8 days paddling down the Sun Koshi – interactive map at:
You’ll have 1 soft stuff bag that goes in a dry bag for everything to go in. Valuables or crushables (e.g. sun glasses / bottles of Deet …) go in the Peli-case
Paddling clothes for warm water:
- Spray deck, remember to check yours will fit choice A and B from the hire list
- Quick drying long sleeve top (and legs if on raft) to protect from sun (rash vest or base layer)
- Cag for the afternoon wind, short sleeve fine but if back to back storms it can get cool so still take long sleeve
- 3 sets of undies – on, off & a spare in case evening rain prevents a wash drying
- River shoes that have grip to portage on boulders
- Consider gloves (socks if rafting) to protect against the sun
- Factor 50 sunscreen
- Contact lenses not ideal with water quality and silt after rain or big water splashes
- Bug repellent (mainly last 2 days) maybe for lunch stops
- Dry bag to take bits in the boat – you can’t access kit between camps
- Airbags, check if required before going, there were some with a bit of life in them provided
- Personal safety kit
- Throwline? Probably not going to use due to river width and the fact the group don’t stop to set up safety
- Water bottle, they provide clean water and squash
- Lots of food at breakfast, lunch and dinner no need for extra snacks
- Tents provided but the fine sand got in. You may want to have a bag to protect valuables
- Summer sleeping bag, they will provide but you may like to use your own
- Camping pillow or pillowcase to stuff with clothes
- Roll mat can be provided, taking a thermarest recommended
- 1 set of shorts, t-shirt, long sleeve warm top, waterproof jacket, trousers if susceptible to insect bites
- Pyjamas – it was super hot
- Travel towel (also needed for some hotels)
- Wash stuff for a dip in the river
- You might want shoes (flip flops fine) when it goes dark as there are some rocks, possible glass in places and insects towards the end of the trip
- Sunglasses and/or hat
- 1st aid kit, guides do carry one but you might want some personal bits
- Insect bite cream might be handy
- Imodium and hydrolyte, just in case
- Head torch – a red light doesn’t attract midges if you have one
- Aftersun or moisturiser in case of sunburn
- A mosquito net could be hung in the tent if desired, but not required
- Alarm clock if good at sleeping
- Power bank or solar charger
- Limited phone signal on the river
- Camp was packed up before breakfast so if you need anything after eating you need to carry it in your boat
- Hand sanitiser for bus ride and days before/after river trip
- A bag for walking round town before and after trip
- A sarong might be useful when changing at the get in/out for the girls
- They provide plenty of loo roll, but take a little for the bus ride. The stops won’t have any
- 1 set of clothes for a day after the river to be left in luggage bag at hotel if you want a clean outfit. Holdalls rather than suitcases are easier to back down to leave at hotel
- A sheet sleeper may be desirable for some hotels or for the hot nights in the tent, but not essential
- £50-100 to change there for meals and goodies. Can do this at some hotel receptions and there are loads of exchange shops in the streets
- Most currency accepted at money exchange. US dollars also accepted in some shops
- Leave passport at hotel reception. It’s advisable to have a photo copy with you on the river
- Kit and paddle bags could be left on the bus
- Hotels had Wi-Fi
- If bothered about smog and dust a face mask might be handy around Kathmandu
- Paddle Nepal t-shirts 1000 rupees (Sizes come up small)-
- If you wear flight socks or get swollen ankles on long hot journeys you might want to have your socks to hand for the 10+ hour bus ride
- Dollars for 15 day visa, approx $20
- Keep hold of used boarding pass they are recollected during transfer
- Fill in visa application online before travel and take a printed copy otherwise take 2 passport photos http://online.nepalimmigration.gov.np/tourist-visa
- Should fill in a landing card
- Have a pen for arrival and departure
- Fill in an immigration card on departure
- Beware girls and boys go through separate queues for security, keep your passport and boarding card with you not in bag as they are checked when you are. Bags went through the boys queue.
- Take a copy of travel insurance info with you on the river
- Could take the contact info for the British Embassy in Kathmandu.
- Probably worth a visit to the travel nurse to check vaccinations. The route can be downloaded from the Paddle Nepal website
We were up for tea and coffee at 6am followed by a massive breakfast at 7am – fruit salad with granola, scrambled, egg, fried veg, toast and a selection of peanut butter, jam and marmalade (which also came out every lunch time with salt, pepper, ketchup and chilli sauce). Drinking water had been prepared over night for us to fill our water bottles with a choice of squash. With the camp packed up and the rafts loaded by 8.30am we were told the line as we went straight into the first named rapid of the trip. The big holes were relatively easy to avoid and we were soon all safely down and playing in the bottom wave while waiting for the rafts to catch up. Then, while the vultures circled overhead we set off down the river. The scenery was great and the water was getting bigger as we paddled up to a new rapid formed by a recent avalanche which will now be known as ‘Keep Right or Get Munched’. We paddled for about 3.5hrs until lunch – plenty of biscuits, bread, beans, coleslaw, spaghetti in a dressing and oranges. We continued for another couple of hours before setting up camp and tucking into prawn crackers and hot drinks. Just before dinner (veg curry) was a rain storm so the guides quickly assembled shelters from oars and tarps. After dinner we sat out by the campfire used to burn the rubbish from the last 2 days before heading off to bed. While collecting wood the guides also put rocks on our tent pegs, they could tell a few squalls might pass us while the odd rumble of thunder could be heard some distance away. With more rain overnight the river lived up to its name and was turned gold by morning with the runoff soil from upstream. After the first full day on the river we'd covered nearly 20 miles and had an introduction to the friendly local villagers, some big water (along with the first few swims) and it was big smiles all round.
We were off at 5.30am in 3 taxis racing through Kathmandu to the Paddle Nepal bus. Slightly over shooting our driver doubled back straight into the on coming traffic with a honk of the horn…pretty standard driving for Kathmandu! The bus was quickly loaded and then we were off on the first bouncy ride of the holiday, climbing out of Kathmandu past the Buddha on the hill. After about 3hrs we made a breakfast stop. Sugary coffee/spicy tea, boiled egg and a spicy chickpea mix self assembled in a wrap. Finished off with a sugary donut – yum! On we went through little villages to the get in, which required some off roading by the bus down a rather steep makeshift slope. The kit was unloaded and the rafts assembled with the bus’ roof racks suddenly turning into the centre pieces to take the oars. While we changed the driver took the opportunity to wash the bus in the river, where he parked to keep the tyres cool. We paddled off and were soon through a couple of wave trains, which at this point in the holiday felt quite big. After an hour we stopped for lunch and had our lesson in the rigorous hand and dish washing procedure. Biscuits went round while the loaves were sliced, coleslaw was freshly prepared and beans were served with bananas and the choice of orange or lemon squash to follow. We had a few more hours paddling through tiny villages and bouncy wave trains where we saw monkeys on the bank and vultures in the air, before arriving at camp – nicely positioned at the top of what looked like quite an intimidating rapid known as Meat Grinder. We were shown how to put up our tents while dinner was prepared. A spicy popcorn starter followed by mountains of spag bol was very welcome. Soon after sunset at 7pm we had an early night falling asleep to the sound of the rapid that awaited us in the morning.
You might be interested to know that you can sign up (free) with the Channel Coastal Observatory to have email alerts when the waves exceed certain conditions.
There are a number of buoys on the network with one at Gwynt y Mor in Liverpool Bay. Go to the link below and click on the “Alerts system – receive custom alerts from the observatory” option. You can then set a wave height and/or wave period to trigger an email when the sea state reaches that level.
For those that like surfing or want to know the sea state for sea kayaking this might be of interest.
CEFAS have a map of UK wave buoy data (WaveNet), which also provides forecast information at some locations. See http://wavenet.cefas.co.uk/Map
If you’re interested in having access to tidal predictions between UK tide gauge locations the National Oceanography Centre have released a tidal predictions app anyTide. This provides tidal elevation and current information at 1.8 km intervals around the UK coastline, http://noc.ac.uk/business/marine-data-products/anytide
For those of you who use the UK Hydrographic Office EasyTide predictions, these are based on software developed by the National Oceanography Centre. So the data at tide gauge locations should be the same.
Tide & Time is an exhibition at the National Oceanography Centre Liverpool. It’s free to visit and you’ll find out about how tides are and were predicted around the UK, http://www.tide-and-time.uk/
Come discover the role Tidal Science had in turning Liverpool into a major port and the city it is today. Tide Predicting Machines are analogue computers designed to simulate the rise and fall of the ocean tide. The two Tide Predicting Machines in this exhibition – the Doodson-Légé machine and the Roberts-Légé machine – can be viewed by the public once a month. Both machines spent their working lives at predecessors of the National Oceanography Centre: the Liverpool Tidal Institute and at Bidston Observatory. The Roberts-Légé was one of two Tide Predicting Machines used during planning of the Normandy invasion in WWII.
Over the VHF, I have often heard marine traffic talking about Q1 and Q2, these being the outermost buoys of the Liverpool Approach. But where exactly are these places, and what are they like?
Given the huge amount of water that enters and leaves the Mersey Estuary, it makes sense for any return trip into Liverpool Bay to be based around low tide. Some degree of tidal assistance could then be expected in each direction. In these parts, low water only occurs around the middle of the day at neap tides. A calm summer’s day with a neap tide and a gentle onshore wind would seem ideal for such a trip.
On Thursday 17/8/17, these conditions came together nicely. A gentle Westerly wind was forecast to pick up during the afternoon and swing around to the Southwest. Paddling to Q1 from the Wirral would require being a long way from land for most of the time. An alternative option starting from Crosby looked to be more feasible. This trip would take in most of the port (red) buoys of the Crosby Channel, then lead around the corner into the Queens Channel and eventually to Q2. With this option, I would always be upwind of the coast which would never be too far away. Continuing northwards towards Ainsdale was my preference for the return trip.
I launched from Crosby shortly after 10am and paused at the first port buoy (C14) to inform Mersey VTS of my intentions. Aided by the ebbing tide, I then enjoyed a rapid tour of the buoys out towards Formby Point. Formby Buoy is a red & white affair in the centre of the channel, mid-way between the outer lines of port and starboard markers.
Close to C6 is some prominent wreckage. It’s hard to imagine a large metal ship meeting its fate on a sandbank. Looking at the Liverpool Approach chart at www.visitmyharbour.com, it is possible that this unfortunate vessel has encountered the Taylor’s Bank Revetment.
Interspersed with the lower numbered Crosby Channel markers are Gamma, Beta and Alpha. On arriving at Alpha, an outgoing tanker was approaching so I paused for a photo. As it drew level, I heard the skipper calling up Mersey VTS about his concern for a kayak that was nearby. He thought the bow wave from other vessels may cause me a problem. In the distance, I could see the fast-approaching Sea Cat and had no intention of venturing close to it on this occasion.
Mersey VTS then asked the Sea Cat whether s(he) had visual contact with me, the reply being negative. At that point, I again called in as “Kayak Robin” to confirm my location and said that I would remain well outside the channel and that no traffic needs to slow down for me. That input was immediately acknowledged by the VTS operator and was presumably welcomed by all concerned.
Arriving at Q12 – the first marker in the Queens Channel – was a special moment for me. By that time, it was 11:50, a little over two hours before low water. With pleasant conditions, it made no sense to turn back against the ebbing tidal flow so I pressed on. By this time, the Sea Cat had reported leaving the Queens Channel and was away, due back around 7pm.
Many of the Queens Channel buoys appear to be older than in the Crosby Channel, but they are prominent and easy to follow. Most were adorned with cormorants and gulls but they invariably flew off before coming into photo range. It was interesting to watch the tangle of mainly stationary wind turbines morph into distinct lines as I progressed.
Q2 is a smart tall affair as befits its status as the final port marker of the Shipping Channel. When I arrived, the sea state was slight and there was still some outgoing tidal drift. While enjoying a leisurely lunch, my boat drifted around 250 metres further out into the bay. It felt as if I had left the Solar System and was drifting around in interstellar space. Once back near Q2, with a friendly line of red buoys stretching shoreward, I felt more secure again.
During my return trip, the wind and swell increased markedly. At times, I found myself surfing and the boat’s direction was difficult to control. But with transits everywhere, there was no doubt that I was making progress in the right general direction. All of the wind turbines were by then in motion.
On arriving at Q12, I briefly turned downwind (NE) and found the conditions to be much easier. I therefore decided to continue to Ainsdale rather than returning to Crosby. With the water level being lower than on my outward trip, several pieces of marine wreckage could be seen around Formby sands. A hot drink on Formby beach was most welcome. The continuous expanse of beach and dunes past Freshfield and Woodvale Airfield is a lovely stretch of coast, with just a handful of people dotted around the place.
Toiling up the beach at Ainsdale was hard work. While taking a short train ride to retrieve the car, my kayak was hidden from view behind the Lifeguard’s hut. Thankfully, it remained undisturbed during my absence. For peace of mind, my VHF radio, PLB, GPS, phone, camera and compass all went with me in a rucksac. I even remembered to take the car key 🙂
View from Q2: https://youtu.be/Hh0ue2ZsrAE
Ian Bell put out a suggestion for ‘sea Sunday’ for Sunday 13 August 2017, asking if any sea kayakers would like to find a sea trip. This was much welcomed by me and I was delighted to meet up with a group of eight paddlers on West Shore.
We got on the water by 11am, the tide was coming in and we had a short sandy carry to find water.
Off we went in a buoyant mood happy to be out in the sun and sea.
The shore along the Orme from West Shore is rocky with houses along the cliff, but once we got round the first headland it’s a different landscape completely.
The cliffs here are Clwyd limestone, which runs from the east coast of Anglesey to Llangollen. Plenty of seals and birdlife here for us to observe as we gently made our way round the cliffs.
Arriving at East Shore, the pier visible now, we decide not to land on East Shore itself, but a small beach just before the pier, where we have our lunch. Strange to be sat here with our sea kayaks, as the sea comes in, and hearing the noise of the pier and hundreds of day trippers having a completely different sort of Llandudno day experience.
After lunch we head back the way we came, peacefully retracing our route, enjoying the sea, clouds, occasional sun, seals and birdlife, and gentle conversation.
Returning back to West Shore, just as we approach high tide.
And thanks to Ian for planning our return, with perfect timing, as we only have a short carry back to the cars, and ice cream or tea and coffee is readily available.
A lovely, gently day, thanks to my fellow kayakers – Ian, Nigel, Anthony, Dave, Fi, Di and Pete.