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Turkey 2005

In Search of Manby – Turkey June 2005 


The trip started out as a post on the Club Forum back in October 2004, initially about a dozen people expressed interest but, when it came to the crunch only four signed on the dotted line and stumped up the cash.

The Coruh is regarded by some as one of the top ten white water runs in the world, initial searches on the web revealed the best times to go and some basic background information, the river runs May through to July, biggest water in May dropping off significantly through the season, staring at Grade 4/5 early season dropping to 3/4 as the season progresses.


We decided that Mid June when we would usually load up and head to the French Alps would be the best time for us to go and after an initial hiatus of discussion and e mails all talk of the trip was left to the odd comment of if / or are we going, then in mid May a group e mail detailing dates and flight details asked people to commit.

Within the week the flights through to Erzurum via Istanbul with Turkish airlines were booked, e-mails to Dave Manby gave us some more background information and four of us arrived at Manchester airport with boats and paddling kit for a week.

A four hour flight saw us arrive in the heat of Istanbul early evening, we arrived at our hotel after an eventful journey through the Thursday rush hour, our driver Yusef McRae treated the roads and vehicles with contempt and entertained / terrified us depending on your view point for the next 25 minutes.After dropping our bags in the hotel we stepped out into the evening sun to have a look around the Blue mosque, which we could see from the hotel's roof terrace.

We dined on the rooftop terrace of a restaurant overlooking the Blue mosque, paying western prices for the privilege of our location, so a £100 lighter in the pocket we headed off to explore the backs streets of downtown Istanbul for an hour or so before heading back to the hotel.

Friday morning we had half an hour to visit the market before heading back to the airport for the two hour flight to Erzurum, a brief problem with the boats at check in was resolved when PK showed a letter stating we had already paid excess baggage.

Landing in Erzurum provided us with our first unknown, had PK made himself understood when he telephoned Birol the campsite owner at Greenpeace, Yusufeli where we would be staying, we need not have worried as he was there with minibus transport.

The 120K transfer took the best part of three hours, arriving late afternoon we quickly changed and got Birol to take us 11K up the Barhal River, we started paddling at 7.00 and where back in the bar with a beer on, having changed and hung our kit out by 8.10, our initial warm up paddle having been completed in the blink of the proverbial eye.

Saturday and we decided to head further up the valley to the village of Barhal, the journey took a couple of hours and we stopped to look round and old Church before having some lunch and driving around the local area taking in the views.The river this high up the valley is continuous G5, we put on after it eased off at the village of Sarigol, starting an 18K section this time with a couple of rapids worthy of inspection at this stage of our trip.

The first which we called Indecision Rock was a house sized rock in the middle of the river, the left line or the right line, they both went it was just a case of taking your pick, although ultimately the water after the left line was easier than the right, H, PK and I went right, made the line easily then discovered just how powerful the river could be for the next few yards as we crashed through waves dodged the odd hole or pour over before the water settled down to just plane fast with big waves. We soon arrived in an eddy river right with a distinct horizon line ahead as the gradient increased and we could see some big water disappearing under a bridge.

The climb up the bank to inspect proved to be as tricky as the rapid, we all agreed right of centre and we headed off, I took a quick roll as I punched through the diagonal under the bridge and we were all through, after this the gradient eased and we could continue down avoiding the hole and taking in the views.Given the way the nerves were a jingling and a jangling at the point of inspection I decided not to mention the snake in the grass I had spotted when I initially jumped out of my boat.

Sunday saw us in the van for the long drive to Ipsir, some 90K upstream.We inspected Perfect Portage and the Joan Collins set before heading to Ispir for lunch meaning another late start on the water, the 26K stretch from Camlikaya to Albansi.We could hear the rocks rumbling around on the river bed as we squeezed ourselves into our boats and broke into a fast section of bigger water than any of us had anticipated.A strong wind blowing up the valley made the going a little heavy even with the speed of the water.

We inspected Perfect Portage again, H and I electing to get on after the initial top section, we watched Ian and PK take a line in on the left of the river through and past a myriad of holes, PK temporarily being pinned after having his progress slowed by a couple of stoppers.The section finishes off with a couple of manoeuvres through big water dodging the odd hole or pour over.

Monday saw us back on the water at the previous day's get out, this section flies along with long stretches of continuous waves and white water.Only one rapid underneath a flying fox saw us out of our boats and on the bank inspecting, a line right of centre saw us all through with only one roll for me, popping back up in time to avoid being swept left into a bigger than usual hole.

The Joan Collins Section – Ispir to Camilikaya

To get the paddlers perspective you would need to speak to PK.We started just below Ispir paddling a few K downstream to the waiting Joan, having seen the rapids from the road a couple of days before I knew what to expect and I succeeded in psyching myself out in the van on the journey, added to paddling the initial section like a donkey I elected to walk all of the set and take pictures of those who took on Joan that day.

Yusufeli gorge

The get in for the gorge section of the Coruh is on the Barhal at the Greenpeace campsite, break out into the flow and head around the S bend before paddling through Yusufeli village and another half a K to the confluence with the Coruh. We had inspected the gorge from the road the day before and we knew the first major obstacle Donald's Beanery was marked by an overhead irrigation pipe that had sprung a leak, spraying water out 360 degrees.

Ian led through, taking the as usual slightly alternative line and my confidence certainly soared as we all hit the eddy having been watched by the Water by Nature guys from the roof of their Landrover on the road above.Sculptured Rock is next, eddy out river left and inspect.The move was pretty basic, ferry out into the current and turn, skim left of the huge hole river right and set yourself up for the two pushy diagonals to punch through into the messy water below.PK videoed and Ian, H and I set ourselves up for that you've been framed moment, H arrived at the diagonals further right than Ian or I and the second took a liking to her, tumbling her round before sending her on her way. PK dropped down all casual like, no problem.

We were soon high above the river on the right bank inspecting King Kong, quite possibly the longest rapid of note.The top section looked straight forward enough and we agreed to eddy out half way down to inspect the lower section, PK led us in and three of us punched into the eddy over the huge eddy line, H had a harder time of it in her Booster, missed the eddy and was last seen upside down disappearing out of sight, PK quickly broke out into the current leaving Ian and I exiting our boats and running downstream to assist / prevent further incident.

I tried climbing out up the bank to the road for a better view and was met with a sheer 10 metre cliff of shale and loose rock, I headed downstream for another 400 metres before finding a way up to the road and eventually getting sight of H and PK sat in an eddy river right.

Ian and I agreed on the line we would take down the remaining section and were quickly back in our boats breaking out into the current.I ended up further right than I had intended and crashed into a hole sideways, a brief surf and I flushed out paddling hard to avoid another hole only a couple of meters away, skimmed round that and I was back on line heading back right to join the others.

The river twists and turns over the next kilometre or two and we worked hard ferrying across the river for the best views of what lay ahead before inspecting the last major rapid Busted Gonad, eventually deciding on the left line into the rapid as it would look better for the pictures. We all crashed through without too much trouble, although Ian managed to end up further right than he had wanted after rolling on entry to the rapid.

We continued down past the filling station for a few kilometres through some of the biggest waves of the trip so far.

Our final day on the water saw us starting at the confluence of the Oltu and the Tortum, a more alpine experience and certainly easier water than we had been used to over the preceding days, flowing muddy brown with silt washed in by the heavy rain and hail of the previous evening's storm.Joining the Coruh at the filling station at the bottom of the gorge section we continued downstream of House rock getting out a couple of K above the biggest rapid on the river, Lava, which from high above on the road with this volume of water looked to be a daunting prospect.House rock caught Ian, PK and myself out, only H realised where we where on the river and she led over hard right of the rock into an eddy an easy water.Ian had eddied out on the left and had no hope of making the ferry to the line we had taken, he was forced to take the burly left line through the huge hole, slightly ruffled he popped out at the bottom with a wry smile and look of relief.



 Flight, Turkish Airlines Manchester to Erzerum via Istanbul £279 each

Hotel Istanbul 2 nights 140 Euro

$80 excess for boats outward

29 Lire excess for 4 boats Erzerum to Istanbul

70 Euro excess for 4 boats Istanbul to Manchester

$290 each for Birol

$240 shuttle to and from Erzerum

80 Lire for 4 taxi runs to and from the airport

£56 car parking at Manchester

All of these costs with the exception of plane ticket and money to Birol can be divided by 4, giving a grand total of about £540 each at today's exchange rates, plus some incidental spending money, bargain.


 We flew from Manchester and the timing of the flights landing in Istanbul and leaving for Erzurum means an overnight stay is required, you could stay in the airport but a quick search on the internet saw us into the Side Hotel and Pension, 2 rooms costing 70 Euro has to be considered as a bargain and you get a brief glimpse the ancient city and local way of life

 PK had spoken to Birol who owns and runs Greenpeace camping in Yusufeli, a village situated at the confluence of the Barhal and Coruh.Birol arranged for a shuttle minibus and met us at the airport and acted as our shuttle bunny, interpreter, chef, barman, holiday guide and all round good guy for the duration of our stay, nothing was too much trouble.We stayed in a couple of the tree houses that Birol has built although you could take tents if you wanted to, he also has three rooms above the bar area available.I have no idea of what the nightly rate is, we pitched up and started a tab running, the $290 each that we paid covered all of our breakfasts and evening meals, accommodation, shuttles and bar tab.

You could possibly manage the week even cheaper but I doubt it, for peace of mind and value for money, pay Birol your hard earned and let him sort it all out. 

If you like big water go for one of the weeks in June, the bigger you like it the earlier you go, simple, our days started warm and cloudy, clearing to scorching hot and sunny with storm clouds in the late afternoon, although it didn't rain every day we did have a monster hail storm one evening, flooding the tracks and camping area for a brief time and turning the cloudy grey water of the Barhal filthy brown in only a few minutes.

Eastern Turkey is well off the beaten track, Yusufeli lies about 20K from the Iranian border on the banks of the Barhal and the Coruh and proved to be an excellent staging point for the three rivers we paddled.The local economy seems to be gearing up for a steady influx of tourists with a hotel being built just up the track from the Greenpeace campsite providing rooms at 70 Euro a night, but personally I wouldn’t swap a hotel room for a Tree house and sleeping out in the fresh air.We met plenty of travelling type folk but no real tourists and apart form a couple of rafts and the Water by Nature guys no one else was boating whilst we were on the river.If you fancy an alternative to the regular Alpine paddling get yourself on a plane for six hours to the Coruh.