For the past several years #WernerPaddles Team paddler Matt Young has been our most interesting guest blogger. His writing and photos make you feel like you are part of any one of the great adventures he takes part in. Well here he is again, and this time he is dragging along team mate, friend, fellow New Yorker and one of the nicest people you will ever meet, Tony Gianfagna. Thing is, although Tony is a solid boater, this was his first multi day trip ever. So Matt decides a jaunt off to Siberia would be a great place to break the rookie in. We catch up with them as they go wheels up, heading off on the LOOONGGG trip back to the USA. I give you in Matt's words, "Tony's first time."
"Tony's first time."
"As I am writing this, I am sitting on an airplane that just took off from Irkutsk, Siberia, headed to Moscow, then to New York City, and eventually home to the Adirondacks. With any luck, I have just eaten my last serving of buckwheat for a really long time. Sitting a few rows in front of me is fellow Adirondack paddler Tony Gianfagna. Together Tony, myself and a group of 9 other international paddlers just completed an 11-day self-supported kayak expedition on the Kiltoy and Biluti Rivers in southern Siberia led by Tomass Marnics. What made this trip particularly special is that it was Tony's first international paddling experience as well as his first multi-day paddling trip. When most people think of international paddling destinations they think Chile or Norway, and when they think of multi-day paddling they think of California. For Tony's first time he went to Siberia.
I will never forget the look of surprise on Tony's face when he saw the amount food and other gear that had to fit in his boat to sustain our group for 11-days in the wilderness. This look was even more intense when part way through the trip we felt the weight of the boats we had to carry 5 kilometers on little more than a herd path to our Biluti River base camp, affectionately called the Biluti hotel. (To accomodate all their gear Tony chose a Pyranha Everest and Matt a Burn L. Both used Werner Shogun paddles.)
Our starting point for the trip was an 8-hour drive southeast of Irkutsk in the high plains near Russia's border with Mongolia. We both sank into the rhythm of the trip quickly as the first two days of easy whitewater passed by. What was once the awkward task of packing the boat each morning became routine, and by the time we hit our first major section of whitewater on our 3rd day, Tony was a pro at packing his boat.
Catching fish in the crystal clear pools of the Kiltoy and foraging around for edible mushrooms supplemented our food supply nicely. We were so lucky to have the local knowledge of Tomass and Sierva for this, and other reasons. As the canyon walls steepened so did the level of difficulty of the whitewater. We crashed through the huge waves and holes on the lower canyon of the Kiltoy and eventually reached the seldom-paddled tributary called the Biltui. The hike up the Biltui was tough.
Lord only knows what Matt said to him to get that smile, anyone who has hiked with a HUGE loaded boat like that knows it is not funny.
The loaded boats slowed our progress to a crawl but after six hours we made it to what would be our home for the next three nights.
The Biluti turned out to be a creeking paradise with cool canyons, steep boulder gardens, and awesome waterfalls. The next few days included positioning our boats another 5 kilometers upstream of our camp, world-class whitewater, and according to Tomass, Tony being the first American to paddle off the lip of the 40 footer in the lower canyon on the Biluti.
At this point in the trip, after eight days in the wilderness, our group of paddlers from Latvia, Switzerland, the US and the UK had grown together nicely and everyone was an experienced multi-day paddler.
The majority of the whitewater was over, and we paddled the remaining 90 kilometers in two days to enjoy our first beer in nearly two weeks when we got to the take-out (it didn't matter that it was 10 o'clock in the morning when we got there)
A trip like this was truly unique no matter what your previous experience. Tomass' organization and leadership made the experience possible for both Tony and I. We are also grateful to Werner for putting the most reliable paddles in our hands for this trip and all of our paddling adventures. We are excited to be headed home armed with a slightly new perspective and amazing memories. "
Stay tuned to the Werner Paddles blog and Facebook page for more details on presentations on this expedition at regional shows by these 2 this coming spring. We appreciate the kind words at the end Matt, but it is the Werner family that owes you both a thank you. It is trips like these that shows folks that the spirit of the paddle, one of Werner Sr's gifts to us all, will always live on with paddlers like you and Tony.