Em's Nepal Update – Kathmandu Life and Kayaking Journies - Mind Body Paddle

Em's Nepal Update – Kathmandu Life and Kayaking Journies

Em's Nepal Update – Kathmandu Life and Kayaking Journies

It’s been one week since we landed in Kathmandu, Nepal.  ”Namaste” – what I had always thought to be a cliche exchange among new-age western hippies has taken on a new meaning, as it is the standard Nepali greeting for “hello.”  It was the first word I heard stepping off the plane into the Kathmandu terminal.  An international airport in a capital city, sizing up no larger than my hometown airport back in Asheville, NC.

Himalayan window Photo: Stef McArdle

Himalayan window
Photo: Stef McArdle

In this whirlwind of a week, my travel companion/co-instructor Stef and I have taken quickly to many Nepali ways of life.  From learning customary gestures like how to hand someone money, to basic Nepali greetings, to navigating the busy streets of Kathmandu, feelings of familiarity and comfort are slowly setting in.   We’ve had so many adventures in our first week already.  Some kayaking, but seeing as rivers and kayaking is what we know and do, more interesting encounters have come in other realms.

Local breakfast stand at the public bus stop

Local breakfast stand at the public bus stop

Walking the streets of Thamel, the tourist filled district in Kathmandu, you can’t help but be honked at, bombarded by street vendors, and called at to come into stores.  It’s quite the stimulus overload having so many sites packed in so close together.  Every store has a myriad of goods displayed outside, to draw the street goer in for more.  Haggling is standard fare, and even if it’s only between 50 cents, I’ve become used to bargaining the best price I can.

streets of kathmandu photo: Stef McArdle

streets of kathmandu
photo: Stef McArdle

Children hanging with a resting cow in Durbar Square, Kathmandu photo: Stef McArdle

Children hanging with a resting cow in Durbar Square, Kathmandu
photo: Stef McArdle

I’ve been a lover of Indian food my whole life, and as Nepali cuisine is highly influenced by its neighbor to the south, I am in dining heaven.  A Chilean kayaker and fellow traveler who we met early on showed us the traditional way to eat with our hands.  An experience I’ve only had with finger foods and random nights as a kid when we would declare “viking night” at dinner, is now extended to basmati rice and dal (thick lentil soup).  Only eat with your right hand though.  The left is for something else…

Fired up to go kayaking, we started our week with a mission to the Trisuli.  This river is a classic big water run located only about 60 km from Thamel, but takes roughly 3 hours on a bus.  We walked our kayaks down the busy streets and loaded up on a public bus that  was headed to a village on the river.  The 3 hour prediction turned into a 4 hour journey, since long bus rides come with a customary lunch stop at a random roadside food vendor for a quick dal bhat meal.  We paddled the Trisuli that day in about 2 and a half hours.  Beautiful scenery, warmish water, and the comfort of sitting in my kayak made it 2 of the most enjoyable hours to date.  This was the moment I felt like we had finally done it.  We were in Nepal, kayaking.  Plane rides, travel expenses, stresses of gear arrival, navigating Kathmandu, a long bus ride, jet lag…it was all behind us and we were doing what we came here for.  The things that make us feel like ourselves, and remind us who we are, are universal in their effect.  Whether I’m kayaking on the Green in my backyard, or a new river in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal, I am always reminded that THIS is what I do, and who I am.

Packing our boats for the Trisuli photo: Stef McArdle

Packing our boats for the Trisuli
photo: Stef McArdle

Walking down to the Trisuli through a field of greens photo: Stef McArdle

Walking down to the Trisuli through a field of greens
photo: Stef McArdle

The put in.  Always a bright moment in my day.  This one was extra special since it was my first taste of Nepali whitewater. Photo: Stef McArdle

The put in. Always a bright moment in my day. This one was extra special since it was my first taste of Nepali whitewater.
Photo: Stef McArdle

Looking down the Trisuli gorge. photo: Stef McArdle

Looking down the Trisuli gorge.
photo: Stef McArdle

Em and Stef at Trisuli take out.  Big smiles after a great first day

Em and Stef at Trisuli take out. Big smiles after a great first day

Our second kayaking adventure proved to be a little more difficult.  I had just left the US where the government had been shut down for 2 weeks.  It was as if stepping back in time, when I found on the bus ride that a nationwide strike was about to begin in Nepal.  Nobody was sure if it would happen, but if the strike was successful, no public buses would run for 10 days.  If Stef and I did not return to Kathmandu that night, we could be stranded in a random mountain village for over a week.  This was not an option for us, as we were scheduled to meet our Girls at Play comrades in 5 days.  The lunch time dal bhat break was conveniently on the Sun Kosi river.  We unloaded our gear, and decided to paddle a bit that afternoon, and hitchike back to the city.  Luckily, we quickly found a rafting group taking off, ensuring we wouldn’t get stranded.  We only paddled about 20 minutes that day before finding our ride we couldn’t pass up.  Nine hours of transportation for 20 minutes of kayaking is a frustrating ratio.  I was forced to use it as a reminder that we are “not in Kansas anymore.”  Grateful for the ease of paddling logistics back home, I remember it’s a bit more difficult in most places.  The entire day had turned into an adventure.  A wholesome adventure, complete with meeting new people, travelling somewhere totally foreign, eating an unfamiliar meal in a random village from a woman who spoke no English.  Every moment involved a decision, and a plan as well as flexibility and spontaneity.  The world of kayaking teaches us so much about living full and whole lives, even before we set out on the river.

eyes of the buddha on a stupa. photo: Stef McArdle

eyes of the buddha on a stupa.
photo: Stef McArdle

The rest of our week was spent sight-seeing and doing the tourist thing in and around Kathmandu.  We’ve checked out several important Buddhist sites, shopped all around Thamel, eaten countless delicious meals, walked far across town, and always found ourselves back in our temporary home with stories to tell.  We are so thrilled for the Girls at Play trip to begin!  Fun, beautiful kayaking with easy logistics (provided by our friends at Whitewater Adventures Nepal), and the incredible ladies joining Stef and I.  So many more adventures await!

monkeys hanging at swayambunath, buddhist stupa and monastery. photo: Stef McArdle

monkeys hanging at swayambunath, buddhist stupa and monastery.
photo: Stef McArdle

Spinning prayer wheels outside a Buddhist stupa.  Watershed Drybags represent. Photo: Stef McArdle

Spinning prayer wheels outside a Buddhist stupa. Watershed Drybags represent.
Photo: Stef McArdle

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