2009 KARNALI

They thought that there would be little to surprise them on the wild water... But the wild Himalayan Karnali river changed everything. The wilderness had prepared an unforgettable adventure for the Slovak rafters.Slovak rafters conquered the wild Nepalese Karnali river. In just one week, they cleared a 200-kilometre-long, unpopulated canyon! Most foreigners visit this country because of the Himalayas, but a group of Czechs and Slovaks, led by the experienced Robo Kazík, was after something else - to raft down the Karnali river in the remote west of the country, right on the border with India.

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Expedition Karnali


"We set out on the journey with only our gear and totally on our own, without a Nepalese guide. We wanted to overpower the river by ourselves", Barabáš explains.

The group of 17 adventurers set out onto the water in three rubber rafts and three kayaks."Even our leader, who had already rafted the river, was surprised by the roar that we could hear from the bottom of the canyon. Monsoons, accompanied by rain and snow, hit later this year, but were much heavier so the river was much wilder than he remembered", the filmmaker describes.

Wild ride

The fact that Karnali is truly a violent river was shown right from the start. "We were all experienced rafters who've already conquered several difficult rivers. But it was no help to us here. There were no waves, but masses of water which all of a sudden rushed in different directions. Water bubbled like in a pot; we flew into it and just waited to see what would happen."

 

The heavy expedition rafts were loaded with the necessary equipment to survive for a week. There were days when huge rolls of water turned them upside down several times."Then, the most important is not to let go of the paddle. If it were to drift away, you'd have nothing to control the raft with for the rest of the journey. As soon as possible, you must get to the boat and somehow try to help the others." Then, two people have to climb on the overturned raft and using ropes they have to right it even though it's continuously being rammed by waves. It's not an easy job as one raft with its roped up luggage weighs more than 300 kilograms.

"There are no calm sections in the Karnali canyon and you mustn't swim towards the banks because no one would be able to get to you up the rough torrent. So you have to get to the raft on the run through the rips", the film director laughs.

Rescue at the last minute

During a week of rafting we only experienced one serious injury. The well-known adventurer, Peter Valušiak, who was the first man to cross from Europe to America via the North Pole, tried to prevent a raft from reversing and it dislocated his shoulder. "That's a very painful injury, his arm just hung helplessly out of joint. It took us over half an hour to remedy it. But we had to! There are simply no hospitals in western Nepal." Once, after rolling over, one member of the expedition got into a vortex and couldn't get out of it by himself. At the last minute he was rescued by the watchful kayaker Karel, who had held back behind the other rafts. In the end, the expedition members coped with all of the dangerous situations by themselves. "Whatever would have happened, we would still have had to sail down the whole canyon as there was no other way out. The first homes and roads start as far as after the end of the canyon, anyway."

 

After a week, their adventure was over. What does the film director think about it? "That huge mass of water really evoked great respect, but on the other hand, a lot of water is safer to swim... It was rather to have fun with real friends on whom one can always rely, enjoy the wildest nature and to have a little fight with it. To sit by the fire in the evening, cook and tell each other our experiences and to set out on a new adventure in the morning. It was an exciting trip without civilization, mobiles or computers. And that was the nicest thing about it", he added.

Anton Ďuríček, Nový Čas

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