Getting to and from the river is always an adventure

29th April 2024

During my years under my amazing mentor Dave Allardice in Nepal, getting to or from the river was always going to be an adventure. As guides and trip leaders, we always had the peace and tranquility, plus our adrenaline fix of being on the river, but as soon as we got off the river, we knew the driver would have a ‘letter’ from Dave, saying something like:

‘Hamish, hope you had a great trip on the Karnali. You are trip leading a Marsyangdi trip starting tomorrow and you need to take with you, three life jackets, a kitchen barrel and a raft. Get off the bus in Mugling with Mangal and get to Besisahar.’ This was always a constant source of entertainment for the guides, as Dave was such a logistics guru and would know where all his equipment was down to the last spoon and move it as necessary. Dave truly believed in us as people and whilst many of these requests were challenging, they were always fun, especially when mentioning them to other guides or the clients on the next trip when you told them you had come from the other side of the country.

More than anything, years of this gave me a can do attitude when it came to getting to and from the river. When we were working in Nepal for Dave, we always made these journeys to and from the river as fun as we could. In those days, travelling to the Karnali meant a 24 hour bus journey and two day hike with 100 or so farmers acting as porters to get our equipment to the river. Dealing with ‘strikes’ and the like, I even tried to carry a raft, but when falling on my back and giving my best impression of a turtle, amidst howls of laughter from the 5 foot tall porters, I realised in my youth, that these wonderful humans, were an integral part of this trip. I remember once as well, succumbing to a large landslip over the road that was impassable, but decided to arm the guests with paddles and we dug a way through for the bus and we were again on our way.

Over the decades of running Water By Nature trips to unique and remote destinations as diverse as the Zambezi and Ethiopia in African and Papua New Guinea and New Zealand in the continent of Australia, some of our more memorable and fun filled journeys can be seen below.

  1. Papua New Guinea: One of our more adventurous trips is in Morobe Province in Papua New Guinea on the Watut River. Post rafting, we travel by dugout canoe (with a motor on the back) down the rest of the Watut and Markham Rivers to get back to Lae as they go is a simply awesome way to finish a rafting trip. Having arranged the pick up date and time with the local boatmen, we are incredibly reliant on them to try and get as far up river as possible. As they speed through the shallow waters with incredible expertise, this journey is the perfect way to finish. As we stop in villages dotted alongside the river for fresh coconut juice (direct from the coconut) this ‘boat thru’ concept is pretty awesome.
  2. The Zambezi, with fly over Victoria Falls: An obvious favourite for us, is after rafting for 4 days on our Zambezi Blast trip on the Zambezi or after 7 days rafting the Mighty Zambezi trip where we get to fly out low level through some sections of the Zambezi River, and get to fly over the famed Victoria Falls before landing at our lovely lodge, Taita Falcon, high above the Zambezi. You do feel like a bit of a rockstar! Blue helicopter beside the Zambezi River
  3. A New Zealand Helicopter Fly In: With the remoteness of many parts of New Zealand, we love our New Zealand River Rafting Road trip and its’ significant number of shuttles to the river by helicopter. Although the rivers may vary depending on West Coast weather, we generally get to fly in to the Landsborough River, an incredible multi-day in the spine of the Southern Alps, along with legendary West Coast Rivers such as the Perth, Whataroa and Karamea. These trips are spectacular in every way.
  4. Hiking In On The Tamur River, Nepal: Whilst things have changed somewhat on this river since we first started running it, there is still a spectacular hike into the river. In the early days, we hiked into the river with a team of over 120 porters to get our equipment to the river in Dobhan. These days, the hike is shorter, but no less spectacular as we take our smaller team of porters, carrying our personal drybags, kitchen and camping equipment. We hike along a stunning 10,000 foot ridge to get to the Tamur river, treated with stunning views of Makalu, Kanchenjunga and hundreds of other himalayan peaks. The other bonus of such a journey is getting to travel through small and remote villages, to get a real view of this wonderful country.
  5. Sailing out after The Franklin River, Tasmania, Australia: The Franklin is one of our favourite rivers and certainly a real ‘classic’. After the spectacular nature we encounter on this trip, the sailboat trip back from the end of the river trip to Strahan is a real treat.

As with all adventures, don’t forget, the fun of getting to or from the adventure is half the fun. To coin a popular saying, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

by Hamish McMaster

Hamish McMaster is the Water By Nature owner. He has spent the past 25 years exploring and playing on the world's great rivers. He still loves nothing more than getting out there and sharing adventures.


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