Places to visit in Uttar Pradesh
Karnali River
5
What people are saying
A great look at a wonderfully remote part of Nepal
5.0 of 5 bubblesMar 2012
Well I just got back from an amazing rafting trip on the Karnali River in Nepal and was very surprised that there wasn't a detailed review of it on tripadvisor so here goes. :-) This trip was undertaken in the middle of March 2012 where it is springtime and warming up from the winter months. The days are pleasant and warm and the nights can be cool but not too cold in the lower elevations. The Karnali River is located in the far west of the country and as such is very remote and far less visited then other rivers in Nepal. It's advertised as a 10 day trip which involves 7-8 days of rafting and 2 to 3 days of driving. Now first things first the drive to the river is by far the worst aspect of the trip. Driving long distance in Nepal is never very much fun as the roads are not the best quality and are very winding. The company I used at a good quality bus and not too many passengers so we could stretch out and be somewhat comfortable. The first day we drove from Pokhara for about 12 hours and it was a long day. Reading, sleeping and ipods are your best friend for this day. We stopped overnight in a small town somewhere and stayed at a very basic hotel and I was very glad I took my sleeping bag liner with me! The second days drive starts at 4:30am and goes for about 5 hours. I slept for the first few hours but woke up with the daylight and was very glad I did as we were now in the mountains with fabulous clear views all around us. The road winds up into the hills and you pass by tiny rural villages on the side of the road and the beauty all around is breathtaking. We got to the entry point for the river around 10:30am and the 5 man Nepalese crew unloaded the bus with all of the gear required for the trip. This included the raft which would carry 6 of us, one guide and our waterproof bags of clothing down the river and a second larger raft that had all of the camping and cooking gear tied to it. There were also three kayaks which were there for additional safety and rescuing purposes. So a couple hours later everything was assembled and strapped to the rafts and we took off. The first day was always going to be very short as we wanted to find a private and remote place. We only rafted for about an hour before berthing at a beautiful flat sandy riverbank without a single soul around. I was impressed by how fine the sand was and it felt lovely under foot. Once there we helped the crew unpack everything and later on they showed us how to setup up the tents they supplied us. On that note the company also supplied us with warm sleeping bags and thin sleeping mats to sleep on. I tried the mats for the first few nights but found the soft sand underneath the tent to be far more comfortable so stopped using them. Given the higher elevation the water on the first day was very cold but not unbearably so but you wouldn't want to go swimming in it for too long. A couple of people wore wetsuits but I didn't feel it necessary as the sun was always brightly shining on the river and it was actually quite warm in general. The first night was definitely cold and I was glad I brought my thermal underwear to sleep in. I was walking around the campsite in bare feet the whole time and felt warm enough. At 7:00am in the morning the crew would put on a hot pot of water for us with as much coffee/tea/powdered milk and hot chocolate as we could drink. Always a good way to start the day. Breakfast was always around 7:30pm and consisted of cereal and milk or an assortment of hot food like eggs, toast and pancakes. Every day we would aim to pack up the tents and get everything back on the raft and push off around 9:30am. Lunch would be around midday, again on scenic remote riverbanks where you could just sit and relax whilst the crew did all of the cooking and food preparing. An hour later you would be back in the raft and around 2:30 - 3:00pm in the afternoon you would stop for the day. On average there would be about 5 -6 hours of rafting per day. Again after a days rafting the crew would try and put on a hot pot of water on for us as soon as they can and make some popcorn or papadams to snack on and it was always nice to sit with a cup of tea, find a nice rock to sit on and read a book for an hour or two. Other people felt content lying in the warm sand and having a snooze which was also appealing. Dinner would be served up around 6:30pm or so and it was always hot food with a wide variety of vegetables, rice and pasta dishes to choose from. One night we even had spaghetti bolognaise which was great! The crew always treated the food and water hygienically and there was no evidence that anyone got sick from the food and drink. Okay, now more about the river itself. I mentioned earlier that it was cold to begin with and it was but with each passing day you lose elevation and water gets noticeably warmer and days actually become almost too warm. Quite often people would jump into the water and swim for awhile to cool off. By the last day of rafting the water temperature is very agreeable and the nights warm up and you barely need your sleeping bag anymore. I'm sure this changes depending what time of year you go but this is how it was for us in March. We never had rain either, just clear days and nights. The rapids themselves are grade 3/4 with most of them grade 3's. This time of year the water level is low so the rapids are smaller than they would be in September/October but they were still lots of fun. I've done many day trips of rafting around the world and I really enjoyed the rapids. I have definitely experienced bigger ones though and experienced rafters might find them a little on the tamer side. The raft never came close to flipping and nobody went flying overboard either. I was told this happens regularly when the water is higher. The rapids were quite consistent for the first 3 and half days but then they really drop off and for the next 4 days there are long flat sections that require everyone to paddle for a few minutes, rest for a couple of minutes then paddle for a few minutes more. These days are definitely less enjoyable and can be a little tiring but the scenery is beautiful and makes up for it a bit. Speaking of the scenery, it's truly superb! Again it's better for the first days as you are more walled in by the mountains, the river is quite narrow and it creates an awesome atmosphere. Everything widens out as the trip progresses and the river loses a bit of it's charm. One of the best things about the trip is the remoteness. Once you start you don't see any roads, power poles or anything electrical until the last day. There is no mobile phone reception either which is a blessing. At night you just make a fire and stare at the stars for hours talking amongst yourselves. I really enjoyed being so far away from civilisation for such a long period of time. Having said that, make sure your camera, headtorch and ipod batteries are fully charged because there is no way to charge them once you leave Pokhara. Occasionally we would pass the odd farm or Nepalese village consisting of 5-6 huts. These people live without electricity and live a traditional rural lifestyle. There are more kids around than adults and the kids love calling out to the passing rafts. They will shriek and yell out "Namaste! Namaste! Bye-bye!" as loud as they can with big beautiful smiles on their faces. Some of them would try to race the raft on foot for as far as they can. They were adorable and lots of fun and a definite highlight of the trip. We always camped on remote beaches but invariable a few curious village kids would appear out of nowhere to see what was going on. They would stand around about 100 metres back and gradually creep closer once they felt comfortable. This could take hours but by the end of it you could communicate with them and take some great photos. They were lovely kids who didn't want any money, pens, lollies etc...they were sincerely curious on the whole setup and would stand there for a long time. So refreshing compared to the streets of Pokhara or Kathmandu. There isn't much point on taking much money given that once you start the trip there are no shops to buy anything from. On our very last night camping (on a small sandy island) a young local lad showed up and offered to purchase beer for us from the local town. We happily agreed to this and about an hour later he showed up with our orders. We cooled the beer in the river and it went down pretty well. But yeah, bring your own chocolate/chips/alcohol etc if you want any of that kind of thing. So yeah that sums most of it up I think. The last day is also very short and the bus meets you at the finishing point. It's then a 10 hour bus trip back to Pokhara which again has nice scenery to keep your entertained during the daylight hours at least. A VERY good idea if doing this trip is to not return to Pokhara or Kathmandu but to stay a few nights at Bardia National Park instead. This is the less touristy version of Chitwan and is less that an hour's driver from the finishing point on the trip. If you already have accommodation booked, than someone from the hotel will meet you as soon as you step out of the raft. Talk about service! Four people did this from our trip and I regret not being more organised as it would have been a far better way to do things. I had flights to catch a few days later so I couldn't linger alas. So in summary: THE PROS: Fun rafting for the first 3.5 days. Beautiful scenery for the whole trip. Warm weather. A clean looking and pretty river. A great rafting company with really good professional and fun guides. Beautiful camping spots. Adorable curious children. Remote villages. Great night skies to look up to. Warmish water towards the end. Complete isolation and a wonderful way to escape the real world for awhile. THE CONS: Long bus rides there and back. Cold water for the first 3-4 days. Cold nights the first 2 nights. All up this trip was one of the best things I've ever done in my life and I was very happy I did so. I have probably missed a few things in this review so if you have any questions for me, feel free to ask and I'll be happy to reply. Once I am back in Australia I will try to add some photographs. Namaste!

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David S
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5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2012 • Business
Well I just got back from an amazing rafting trip on the Karnali River in Nepal and was very surprised that there wasn't a detailed review of it on tripadvisor so here goes. :-)

This trip was undertaken in the middle of March 2012 where it is springtime and warming up from the winter months. The days are pleasant and warm and the nights can be cool but not too cold in the lower elevations.

The Karnali River is located in the far west of the country and as such is very remote and far less visited then other rivers in Nepal. It's advertised as a 10 day trip which involves 7-8 days of rafting and 2 to 3 days of driving.

Now first things first the drive to the river is by far the worst aspect of the trip. Driving long distance in Nepal is never very much fun as the roads are not the best quality and are very winding. The company I used at a good quality bus and not too many passengers so we could stretch out and be somewhat comfortable. The first day we drove from Pokhara for about 12 hours and it was a long day. Reading, sleeping and ipods are your best friend for this day. We stopped overnight in a small town somewhere and stayed at a very basic hotel and I was very glad I took my sleeping bag liner with me!

The second days drive starts at 4:30am and goes for about 5 hours. I slept for the first few hours but woke up with the daylight and was very glad I did as we were now in the mountains with fabulous clear views all around us. The road winds up into the hills and you pass by tiny rural villages on the side of the road and the beauty all around is breathtaking.

We got to the entry point for the river around 10:30am and the 5 man Nepalese crew unloaded the bus with all of the gear required for the trip. This included the raft which would carry 6 of us, one guide and our waterproof bags of clothing down the river and a second larger raft that had all of the camping and cooking gear tied to it. There were also three kayaks which were there for additional safety and rescuing purposes.

So a couple hours later everything was assembled and strapped to the rafts and we took off. The first day was always going to be very short as we wanted to find a private and remote place. We only rafted for about an hour before berthing at a beautiful flat sandy riverbank without a single soul around. I was impressed by how fine the sand was and it felt lovely under foot.

Once there we helped the crew unpack everything and later on they showed us how to setup up the tents they supplied us. On that note the company also supplied us with warm sleeping bags and thin sleeping mats to sleep on. I tried the mats for the first few nights but found the soft sand underneath the tent to be far more comfortable so stopped using them.

Given the higher elevation the water on the first day was very cold but not unbearably so but you wouldn't want to go swimming in it for too long. A couple of people wore wetsuits but I didn't feel it necessary as the sun was always brightly shining on the river and it was actually quite warm in general. The first night was definitely cold and I was glad I brought my thermal underwear to sleep in. I was walking around the campsite in bare feet the whole time and felt warm enough.

At 7:00am in the morning the crew would put on a hot pot of water for us with as much coffee/tea/powdered milk and hot chocolate as we could drink. Always a good way to start the day. Breakfast was always around 7:30pm and consisted of cereal and milk or an assortment of hot food like eggs, toast and pancakes.

Every day we would aim to pack up the tents and get everything back on the raft and push off around 9:30am. Lunch would be around midday, again on scenic remote riverbanks where you could just sit and relax whilst the crew did all of the cooking and food preparing. An hour later you would be back in the raft and around 2:30 - 3:00pm in the afternoon you would stop for the day. On average there would be about 5 -6 hours of rafting per day.

Again after a days rafting the crew would try and put on a hot pot of water on for us as soon as they can and make some popcorn or papadams to snack on and it was always nice to sit with a cup of tea, find a nice rock to sit on and read a book for an hour or two. Other people felt content lying in the warm sand and having a snooze which was also appealing. Dinner would be served up around 6:30pm or so and it was always hot food with a wide variety of vegetables, rice and pasta dishes to choose from. One night we even had spaghetti bolognaise which was great! The crew always treated the food and water hygienically and there was no evidence that anyone got sick from the food and drink.

Okay, now more about the river itself. I mentioned earlier that it was cold to begin with and it was but with each passing day you lose elevation and water gets noticeably warmer and days actually become almost too warm. Quite often people would jump into the water and swim for awhile to cool off. By the last day of rafting the water temperature is very agreeable and the nights warm up and you barely need your sleeping bag anymore. I'm sure this changes depending what time of year you go but this is how it was for us in March. We never had rain either, just clear days and nights.

The rapids themselves are grade 3/4 with most of them grade 3's. This time of year the water level is low so the rapids are smaller than they would be in September/October but they were still lots of fun. I've done many day trips of rafting around the world and I really enjoyed the rapids. I have definitely experienced bigger ones though and experienced rafters might find them a little on the tamer side. The raft never came close to flipping and nobody went flying overboard either. I was told this happens regularly when the water is higher.

The rapids were quite consistent for the first 3 and half days but then they really drop off and for the next 4 days there are long flat sections that require everyone to paddle for a few minutes, rest for a couple of minutes then paddle for a few minutes more. These days are definitely less enjoyable and can be a little tiring but the scenery is beautiful and makes up for it a bit.

Speaking of the scenery, it's truly superb! Again it's better for the first days as you are more walled in by the mountains, the river is quite narrow and it creates an awesome atmosphere. Everything widens out as the trip progresses and the river loses a bit of it's charm.

One of the best things about the trip is the remoteness. Once you start you don't see any roads, power poles or anything electrical until the last day. There is no mobile phone reception either which is a blessing. At night you just make a fire and stare at the stars for hours talking amongst yourselves. I really enjoyed being so far away from civilisation for such a long period of time. Having said that, make sure your camera, headtorch and ipod batteries are fully charged because there is no way to charge them once you leave Pokhara.

Occasionally we would pass the odd farm or Nepalese village consisting of 5-6 huts. These people live without electricity and live a traditional rural lifestyle. There are more kids around than adults and the kids love calling out to the passing rafts. They will shriek and yell out "Namaste! Namaste! Bye-bye!" as loud as they can with big beautiful smiles on their faces. Some of them would try to race the raft on foot for as far as they can. They were adorable and lots of fun and a definite highlight of the trip.

We always camped on remote beaches but invariable a few curious village kids would appear out of nowhere to see what was going on. They would stand around about 100 metres back and gradually creep closer once they felt comfortable. This could take hours but by the end of it you could communicate with them and take some great photos. They were lovely kids who didn't want any money, pens, lollies etc...they were sincerely curious on the whole setup and would stand there for a long time. So refreshing compared to the streets of Pokhara or Kathmandu.

There isn't much point on taking much money given that once you start the trip there are no shops to buy anything from. On our very last night camping (on a small sandy island) a young local lad showed up and offered to purchase beer for us from the local town. We happily agreed to this and about an hour later he showed up with our orders. We cooled the beer in the river and it went down pretty well. But yeah, bring your own chocolate/chips/alcohol etc if you want any of that kind of thing.

So yeah that sums most of it up I think. The last day is also very short and the bus meets you at the finishing point. It's then a 10 hour bus trip back to Pokhara which again has nice scenery to keep your entertained during the daylight hours at least.

A VERY good idea if doing this trip is to not return to Pokhara or Kathmandu but to stay a few nights at Bardia National Park instead. This is the less touristy version of Chitwan and is less that an hour's driver from the finishing point on the trip. If you already have accommodation booked, than someone from the hotel will meet you as soon as you step out of the raft. Talk about service! Four people did this from our trip and I regret not being more organised as it would have been a far better way to do things. I had flights to catch a few days later so I couldn't linger alas.

So in summary:

THE PROS:
Fun rafting for the first 3.5 days.
Beautiful scenery for the whole trip.
Warm weather.
A clean looking and pretty river.
A great rafting company with really good professional and fun guides.
Beautiful camping spots.
Adorable curious children.
Remote villages.
Great night skies to look up to.
Warmish water towards the end.
Complete isolation and a wonderful way to escape the real world for awhile.

THE CONS:
Long bus rides there and back.
Cold water for the first 3-4 days.
Cold nights the first 2 nights.

All up this trip was one of the best things I've ever done in my life and I was very happy I did so. I have probably missed a few things in this review so if you have any questions for me, feel free to ask and I'll be happy to reply. Once I am back in Australia I will try to add some photographs.

Namaste!
Written 25 March 2012
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Karnali River (Uttar Pradesh) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos) - Tripadvisor