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HMS Eaglet canoeist paddles from Nepal to India

21 May 2018
Most western tourists in Kathmandu are usually there for the Everest Base Camp, which usually involves mountaineering of some kind; however Maritime Reservist AB Darren Bohanna from HMS Eaglet in Liverpool kept the naval tradition and had a waterborne expedition along The Sun Koshi River.

It is the longest trip in river miles offered in Nepal and is rated as one of the top ten river expeditions in the world.

Starting near the Tibetan border and draining off the Eastern Himalayas all the way to the sacred Ganges River in India, this river offers big volume white water.

AB Bohanna and 8 club members from Liverpool Canoe Club paddled some of the biggest water that they had ever seen. As a member of the Royal Navy and Tri-Service Canoe Team, AB Bohanna is used to training hard and working as a team. That training came in very useful when faced with some of the toughest water to canoe in Asia.

It was an amazing experience and certainly gave me the opportunity to put into practice a lot of the training that the Royal Navy Reserves has given me.

AB Bohanna

They flew from London Heathrow to Delhi then onto Kathmandu.

Below are just a couple of days of their highlights:

Nepal Sun Koshi Expedition – Day 0 (30th and 31st March 2018)

We all made our way down to Heathrow for our flight out on Indian Airways. Kirk was joining us later and was flying from Manchester on Emirates as he booked slightly later than the rest of us.

We all managed to get some sleep overnight and enjoyed a “Starbucks” while waiting for the connection in Delhi. Immigration was slick for those that had filled and and printed the online form. £20 for the tourist visa and we were in.

No sign of the taxi but it had taken an hour and a half to clear immigration. Just as we were about to ring the Hôtel he appeared with his “Padel Nepal” sign. This was a indication of the chaotic road journey to come. Choking smog, dust and fumes. No hint of any road rules or procedures. Triple overtaking was the norm.

Once at our hotel we were quickly checked in and met Sayas, our trip leader for a briefing on the rooftop restaurant. It was to be a 5:30am start in the morning but we still had time for a quick look around Thamel and an evening meal in the secret garden restaurant.  

Kathmandu city travel guidebook Thamel is a commercial neighbourhood in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Thamel has been the centre of the tourist industry in Kathmandu for over four decades, starting from the hippie days when many artists came to Nepal and spent weeks in Thamel. Even though Thamel has been referred to as a "ghetto" by some, many low-budget travellers consider it a hotspot for tourism.

Thamel is distinguished by its narrow alleys crowded with various shops and vendors. Commonly sold goods include food, fresh vegetables/fruits, pastries, trekking gear, walking gear, music, DVDs, handicrafts, souvenirs, woollens, clothes. Travel agencies, small grocery stores, budget hotels and restaurants also line the streets. Cars, cycles rickshaws, two-wheelers and taxis ply these narrow streets alongside hundreds of pedestrians.

There are many restaurants in Thamel that serve traditional and continental cuisine, although prices are significantly higher than in non-tourist areas. Thamel also acts as the pre-base camp for mountaineers. It boasts a wide range of mountaineering gear shops, foreign money exchange booths, mobile phone shops, pubs, clubs, and nightlife along with the numerous travel agents and guest houses. Thamel is home to a wide range of the Nepalese population, and serves both entertainment and employment purposes.

Thamel is a popular tourist district within the capital city of Kathmandu. It's comprised of 5-7 main streets and many smaller ones that criss-cross the area.  Thamel can be difficult to understand when you first arrive. There are no street names. It's best thought of as a mass of unorganized street`s. There's no real boundary to Thamel as such. But, knowing its centre is a good way not to get lost.

Day 1

We were off at 5.30am in 3 taxis racing through Kathmandu to the Paddle Nepal bus. Slightly over shooting our driver doubled back straight into the oncoming traffic with a honk of the horn…pretty standard driving for Kathmandu! The bus was quickly loaded and then we were off on the first bouncy ride of the holiday, climbing out of Kathmandu past the Buddha on the hill. After about 3hrs we made a breakfast stop. Sugary coffee/spicy tea, boiled egg and a spicy chickpea mix self-assembled in a wrap. Finished off with a sugary donut – yum! On we went through little villages to the get in, which required some off roading by the bus down a rather steep makeshift slope. The kit was unloaded and the rafts assembled with the bus’ roof racks suddenly turning into the centre pieces to take the oars. While we changed the driver took the opportunity to wash the bus in the river, where he parked to keep the tyres cool. We paddled off and were soon through a couple of wave trains, which at this point in the holiday felt quite big. After an hour we stopped for lunch and had our lesson in the rigorous hand and dish washing procedure. Biscuits went round while the loaves were sliced, coleslaw was freshly prepared and beans were served with bananas and the choice of orange or lemon squash to follow. We had a few more hours paddling through tiny villages and bouncy wave trains where we saw monkeys on the bank and vultures in the air, before arriving at camp – nicely positioned at the top of what looked like quite an intimidating rapid known as Meat Grinder. We were shown how to put up our tents while dinner was prepared. A spicy popcorn starter followed by mountains of spag bol was very welcome. Soon after sunset at 7pm we had an early night falling asleep to the sound of the rapid that awaited us in the morning.

Day 2

We were up for tea and coffee at 6am followed by a massive breakfast at 7am – fruit salad with granola, scrambled, egg, fried veg, toast and a selection of peanut butter, jam and marmalade (which also came out every lunch time with salt, pepper, ketchup and chilli sauce). Drinking water had been prepared over night for us to fill our water bottles with a choice of squash. With the camp packed up and the rafts loaded by 8.30am we were told the line as we went straight into the first named rapid of the trip. The big holes were relatively easy to avoid and we were soon all safely down and playing in the bottom wave while waiting for the rafts to catch up. Then, while the vultures circled overhead we set off down the river. The scenery was great and the water was getting bigger as we paddled up to a new rapid formed by a recent avalanche which will now be known as ‘Keep Right or Get Munched’. We paddled for about 3.5hrs until lunch – plenty of biscuits, bread, beans, coleslaw, spaghetti in a dressing and oranges. We continued for another couple of hours before setting up camp and tucking into prawn crackers and hot drinks. Just before dinner (veg curry) was a rain storm so the guides quickly assembled shelters from oars and tarps. After dinner we sat out by the campfire used to burn the rubbish from the last 2 days before heading off to bed. While collecting wood the guides also put rocks on our tent pegs, they could tell a few squalls might pass us while the odd rumble of thunder could be heard some distance away. With more rain overnight the river lived up to its name and was turned gold by morning with the runoff soil from upstream. After the first full day on the river we’d covered nearly 20 miles and had an introduction to the friendly local villagers, some big water (along with the first few swims) and it was big smiles all round.

AB Bohanna added; “It was an amazing experience and certainly gave me the opportunity to put into practice a lot of the training that the Royal Navy Reserves has given me.”

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