Nothing sums up my love for adventure kayaking more than my recent trip down the Humla Karnali (see trip report here). All the elements that make kayaking trips so incredible came together to form a fantastic experience and I am going to try and define and share them with you. I would be keen to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
What makes expedition-kayaking trips so incredibly addictive?
1. Absorbing, relishing and respecting the hype and history.
2. Winging, blagging and negotiating the logistics.
3. Hiking, portaging, hucking and boofing the Adventure.
4. Winding, drifting and charging through many landscapes.
5. Waving, embracing and feeling the Nepalese culture.
6. The team.
1. The Hype and History
Ever since I had heard about Mount Kailash and the infamous 4 rivers that flow from it’s slopes I have wanted to join each of them on their journey winding and diving through countless cultures, landscapes and environments. The upper reaches of the Sutlej which flows west into India has been of my wish list since I paddled the lower section back in 2005. The Indus keeps popping as many friends have paddled sections of the river. As for the Yarlung Tsanpo, I have resigned myself that a paddle across the Tibetan plateau or one of its tribs before it drops into the deepest and most inaccessible gorges in the world would suffice. The Humla Karnali has been playing in my mind since my first trip to Nepal back in 2004.
2. The Logistics
I only had vague dreams of doing the Humla when I arrived in Pokhara by myself. Within 1 day of arrival I had met 2 other kayakers travelling solo. Within a few hours of meeting them I would say we ‘got on’. The next day the Humla seed was planted and flights home were being changed. The day after was spent frantically getting insurance, gear, food and other bits together for the 10-day trip down the Humla. Nothing like cramming your plans for such an undertaking into 2 days! Only in kayaking can you meet people and pull off an off-the-cuff expedition such as this. Every thing from getting plane tickets, getting boats of buses and hiring porters need some vague combination of the ability to wing things, luck, negotiation skills and quite a bit of patience. All of these make for a fast paced ever-changing adventure even before you get to the river and play such an important part in shaping the experience.
Just a fraction of the food we tool with us[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/winging-it/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02308.jpg]Nepalganj Airport
Waiting in anticipation that our boats will get on the flight without extortionate prices[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/winging-it/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02314.jpg]Paul negotiating for flight
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/winging-it/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02316.jpg]Paul resting after said negociaions
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/winging-it/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02359.jpg]2nd round of negotiations with porters
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/winging-it/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02367.jpg]Paul making plans
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/winging-it/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02456.jpg]Finally sorted porters
3. The Adventure
It’s not hard to imagine how exciting it is bundling your gear in the back of a small plane, flying over the Himalayan foot hills, glimpsing the river that will be your adventure for the next 10 days before landing on a mountain top kingdom a mere 380km before the bridge where you have to get out!
Flying into the Humla Karnali
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-flying/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02329.jpg]One loaded plane! 3 kayaks no problem
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-flying/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02327.jpg]Chatting to the pilots
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-flying/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02328.jpg]A bit nervous
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-flying/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02332.jpg]Coming into land
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-flying/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02337.jpg]On the tarmac at Simikot
Flying into the Humla Karnali
Camping on a trip like this in fundamental to the adventure for me. Every night you paddle until you feel you can’t paddle any longer or until you see a great place to camp. Each campsite possess its own logistical challenges, presence it’s own sense of charm and generates it’s own inevitable crowd of intrigued on-lookers. Within minutes a whole campsite has sprung out of our small dry bags in the back of our boats. Meals of spaghetti with peanut butter, rice and lentils, tofu balls and rice get feasted on……and they have never tasted soooo good!
This proved to be a nightmare as it rained all night and the cave was far from waterproof.[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02505.jpg]Our porter keeping warn by the fire
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02544.jpg]Some smooth tarp making skills
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02545.jpg]Colin on the Tofu Balls
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02548.jpg]Avid Onlookers at camp
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02553.jpg]Pine forest camp
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02596.jpg]Chilling at camp on the lower humla
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02602.jpg]A cracking camp on a secluded plateau above the river
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02603.jpg]Chef Colin getting to work.
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02640.jpg]Chilling after a hard day
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02647.jpg]Beach Campsite
The last few days the lanscape flatten out some what providing us with fantastic beaches to camp on[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02681.jpg]A sick Colin feeling sorry for himself
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02683.jpg]No shortage of firewood here.
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/adventure-camping/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02703.jpg]A classic Humla shot
Every day we were faced with a huge variety of white water showering us with endorphins and testing our skills as individuals and as a team. There was fantastic ‘read and run‘ rapids which involved pushing our limits of what we could kayak safely without the hassle of inspecting from the bank. There is also plenty of tactical ‘eddy hopping’ which involves creeping down the side of the river using hand signal to communicate the safe line to your teammates. And not to forget the abundance of rapids that are way beyond what is kayakable that need to be portaged…. along with some that need quite a lot of soul searching! Video coming soon on this one…
4. The Landscapes
The Humla Karnali drops through an incredible about of diverse landscapes. You start in Nepalganj, which is a hot, dirty, boarder-line malaria zone, dive of a town. A 45-minute flight later and you’re in Simikot, perched at 3,000 meters, surrounded snow capped peaks with cool fresh mountain air and a relaxed atmosphere to match. It’s on the main trekking and trade route to mount Kailas and Tibet making it quite bustling pleasant village and we can only hope it stays this way.
Around and about Simikot
The landscapes down the Humla
During the next 10 days we experienced gale force winds, 24 hours of rain and thankfully mostly warm sunny days and cool star ridden nights. We drifted through arid landscapes with emaciated cattle cooling in the river. We dinned on a bowls of tuna, nuts and mayo under palm trees. We filmed each other kayaking with monkeys running along the steep banks. We camped on plateaus in red rock canyons. Tributaries came galloping down valleys carving their own art work before joining us on our journey. We saw geology that would send any geologists bonkers!
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/lanscapes/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02494.jpg]Day 1 on the Humla
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/lanscapes/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02507.jpg]Our home for a night
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/lanscapes/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02512.jpg]Loki Khola confluence
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/lanscapes/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02649.jpg]Early morning rapids
[img src=http://www.venturesomeliving.co.uk/wp-content/flagallery/lanscapes/thumbs/thumbs_dsc02663.jpg]Some amazing scenery on the paddle out
5. The Nepalese Culture
I can’t quite describe it so I am just going to throw it at the page. Some of you may get it, some not.
Can’t hire porters. We only go as three. Throwing rocks. You owe us money. You don’t have to pay. Pay what you like. Namaste. No Problem. Big Problem. Come to my village. Welcome Nepal, What is your country. Describe your country. Dhal Bhat. Looking, Looking. Looking. Oh many things. Many many things. Namaste. No bus today my friend. Boat on the roof. Come dancing at my house. Happy 2069. Byni. Didi. Tilt of the head. Teekcha. Watching watching watching. Que Garni. Music on buses. Horn Please. Stunning mountain villages. Clean your feet. Throw rubbish on the floor. Incredible smiles, no teeth, Happy happy snotty children. Photo photo.
I could go on….
6. The Team
The world wide kayaking community seems to conjure up some rather ‘special’ characters. This trip did not disappoint.
A few interviews with the Team…..!
‘Team�Special’ try and take a group photo
You can view all of my photos from the trip on Facebook here