Summer canoeing trips 2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015 and Saturday, July 4, 2015

Beginning of summer is a time when animals are not as active as they were in spring period, so we at CK also do not have that many activities. But, this year’s coming of the summer period was different, when we prepared two interesting canoeing trips. And although there were some small complications in the beginning, the result was second to none and we do not plan to end with this activity at all.

Out first canoeing trip became a reality on June’s last Saturday. We went to paddle down the main stream of one of the biggest of European rivers – might Danube. Many participants were surprised, that the main stream, so much used by cargo and other big ships, is also sailable by much smaller boats and canoes. Big ships are equipped with sonar, so they know where even the smallest of small boats are. Some people were scared of capsizing in the strong stream, but after initial briefing on how to safely dock a boat and how not to take too much water on bard, all that was scary started to be real fun. Non- (and close to non-) swimmers were instructed to thoroughly put their bodies into safety vests. Danube is a powerful river so every safety precaution and respect is always important yet there is no need to be afraid of it at all.

When we got to a meeting point in Bratislava early Saturday morning, it was still quite cold and heavy clouds gave us some mild share of raindrops from time to time. Altogether 12 people (including our guide Andrej) decided to “sail the distant seas” equipped with six laminated canoes were safely stored onboard a trailer. We got on a minibus and off we went for Austria. Our trip started at Donau Auen National park near the city of Stopfenreuth with our destination in Slovakia’s capital city of Bratislava. These last kilometres of Danube River in Austria are a part of project where all river’s solid (artificially made) banks will soon be gone giving way to natural forces, natural riverbanks with all indigenous plants and animals. To keep the river being sailable, an invisible artificial canal will be built in the river itself. When Andrej introduced to us this bold plan and national park itself, he showed of a proper paddling technique. Couples then hopped into the canoes and practiced in a small sheltered bay. God bless, no one suffered from sea sickness and we were soon ready to row. Entering the main stream was also not as dramatic as many expected and people barely noticed that they were moving at the speed of nice 15 kph. Canoeing was very smooth with occasional attempts to avoid bigger waves caused by passing cargo ships. During the way, Andrej showed us some of the newly built natural banks and islands, with smooth sand, barely visible from the river bank. Plovers love these sandy beaches to nest there undisturbed. We had a chance to stop on one island fully covered with invasive plant species to take a short break. Some of us, those more cold resisting, decided to take a little swim. Sun poked from behind the clouds and for that moment, it became really hot indeed. Soon after we paddled again and after a very short while, we spotted a familiar mountain Devínska Kobyla with majestic remains of Devin castle. This is the place, where Morava River meets Danube, so we needed to switch sides along which we were paddling. Under Devin castle, Andrej showed us an island called Slovanský ostrov. This river island is a strictly protected area with one of the last remaining alluvial forests, so entering this place is strictly limited. We had a chance to observe it from water level not only using a main stream of the river, but also from the other side where one of the river’s branches flows. As we were approaching our destination – Karloveské rameno, one of our canoes capsized when entering a still water inside the bay. Men over board had a great fun to swim towards the bank with towing the canoe behind them. They were chilled, and lost one paddle, but they were safe and sound and all smiles. It was when we noticed heavy clouds coming from Austria, so we had to use all our strength to land safely as soon as possible. Just when the last boat safely anchored, a heavy rain started, but all of us safely made it back home after 4 hours of paddling down the stream of one of the water giants of Europe.

July’s first Saturday we embarked on another canoeing trip, this time it was Hungarian side with its many branches, one of which, infamous Moson branch, was our destination. Although our minibus came a little bit later than agreed, it did not take us 14 (plus Andrej) long to reach the start of our trip – Rajka town in Hungary. Day was sunny and quite hot from a very beginning, so it was important that all participants had enough drinking water, because this canoeing trip was to take almost twice as much time as Austrian one. We distributed canoes evenly (what a surprise) some of which had very funny names (Catharsis, Rainbow, Seventh boat, etc.). Andrej was equipped with kayak, this time for a better manoeuvrability. He again showed us a proper paddling technique, for most of us had not participated on the trip to Austria one week before. Moson Danube is very similar to our Little Danube, but it’s shorter and wilder. In compare with a main stream, it’s significantly narrower and slower. Moson branch’s banks are very often covered with fallen trees one needs to avoid. And this was the doom of Catharsis and its crew. When trying to avid one of fallen trunks, Catharsis capsized with poor crew merrily splashing the water. Hot weather and shining sun made their bath significantly more pleasant had it been a week before. Maybe that was the reason why they repeated the same action soon after. Their hilarious sailing abilities were crowned when they not only saved all their paddles and gear, but (unbelievably) managed to find one more paddle on the way cancelling the losses from previous trip to Austria. This happy event marked the beginning of a very smooth and happy trip. First part of the trip was definitely most natural one, extremely calm, with trees fallen even to the half of the stream, breathtaking bays and forest all around. Not a single sign of civilisation, just an absolute wilderness. With temperatures over 30C, we were forced to make regular refreshment stops filled with eating and swimming. Firstly, stream was fast enough to limit our efforts to occasional paddling, but later, as the river broadened and flow almost stopped, we were forced to use our arms more. Again, we saw river banks untouched by humanity, but also numerous settlements fully using the advantages of water element, not to mention all those beautiful birds along the way. Shortly before our destination in a small town of Halászi, the big beach there was filled with families, and although we had scarcely seen a human being before, now we got a fair share of people, motor boats, and other small floating devices making safe navigating a real task. People just enjoyed the hot weather the best possible way. After landing, we did not miss a chance to taste some of local Hungarian cuisine specialities, got on the minibus and relaxed after a hot exhausting day on water. And because the reviews were largely positive, we definitely want to continue with such activities in future.

List of observed bird species:

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Great Egret (Ardea alba / Egretta alba)
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Coot (Fulica atra)
Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos / Tringa hypoleucos)
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius)
Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
unidentified gull (Laridae sp.)
unidentified woodpecker (Picidae)

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