15-Mar-2011 – After my first confluence visits in Kazakhstan some time ago, I’ve had a bit of a break. No visits last summer and then winter came again. This makes travelling around in our area in south west Kazakhstan difficult on a motorbike, but it also provides opportunities, and for one confluence it is actually ideal… 47°N 51°E! Check it on satellite imagery and you will see that it is located in the shallow swampy northern area of the Caspian Sea. Knee deep water, more than knee deep mud, and impenetrable reed beds make it practically impossible to get to in summer, however the harsh winter makes the reed beds thin out, and the entire area freezes solid for a short period.
The confluence point is about 70 kilometers from the nearest city, Atyrau, then there’s about 16 km to get to the shoreline, and then it is 7 km over the “sea” to get to the confluence which is right in the middle of an open area in the reeds. My friend Matt Gulland has the perfect car to transport our 2 bicycles and ourselves over the bumpy, muddy last 16 km of the “road” and we got to the sea without too much trouble.
Here we took the bicycles out and started cycling, luckily the sea was still frozen solid, although the thin layer of snow on top had thawed and frozen again, making the cycling a bit harder. We made it fairly easy to about 1500 meters from the confluence until we hit the first reed bed which we couldn’t get around. Off the bikes and a bit of pushing got us through and another short ride later we hit more, denser reeds, as the pictures show. Hoping to get to the confluence complete with bike I dragged it along for a hundred meters or so until I decided to give up and leave it there. Wisely enough Matt had already done that right at the first reed bed. Marked a quick waypoint and we continued both on foot. After some hard work pushing ourselves through the last bits of reed we got to the confluence which is luckily just in a little open area, so there is a bit of a view.
We took our pictures, had a quick bite to eat and continued our trip back to the car. Now simply backtracking through the reed, we moved a lot quicker and soon we were back at the bikes. Back to the car with a few service stops as Matt’s bicycle chain had decided it had enough and broke 2 or 3 times. Overall a unique confluence and a fun day out! I’m happy we just made it this year, because only a few days after the visit the temperature went up and now it is impossible to reach.
Hopefully back for more soon!