One of the greatest assets of the travel destination Georgia is its variety in landscape, culture and climate. Georgia is so small, you easily can cross it within one day, nevertheless you experience all forms of nature. Huge glaciers dominate the northern ranges in Svaneti and Tusheti, formidable wines are produced in hilly Kakheti, more to the East hot dry deserts border with Azerbaidshan. On the Black Sea coast instead, the hot and very humid climate makes you feel in the Tropics. Experts say that the south-western republic of Adjara hosts the best valleys for steep creeking. As raining season peaks in winter and early spring, this is the time to find epic water levels in the lush green jungle of Adjara. We make the journey over the spectacular 2024 metre high Goderzi pass anyway, knowing that we can hop to Turkish Kackar mountains for some days if water proves to be low.
Also on the way there is a heritage task to do from my first trip to Georgia. When I found myself into severe trouble while thunderstorms crushed on my backpack, a local family gave me shelter and provided me with all needs in that emergency situation. Now it was time to drop by, say Thanks and Hello. The visit was meant just to leave a few words with the help of Gio but of course we ended up at 10 am with two emtpy bottles of wodka and a table full of food. It was amazing! Who wonders that we didn’t care about the dry Adjaritskali river which is a powerful class 4 in deep gorges during the melt in spring. The plan B meant also a change in logistics as Gio and Webkho were not prepared for crossing international borders. They simply forgot there passports in Tbilisi. But never mind, some days off for them and we hired in the roads of Batumi, the capital of Adjara. Although our new driver Murman spoke only Georgian and Russian he took us directly to mighty Coruh river, just a few dozens kilometres behind the border.
Late at night we pitch our camp in a ruined police station. The whole village will be drowned in the huge reservoir of Artvin dam so they already destroyed most of the houses. For us the perfect ghost village camp spot! Having arrived to Yusufeli, the heart of river tourism in the Coruh valley, we straight drive to the Barhal put-in. This crystal-clear creek is fed by the large snow fields of Mount Kackar (3937 m) and provides one of the best whitewater in whole Turkey. An endless number of drops, technical rapids, powerful stoppers, spectacular boofs and a good flow even in midsummer. Barhal stream is untouched by dams till now. Hopefully it will be like that for many more years! When you attempt to run the harder upper part from Barhal village, be sure to find the last eddy before an unrunnable siphon which blocks a small canyon right next to the road. Trees are no major hazard but if there are some, they probably got situated in the most narrow spot. So take care! The Barhal is also a great river if you like marathon paddling. There is nothing to stop you paddling all way down to the Greenpeace camp at Birol’s. A long 30 kilometres, the second half a never ending class 2 to 3 pleasant run.
The Coruh itself has lost much of its excellent reputation from the times when it was counted among the ten world best rafting rivers. Within the last five years several dams were started to be built leaving only short sections of brown muddy water in a valley owned by stone pits, trucks and caterpillars. At least Yusufeli gorge down to the Barhal confluence is still a great road side run.
Having run the Barhal three times we make our way back to Batumi. The weather in the Coruh valley is unbearably hot, but at least dry. At the coast instead big clouds are accumulating in front of the Pontic range and cover the lowlands in a pall of humidity. Loosing litres of sweat we are invited by our driver to his parents’ house some 30 kilometres north of Batumi. Arriving there we discover a nice surprise: During the night it was raining in the inland forests and now there’s some water flowing through ever-green Kintrishi valley. Kintrishi creek is absolutely bizarre to us. We feel like creeking in Central America. Very hot, very humid air, dense vegetation with giant ferns, warm water, abundant fauna. We are astonished as we carry our boats from the ranger house (we’re in middle of the Kintrishi national park) a few hundred metres upstream.
On the water we straightly plunge into a steep boulder labyrinth. Three cumecs is not much water but the rocks are round, most of them covered with a merciful moss layer. This is eddy hopping at its best, the river barely is harder than a class 4, but sharp bends and high gradient keep us concentrated. The core section, a three metre double drop, comes unexpected and the short pool in between demands the boof stroke in the good moment. When we see the take-ot bridge we ignore the car above and just continue. Surprise! The stream has swollen to 6 or 7 cumecs, the rapids get easier but the current gains power. All that in a beautiful jungle gorge which reminds us to the Kaituna in New Zealand.
For sure, this is the place to come in spring and enjoy the Eurasian Tropics!
To be continued soon …
Go back to part 2 …
All photos of the Verfechter trip to Georgia were taken by Boby Frieser and Sebi Bauer. Thanks for that, buddies!