For over forty years, Nepal has been an extremely fascinating destination for travelers, scholars, and researchers. For those interested in culture, the Kathmandu valley, is endowed with seven World Heritage sites. This valley was divided into three kingdoms less than a century ago. It now contains countless architectural monuments, and vestiges of varied cultural and religious traditions.
In other chapters we explain about the adventure Nepal provides, here we detail some of the more popular gentle sides of a holiday in our Kingdom including the Kathmandu Valley itself and other major settlements of interest in Nepal.
The Kathmandu Valley:
This verdant valley was once a huge lake, legend dictates that in the middle of the lake was a brilliant flame emanating from a Lotus flower. People would come from miles around to wonder and worship the flame. A Chinese disciple Bodhisattva Manjushree, wishing to worship the flame more closely sliced a portion of the hills with his sword draining its waters and thus the fertile Kathmandu valley was created.
Chovar gorge where the valley waters drain today remains the focus of the legend. In the years since, the Kathmandu valley has seen many dynasties and empires come and go, each leaving their own mark on the valley's mystique.
The valley today incorporates three major settlements, all have their own distinctive character with outstanding temples, works of art and architecture and a varied calendar of feasts and festivals, their roots in being capital cities of the valleys three principality's in times gone by. Between them they boast the highest density of World Heritage Sites to be found anywhere in the World, seven in total. There are many other fascinating settlements in the valley offering their own reasons for being there.
The Capital and home to Nepal's only International Airport is a buzzing vibrant place, although like so many capital cities in the developing world it begins to show signs of congestion over the past few years, this hardly detracts from its mystery and celebration of life. So much history interwoven and sitting strangely in harmony with the modern Kathmandu. Ancient temples in a medieval atmosphere sit side by side with Internet cafes. Old blends with new ways…Welcome to Kathmandu.
Patan (The city of beauty) is situated on the southern bank of the holy river Bagamti (a tributary of the Ganges) some five kilometers southeast of Kathmandu. Nowadays, it has virtually become part of sub metropolitan Kathmandu. The city is famed for its wealth of Buddhist and Hindu temples with an abundance of fine bronze gateways and wonderful carvings. Patan is known for its expert craftsmen and metal workers.
Bhaktapur is situated 14 km east of Kathmandu and is the least developed of the three cities in the valley. Translated Bhaktapur means the city of devotees. The most laid back of the three valley towns its narrow brick paved streets harbor hidden shrines and statues around every corner. It is quite easy to spend a whole day here relaxing and taking in an almost surreal atmosphere. Bhaktapur is famed for its woodcarvings, pottery and cloth weaving. Many of Bhaktapur's practices have changed little over the centuries..
Attractions in Valley include :-
• River sandals like Teas or Alps are the preferred footwear on the river. It is essential that all rafters have footwear that they can wear in the raft, which will not come off in the event of a swim, as this is considered standard safety equipment. Old running shoes will also do.
• Shorts or swimming costume.
• A sarong for women (a long piece of cloth wrapped around your waist) is another good option, and can be purchased cheaply in Nepal. This is invaluable for visiting villages and respecting local custom for dress.
• A baseball style cap and good sunglass is absolutely essential. Sunglasses should be equipped with a retaining device to keep them on your face where they belong.
• Sunscreen (spf 15 or greater and waterproof) is essential DON'T FORGET LIP BALM, SPF 15 MINIMUM!
FOR TREKKING ( Karnali, Marsyangdi and Tamur Expeditions )
• A day pack for the trek to the river.
• Long sleeved thermals top and bottom (long underwear).
• Light and medium weight weaves are the handiest.
• Walking shoes or lightweight hiking boots are a must. People who are used to walking long distances over uneven terrain will do fine with light hiking shoes or even running shoes. Some of the guides will do the trip in Teas, but if you saw their feet, you'd opt for better footwear. Heavy mountaineering boots are more of a burden than a blessing.
• Toilet paper and a lighter- nice to have a spare.
• Optional Items
• Small binocularsfor wildlife viewing in the national parks.
• Camera and film. Also bring a good cleaning kit, as field conditions are harsher than in towns. Spare batteries are also handy.
• Fishing equipment.
• Walk/Discman and tunes.
• Reading and writing material.
• Personal first aid kit.
Perhaps the most important thing you can bring is a good mental attitude...
There is not a lot you can buy on a river in Nepal, bearing that in mind you will not need to take much in the way of money, say 500-1000 rupees (US$15). We'll fill you in on the beer kitty when you get here. Chocolate, sweets and cigarettes are seldom available anywhere on the rivers; so bring a few treats for yourself, they can be great bargaining chips for that massage you may need on the layover day...
A DAY ON THE RAFTING
There are no rules to running rivers other than those dictated by common sense. To enjoy and learn, the participants need to be flexible and adaptive in changing situations. With this in mind here's what we normally plan on any river journey...
We rise at dawn with the sun and wander to the campfire where a huge pot of coffee is waiting. After a hearty breakfast and loading the rafts, we start rafting. We try to get on the water by around 9am. On the river you'll paddle hard through the rapids and cruise in between. On any of the larger volume rivers you could safely say about 30 percent of the time is spent running rapids and 70 percent cruising.
The day's rafting is punctuated with a leisurely lunch break around midday, as well as stops to scout the more challenging rapids, explore temples and villages, waterfalls and other interesting sights. The length of time spent rafting is directly related to our choice of spectacular campsites. Typically we are on the water 4-6 hours each day.
We get into camp around 3-4pm in the afternoon and there is plenty of time to explore and relax. On longer trips there is always a layover day built into the itinerary, a chance to do as little or as much as you wish. These areas are also difficult to get to... it would be a shame to end up rushing.
Evenings are spent around the campfire, drinking hot spiced rum and getting to know the people on the trip. Food is communally prepared, every day a different raft crew helps with the simple preparation of vegetables. The kitchen becomes one of the main social points on the trip, and without a doubt the best place to catch up on the latest gossip or get to know someone better..."Gut that chicken for you, mam?"
After a few days on the river, time has little meaning, river times takes over. Having played hard all day, it's often a surprise to look at your watch before going to bed to find it's only 8pm, whereas you were sure it was closer to 10. The next day we begin all over.
Longer expeditions have the advantages of offering some real heart thumping whitewater with the incredible journeying aspect of a long river trip. With more time on the river, things are more relaxed, relationship progress at a more natural pace, and memories become firmly entrenched for a lifetime. Long after the whitewater has blurred into one long white-knuckled thrilled ride, the memories of a moonrise over the river and the friends you inevitably make will remain.
RAFTING AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Nepal, for its entire massive mountain peaks and impressive geography, is actually an incredibly fragile environment. At Ultimate Descents our lives have revolved around the free flowing river. We feel an increased responsibility to protect and preserve these wild places. Not only do we leave every campsite cleaner than when we've arrived; we've taken steps to protect Nepal's rivers and the people who live along them.
If you would like membership information on the Nepal River Conservation Trust (NRCT) or like to join our yearly trip in September to support Eco-conscious tourism along Nepal's rivers, simply contact us here.
At Ultimate Descents, we take safety very seriously. It is our first and never forgotten priority, and it shows. We employ some of the best rafting guides in the world. These men and women are whitewater professionals, trained in CPR, emergency wilderness first aid and swift-water rescue. Safety kayakers accompany each expedition and can get a person out of trouble faster than anyone else.
Equipment is another element of being prepared for anything. Rafting, like flying, scuba diving or safe sex, is intrinsically dependent on using the most advanced and reliable equipment. We use the best rafts, flotation devices, helmets and paddles available.
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