Nepali Times
Roller coaster rides on Nepal’s rivers

The decline in tourism has affected rafting adventures but this pre-monsoon season is probably the best time ever to shoot Nepal's awesome rapids. And look at it this way, rafting is the only form of transportation not affected by bandas and blockades.

The rivers are frothing over with melting snows and their bracing cold waters are in stark contrast to the sizzling summer heat of the valleys. And the best thing is that there are very few other rafters. For people who remember the traffic jams on the boulders along the Trisuli at Fisling in the old days, this is a very welcome change. You have the river to yourself and there is still a week or two to enjoy this quiet before the monsoon truly sets in.

Nepal has always been acclaimed as the world's most challenging white water rafting destination. No other country on earth has as many world-class rapids where the real pros can demonstrate their mettle and the relatively easier white waters which take a beginner's breath away.

Rafting is also a great way to conclude a trek: cruising down the calmer stretches of the Seti or the Kali Gandaki watching bird life and rounding it off with a safari in the tarai. For amateur geologists, rafting is a great way to see the rock formations that built the highest mountains in the world. Along the bottom of the river valleys, you can easily imagine the Himalaya getting pushed up over aeons and it is intriguing to reflect that Nepal's rivers are older than the mountains, which is why there are such stupendous gorges-the rivers cut through the rocks over millions of years as they rose.

Himalayan rivers are graded on a scale of one to six depending on their rapids. Grade four and above are for those with prior rafting experience. Grade three and below are not too dangerous for novices.

Three to four hours west of Kathmandu, this river en route to Pokhara or Chitwan, is easily accessible along its entire stretch. In fact the highway is pretty much above your head throughout, which means you can easily head back if you get seasick. This also means you can have a flexible itinerary of one to three days.

Class four to five, it is one of the most challenging white waters in Nepal. Four hours northeast of Kathmandu, the rafting river action can take two days. The steep river plunges from the Chinese border down to Dolalghat. A thrill pill, it is only for those daring experienced adventurers.

Wild and remote, this river that starts in Tibet and flows between Makalu and Kangchenjunga to the plains, giving it a fantastic gradient in its upper stretches.It has powerful currents and eddies and is one of the most technically complex rapids.

For sheer remoteness you can't beat the unspoilt Karnali. Nepal's mightiest river descending through magnificent gorges and huge loops through the mountains. And it's looooong-10 to 12 days across a roadless part of Nepal. Once peace returns to this country, Karnali will be the place to be.

This river has it all-exciting rapids, sandy beaches, cascading waterfalls, gorges, wilderness and remote villages. The raft action is interrupted by the hydroelectric plant at Mirmi. This is one of the deepest gorges in the world and one of the longest rafting stretches with three days to a week. A pure adrenaline rush for rafters.

This usually gentle river can turn its raging waters into a test even for experienced rafters and is a real roller coaster during the monsoon. The river is easily accessible from the raft's entry in Pokhara and the exit in Narayanghat but there are no roads in between. This makes for a very untouched stretch of river punctuated by short and straightforward rapids.

Three hours drive east from Kathmandu, like the Kali Gandaki is one of Nepal's few east-west rivers and follows one of the main geological fault lines in the Himalaya. Its class four to five rapids make it one of the top 10 white water rivers in the world.

Its class four to five rapids are not meant for the fainthearted. The river rises in Manang and swoops down to join Trisuli at Mugling. This raft route is also disrupted by two hydroplants but still has its excitement intact.

This is the wild east of Nepal, along a river that comes straight down from Kangchenjunga's icy glaciers. The Tamur has more than 100 rapids of class four to five with non-stop action. Hold on tight.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)