Four women, three countries, two months, one river
When daydreaming about a new adventure American medic Amber Valenti did not restrict her imagination. She gave her mind a good workout and let herself think far and wide. In the end, she came up with her ultimate kayaking trip.
Amber’s dream plan was to paddle a free flowing river from source to sea.
But free-flowing rivers that do not have any dams, especially in America, are hard to find – and so Amber had to go in search of something suitable. Her far-reaching research brought her to the remote Amur River, the source of which is located in Eastern Mongolia.
From the heart of Asia, the Amur heads 4,400km journey via China to the Pacific Ocean in Russia. It is the world’s 10th longest river.
Amber says: “As soon as I discovered this river it captured my imagination. I loved its remoteness and the biodiversity. I knew this was where I wanted to have my big kayaking adventure.”
Amber also invited a few kayakers to come with her – and the resulting group ended up being all female. Alongside Amber, there were three women paddlers, Sabra Purdy, Becca Dennis and Krystle Wright.
Amber insists that this wasn’t deliberate but “the outcome was really good because if there had been men on our trip I imagine the dynamics and experience would have been quite different”.
The trip, which took 60 days, is featured in this year’s European Outdoor Film Tour – which is currently on tour. You can see the trailer of the UK premier of the film, directed by Skip Armstrong.
Nobody’s River showcases the many challenges and highlights of Amber’s epic kayaking trip. It is an adventure full of contrasts: Pain and happiness, discoveries and farewells, beauty and decay.
Amber says: “We were not the first to paddle the river but that wasn’t the point of the trip. I had no intention of drawing attention to the trip because we were all women, either.
“The aim of the trip was to enjoy an adventure and also to capture it in pictures and on film. I wanted to document and reveal to others how truly spectacular this area is and what the trip meant to us, as a group.”
Amber reports that there were some unexpected highlights of the journey. She says: “We travelled by horseback in Mongolia with local herdsmen. This was how we got to our start point. During this time we developed amazing bond with these people.
“We didn’t have a shared language but there was something special that came from our time with them. We could not have predicted this. It was very uplifting.
“Also, we could hardly conceive how remote our trip would be, especially the upper section of the river. The silence, wildness and power are difficult to describe in words. There was an incredible magic to the place and one which I hope can be seen in our film.”
Of course, in such a remote place, there were many potential dangers, including illness and flooding. But Amber did not consider the trip to be high risk.
She says: “There were some scary parts and we were continually assessing risks. We knew that flooding could be a major problem and also if one of us became ill it would take at least seven days to evacuate to medial help so that was constantly there in the back of your mind.
“But this was not an adrenaline style trip. It was a slow burn expedition and one that allowed us to great care of our situation and ourselves. At no point was there a fear of dying, although we were always aware of our vulnerability.
“It was trip that gave us each an amazing experience and a shared adventure. It’s something that we will always have with us. Really, I would love for everyone to see our film and to see a little of what we paddled through. Exploration is life changing and life affirming. See for yourself.”
You can catch Nobody’s River – and a host of other award-winning outdoors and adventure films – at the EOFT in Scotland in November. The tour comes to Glasgow on November 7 and Edinburgh on the 8th.
Also see Nobody’s River.