Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Story: A Short Trip Down the Ili River

Yesterday some colleagues and I took a river trip along the Ili River, north of Almaty.  The Ili flows westward into Kazakhstan from China and pauses briefly at the Kapchagay Reservoir where there is a dam.  After Kapchagay the river turns northward eventually feeding into Lake Balqash. 

We arrived at the put in point around 9:30 am on what was looking to be a chilly, overcast Autumn day.  Our watercraft (which our outfitter alternately described to us as "canoes," "Kayaks," and "boats,") were 4 meter long  canvas kayak-type boats with aluminum paddles.  After a brief safety overview from the outfitters, we loaded our provisions for the day into the boat and set off down the river.

The Ili river flows swiftly northward through a canyon cut out of the steppe.  Steep rock walls define and guide the river. The current of the river carried us northward toward bluer skies.  Finally the sun emerged and the day transformed into a glorious warm late-summer day.

Our Route took us roughly 20km (14 miles) down the river.  Along the way, we passed fishermen and campers out for the weekend, an old barge that has been moored in the same spot for more than thirty years.  We also saw plenty of non-human wildlife including Steppe Eagles, ducks, river gulls, sheep, and horses.

Around 10km into the trip we came to one of Kazakhstan's Army training camps.  This camp trains soldiers in search and rescue among the wreckage of old soviet train cars and helicopters.  They also train in rock climbing.  Feeling like a stretch, we beached our boats and had a look around.  While the soldier we encountered wouldn't let us explore the training props (he was expecting his boss), he was happy to let us take pictures, and to ask as many questions as we wished.

Back on the river, a few more kilometers brought us to the set fortress used in the film "Nomad." We got out, paid the caretaker 200tg each for entrance and set about exploring this rather convincing construction (made almost entirely of wood and facade bricks).

The final stop  of our trip was at a Petroglyph site depicting Buddha.  Buddhist philosophies were introduced in Kazakhstan in the late 7th Century.  We stopped for pictures and a stretch before paddling the final 3 kilometers to our take-out point.  We capped off our day of leisure with chips, salsa, and Shashlik cooked on an open fire.  Food always tastes so much better out doors.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, looks like a nice trip. I'm in kapchagay right now and would like to do this trip with my girlfriend. Where did you rent the kayaks? Thanks for sharing :-)