time would be devoted to evaluating toilet visits, with ‘movements’ rated on an ascending scale of 1 (suffering from amoebic dysentery) to 10 (passing breeze blocks). When the first stars were lit above the valley, we would already be dozing off in our bivvy bags.
Well, how about that river? I’m loathe to give too much away, because I simply wouldn’t do it justice and because if by any chance it sounds like your sort of thing, then you really must go paddle it and then you don’t want me spoiling it for you, do you? Suffice to say that the second day saw us descending through the ‘Golden Canyon’, and the name says it all. Were you to design the ultimate dream day of scenic continuous ‘read and run’ boating, with the occasional inspection or portage to stretch your legs, this is precisely what it would look like. The third day quickly degenerated into a contest to find out who could crane their neck the furthest whilst clinging to tiny eddies, as the river steepened alarmingly. Late in the day, communication meltdown lead to Jim nearly falling off a cliff whilst portaging and the team camping split apart on opposite banks of the river. The fourth day began almost restfully, as we hired porters to shoulder our kayaks around a few kilometres of river that crossed the threshold into ‘hero boating’ territory. Our idyllic stroll was quickly forgotten however, as we launched back into a Thuli Bheri that had accumulated a respectable amount of volume and power. As the day wore on, an excess of strenuous inspecting and portaging saw Matt crumple and almost give up on the whole thing, surprising to the rest of us as he was Scottish (and therefore Nails). His moment of weakness was explained when it turned out that he’s not actually a Scot but just lives in Scotland…
The final day dawned with the burning question, had we now completed it all? The answer was a rapid and resounding “No!” The Thuli Bheri threw a final series of chunky complex rapids at us that challenged, inspired, entertained, scared and kicked in equal measure. One particular stopper saw three paddlers backloop in synchronised succession, and I experienced an intimate moment or two with a pourover that had “Game Over” scrawled all over it. Simon K hadn’t exactly been feeling the love since his uber-swim on the first day, but had now regained his confidence and completed the river back on form. Eventually, this fabulous whitewater had to ease off; it had after all been constant for 100 kilometres! As we passed the confluence with the Sani Bheri River, the Thuli Bheri’s ceaseless energy was finally tamed into the wide shimmering pools and braided channels of the Bheri River.
In hindsight, a day or two paddling the Bheri River’s jungle gorges down to the main highway would have offered an appealingly relaxing and contemplative end to our adventure. But everybody is an expert in hindsight. Instead, we impatiently decided to abandon the river and carry our kayaks up to the road in the hope of hitching a lift down the valley. Stupid is as stupid does; what we hadn’t realised (if we’d bothered to ask) was that the road down the valley hadn’t actually been completed. The next twenty-four hours saw us enduring a series of the worst bus journeys imaginable; suffering innumerable bruises and welts from bouncing up and down on the top of buses (too hot and crowded inside), withering in heat and dust on roadsides during breakdowns, blubbing with fear as the bus skittered along cliff edges, contracting yet more intestinal nasties from some dubious Dahl Bhat and bedding down to sleep in what someone less positive than myself might categorise as a chicken run. But, what did we care? We’d just paddled the wonderful and unsurpassable Thuli Bheri River, and nothing could dent our elation. The fact that two weeks later we still haven’t made it home and are still here in Delhi has still not detracted from our Thuli Bheri experience. Admittedly though, another week stuck here might begin to…
Mark Rainsley is trapped at Delhi Airport with Matt Brook, Kevin Francis, Mark Gawler, Jim Green, Simon Knox and Simon Wiles.
More images here.
Further Information: The Thuli Bheri offers 100 kilometres of world class whitewater. The rapids are mostly continuous Grade 4 and 4+, but you will have to paddle some stiff Grade 5 to complete the river without excessive portaging. The river can be accessed by chartering a plane within Nepal, best arranged through a reputable operator such as Equator Expeditions. Western Nepal is reached by long bus journeys from either Kathmandu or Delhi (quicker, but including an awful border crossing). For detailed information, seek out the second edition of Pete Knowles’ inspirational guidebook ‘White Water Nepal’ – http://www.riverspublishing.co.uk.
Postscript: Our group was seven, but should have been eight. As we planned our Thuli Bheri adventure, our good friend Chris Wheeler was the very first to commit and book his flights. Then last November, Chris tragically lost his life in an accident on the River Dart, whilst enjoying his favourite river at his favourite water level. All of us who went on to paddle the Thuli Bheri were close friends of Chris. We each cherish our own personal feelings about and memories of Chris, but whilst on the Thuli, one thing only needed to be said, and it was said repeatedly; “Chris would have loved this”. For reasons hard to elucidate, knowing this enhanced our enjoyment of the river no end.
Chris in Bolivia, 2005
…there we were, having a chocolate break, chatting about how amazing it was to see hundreds of porpoises continually surfacing around us…when 9000 kilos of Minke Whale surfaced, full length, directly in front of us. Which was nice.
Actually the fellow in the picture above was not the same whale; this is another fellow whom we met an hour or so later. At one point, our first whale suddenly surfaced directly alongside us (looming over us) at point blank range, within touching distance; but I was so shocked/ scared that I couldn’t even operate the camera!
Many more Shetland Isles pictures here.
Thanks to all who came along this weekend and participated – we had around eighty paddlers on the water. Thanks most of all to the numerous volunteers who helped run trips; the event hangs together by the thread of your generous assistance. Everyone I spoke to (and I’ve spoken to a lot of people this weekend…) enjoyed their paddle trips with you. Thanks also to the speakers who entertained us on Saturday night and to PH Kayaks for bringing lots of toys down for folk to play with. I’ve already spoken to the Pig’s Nose Inn and passed on our thanks for letting them use the hall.
I had actually forgotten just how attractive and unique the South Hams coast is, and I particularly enjoyed the fantastic swelly rockhopping through the reefs east of Salcombe (that I believe accounted for a few swimmers…). I’ve also met some great people, so I’ve had a great weekend myself. However the really good news is that – although I have yet to do the final sums – the event raised well in excess of £1000 for Devon Air Ambulance and Dartmoor Rescue Group. This is a very long way past sums raised on previous meets. I will post up the final figures in the next few days.
Just a note to say that all is ready for the weekend. A reminder that the general information bumf is here. Some friends are already down at the campsite; apparently the sun is shining.
Tomorrow I take delivery of a large half-barrel barbeque; this will be available for use on Saturday evening, bring your own food along to cook on it.
See you all on Saturday morning, or in the Pig’s Nose Inn late on Friday night…
The photo above is from our recent trip to the Shetland Isles, about which my wife Heather will be doing a talk on the Saturday night…