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Bikerafting Three Unknown Rivers in Kyrgyzstan – A Photo Essay

Mike McGrath pack rafting the Sary Jaz River, Kyrgyzstan.

Navigating the Unknown on Three Rivers in Kyrgyzstan by Packraft & Bicycle – A Photo Essay by Kit Guncheon, with Mike McGrath

Photos and captions by Kit Guncheon.

Mike McGrath pack rafting the Sary Jaz River, Kyrgyzstan.
My friend Mike and I were absolutely looking for an adventure when we brought bikes and packrafts to the eastern border of Kyrgyzstan for 16 days. However, we had no idea how raw the landscape would actually be. We had a specific plan, but we knew we would have to play it by ear at some points.
Mike McGrath pack rafting the Sary Jaz River, Kyrgyzstan.
Turns out, we played it by ear almost the entire time. Luckily, with the aid of two Alpacka Raft packrafts, we we able to traverse some seriously gnarly terrain relatively safely.
Kit Guncheon and Mike McGrath in Kyrgyzstan.
We spent the first three days in Kyrgyzstan mostly pushing our bikes through steep, rainy valleys where only the incredible views and friendly people kept us going. When we reached the first runnable river, the Sary Jaz, we were elated, finally able to ditch the hike-a-biking and choose the 100% downhill option of packrafting the glacial-fed river.
Mike McGrath pack rafting the Naryn River, Kyrgyzstan.
Going down these rivers blind was intense, especially when we didn’t know if anyone had ever taken even a kayak down these waters, let alone a packraft with a bike strapped to it. We quickly learned just because downhill, doesn’t mean easy. (The Naryn River)
Our blood pumped as we navigated around rocks flipped in holes, and portaged around serious rapids, but we whooped and hollered with joy most of the time and always went to bed smiling. (The Uch Kul River)
Our blood pumped as we navigated around rocks flipped in holes, and portaged around serious rapids, but we whooped and hollered with joy most of the time and always went to bed smiling. (The Uch Kul River)
 After all, this we came for that experience. The intensity, the fear, the on-the-spot decision making, and even the dead ends were all part of the journey and the excitement.
After all, this we came for that experience. The intensity, the fear, the on-the-spot decision making, and even the dead ends were all part of the journey and the excitement.
Kit Guncheon and Mike McGrath in Kyrgyzstan.
Things didn’t go perfectly, not even close. But it was all worth it to witness the human spirit work in such a breathtaking landscape. I don’t know where I’ll be next, but I’ll definitely be back to Kyrgyzstan one day. It’s just too beautiful to see only once.