We meet the bus, which will take us to the Seti River at seven a.m.. The gods are with us again, as the sun is shining and the mountains have come out to play. The starting point of the trip is set against an amazing panorama of peaks, and we load the gear and meet our raft mates. We have two guides, Poona and Poona (should be easy to remember!), Deepak, the safety kayaker, and three nameless cooks. The rafters are a diverse lot, Bob I, from Michigan, Sean from Alaska, Ari from New Zealand, Sylvia, fromSouth Africa, Bob II and Renee from Kansas and us. Sean and Bob I are kayaking, the rest of us load into two rafts, and we’re off. The rapids on this river are class I to III, and it’s not long before we’re shrieking with glee (or terror) through the white water. The countryside is beautiful. Tiny neon-green birds flit over the water as we drift by under rope bridges brimming with waving children, past swimming bays with more kids plunging gleefully naked into the water while their mothers fish and wash laundry. Often we feel we are alone, only to hear the tinkle of goat bells, or come across a dugout canoe tied to the bank. The kids here in the mountains learn responsibility early, as there are many seven-year-olds with babies strapped to their backs, scaling the hillsides with VERY large and sharp sickles at their waists; everyone has a job.
We spend the night at a calm bay our tents nestled under the starry sky. Dinner is prepared with the help of a group of ragged kids who appear out of nowhere selling cold beer! It is absolutely baffling as to where this has arrived from, since we’re a good day from the nearest road or electricity, but the brew is definitely welcome by all.
We rise early to a misty dawn, huddling over steaming mugs of tea. While packing up the gear, Deepak asks if he can teach Liam how to kayak, eyeing the placid waters of the bay, I agree. By nine o’clock we’re packed up and ready to go, but Liam and Deepak are heading into the first rapids by kayak and I’m beginning to get a wee bit concerned. I have always prided myself on encouraging the kids to try new things, however, learning to kayak in a developing country, days’ walk from the nearest help, on a rapids-filled river at the ripe age of nine ...well, even I am a little hesitant. The day wears on, and Liam only returns to the raft for the final and largest rapid; he’s survived and I guess I have too, although I’m sure I have sprouted a few more grey hairs. Deepak was excellent with him, staying by his side through every rapid, until Liam finally sunk the kayak and scrambled in with his newfound hero about noon. We pull into a small bay, where we are to meet our bus to Kathmandu after a light lunch...well, as they say, best-laid plans ... Hmm. After hurriedly unloading the gear and finding our stuff in the barrels, we run up the hill to the road (soaking wet), and hop onto a bus, to find out we only had two seats between the four of us, this was going to be a long five hours! Breakfast had been many hours ago, so we ate hurriedly at the first tea stop before squeezing back into our seats. The kids and I shared the seats while Don stood the whole way...what’s new?