The Guidebook

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thuli Bheri Photo Report

Here's a quick addition to the LiquidLore river beta for the Thuli Bheri in western Nepal. Enjoy the photos and the short story told in captions to go along with it.

Private Jeep ride from Pokhara to Birendranagar. It was a little bit more expensive but much faster and relatively comfortable. We were on a schedule to get someone back to Kathmandu to fly home.

We arrived in Birendranagar/Surkhet late in the night and stayed at a really nasty hotel near the airport recommended by a local we picked up in Kohlpur. It was nice however to be openly accepted into a huge Diwali party the night before we flew to the river. If you go, try and fly from Surkhet instead of Nepalgunj as it's a way nicer town. We later stayed at the Valley View Hotel in the middle of town - a nice clean place with good food.

After much negotiation we chartered a plane from the Surkhet airport with Goma Air for about $1500 USD (November 2013). The usual Dolpa airport of Juphal was closed so we had to fly in to the Masinchuar airport on the other side of the river that was much further from the water. It was unclear where this airport was until we actually landed there.

We attraced a crowd at this lonely dirt airstrip, but none of them were willing to act as porters to help us drag our stuff down to the river. Despite the remoteness, my phone worked no problem here, as it did along the whole river. Photo Si Rutherford.

The Masinchuar dirt airstrip.

A local woman.

The hike to the river followed a prominent ridge and had some of the best mountain views I've ever seen. The mountains here are part of the Dhaulagiri massif. Apparnently the scenery from the Juphal side does not compare. Photo Maxi Kniewasser.

The long 5 hour walk to the water was a knee busting 1000 meters of elevation loss.

Excellent downstream view of the Golden Canyon, the first section of notable whitewater on the Thuli Bheri.

This is the Bala Tripura Sundari temple in the town of Tripurakot. We had to walk through this town, and some kids threw dried shit at us. Much better than the fresh shit that was thrown at us at a campsite futher down the river. Nepal is a wonderful country but my experience with the locals on this trip, particularly on the Humla Karnali, was negative.

Day 1 campsite below Tripurakot, next to the river. The town by the water had a few places to get dahl bat and beer. It even had a cell phone store that played obnoxiously loud music while we ate. The food wasn't great. Photo Si Rutherford.

Evening light on the temple. Photo Maxi Kniewasser.

We made a friend while having dinner. The people in the town where we ate dinner were nice.

The first paddle strokes on the Thuli. This river is exceedingly beautiful. After just a few hunderd meters the river starts off with one of the hardest sections of rapids on the whole run. We agressively boat scouted and had no trouble. Scouting and taking photos would have been fun too. Photo Maxi Kniewasser.

The first day of whitwater (day 2 of the trip) passes through the Golden Canyon, a long section of continuous grade 4 peppered with some bigger rapids. This is one of the first spots we needed to scout from the bank that ened up being a portage for us.

One rapid stands out above all the others in the Golden Canyon. Despite the big canyon walls, a trail follows the whole river here (and everyewhere else) so scouting and portaging are easy. Photo Maxi Kniewasser.

The Golden Canyon standout rapid. A burly ledge that's exciting to run, it's actually low consequence as the run out is class II for some distance.

Golden Canyon boogie.

More Golden Canyon boogie.

We randomly chose a campsite on day 2 where there was a large flat terrace above the river on the left, away from the main trail on river right. It turns out that it was just above the exit to the Golden Canyon. On the terrace was a stone hut that we slept in, and there were tomato plants everywhere.

A typical boulder rapid at the start of day 3 (day 2 whitewater) right as we left the Golden Canyon behind. Although the Thuli is not the most difficult multiday, you need to be prepared for a massive amount of boat scouting to get through the river in a reasonable amount of time. There is literally 100 km of continuous whitewater like this.

The volume grows during the second whitewater day, and there are some bigger rapids amongst the grade 4. Photo Maxi Kniewasser.

Our group scouts a big class V rapid a short distance before the flat water above the Awulgurta gorge. Our day 3 camp on a mid river beach had us spending the night huddled under a tarp as is dumped rain.

Stopping to scout the lead in to the Awulgurta gorge. This is well marked in the guidebook, and there is an excellent trail through villages on river left that is an 'easy' 1-2 hour portage. We ran some of the lead in rapids at which point the group split with some walking the whole thing and others picking away somewhat successfully at running the canyon. It's serious class V that is probably best a really low water in the winter months. Photo Si Rutherford.

Scenic portaging. Despite going through several villages the mobbing by children here wasn't too bad. Lots of stores to restock on food too. Photo Si Rutherford.

Day 5 (day 4 on the river) was a long river day. In the morning we paddled through a short canyon with several class V rapids, including this one. We made it all the way to the confluence of the Thuli Bheri and the Sani Bheri, setting up camp on a beautiful beach.

Random rapid on day 5. Photo Maxi Kniewasser.

Cooking a feast on day 5. It was my birthday that day, so we celebrated with flasks of rum and a game of cards. Photo Maxi Kniewasser.

It took 2 more days of paddling easy whitewater to reach the take out bridge where the road to Surkhet crosses the Bheri. When we arrived at the bridge we were met with the news that we might be stuck for days because of a transport strike related to an upcoming election. Luckly a convoy of police escorted busses showed up after a few hours to give us a ride back to to town, and on to the next mission. Photo Maxi Kniewasser.

The Thuli Bheri is an awesome multiday trip. Enjoy the photos, hopefully they get you stoked to check it out too.

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