Bhupendra Singh Rana, known to his many friends around the world as “Bhupi”, is a Class V kayaker and raft guide who has worked and paddled all over, from Africa and Europe to his homeland India and his new base in the US. We asked him to reflect on his time guiding the White Nile and other topics related to Adam Piggott’s book PUSHING RUBBER DOWNHILL, and also got the scoop on the upcoming Ganga Kayak Festival.
DBP: Bhupi, you’ve raft guided all over the world. So many dirt bags are locals who grew up on their home stream. What is it like to be in an unfamiliar land? What is the most exotic locale you’ve been employed at?
Bhupi: I knew from an early age that I wanted to see the world from my raft or kayak. My mission is still to one day paddle all seven continents. I’m currently on my 4th and hopefully will add one more to my list this year in 2016.
I educate and prepare myself physically and mentally before I go to an unfamiliar place, and once I’m there (third world country) then sometimes I just let it go and go with the flow. As they say “the plan is……..there is no plan” and you do nothing but go with the flow (you still have to be smart about it though). Every single place on Earth has it’s good and bad side. Pre planning your trip ahead of time is key, and be ready for the WORST.
I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with quite a few great companies everywhere I worked, and I have tons of great memories working with them. My first and favorite company was “The Himalayan Outback” (northern India). I also worked at TrollAktiv (3 summers) in southern Norway which was a life changing experience for me. I worked for Nile River Explorers in Uganda which was very special. Working as a trip leader on the White Nile is very rewarding and you get treated like a king (well… sometimes J).
Just traveling in general opens a whole new world for you. Traveling in any third world country is something hard to express in words so the best way for you is to go out there and experience it yourself. Traveling is something I really enjoy; making new friends and learning about different cultures and lifestyles always fascinates me. I’m so lucky to have my wife Trina (nope, she is not a kayaker, but she is a bad ass traveler and she is way tougher than she thinks) on the same page!
Historical sign in Bujagali – locals believe that if you have sex in the morning then you get tired and lazy and won’t go to work which they cannot afford!. Does that make sense to you?
DBP: That is the best of relationships, my friend!
What makes the White Nile so special?
Bhupi: The mighty White Nile is one of the best rivers for whitewater rafting in the world. What makes it so special? Well, rafting down the world’s longest river, a huge river, a warm river, with huge and scary rapids, rafting with crocodiles (I’ve actually seen crocodiles floating on the rafting section while taking customers down the river!). The locals are very welcoming, the people are so happy with the very little that they have and will always welcome you with the best smile, which makes you realize and appreciate what you have. The fresh pineapple and local beer is abundant. The White Nile is the biggest water freestyle training hub for the world’s best boaters. There are so many things that make the White Nile very special.
Straight vertical raft flips are not very unusual on the White Nile Photo NRE
DBP: In Adam Piggott’s book PUSHING RUBBER DOWNHILL he travels from country to country getting gear locally. Is that how you do it, or do you bring along your gear? Any tips about being a world traveling dirtbag?
Bhupi: I guess renting gear from different places might make it easier for you to travel light. However, it’s always better to organize the gear ahead of time rather than just showing up at the place (your choice of gear might not be available everywhere specially in third world countries). I prefer my own equipment so I always brought it with me. Be ready for the unexpected surprises and prepare for the worst and don’t forget to enjoy.
Thanks to NRS for being my generous sponsor for the last 4 years and keeping me warm and motivated to travel around the world and keep up with my life style. www.nrs.com
DBP: Adam took some pretty deep swims while working in Africa. Is this where your biggest commercial swims have occurred as well? What’s it like to be swallowed by the beast?
Bhupi: It was a pleasure reading Adam’s articles which brought me back to a few years ago when I was in Africa. It was a well written article and good reading. The rapids and the swims Adam mentioned was before the Silverback dam. I did manage to paddle the White Nile before they dammed it. The rapids were way more intense and scary for rafting. I still remember guides wearing double PFD’s to have extra buoyancy if they swim (which most likely will happen) on some of the biggest rapids. What makes it even more intense was the back to back class V rapids. Swimming through huge holes, boils, whirlpools and eddies wasn’t easy. I remember when after the first half of a full day trip customers used to say that they had enough for the day.
Punching through the “Bad place” on Ithanda falls rapid Photo NRE
Bhupi punching through the meaty line on Ithanda falls Photo NRE
DBP: There are some crazy scenes of traffic in Africa in the book. Can you relate anything similar?
Bhupi: Well, I was born and bred in India so I know what it means to be in bad traffic. Traffic makes me feel like I’m home. But yes traffic can be bad and dangerous in Uganda. Traffic rules in Africa or India are really no rules. You drive on the wrong side of the road, turn in the middle of road, and then completely ignore that you’re holding up traffic behind you. The reason behind the bad traffic is that people don’t really follow the rules.
DBP: Getting a bit off topic, here… How’s Ganga Kayak Fest 2016 looking?
Bhupi: Ganga Kayak Festival 2016 is in full swing. I will be heading back to India to host the festival next week. We will be introducing the open International Rafting Championship during GKF. There will be tons of $$$ and equipment prizes. All dirt bag paddlers are invited. Check out the link for more details http://gangakayakfestival.org/index.php/ganga-kayak-festival-2016
Sponsors from GKF 15
We are very thrilled to have all of our sponsors and media partners on board to bring GKF 2016 to the next level. It is an honor for us to have Dirt Bag Paddlers as one of our online media partners for GKF 2016. Thank you and welcome aboard once again this year.
DBP: Thanks for your time Bhupi! Any last tidbits on what’s happening in your neck of the woods till GKF in February?
Bhupi: I’m super stoked to head back to India next week to host GKF. The goal of rescue India is to create more safety awareness in the country. I will be running Rescue 3 courses, IRF river guide assessments, and river guide courses. I am also working on Sirasu Education Project and the Sirasu women’s empowerment project. Through this we help women and children from Sirasu village in Northern India to get a better education and help women to be self sufficient http://www.sirasueducationproject.org/.
My 7 week trip doesn’t seem like it will be long enough to get everything done. I’m excited to have some real homemade spicy curry and paddle some home rivers with my local buddies! You can check out the link for more course details http://www.rescueindia.co.in/1/
2016 tips for all dirt bag paddlers out there – Learn well, train hard and play safe out there and don’t forget to enjoy! Bring it
GANGA KAYAK FESTIVAL-
DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE is stoked to be providing local coverage of GKF 2016. Watch for the report here soon… For more info
Some footage from GKF 2015-
Last year’s coverage of GKF-
INFO ON PUSHING RUBBER DOWNHILL AND AUTHOR ADAM PIGGOTT.
Chapter 15 of the book in three parts ran last year here-
Adam Piggott’s first kayak was a Perception Dancer in 1986. He began commercial rafting in 1995 on the Tully river in Australia, and subsequently worked as a guide in Canada, Uganda and Italy until 2010. He has written articles for numerous magazines over the last 20 years, and has written three books, the first two of which he threw away. ‘Pushing Rubber Downhill’ is his first published book where he details his experiences rafting around the world. He now lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife, a cat, a Ducati, and a few Gibson guitars. He still has the Dancer.
Where you can buy the book: