(April-May of 1990)
(Arun, Bhote Kosi, Sun Kosi, Trisuli Rivers)
On April 8, 1990 we (I and my friend Sasha Gorb) have set off to conquer the Himalayan rivers. And it was so.
As the direct flight of Aeroflot to Nepal was not, we have arrived from Moscow to Delhi with the purpose to reach therefrom Kathmandu by a train and a bus. The trip from the international airport Delhi to the railway station has deeply impressed me - you see, I was in India for the first time. Beyond the bus window the odd tropical trees grew, taxi-motorscooters and bicycle-"rikshas" scurried, men were in local clothes, and woman in "sahri" - in common, there was in full swing the life, absolutely not similar to our, Soviet. Sasha did not completely speak English, therefore it was necessary to me alone to carry the dialogue with surroundings. At the railway station in cash departments for foreign tourists we have purchased the second class tickets for the evening train to Gorakhpur. While we waited for arrival of the train, around us the legless and armless boys crept and asked for an alms. The boarding the train into the carriage of the second class has surprised - there were the wild press, very many people (as in the most bad common Soviet carriage). We have hardly made the way to our places (specified in the ticket), but they have turned out to be engaged. It was necessary to go in terrible lack of space. In addition Sasha has reflected valiantly the attempt of one of smiled neighbours to survey slowly our rucksack for appropriation of something from its contents (by the way, in India and Nepal many people make a living out of it). Only at night the people had dispersed, and it was possible for us to sleep. In the morning have arrived to Gorakhpur. Have purchased the ticket for the bus just up to Kathmandu. Have at first reached Sonauli - the Indian township near the frontier with Nepal. Have quickly passed the border and custom check both on the Indian, and on the Nepalese parties.
And in a pair of hours we have gone away in the bus to Kathmandu, where have arrived in the morning of following day. Having left Sasha with things at the bus station, I have found the house of my acquaintance Ram (learning in the Soviet Union), got to know his brothers and then have gone for Sasha and things.
For the following day we were noted at the USSR Embassy (to the point, we were surprised by the counter astonishment of the officer from the consular department, which has asked: "And why do you need to be registered? " - after all, we have got used that abroad the appropriate state-security "organs" (KGB) watch vigilantly for the Soviet people, and it was considered the normal). And then the searches of the channel, through which the registration of rafting on the Nepalese rivers should be realized, have begun. From Central Immigration Office (where all tourists-trekkers receive permits) we have be sent to Ministry of Tourism.
There we have received the forms of the appropriate questionnaire and permits. After their filling we have gone to the section-officer, which answered at Ministry of Tourism for rafting. However here an unforeseen thing began. The fact is, that our purpose in Nepal was the rafting down Everest on the Dudh Kosi River. I rather long prepared to just this route, including from the point of view of overcoming different formalities. Yet one year before our trip to this country I have left at the secretary of Nepalese Embassy in Moscow Mr.Prosai the inquiry about whether is it possible to raft on the Dudh Kosi River from Khumbu Glacier. In a few months Mr.Prosai has received the answer from Nepal: "yes, it is possible". And the secretary of Embassy has wished me to raft successfully on the Dudh Kosi. Except official correspondence, I have asked the acquainted Muscovite-Nepalese, which went for vacation home, to find out, whether do tourist firms carry out the rafting on the Dudh Kosi, and if yes, for which price. This Nepalese has informed me, that rafting on the river, interesting me, is organized by a few firms, in particular, by "Tiger Tops" for 50 dollars per a day, and by some firms - even cheaper. And though those seven Nepalese tourist firms, with which I conducted correspondence, were not busy in the rafting on the Dudh Kosi (and have carried out rafting, in basic, on the Sun Kosi and Trisuli Rivers), I had not the basis to don't trust the information of this Moscow Nepalese. But the validity has turned out to be more sad considerably. At Ministry of Tourism it was declared, that freely to raft in Nepal we can only on eight so called commercial rivers - the Sun Kosi, Trisuli, Arun and etc. The rafting on the other rivers is necessary to put in order as expeditions. For that it is necessary to have the letter from the USSR Embassy in Nepal with the appropriate request. We with Sasha understood, that the USSR Embassy will not give us the such letter (what for it the responsibility for us?). Therefore we have decided to try to use another variant - through tourist firms. However, as it has appeared, here takes place the misinformation also. There are no any tourist firms (including "Tiger Tops") carried out the rafting on the Dudh Kosi. At last, it was possible to agree with the chiefs of one of firms that their guide will accompany us (naturally, not free-of-charge) on the Dudh Kosi, and they will undertake the registration. But when they have contacted with NARA - Nepalese association of guides-rafters (all raftings of tourist firms are registered just there), the president of the association has told, that we should have gone personally to him, and he will explain terms of NARA for realization of similar rafting. Having been held then the meeting has not brought us an anything good. President Hari Rai has informed, that before the similar rafting we should bring in the pawning of 45,000 Nepalese Rupees (it is about 1,500 American dollars) for the call of a helicopter in case of any incident at the rafting and the pawning of 100,000 Rupees (that is 3,500 dollars about) as the individual insurance for our guide. At last, according to the rules of NARA, the expedition cannot consist of less, than two crews (but we were going to raft in one two-seater catamaran), therefore NARA will expose its crew (it will be the second), and accordingly we should bring in the pawning for insurance of members of crew of the second boat. In a total we should lay out the pawning of twelve thousands dollars.
And yet it was required to allocate 1,000 Rupees to the tourist firm, to pay each accompanist 7 dollars per every day and to supply with a meal, spending the night, transport and others. But as we with Sasha had total 600 dollars for both us only, the bargain with NARA was not held.
Thus, the variant with the Dudh Kosi in this expedition has failed. We had to postpone the travelling on the Dudh Kosi till the following arrival to Nepal. And on which rivers have we to raft now? Once again overlooking the list of the commercial rivers of Nepal, I have selected three of them - the Arun, Sun Kosi and Trisuli. The fact is, that my interest in Nepal was not limited by the rafting down Everest only. Hereinafter I was going to raft down from all 8-km-mountains of the world, the majority of which is on territory of Nepal or adjoins (Mt.Shisha Pangma) to it. So here, from the 8-km-mountain Makalu there flows down the Barun River, falling into the Arun, and from Shisha Pangma - the Bhote Kosi River, falling into the Sun Kosi, and also (as then it seemed me) the Trisuli River. We have solved to raft on these rivers. The registration of the appropriate papers and the reception of permits has taken some time - two days. After this we have set off to the Barun-Arun. By the bus have reached at first Dharan, and then - Basantpur, from which the trekking began.
Passing Khanberi and Num, we have reached Lamobagar.
Up to the Barun there were left the several kilometers. But the local policeman have not been satisfied with our documents. Therefore he allowed me only (and for one day) to reach the Barun River. This river has turned out to be shallow and possible for rafting on the last two hundred meters only (upstream there were the waterfalls in stone slots, and the trail was not as along the right, as along the left bank). I was enforced to raft on the Barun and on the first of the Arun site (to Lamobagar almost) singly. Although the level of water in Arun was low there, I met several rapids of 5 grade according to the Soviet classification (it is equal to 4 grade of international grouping, the difference between these classifications is 1 grade usually) with holes, rollers and big stones. Because of the above-mentioned problem with police, we became to raft on the Arun together much lower Lamobagar only (from the settlement Uwa). Up to Num and farther to Kumaltar the rapids on this river are very severe (of 5 and 6 severity grade), but passable. The difficult-to-pass (almost impassable because of an abundance of boulders) rapids were met by us. But particularly dangerous rapid (with big slope and great hole across the whole river) is located after the main bridge near Num (after a right tributary), we didn’t pass the first half of this obstacle.
After Chandanpur the river slows down the run and is broken into channels. It has such character after Tumlingtar also. Below Ahnuwa Beltar the Arun River turns to south in Mahabharat region and enters in a gorge, in which number of rapids of 4 (sometimes 5) severity grade (sg) is located. The stones in the channel are not almost present. The basic obstacles are rollers and "holes". Only shortly before the meeting with the Sun Kosi and Tamur Rivers the Arun calms down secondary and finally. After this confluence the river is called the Sapt Kosi already. It at first flows in beautiful gorge, and in a hour of rafting is pulled out from the Himalayas on plain (further it will slowly creep to the Ganges). And the rafting comes to the end. We have finished in Chatara – the settlement on the left bank of the river. The Arun from the mouth of the Bunar has turned out to be the rather severe river, and the powerful rapids on it frequently forced us to work with all strength, the high rollers from time to time covered us with a head. But any incidents (turnings over, the breakages and other) during our rafting did not happen. After arrival to Chatara we have reached Dharan in a jeep, and therefrom in a bus - Kathmandu. At once after it, because of some family circumstances, Sasha was compelled to leave home (through Delhi), and I have remained alone with my plans.
In a day I have set off to the Bhote Kosi and Sun Kosi Rivers, on which the water route down Shisha Pangma passes. Together with a porter in a bus I have reached Barabise, and in the other bus - Kodari, being on border with Tibet (China). From here the Tibetian township Khasa with the characteristic for Tibet many-storey lay-out is perfectly seen. Kodari and Khasa are divided by the bridge over the Bhote Kosi, which is the frontier between Nepal and China. Across the bridge the road between Kathmandu and Lhasa - capitals of Nepal and Tibet - runs. And there is the sole frontier post, through which the foreigners pass from Nepal to China or back.
I have begun the rafting in a catamaran lower Kodari in one-two kilometers about. Here on the Bhote Kosi the obstacles of 5 and 6 severity grade are. After Tatopani and Tengtali the river flows in a canyon of 5-6 sg. In the upper sector of the river (from the rafting start to the canyon end) I made three portages. Before Barabise the Bhote Kosi calms down. And after two kilometers it falls into the Sun Kosi River, on which I have continued the rafting. Soon it was necessary to make the carrying of the catamaran: the river was blocked by a dam (it was about in the middle of way between Barabise and Lamosangu). After Lamosangu over the Sun Kosi there is the bridge; from it on the left bank the road leaves to Jiri – the starting point of the foot route to Everest region. On the site from the dam up to Dolalghat the severe obstacles are not present. Then the Sun Kosi moves aside from the road and turns south-east. In Dolalghat I have said good-bye to the porter, which up to this place went on the bank with my rucksack. Having loaded the catamaran with the property, I have become to raft on the Sun Kosi alone. Beginning from Dumja on the river there was the number of rapids of 3-4 grade. But the most dangerous rapids of the Sun Kosi are after its left tributary Nolung before the Dudh Kosi. On this site there are three powerful jet rapids "Harkhapur" of 5 severity grade. After the falling into the Sun Kosi of its left tributary Dudh Kosi, running down Everest, the Sun Kosi River calms down. But before the confluence of it with the Arun, on the Sun Kosi there are met the several local powerful rapids of 4-5 grade. After the junction of the Sun Kosi and the Arun (and - in 200 m - of the Tamur also) I already the second time have rafted on the Sapt Kosi and again have finished the route in Chatara, whence through Dharan has come back to Kathmandu.
And, at last, there has come a turn of the last river in my plans of rafting, the Trisuli. On it from the very beginning I was alone. Have started in Trisuli Bazar, where have reached from Kathmandu by bus. The assembly of my catamaran was observed by about hundred (or even more) spectators - half of the township poured out on the bank. But there is nothing to describe especially the purely rafting from Trisuli Bazar to Narayanghat. The river has turned out to be the most easy (of 3-4 sg) from all rivers, passed by me in Nepal. But as almost over the whole its length (except for the first site) along it there is the road (connecting Kathmandu with Delhi) with very intensive movement of transport, the Trisuli is the most popular for rafting of foreign tourists river of Nepal (the Sun Kosi - in the second place). Here dozens of tourist firms make rafting of hundreds of the foreign tourists in big rafts.
The guides-professionals, leading these rafts, manage to inspire clients-tourists with that the Trisuli is the very-very dangerous river, and on each meter roller these tourists squeal from delight. Does a human need much?
Having finished the rafting on the Trisuli, I have come back to Kathmandu the last time. Then for 450 Rupees (about 15 US dollars) I have purchased the bus ticket to Delhi, have reached in a bus Bhairahawa, have crossed the Nepalese-Indian frontier and in other bus have reached the capital of India.
These 1.5 days of contiguous shaking in dust (from border to Delhi) will for ever remain in my memory, but not as the best memoirs. Having tramped during the day through capital of India, I have got on the bus, following to the international airport. The truth is, before it a small incident has taken place. For some time I have left without a care my rucksack at the bus station. And when have come back, have not found out it on the spot. It has appeared, that the local policemen, being afraid of an act of terrorism, took my rucksack away to self. And I had to prove during hour, that I am not the terrorist. However, have proved.
At the international airport Delhi an unpleasant surprise waited me - it was necessary to pay for using of the airport 300 Indian Rupees (that is 20 American dollars). Fortunately, they at me were (but, you see, could without fuss not be, as about such service of airports I heard noting before it - in the Soviet Union we always took off from airports free-of-charge).
In the evening of May 14,1990 by the flight of Aeroflot I have taken off from Delhi to Moscow. By this the expedition was finished.
Now I want to say about received impressions. The Nepaleses are very affable, are friendly, however steal. Once during my rest on the bank at the rafting on the Trisuli River there have been stolen my jacket with money and passport. After this it was necessary for me to receive in the USSR Embassy the document about returning to motherland (a sheet of paper with my photo and seal of Embassy; at the crossing the Nepalese-Indian border one white foreigner has asked me spitefully: "Is it your passport?", I with imperturbable aspect have answered: "Yes"). However, what to me was not pleasant in Nepaleses and Indians, the fact, that for the slightest help to you (for example, for one-meter moving of your rucksack; moreover they render this help on their initiative without any your request) they require money and arrange large scandal, if you have not paid them at once.
In Nepal there are very cheap hotels and travel in regular buses, however in such bus three places in width are equal to our two. And as we with Sasha are not ailing fellows (we are the ex-sportsmen-rowers), for the third person (Nepalese) it was heavily to sit on one bench with us (however, for us too). The local food is cheap too (European, certainly, is much more expensive). Therefore we for all time ate "dalh-bat" (rice with vegetables - the cheapest Nepalese food) and drank the Nepalese tea with milk (tea - magnificent, very tasty).
Kathmandu - the small nice town (though dirty). To the end of expedition I knew it not worse Moscow and without any misgivings walked through its suburbs at night time (robberies in Nepal are practically away). To move through Kathmandu it is possible in different ways (depending on the thickness of your purse) – on foot, by bicycle-riksha, in car-taxi, in motorscooter-taxi, in "tempo" (motorscooter, going along the certain route, with cabin for six passengers). "Tempo" - the cheapest type of transport (not counting the all-time filled to overflowing regular town buses with hanging down as bunches people). It about ten times is cheaper than bicycle-riksha.
Unfortunately, in Kathmandu (also in all flat Nepalese and Indian towns and settlements) it is necessary to be afraid to drink the unboiled water - in the water from water-pipes there are a lot of sickly microbes; many Nepaleses because of it are sick. Therefore it is necessary to drink either tea, or "bottle" mineral water, or "Coca Cola" (or anything similar). However in mountains the situation changes. On the one hand, there sharply rises in price "Coca Cola" at local small shops and restaurants. And on the other hand, the water from streams becomes perfect safe (in mountains the microbes are absent). During trekking and rafting I constantly drank water from the mountain streams, but haven't diarrhoea.
It is very interesting to make a trekking on mountain trails. They contiguously either climb upwards, or descend downwards, frequently run on pendant foot-bridges over mountain small river, time from time pass past many-storey rice fields.
During the rafting on the Arun there were many wild monkeys. At first it was unusual, but then we have got used to them.
And the great thing. For this expedition I have for the first time felt self by the person of the world, just of the whole world, but not by the citizen of the USSR only. I have sensed such freedom, which before in the USSR could not feel. I freely communicated with foreigners from the whole world, and anybody did not stand between us. The ideological barriers have disappeared, and the dialogue with simple Americans, Englishmen, Germans delivered huge pleasure. Nepal was the first foreign country, which I have visited, but from it my children's dream of travellings all over the world began to come true.
So, my first Himalayan water expedition was finished. It has passed successfully - the Nepalese rivers Barun, Arun, Bhote Kosi, Sun Kosi and Trisuli were rafted. But I knew, that shall return to Nepal again without fail. As the other rivers, flowing down 8-km-mountains, and, first of all, the Dudh Kosi, were not yet rafted by me. I left to come back.