Kayaking – Lower Seti

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One of the catalysts for going travelling and exploring the world in search of adventure was the excessive amount of time I spent looking at websites such as National Geographic, RedBull, and Outside, as well as various websites of adventure photographers. Among those there were athletes paddling down insanely steep waterfalls and dangerous rapids, all in remote, exotic and beautiful places in the wilderness.

This all looked like a lot of fun.

We had done a fair share of kayaking, including around parts of the Welsh coast, past stunning scenery along the beautiful River Wye, and some stormy Irish coastal waters.

While we were trekking the Annapurna Circuit, we walked along some powerful rivers, which carved their paths throuh the mountains with ferocious power.

I couldn’t help but imagine that being in a little kayak, crashing down through the rapids, would be a lot of fun!

So, back in Pokhara we booked on to a three-day expedition down the Lower Seti River.

On the first day arriving at the river, we set up our kayaks. Just down from our entry point were some very small looking rapids: not even proper white water, just a few small waves to bounce over.

Easy, I thought.

I was slightly worried for Lindsay as she was a bit apprehensive, but she glided over the small waves effortlessly. A quick sigh of relief, then I confidently took my turn. I hit the rapids, thought this was fun, then just as quickly capsized and swallowed what felt like my own weight in water! Bollocks. I assumed I was going to be an instant expert at this.

Over the next few hours we were taught some basic manoeuvring techniques for white water, paddled our way through ever bigger rapids, and I kept on taking in more river water than I would like to admit. Lindsay, however, was still gliding over all obstacles that came her way.

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We eventually stopped at our first campsite, along a beautiful stretch of the river with a secluded, white sandy beach. A raft that followed us down was carrying all the equipment we needed, so while we were fed and watered, our guides set everything up for us. In the afternoon, before the sun dropped quickly out of sight behind the steep rocky mountains towering over us, we were shown how to eskimo roll. And then practiced ourselves. This mostly involved our senior instructor submerging us underwater, upside-down in our kayaks, then yanking our arms in a direction where we should then have been able to put an end to our drowning, right ourselves out of the water, ready to continue on our way with a breath of fresh air. In reality, we were kept underwater for what seemed like an eternity, all the while our instructor demanded why we couldn’t eskimo roll already, pulled us in all directions like rag dolls, and seemed confused and angered as to why we weren’t listening to him or following his instructions!

This was our first day. I too was bewildered why I wasn’t an expert already. In the evening, we managed to relax, warm up by a campfire and enjoy the view of the Milky Way.

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Over the next two days, I capsized more times than was really necessary, we paddled our way through ever bigger, wilder and adrenaline-inducing rapids, and had to practice not drowning while our instructor submerged us, adamant he was teaching us how to eskimo roll.

On day two, we were hitting up to grade II rapids, and by day three, we hit a series of grade III rapids. We even had to stop to scout out whether one particular rapid was too dangerous. After seeing it, we assumed it would be considered impassable for us novices, especially after a lot of discussion was had between the instructor and the guides…

“Yep, back in the kayaks. Let’s run it.”

We looked at each other. Shit. It was huge. And from here on, they all were. Our tiny kayaks were always dwarfed by the enormous waves. We tried to paddle as hard as we could to avoid big boulders, and out of strong, swirling holes in the eddies; everything seemed to want to suck us back into the torrent of white water.

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Throughout, the scenery was peaceful and serene. The river was powerful and unforgiving. The whole of the expedition was adrenaline-fuelled, scary and a huge amount of fun. We were terrified, excited and anxious. Most of the time, all three at once. After successfully paddling out of the rapids, alive and upright, we felt relief and jubilance. By the end of the expedition, all feelings merged into addiction – quickly forgetting about the drowning!

We now look forward to the next time we can do something like this. Not sure either of us look forward to practicing eskimo rolls though.


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