Kathmandu is full of surprises. I had spent a fair amount of delirious time in the city during my college days. Freak Street (Thamel) was the pseudo-hippie hub where people decided to be temporary long-hairs until their visas expired. It was the kind of place where westerners thought they could buy nirvana from a smoky bar and people such as us thought we were enlightened a few hours after having arrived. I could start off about the shiny happy people, the arts and crafts, the Himalayas, and other stuff that would make for splendid conversation at my grandma’s Sunday bridge parties. But, this time, I had come to do something very different, with the only common factor being “high”.
Kiwi David Allardice is considered by many to be the river rafting pioneer of South Asia. Before we met, I had heard bizarre rumours that, in a nutshell, blended him into a drug peddling-secret service-missionary from New Zealand (the land of high-end international espionage and sheep?). He is a man with a good many different sides and a love for adventure that has allowed him to survive through the intimidating hogwash. In an apparent attempt to get away from the city’s grind, David had partnered in the creation of an adventure centre just 10km from the Tibet border, aptly naming it The Last Resort. Parts of the invite I had received read something like this: “have completed and it’s been professionally tested… it is the second highest jump off a suspension bridge in the world… have named the bar ‘Instant Karma’… D. Allardice”.
Years earlier, I had been deported within two hours of my arrival in Nepal. The reasons for this undignified course of action were rather complex, to say the least. Sporting a moth-eaten beard, subtly incoherent from my farewell party after a long month in Bhutan, and carrying all the inappropriate documentation, my presence did not seem to excite my interrogating officers. Wading through my marshy memory of that crisp morning, I imagine the camel’s back broke when I availed of their immigration forms as a substitute for toilet paper… they were unhappy with the improvisation.
Opting out of the four-hour road trip from Kathmandu, I spent the first few days dabbling in a bit of thundering rapid foam. The emerald green fields high above us were often peppered with curious villagers baffled by our idiotic need to be “flushed down a huge open-air toilet”. A unique blend of exceptional fun and challenging white water, our guide, David, assured us, was “the Tidy BowlMan… no worries”. Spending the night at The Riverside Camp, I ventured to the Riverside Bar, where the size of the day’s rapids attained progressively tidal heights with each drink.
Arriving at the sprawling terraces suspended over the Bhote Kosi river, in surroundings of dense jungle and pristine forest, I was truly blown away. The grounds of the resort were meticulously landscaped and the bungalows coaxed to become one with the land with each passing monsoon. Since the bridge was owned solely by the resort, privacy was guaranteed. The resort had great food, spacious safari tents, showers, toilet facilities and a well-stocked bar… all the indulgences of home in an exotic setting. The spectacular location in the midst of mountain regions—only recently made accessible to travellers—offered excellent opportunities for light treks off the well-beaten Tea House Trails, with a comfortable base to return to and relax with a good book and a cold drink among the layered gardens.
A self-contained paradise, the place offered rock climbing and rappelling under the supervision of professional experts. I was all set for the “Big Rappel” off the lip of the gorge down to the river bank… no such luck. I had come here with the sole purpose of experiencing the ultimate rush, the ultimate bungee. I had done a few jumps earlier, but this looked quite possibly like the most spectacular jump in the world. Constructed by one of New Zealand’s leading bungee consultants and operated by some of the most experienced Western jump masters in the business, it transported me back to the interrogation lounge of six years ago. This had nothing to do with the staff, but more with my overwhelming need to expedite the digestion of my lunch.
Standing atop that gorge, which narrowed down to the base 480ft below, I felt an incomprehensible rush. Why do we do this? What joy is derived from leaping off a platform more than 48 storeys high with your modesty in your mouth? As fear fused with excitement, I considered rationalizing my intentions. This was when the 14-year-old Canadian girl plummeted with a piercing “bungeeeeeee” that echoed through the canyon. My rationale was promptly swallowed with a large lump of trepidation. I was next.
It isn’t very long. It is an adrenalin junkie’s quick-fix. It’s totally safe, provided they tie both ends. What more can I say? The evening was a soothing session at Instant Karma, where several large drinks rehabilitated the nerves and, through the frolic of the night, I could only think of describing it the way the T-shirt does: “Imagine a bridge over a one hundred and sixty metre tropical gorge with the Bhote Kosi, one of the world’s wildest rivers raging below... NOW JUMP.”
(Write to Homi at email@example.com)