The Kali River: three days of untamed adventure

Three days, two rafts, 70km of untamed river and one unforgettable experience.

Three days, two rafts, 70km of untamed river and one unforgettable experience.

It is the meeting point of two rivers, Saryu and Kali. And then the river makes a slow, lazy turn here, quietly running over the rocks. At the far corner, a man sits patiently waiting to catch of the river’s famous golden mahseer.

Standing on the banks of the Kali (or Sharda River) at Pancheshwar (Champawat district, Uttarakhand) the starting point of the rafting adventure, the silence is deceptive, as beyond the curve the river flows through an almost untouched valley and through a series of turbulent rapids, giving you the adventure of your lifetime.

Day 1: Pancheshwar to Chuka

For the next three days, the river was our road and rowed our way through 70km of fast flowing water. The two rafts with 11 of us as crew along with two river guides. We also had five safety kayakers following us and one raft only for ration, supplies and our backpacks. The first leg was from Pancheshwar to Chuka. The amazing part of the river throughout the 70km is that on one side of the river is India and on the other side is Nepal.

The forests on both sides are dense and rarely do you come across any human settlements along this part of the river.  Even before you set off, the Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB) jawans, take a good look at all the IDs and also take a video of the rafters. On the first day there are five rapids that you will cross, most of which are grade two and three. The best part – on many stretches, you can jump off the raft into the water and go along the flow. At the end of five hours of rigorous rowing and some swimming, we camped for the night on one of the most pristine beaches there.

 Day 2: Chuka to Parigaon

The next day turned out to be more trying than the first. There were some grade three and four here, including what is termed the Chuka Monster. And what a monster it proved to be. Although our raft didn’t turn over, the ferocity of the rapid had most of us in the water, only to be swiftly rescued by the safety kayakers. This exhilarating stretch of 30km had a few more rapids, but after the Chuka Monster experience, we took the easy way out on the next couple of rapids. The exhausting day ended with camping on the sandy beach near Parigaon, a tiny hamlet in Nepal about 10km away. By now we had covered about 45km of the complete 70-km journey.

Day 3: Parigaon to Tanakpur

The final day was far less eventful, with the biggest rapid being Boom. But it has series of small thrilling rapids that gave us our kicks for the day. The river starts widening from here as you come out of the valley and flows quite rapidly. And although it was the longest stretch, the fast flow got us to Tanakpur by lunch time, marking the end of the three-day expedition. It’s only on the last leg that you pass via some scenic villages near the river banks, otherwise in the first two days, there is no human contact expect your fellow travellers and some Army jawans.

Getting there

Delhi to Pancheshwar is about 475km. The best way to travel is take a train or a bus to Kathgodam and switch to a cab to Pancheshwar via Lohaghat (about 5 hours).

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AUTHOR'S BIO: Vidya Deshpande is a freelance writer and takes trips with women travellers to offbeat locations, with her venture, Soul Purpose Travel.