Travel

Paddling out at Malabar River Festival

The contest for the Rapid Raja- Rani title begins at the Malabar River Festival in Kozhikode

With the onset of the monsoon, the rain-fed Iruvazhinji and Chalippuzha rivers in Thusharagiri welcome kayakers from around the globe to battle the fierce rapids that tumble down the Western Ghats. The 7th edition of the Malabar River Festival (MRF), an adventure-tourism sport event featuring International Whitewater Kayaking Championship in Kozhikode, is set to welcome over 120 kayakers, including national and international champions from 12 countries.

To be held from July 26 to 28, the festival is organised by the Tourism Department under the aegis of the Kerala Adventure Tourism Promotion Society (KATPS) and the Kozhikode District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC). The competition would be held in categories for amateurs and professionals and offers prize money of ₹10 lakh.

The narrow streams in Thusharagiri, with the combination of big water, continuous rapids and mild temperatures, make it an attractive destination for white water kayakers.

“Unlike in the northern states where the water is extremely cold, which makes it difficult to stay in for long, the streams here are ideal for kayakers,” says Manesh Bhaskar, CEO, KATPS, pointing out that the region was ranked among the five best destinations for white water kayaking in 2018.

Kayaking at Malabar river festival

Kayaking at Malabar river festival  

“The contestant who scores the highest would be crowned as ‘Rapid Raja’ and ‘Rapid Rani’ and would be awarded with attractive prize money,” says Paulson Arackal, coordinator of the festival. The festival is known for pulling crowds, with people thronging on either banks of the stream, cheering participants. This year, a crowd of over 35,000 is expected, and a global reach of around two million through live streaming of the event on YouTube and Facebook.

“Whitewater kayaking as a sport is comparable to Formula 1 racing, people make an extra effort,” says Kaushiq Kodithodi of Jellyfish Watersports, who has been conducting the beginner’s race for the last two years.

A few kayakers have already moved to the rivers and started training. Nidhin Das, who is participating for the fourth time, feels that the competition seems to be easier this year. Amit Thappa, who won the title of ‘Best Asian Paddler, 2018’, is excited and looking forward to the event for which he has practised hard.

Paddle up Kayakers on the river and winners, Joe Rea Dicken and Bet Morgan from UK, of the 2017 Rapid Raja and Rapid Rani titles

Paddle up Kayakers on the river and winners, Joe Rea Dicken and Bet Morgan from UK, of the 2017 Rapid Raja and Rapid Rani titles  

Meanwhile, wayside food joints to big resorts are gearing up for the flow of customers. Destination Manager, DTPC, Mathew KD, says business flourishes in Thusharagiri this time of the year.

A food joint near the Chalippuzha, run by a gregarious chechi, is a popular hangout. Each evening, as paddlers and spectators return, they are welcomed with chechi’s sugiyan (a tea-time snack in Kerala made of green gram, coconut and jaggery filling), pazham pori (fried plantain) and ela ada (coconut and banana encased in rice flour and steamed in banana leaves). The taste of her food and stories of the competition are memories that travellers carry back until they return next year.

Tourist attractions nearby

Approximately 10 km from Kodenchery, adventurous nature lovers are welcomed with boisterous waterfalls. The Thusharagiri waterfalls, with three adjacent mist-capped peaks, are a wonderful destination for nature lovers, while the falls on Kuttiady river are not very far.

Grand waterway
  • The Colorado River, US, is the quintessential whitewater rafting experience on every adventurer's bucket list. This waterway wanders for more than 277 miles with the most famous stretch passing through the iconic Grand Canyon.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 1:23:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/paddling-out-at-malabar-river-festival/article28698614.ece

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