IDAHO - Salmon River
NEPAL 2003

Turkey - May 14th - 31st 1999

Frazer Pearce, Adrian Healy, Mat Upton, Clive Williamson, Charlie Mott and Andy Evans snook off to Turkey in May for a little rest and recreation. Most excellent fun as the usual season is July and August. Luckily we convinced Palm, Lendal and DES.UK.COM to assist on the kit front and Turkish airlines kindly agreed to carry some unusually shaped suitcases.

After landing in Erzurum we completed the 2-3 hour transfer to Yusufeli without mishap by hiring a  bus for $50. Within 5 minutes of arriving in town the boats were safely stashed, we had a room at the Cicek Palace and were relaxing drinking tea. A short ramble over a wooden bridge brought us to a balcony over the Barhal (a major tributary of the Coruh that flows in at Yusufeli) and kebabs all round. Bliss.

We warmed up the next day with a run down the Tortum, the river that flows out of Tortum lake beside the road from Erzurum. After picking up the Altu Cayi it joins the Coruh 9km below Yusufeli at the end of the most continuous section on that river, the Yusufeli gorge. After a fun 25km warm up on a very brown Tortum and a long play on the surf wave below a bridge on the Altu Cayi we reached the confluence with the Coruh and bummed a lift back to town from the first passing minibus.

Continuing our warm-up efforts we next paddled the lower Barhal from Sarigol down to Yusufeli, a great 18km III-IV section with a couple of interesting corners at the level we got it (water about a meter above the concrete slabs, river left below the bridge in Yusufeli). Next we tried our hand at the bigger volume Coruh, still running brown but almost dropping as we watched. Driving upstream from Yusufeli for around 20km we jumped on just as the road up the river left bank left the riverbank. A few interesting bits can be spied from the road but the best section was shielded by a small gorge in one of the villages. A really great bouncy day that didn't prove to be stressful.

Finally feeling up to the Yusufeli gorge we knocked that off the following day. This is the most continuous section, featuring a nearly 1km stretch in the middle for which the signal was "right of centre, centre, centre, centre, centre....". Awesome and quite pushy at this level, particularly through the meat of it. All of us had run into form by now, with lots of wave surfing being attempted once whoever was leading had signalled the hounds in.

After this successful day we took the long (80km) drive upstream to Ispir to look at the major upstream rapids. Three real beauties and a couple of other chunky sections. The two hardest probably rate a V at this level, both had class paddling lines and no real sneak shoots. They are also quite close together so a quick rescue would be required if you came really unstuck. Both are easily inspected from the road on the way up and are readily recognised from upstream, the first is near where the road goes through a tunnel.

Meeting up with the two safety boaters from Water-by-Nature in Yusufeli that evening we planned to shoot the gorge section again the next day and continue down to Lava East, the largest rapid on the river. This one is certainly big, 500m with a fair gradient and lots and lots of volume. Luckily the compression waves off the walls were several feet high so riding them to where you wanted to be was straightforward. The line was actually easier than it looked. Honest.


After that we took a day off and then ran the middle Barhal.  You can see a lot of this from the road as you drive up to Parhal. If you don't feel confident, don't get on ! 10km of eddy to eddy work with a severe tree risk. When we went back a day later it had risen six inches in town but a full grade to V-VI and definitely not our cup of tea anymore.  Adding the 18km run back to town made for a full day enjoyed by all, especially those who got free raki from the locals on the bank.

A couple of repeat sections and a quick jaunt up the Altu Cayi rounded off the paddling,
215km in all ran in 9 days on the river. To relax we hired a local guide and went walking into the mountains, reaching nearly 10,000 feet by kicking steps. Unfortunately the crater lakes were still frozen but the views were stunning. Two days seeing the sights in Istanbul completed the holiday.

This early in the season things were quite high and lots of the Coruh was big water grade IV. As we all tend to class ourselves as river runners rather than playboaters this was fine but the quality of the playing is supposed to be better in July. In May the tributaries were running and lots of fun, could easily be quite dry later in the season. Really there is only a weeks worth of paddling out of Yusufeli but you'll want to repeat many of the sections and get in local sight seeing as well, so a couple of weeks is probably the ideal trip length.

We flew to Erzurum from London Heathrow via Istanbul and Ankara with Turkish Airlines. They proved to be incredibly kayak friendly and helpful, despite seeming to be the only carrier on the final leg of the flights. Coming back we stayed an extra couple of nights in Istanbul and had no problems storing our boats at the airport.

For local transport we hired minibuses as required. This proved to be cheaper than hiring a bus plus a driver permanently but bigger groups might want to consider it. Most of the runs are centred in Yusufeli. We took our own straps and these proved to be very useful for tying boats onto the top of buses without having to use the frayed bit of string.

A self-supported trip to this region of Turkey is easy. The locals are incredibly helpful and nowhere near as pushy as those sometimes found selling carpets in touristy areas. Very few speak English but this isn't a problem, learn to count to five and point at things and you are away.

Kit wise, we all paddled in drycags, light thermals and shorts with empty boats as we planned to return to town each evening. This never proved difficult. In practice we had sleeping bags but these were only used for dossing at Ankara airport on the way out. Air temperatures were warm, high twenties, and water temperatures were a little below allowing a shortie (but then it was early season).

Unfortunately we left all ours neatly tucked into the back of an airline seat, not that that proved to be much of a problem. On the Coruh you just get on wherever you like and get off when you get tired. The road runs along the side for large portions of the route, although scrambling up the scree can be scary. Drop in on Dave Manby at Gemil's Pension in Dortkilise if you need additional local info. Map wise, all the ones we took with us (including some prettily coloured topographic ones) proved to be useless for river running. The roads (where marked at all) are often on the wrong bank and bridge placements are therefore arbitrary. Try comparing any two you may happen to have in detail.

Further useful links:
More photos
Paddles article on the Coruh
Canoeist article on the Barhal
Equipment review
Coruh whitewater holidays

Thanks for support to:

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