Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Whitewater Heroes – HRR’s Rafting Team

"Resham phiriri, resham phiriri...
Rafting ma monkey,
Trekking ma donkey, resham phiriri...
Kodo jharyo makai jharyo
Jyan payeko chhaina..."

“Rafting is for monkeys, trekking is for donkeys.” Or words to that effect! Stay at one of Himalayan River Runners’ base camps and, round the campfire, on the river or on a trek, you may hear these (slightly modified) lyrics to a well-known Nepali song.

At HRR there are a number of Nepali staff. Of the rafting guides, Ram and Ganesh (the senior guides) plus Rum and Prabhu are all from Nepal, while others, Ranjit and Chintu, are Bihari. The head cook Shrikant is Nepali and other staff are from Garhwal.

White-Water Training in Nepal

Many white-water guides working in India come originally from Nepal. This Himalayan country with its famous rivers like the Kali Gandaki, Karnali, Sunkoshi, and Trishuli, has the reputation for training some of the world’s best river runners.

HRR’s senior guides, Ganesh and Ram, were born in villages near the famous Chitwan National Park and learnt their skills through a guiding apprenticeship system unique to Nepal.

Ganesh, from a farming family, was 12 when he began washing dishes at an adventure company. For the next 5 years he worked around the camp and gradually built up his rafting experience until by the age of 17 he was a fully fledged guide. He was awarded his rafting licence in Nepal and came to India in 2000.

Ram, son of a motor mechanic, was 16 when he started his career. Like Ganesh, he did general tasks and honed his rafting skills for 5 years until he qualified as a guide at 21. Unrest in Nepal in the first decade of the 21st century affected tourism and led to the closure of some rafting companies, forcing trained guides like Ram to seek work elsewhere. Fortunately, there were opportunities in India, where rafting was a growing sport, and Ram came to HRR in 2004.

The Craft of Kayaking

Rum, younger than Ganesh and Ram, is nevertheless a highly experienced rafting guide and a talented kayaker. Every summer, when monsoon rain means closure of HRR’s Ganga Base Camp, Rum heads to Japan where he works for Japanese companies, undergoes more training, and further refines his skills.

Watching Rum manoeuvre his kayak is a delight. The man and the craft are one as he flips, loops, surfs and spins through the waves. Rum regularly enters kayaking rodeos in which he is often highly placed.

Yousuf Zaheer, Founder and Manager of HRR, ensures his guides enhance and maintain their technical skills by regularly rafting India’s most challenging rivers. Under his direction, the team tackles difficult white-waters from the Kameng in Arunachal to the Zanskar in Ladakh.

“With this breadth of experience on high-end rivers, my team are among the top white-water people in India,” he says with pride. “I have complete confidence in their skills and expertise.”

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