The Sun Koshi, ‘River of Gold’, offers a world class white water rafting expedition! The Sun Koshi has been mentioned in both, The National Geographic’s and Lonely Planet’s lists of the Top 10 places to go white water rafting in the world! So if you’re looking for a unique expedition packed full of white water rafting, hot sunny days, and camping the Sun Koshi is where you need to be going!
It is named after the gold that is panned from its banks and the colour of the water. Through your journey you’ll paddle between the towering peaks of the Himalayan foothills, through raging rapids, jungle corridors and finally emerging into the Teri lowlands on the Indian boarder. Over the 8 days you’ll travel a whopping 260km!
The Sun Koshi gives you plenty of chance to sit back and relax as you pass through canyons and under refreshing waterfalls. There are bat caves, holy temples, and beautiful white sandy beaches for setting up camp before sleeping under the stars.
After an early start and a 3-hour drive from Kathmandu you’ll find yourself at Dolaghat, the put on for the Sun Koshi. Unpack the bus, have lunch, and kit up for the river. The Sun Koshi starts mellow with some grade 2, great for warming up on and taking in the scenery. Watch the banks for temples and offerings, the guides may hop out to bless your trip before it begins! At the beginning of this mighty river you’ll follow the new highway that joins the river on the right bank. This is a busy highway bringing traffic from the east of Nepal to Kathmandu. It joins the river for about 30km and will leave again when you reach Chainpur. So don’t worry, the noise of the passing traffic will be a faint memory the more you paddle.
Over the next few days the river will gain in volume and you’ll pass through some notable rapids such as ‘No Exit’ (grade 3), ‘Meat Grinder’ (grade 4), Punch (grade 4) and Judy (grade 3). Due to its volume, the rapids on the Sun Kosi are mostly big waves and bigger holes. On the third day the Liku Khola joins and creates the Anxiety series of rapids: Pre, Post and High Anxiety. These are a series of grade 3 and 4 rapids. The class rapids are fairly short but the grade 4 is long and you need to be on the lookout for stoppers!
Keep an eye out for a long suspension bridge (longer than all the others) as this marks the approach to Harkapur, the most notorious and largest set of rapids on the river. Harkapur is made up of two sections – Harkapur 1 (grade 5) and Harkapur 2 (grade 4). Harkapur 1 is made up of three huge, almost river wide, holes and a nasty re-circulating undercut on the right which you need to stay away from. This is a classic raft-flip rapid and many choose to portage. It is not a nice place to swim and there have been several fatalities over the years. So make sure you have a good scout, listen to your guides and pay attention to further instructions. There are many rapids still to come so if you are in doubt then portage. After this there is a good bit of flat water where you can pick things up before taking on Harkapur 2. This rapid is very intimidating but fairly simple. Effectively it’s a massive wave train, keep pointing forwards and paddle hard!
A classic place to camp is just before the start of Harkapur on the obvious river left. This gives you chance to thoroughly scout the main rapid and build up your nerves for the following day! Beaching up also means, unpacking! More specifically, the kit raft. You’ll be happy to do this when it makes it easier to portage in the morning. The kit raft almost always portages – no one wants to lose the precious beer (or dry clothes)! Especially when you’re not going to come by a village for another day or two!
Over the next few days you’ll travel over 120km on the Sun Koshi. Filled with beaches to camp on, flat water to chill out and float along on and white-water rapids to have some fun in. Some of the most notable rapids are ‘Jaws’, ‘Dead man’s eddy’, ‘Rhino Rock’, and the ‘Jungle Corridor’. The monsoon often effects the rapids on the Sun Koshi, changing them year by year – Harkapur used to have 3 sections but now only has two for example. The rapids should always be taken with a bit of caution as they are characterised by big holes and bigger waves designed to simply flip rafts.
The Big Dipper is the last big rapid on the Sun Koshi. It’s a set of massive standing waves, a great way to finish your trip! After the Big Dipper you’ll quickly come to the confluence of the Arun and Tamur. This place is called Tribeni and is the classic place to set up camp. This is a holy confluence and there is a small temple on the track up the Arun valley where you can go and thank the river gods for a safe passage. Alternatively, you can head up the Tamur valley trail and get to the village of Tribeni where you’ll find a healthy selection of cold beers and plenty of Chiya!
You will only travel about 10km on your final day. As the Sun Koshi, Arun and Tamur join they become the Sapta Koshi. Let the river sweep you downstream and notice the land around you. Once towering mountains are now big flat open plains to the Terai. The river widens here almost like a lake! Keep to the left to make sure you don’t miss the get-out point at Chatra.
Best Memory on this River!
" One of my best memories of a Sun Koshi rafting expedition was at Harkapur. One of my fellow kayakers, Anton, had left his underwear out on top of his kayak to dry in the morning sun. It was all hands-on-deck after breakfast as we had to portage the raft and all the kit to go in it around the giant rapid.
When we finally finished and got back to the kayaks Anton swore as he realized his mistake. His lovely dry underwear for that evening were still on top of his kayak – not stored away in his drybag on the kit raft… He decided to stow them in his Kayak, dry them again at lunch time and then put them back in his dry bag on the raft. I paddled down Harkapur successfully and broke out waiting for Anton. To my horror he capsized halfway down and swam. He came out the bottom OK and we swiftly went to his aid. We gathered all his kit – everything but his underwear which had subsequently disappeared out of his kayak. We all had a good joke about it before it left our minds.
Two days later Anton was bobbing along in his kayak when some fabric floating in the water caught his eye. It was his lost underwear! Needless to say, from that point on they became his favourite and luckiest set of underwear he had! "
Duration: 8 days
Journey to River: 3 hours by bus from Kathmandu
Rafting From: Dolalghat
Rafting To: Chattra
Camping: Any of the numerous beaches along the river’s bank
Return: Flight from Biratnagar to Kathmandu
Best season: Sept-Nov or end of April - June