Muksu River, Tajikistan. An expedition paddling review of the Nirvana

An email appeared in my inbox from Thomass Marnics (of Latvia) and Olaf Obsommer (of Germany). As I read the invitation to join them on a kayaking mission in Tajikistan, this line sold me on the trip; “The main idea is to paddle all the classic rivers of Pamir Mountains with the highlight of this trip – Muksu river.”

The Muksu River is known as one of the most difficult and uncomfortable rivers in the former USSR. Must run box canyons frequent, but the real crux is getting to the river. It’s source is two of the highest peaks in the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan, both over 23’000 feet. The deep gorges with endless white water have only been visited by three groups of kayaker, the last group were forced to call in a rescue due to cerebral edema – altitude sickness that one of the member suffered.

I was on board. And it was a perfect expedition to test what my new Nirvana could do.

Everyone who has paddled the Nirvana or heard the hype is aware that is is a great – fast, stable and predictable boat. It only takes a quick paddle to notice it’s progressive design, but my question was – how would the Nirvana work on a demanding expedition, loaded down with 10 days of gear?

Hiking into the Muksu:
To get to the start of the Muksu River, we had to hike over a 16’000 foot pass.

Nine foot long boats are awesome because they are so fast, but the downside is when hiking – 9 feet is a lot of plastic to carry. The nirvana is heavier than other medium creek boats – which are all much shorter, but it is light compared to other boats its length.. But personally I think the extra length is worth the weight.

Not only did the high elevation weaken us, but we were all food sick. With a little luck we eventually got the help of several donkeys to the start of the river.

Packing 10 days of gear:
Often on multi-day kayaking missions, it’s important to have a boat that performs when it’s seriously loaded. On the Muksu, we had to carry 10 days of food, gear and fuel, not to mention our cold weather gear for the grueling hike above the tree line over the 16’000 foot pass.

Photo Credit – Alona Buslaeva

The first day paddling my bow would sometimes catch while I ferried (similar to other longer boats I have paddled). But with a quick adjustment moving my seat back a notch, I found
that it lifted the bow just enough allowed me to ferry and control the boat comfortably through bad currents. The boat carried me at 180 pounds plus my 10 days of gear and food without a hiccup; I could still charge, boof, ferry and surf. In this regard the Nirvana exceeded my expectations.

Durability:
The Muksu starts at high elevation, and the small creek was hard on the boats. Not to mention that I love boofing off rocks and didn’t let many rocks pass un-boofed or un-smeared.

The wear and tear was hard on some of the other boats – and after welding many of the cracks we had to resort to unorthodox techniques to fix them by stitching cracks together with wire. The repair job worked for the rest of the trip, but I was feeling fortunate that the Nirvana’s plastic held strong without any kind of cracking or wear.

Photo Credit – Alona Buslaeva

Photo Credit – Alona Buslaeva

– Erik Boomer

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