Turkey - Coruh fact file
One of the best known multi-day trips in the world, it is still not crowded. It may however, receive a new boost in popularity with the coming of commercial rafting. This will be a real chance for the area's economy and may well prevent the total loss of the river to Dam/Hydro electric schemes.
It is a huge river but can be undertaken by most competent paddlers (happy 4/4+). The difficult big 5's can be avoided by timing and/or portaging. The area is close to Europe and if you are on a tight budgets it's a cheap alternative to the Himalayas.
Location NE Turkey, nearest major town is Erzurum.
Start Usual start is below the gorge 5Km downstream of Ispir. ( for competent paddlers who feel able to get stuck in the gorge has 4 sections of 4/4+ ).
Finish Zetnick 8Km before Artvin, the river there becomes flat.
Flights Although it's easy to get to Istanbul with any major airline you'll find it cost effective to go with Turkish all the way. It's three flights each way and you end up at Erzurum which is a military airfield. You can only reach Erzerum with Turkish, they'll sting you if you only use them for this last flight.
The aircraft are all very modern and comfortable. The only things that don't work are the No Smoking signs! Be prepared for delays and long check in times, you'll have no problem with your boats. We only got weighed once in six flights and a carefully placed foot kept the scales in our favour. Hand luggage allowances are generous but you must pack your boats for the best deal.
Food There are plenty of places to eat in Ispir and Yusufeli. It's good food, cheap and healthy. There are plenty of stores in both towns and in a few villages down the river. All the basics are available and the only thing I would suggest you take is the odd can of meat. We took far too much from home, bad move.
on a busy afternoon
Accommodation The top section is usually done in three to four days with wilderness camps where ever you fancy. You can also try Camil's Pension at Tekkale, it has the only bath on the whole trip. Cost about 250,000 lire (130,000 lire to the pound at the time of writing), you can also select from several hotels in Yusufeli for about the same price, you can have a rest day or put your boats on the Bahal. Below Yusufali you can make two more wilderness camps or get lifts back to the town.
Transport You can hire cars (we paid £318 for a clapped out Fiat), you can get taxi's (£50 pounds from Ezurum to Ispir) or you can use the bus system (transit vans with roof racks) or you can even hitch with your boats.
Natives The locals are incredibly friendly and helpful to the point of embarrassment. Try to greet them (it sounds like Ma-hubber) and thank them (Tish-sheck-la) in their own language. English is not as widely spoken as German but you can get by.
Meeting Hole Most of the foreigners seem to gravitate towards Yusufeli and the Hotel Bahal sells beer and good food. This is the place to get the local info.
Equipment You will be best off using a reasonably sized river running boat, especially if you're carrying all your gear. You'll need long throw ropes and splits. Take a Mosi' net, light-weight sleeping bag. We bivied but most people take a tent. despite being told that it never rains in Turkey it did, Twice!
Problems The river has some of the biggest and grabbiest holes I've ever seen or been in, many you just don't want to go near. Route finding is not too difficult and inspections are all easy apart from one corner which in the event turned out to be OK (got the ticker going though!). The portage is about 20 Km's below Yusufeli, ask locally. The river is run in low water but there is a nasty under-current on one section and a river wide, big (I'm getting out!) hole on another. Watch out it doesn't let up. It can also spring up completely new rapids after rock falls. While we were there just such an event happened, three stoppers, one after the other, the last one could have drowned a mini-bus!. We all made it but had to make a rapid trip to the loo. This whole section can be portaged using the adjacent road.
Medical/Health Get all you jabs before you go and take an emergency travel pack, there is a Hospital in Yusufeli. Hygiene is not one of the areas strong points, the river is used as a waste disposal unit and below the Yusufeli slaughter-house is the dreamiest play-hole we have ever thrown up in. Well he did share it with rotting carcasses and we did a have a rather beery night. Always wash when coming off the river, in most places it won't seem dirty but you can't afford to trust it. Use Dettol soap, or bleach. Perversely the water from the village taps seems to be OK but if you don't choose to trust it there are lots of shops selling bottled water. Always use purification tablets if you take water from other sources.
House Rock - apply lots
of bottle or get
out and walk!
Malaria is supposed to be in the area but we only saw one Mosquito the whole time, and that was dead. Seek medical advice if you are unsure about anti-malarial treatments. There are midges, and a midge net coupled with 50% jungle oil repellent is essential (not the 20% stuff, try a good climbing shop). You will also need to take something to stop the runs and some re-hydration packs are a good idea. It can be extremely hot, into the 40's and you will need to drink 4 litres a day minimum, in spite of the high temperatures we found the heat less of a problem than we had imagined.
So there you have it, the season opens in May when the water builds to Monster levels through June, it then dies off but can still be paddled right up to the end of September. August would be a good time for the more modest paddler.