Journey to this incredible country starts a quite unusual for me. It is January 2014 and I am on the other side of the world in Colombia where we are on whitewater in the middle of wild jungle. Here I receiving e-mail from my Russian friends with invitation to wild water of East Kazakhstan. I do not hesitate and immediately confirm my participation and also I immediately looking for other members of our team who will go to explore this country with me. In March we already have Slovak - Russian team consisting of five kayakers and one cameraman, so the only thing remaining is to arrange flights and transport all of us and our materials to the Kazakhstan where we have to wait for the Russian part of our team.
17 of May 2014 – after 10 hours of travelling we are landing in Almaty where Russian part of our team waiting for us. After short briefing we are heading to Kirgizstan border where we would like to run two rivers. CARIN – flowing through Kazakhstan desert and CILIK which is located in the middle of high mountains. If we would like to run rivers in this border area we need special permits which allowed us to move there, but fortunately we have this permits and we could go kayaking immediately. We run CARIN without problems and therefore we are immediately moving to CILIK where we have to go through two mountain passes. For this mission we used old Russian military truck ZIL. With this truck we are moving last 100km to upper CILIK put in. Here everything runs according to our plan, but just till night when 40 cm of new snow fall down. Snow changes our good conditions to one of the most extreme runs what we ever done. Seven hours of paddling in three degrees of Celsius, terribly cold water and with snow everywhere do even from easy rapids really difficult one. In the evening happily but totally exhausted we came to take out. We have no time to lose and therefore at the morning we are immediately moving to KOKSU and TEM-TEK rivers which are located on Chinese - Kazakh borders. As is usual in border areas we need special permit for moving. We get it without bigger problems and that means we could move to KOKSU. We run it easily in two days and after we could again move to next river TEM-TEK. This river we have also planned for two days but because car could reach us we don’t need to go with loaded kayaks which was really useful especially first day where TEM-TEK is really small and step.
Next day at the morning we are going to lower part with information that water level is perfect – medium. After hour of paddling where one more rivers came in, conditions are quickly changing. With really lot of water we know that it will be a lot of fun there. As if that was not enough we come to the unrunnable waterfall where the whole river falls 25 meters. Here we checked our rope techniques, and finally after three hours spent on this place we are moving forward. Believing that the worst part we have already behind us we are jumping with kayaks to the water. But after few meters we are again stacked when we reach unrunnable rapid. After two hours of scouting we are choosing plane where we portage half of rapid and doing sea lunch just before biggest hole. Here it is no place for mistakes.
We are jumping one by one to the rapid and passing this place everybody with crazy lines. This was last difficult rapid and now we could enjoy beautiful scenery of river digged deeply in canyon. Now we know that last area of our mission waiting for us – Kazakhstan side of Altay Mountains but I will write about that next time.
Photo and Story: Tomo Andrassy