Sea Kayaker
Sandy Robson

Following Oskar Speck's Journey - Diary - The Donau

Note - This is the Diary of my travels paddling on the Danube/Donau/Duna/Dunav (all names for the Danube).  After the Danube I go to the Vardar River in Macedonia and there is a separate Blog page for that river.  Then the route of Oscar Speck takes me to Greece (see the Greece page if you are interested in reading about sea kayaking the Greek Islands).  Keep following please...the best is to come.

Resources for paddling the Donau:  I can recommend the following
1.  I used the Donau Radweg maps for the river up until the border of Austria and Slovakia.
2.  I used the TID maps for the rest and these are awesome, THE BEST, don't leave Austria without them.
3.  I used the German guide book for the Danube (Kanu - Die Donau und Nebenflusse by Otto Kaufhold)...this is great for knowing which side to paddle to for the locks and where you can portage the locks.  The river numbers are also great (even though some are wrong)  See notes below re this book and Serbia. The book is in German, but still get it even if you do not speak German.
4.  I used the TID schedule for finding campsites and river numbers for these.  Donau Max gave me contact sheets for clubs and loads of additional useful resources that he has created.
5.  I used resources from TID Serbia when paddling there.  These were custom made for me by Dejan.
6.  Dejan showed me the maps he uses that are made from Deutschland - Sudwest 1:45000 fur Kanu-und Ruder Sport - this looked awesome with great additional information included.  I would source this if doing the trip again.

JUNE 2011 - I have only partly updated the Serbian section. there is much more to write!  I am however, trying to write an article for a magazine about paddling in Serbia, so I won't update this part of the diary until I see if I can submit the story to a magazine.  In my opinion Serbia is the best part of the Danube and if you can only paddle a part of the Danube then contact the Serbian TID representative Dejan and do Serbia.  Dont be scared.  People will tell you all sorts of stories about Serbia that are simply not true.  After going to Serbia I now know the meaning of propaganda!  Djerdup and the Iron Gates gorge were my favourite part of the Danube.  The Serbian paddlers were fantastic to meet and to paddle with.  The German guide book for the Danube (Kanu - Die Donau und Nebenflusse by Otto Kaufhold) is great for the other parts of the Danube, but much of what it says about Serbia is rubbish, so dont read the Serbian section of that book.  If you are going off to paddle in Serbia on the Dunav I am happy for you to email me if you have some queries.

June 23 Brza Palanka to Prahovo (my last day on the Danube), 19km
: I had a dog for a day. 

We met in the morning when I was packing up camp. I just said hello like I do to most dogs.  She was friendly like most dogs.  Then Svetlana came to see me off and say goodbye.  As I went to leave the dog came out into the water and joking around I told her to jump on the kayak.  I was surprised when she did and it was funny so I got Svetlana to take some photos, then I gave the little Jack Russell a push back to the beach.  She didn't want to go.  I waved goodbye and paddled away and I could see the dog swimming after me and then she turned and went back and then was running along the beach following me.  At the end of the beach was a high wall and I looked up and on top the dog was looking at me.  Then there was a creek which she swam across to follow me.  I didnt think she would come this far.  She ran all the way along the next beach too and through another creek and came out in the water a bit.  Now it had to be 1km that she had followed and I relented and let her on the kayak to amke the trip with me to Kusjak.  This dog was smart on the kayak.  She sat on the back deck behind me and surveyed the river like she owned it.  Now we were on the adventure together and she weighted the kayak only a little.  She would have liked to sit in front of me, but I wouldnt let her because she would get in the way of the paddle so she got used to the back deck and even found a way to sleep back there for a while later in the day.  I tried to tell her to sit in Serbian when she was moving around too much and I told her Dobro (good) when she was in a good spot.   Oskar Speck had a dog with him for some sections of his journey and a dog would be good for security of your things when you are leaving them on the beach and for camping alone a dog would be good, but Oskar had a double kayak an room for a dog to travel.  I cant take this dog on the Vardar in the whitewater and on the sea she would get wet and cold and have trouble staying onboard, especially when I am sailing, so the dog is just for a day.  I am not sure if anyone owns her, but I am calling her Brza from Brza Palanka.  Brza means Speedy.  Speedy little place on the river where the river used to flow past fast before the dam (Djerdup 2).  Brza is a speedy and smart little dog and I hope that she meet other kayakers that come to Brza Palanka.  Maybe she will go to the Black Sea with Eric in the canoe, or maybe she will be there waiting when Dragan goes to Brza Palanka for the TID later this year.  Dragan picked me up at Kusjac.  I was 5kms short of Prahovo so I dont have to go through the ordeal of getting past Djerdup 2.  6 and a half hours at Djerdup 1 were enough to know this is a good decision.  Then we drive Brza back to Brza Palanaka and maybe someone does own her but I dont think so.  She didnt want to get out of the car and she ran down the road after the car as fast as she could...but unfortunately I cant be her human, she will have to look for another one (sniff).  Journeys with dogs always have a sad ending.  Dragan says if she is in Brza Palanka when they arrive with the TID then he will take a photo of her for me and email it. 
Now we are off to Skopje and then Veles.  I start paddling on the Vardar River tomorrow.
I'd like to keep going to the Black Sea, but I am retracing Oskar's trip now.  I'll have to come back to finish the Dunav sometime :)

AWWWWW The best photo so far! Fuzzy wet dog smelling spray deck. Bye Bye Danube and Brza.

June 22 Kladovo to Brza Palanka, 59km.  Tough day.  Last night I made camp at 2am in Kladovo, I was in my sleeping bag at 2.30am.  At 3.30am I was awoken to some people talking loudly in Serbian on the footpath above my tent.  I could not tell what they were saying, just a few words, but that was enough to have me a little scared and worried.  They talked about the NATO bombing and then a girl started screaming - I think for my benefit!  I was a bit worried about what they might do if they were drunk.  This was not a good place to camp.  Too many people around.  I packed up camp and had a very early breakfast on the beach.  So I set out on my day with only one hour sleep for 60kms to paddle.  I took it slow, it was very hot.  I stopped on some beaches and slept on the beach for half an hour then I went to the next beach and slept another half an hour.  Eventually I reached Brza Palanka to a warm greeting and a super campground, and I was hosted by Zoran and Svetlana for a shower and dinner and some internet time.  I will sleep safely and soundly tonight :)

June 21 Donji Milanovac to Kladovo, 56km.  The BEST part of the whole Danube River today, but then I came to Djerdup 1 Lock and they made me wait 6 and a half hours to go through! I reached my camping site in Kladovo at 2am after paddling in the dark from the lock! (not happy about the Serbian Lock)  The transit lounge for the Serbian Lock is a rocky river bank in the cold or damp in my kayak, but then i got an upgrade to a German motorboat called Jeanette with Carl and Reiner from Munich.  I told them my favorite Bavarian word and they let me on board "Oachkastlshwuff" (my spelling is not correct I know, but they almost fell overboard laughing that I knew that word - thanks to my teacher Patrick)

June 20 Veliko Gradiste to Donji Milanovac, 72km, camping with Eric the German canoeist from Stuttgart.  He paddled only 2 times before he made the trip from Germany and he paddles with no maps!  It is good to have someone to camp with in the middle of the town.

June 19 Smederevo to Veliko Gradiste, 60km, paddling solo again, but with Dejan's plan for my campsites

June 18 Belgrade to Smederevo, 46km paddling with Dejan, Dragan & Zoran

June 17 Paddling the Sava, Belgrade newspaper interview and Serbian BBQ.

June 16 Rest day in Belgrade, web updates, Avala trip with Dejan  Coffee with Manda was good thismorning and then I went with Dejan to his house to use the internet and he took me to the big radio tower which is an icon of Belgrade dstroyed in the NATO bombardment.  10 years later it is rebuilt and very high so I went up to see if I could see how much further it is to Australia, but I think it was obscurred by the clouds.  The cross training today was the stairs up to the monument in the park.  Later we had dinner at a restaurant and this was a true Serbian meal with lots of meat - more than I could ever eat in one sitting so Dejan had to help me.  Tomorrow Manda is taking me paddling on the Sava River here in Belgrade and then on Saturday I head off for my last 5 days on the Dunav. Perhaps one of the funniest translations today with Dejan and I communicating in pieces of German and English was this... outside Dejans house their are piles of straw.  I asked what they are for and he told me for the cow.  I was surprised - you have a cow?  He says he has a small cow? and leads me down the garden path to a shed containing three goats!  There are also chickens, red currents and berries in the garden.  My kind of garden I think.

June 15 Rest Day? and another Jugo bike tour.  Today I get a much needed sleep in and some time to organise my things and clean my food bags out and do washing.  I am also planning for the next two weeks.  Mandas place is like staying in a luxury apartment.  Dejan comes by and drops off some bikes for today and we look at my Vardar maps and he marks on the places I have to take care.  He also provides me with a contact in Veles.  I have learned that there is not enough water to paddle from Skopje to Veles right now, but Dejan is organising all of my campsites for the rest of Serbia and contacts to keep an eye on me and English interpretters if needed by phone.  He has also organised a driver to help me get from the Dunav to the Varda via Skopje and beginning paddling in Veles.  If I need logistcal support on the Varda then this is also possible.  This whole situation is PERFECT and I am humbled by the generosity of these people.  Jugo comes to Mandas at midday and we head off for the bike tour of Belgrade looking for places Oskar Speck may have slept when he says that he slept on the box for 3 days in Belgrade.  I am not sure what this expression means, but maybe he slept on an old container ship on the waterfront.  We also explore the fort and pass by the military museum before going to the heart of the city.  Lunch is mulberries from a tree near the fort and later Burek from a bakery.  Then a visit to look from the outside at the orthodox church and of course an amazing story before the big ride uphill to Mandas with Jugo using reverse psychology to make me ride to the top without stopping.  The cross training on the bike was great.  Later we have to say goodbye as he heads back to Novi Sad, but I think I may meet the Duke of Novi Sad again in my life and I will certainly remember his philosophy for life.  I had dinner with Manda and Greta and it was fun to chat to a woman living and working in Belgrade and hear her experiences and opinions and just to have some female company too.  Maybe today wasnt a rest day after all, I am sooooo tired.  These guys are the BIG GUNS of Serbian paddling...

June 14 Novi Sad to Belgrade, 95km approx.  Four and a half hours sleep is not nearly enough to paddle nearly 100kms to Belgrade, but that is what we are doing. Days with Jugo are full of stories and experiences and he makes you breathe the river and smell the air.   I could write a book I think from just three days in his company, but I will just pick the highlights here.  At a special place we took a left turn and paddled an arm from the Donav that has probably only ever been paddled by a few non-Serbian people.  On the right is an island where Jugo tells me the local villagers let livestock just run free, and then they have plenty of food when they need it before the winter.  There are chickens, roosters, pigs and wild horses that I see today.  Paddling with a group of wild horses charging across the river in front of you is a pretty cool experience in my world.  The low point was later being sprayed with something from a plane as we paddled back toward the Dunav - I am told it is only harmless chamical for mosquito control, but I still dont like it.  We made a stop on an island later in the day because Jugo was really feeling sore from his kayak which I have not described yet.  It is small and white and short and has no cockpit rim and no spray deck, a hard seat and he takes off his sandal and places it behind his back as a backrest.  I could never paddle his kayak 10kms and he is paddling nearly 100km today and he made the same trip just one day ago too when he had no idea he would be asked to paddle it again with me.  Jugo stops regularly to sponge water out of the kayak and on the island where we stop he tried to sleep a bit on a small bench and he tells me he is leaving his damaged kidneys here and he will come and pick them up another day.  The sandal backrest just doesnt cut it.  Jugo teaches me the art of turkish or serbian coffee making, some serbian language and a lot of the history and religion of serbia so that I can really start to understand these people and the place.  When we are feeling exhasted on approach to Belgrade his Saint brings us a storm that blows us all the way to Belgrade as the sun sets and the full moon rises.  I never would hav imagined befre that I would come to Belgrade and now I am blown here in a storm wit squalling winds.  The wind calms as we reach Zemun and it is dark when we land and are met by Dejan and Dragan.  We are whisked off to a restaurant still spinning from a fun day on the water, tired and sunburnt too... the kitchen is closed so we have a glass of wine and then go for a takeaway dinner.  We talk about the Vardar and Jugo is my translator because speaks excellent English.  I can speak a little German to Dejan too which is fun.  Very late I find myself meeting Manda for the second time in my life.  He is a Serbian paddler who I met in New Zealand at Coastbusters a few years ago.  Manda is hosting me in the flat below his home in Belgrade.  Sleep comes at last.  What a day.

June 13 Backa Novo Selo to Novi Sad, 60km. The river becomes more beautiful the further I venture into Serbia and I start to see some mountains in the distance.  There are many bends in the river which slows down the flow, so the paddling is more effort, but I do have some tail wind and can use my sail to make the day easier.  The sail goes up and down as the river winds and is constantly changing direction.  After Backa Palanka Serbia is on both sides of the river and I can paddle anywhere. On arrival in Novi Sad I was looking for the TID camp, but took the wrong turn and found a kanu club instead.  They gave me directions to find a campsite on foot, but I could not find it.  I began to ralise that I needed to go a little further to find where the TID camp.  Walking back I was accosted on the road by a man who was very insistant to talk to me.  I thought he was going to beg me for some money, but then he says he has been sent to help me and he asks why I didnt call him when I landed.  His name is Jugo.  Jugo helps me get to the correct boat club and then persuades me, with some help from an Australian Serbian lady, that it is ok to leave my boat on the shore outside in their club and accompany him to stay at his apartment.  At first I was suspicious of course, but after a turkish coffee and a chat I realised that he was for real.  Some things emerge over the coffee that make me happy.  A paddler called Manda has offered to host me in Belgrade and I have met him before.  Also these Serbian paddlers know and have paddled recently on the Vardar River.  So we took my things to Jugos apartment and I met his mum and we drank more coffee and I had a hot shower and some lovely food and then we went on THE BEST bike tour of Novi Sad.  I had a rickety buckled old bike that made me laugh.  We went to the fortress and he told me about the wars and the history and he showed me his special spot overlooking a huge bend in the river and the city.  Later he made me some home made bread with cheese inside for supper.  The day was very full and I was very tired when I went to sleep.  I will remember that place over the river for a long time.

June 12 1370 to Backa Novo Selo, 52km.  It was not a good sleep.  I woke in the night to hear the snorting of wild pigs very close to my tent.  I was scared.  In Australia wild pigs can be very dangerous.  What do you do in a tent though, except wait for them to go away and listen to their noises out there in the dark grunting to each other and eating plants close by.  In the morning I saw their tracks going past my tent, to the water and then meandering toward the forest.   l launched by 7.30am and paddled to Dalj.  Here I talked from the river to some cyclists who I had met in Baja.  They are from Canberra.  I couldnt land where they were because it was very rocky and a ship was coming that would make a big wave onto the rocks.  After they cycled off I saw a small beach and I landed to put my rubbish in the bin.  Almost immediately a police car arrived and the policeman told me I cannot land in Croatia because I have Serbian Papers, not Croatian.  I realised I was a bit ignorant about the border controls and I realised I could of gotten into serius trouble for camping on the wrong side last night.  I had lunch on an island in the middle of the river opposite Vukovar.  It would be a nice place to camp, but it is also Croatia I found out - although there is some debate still over this island.  I camped near a restaurant on the river bank at Backa Novo Selo.  The restaurant let me camp for free so long as I bought dinner.  The menu was Dunav fish - the river now being called the Dunav in Serbia.  Talking to the locals there I learned that they only fish as far as the middle of the river and do not venture out to the other side.  There are eys on the river in this part of Serbia.  On the Croatian side there are little huts at tree top level where the borders are guarded.  I have started to see them now.  I had the afternoon in the sun here and did some kayak maintenance.  It was a nice quiet place to camp next to the river, and no wild pigs! Happy Birthday little nephew Charlie is 1 today.

June 11 1443 to 1370 Close to Erdut, 73km.  I launched at about 8am to paddle to the Serbian border control station.  A man met me at the steps to the customs house.  He asked me to wait a moment while he had his cigarette break and we chatted, his english was very good.  He had a dog called Rex - Inspector Rex the Serbian border dog was a bit scared of me.  After the cigarette break I was invited into the office for a seat while he made 4 copies of the entry paperwork.  On the wall in his office was an old map of the Donau and I wished I had this about 1 year ago because I spent ages trying to figure out the exact town where Speck left the Donau, and I thought after reading documents at the Maritime museum that the place he departed the Donau is Prahovo.  This map on the wall shows clearly that Prahovo is the old Yugoslavian border town.  The border control officer asked me how long my kayak is and the he says this length is a problem and it means I must pay some money to enter Serbia.  This is of course just money that goes in his pocket I think, but I was told by other travellers that I might have to pay °70 Euro and he says it is 60, so I think I got a discount!  He is much more helpful than the Hungarian border control and the process is easy.  In 40minutes I have the paperwork that I need for any water police that might stop me in Serbia and I am valid for 1 month.  Around lunchtime I came across a group of canoeists with their personal paparazi.  I stop to have some food and say hello because it looks like a tour.  They are Hungarians out for an eco-tour in Croatia and they offer me Burek and hot tea and we talk for a while.  Their tour guide also tells me some good camping places past Apatin.  After lunch I launch just before them.  I feel safe with them around and one of the men says they work in Blgrade at the Hungarian Embassy and I can go there if I have any problems in Belgrade.  The guide for the group is called Jasmin.  He laughs when I tell him it is a girls name in Australia.  He is in a motor boat to look after the group, but he goes out in front and then turns off the motor and waits for them so he does not disturb their bird watching.  At his first pause we both see a wild pig on the river bank, a big boar with tusks.  The canoeists are much slower then me so I take off heading for Aljmas, but when I arrive I cant see the place he said to ask for a campsite, so I keep going and eventually end up wild camping before Erdut.  I saw some wild piglets on the way - sorry they wouldnt pose for a photo.

June 10 1485 to 1443 - Just past Mohacs, 42km.  I had a Duna shower thismorning with the coconut shampoo that Johanna gave me, but my clothes all stink cos I washed them in Budapest and they didnt dry properly and I think the water there was a bit blah too.  I actually thought I only paddled 97kms yesterday, but then I see the 1485 marker and have done 100kms yesterday. I am feeling really good and I think that 100kms on a river is much easier than the sea, but all good training for that crossing to Cyprus and in the Greek islands there will be some big crossings, so distance training is good for me.  I think I now have better food that i like than at the start of the trip, this helps.  Shopping in Slovakia and Hungary it has been easier to find things that I normally eat, easier than in Germany (who would have thought hey).  I am in a little coffee shop on the Baja, No I havnt taken a wrong turn and ended up in Mexico, I'm at the Hungarian Baja...the coffee is expensive, but that makes the internet free so I am not complaining.  My kayak is in bay number 3 in the motor boat club and a bloke called Stephen runs the place.  He looks after all the boats and I had to pay 2000 forint, but i think that is ok for the security.  This is the last big town in Hungary, so I have shopped and now I go to Mohacs and then Serbian border crossing tomorrow.  Well, gotta keep moving...still havnt seen the Austrians, i think I will find them today or tomorrow, depending on how they are travelling (fingers crossed).  I want Johanna and Patrick back!  

After I left Baja I paddled to Mohacs to go to the border police to exit Hungary.  It took longer than I anticipated to get to Mohacs.  Border police parking is set up for big ships, see photo above. After the border formalities were done I paddled a short distance to find a nice wild camp out of town. The border formalities took a long time so I dont think I have paddled far today, but I feel refreshed after the Baja stop. I am feeling a little nervous about going to Serbia alone after what everyone has said, but I think it will work out ok if I am careful.  I am also in contact with the TID Serbia organiser and he is helping me.  He texted me about where I must go for border control in Serbia, this is great because i couldnt understand the hungrians! This photo below is my last night in Hungary - it is a beautiful country with people that make the most of the river I think.

June 9 1585 to 1485 Gemenc NP, 100km: I was on the water at 7am and Karel's forecast is for tailwinds, so I am hoping to get the sail cranking today.  Dunaujvaros if the first city and it is very industrial, so I am glad I wild camped instead of coming here. The town I liked today was Dunafoldvar...I thought camping at the yacht club camping area here would be very nice.  I saw a group of school children on the river bank here and they all waved at me, so now I am the feature of a primary school excusion to the Duna.  Yes, the river is not the Donau now.  In Hungary and Serbia they call the Danube the Duna (like Doonah that you put on your bed).  Today I focused on making big distance.  I eat sooo much food to paddle this far.  Lunch on the riverside finishes the tub of hummous that I found in Budapest - it was something I have been missing from home.  My ribs are not hurting today and I am fast how fast my body recovers.  Afetr 50kms I am still feeling great.  I get to Gemenci NP at 5pm and paddle a little further to find a good wild camp not far from Baja.  Dinner is pasta with tofu, mushroom and tomato sauce.  I eat til I cant eat any more.  My body will need this energy tomorrow - I have a tailwind forecast again :)

June 8 Budapest to 1585 (Rocalmas/Kulcs), 70.5km: Leaving Hanna Bannana and Patrick was hard.  I cried, but Patrick says the Bavarian word for the squirrel's tail that he has been teaching me and this makes me laugh.  When I was taking my kayak onto the boatramp I slipped in the slime and landed with my back ribs on the kayak (ouch for me and the kayak), so I paddled away wondering if I was just bruised or broken...I think just bruised, but sore so it takes a while to get paddling.  Budapest city is spectacular to paddle through and I think I would need a week in this city to see it all properly.  I am tired today as there was lots of city noise last night and I did not sleep well.  Tonight I look forward to a quiet camp by the river.  After the city it gets very industrial on the way out of Budapest and then relents to the forested riverside with sporadic industrial ports and ship filling stations.  After 50kms I am starting to feel very tired from the lack of sleep last night and I stop for a siesta on the river bank in the sun.  This is the first sun for the day.  It has been raining most of the morning.  I wanted to do 100kms today but I am too tired, so after 70kms I look for a wildcamp.  There are many men out fishing in Hungary, my mate Buzz would love this place.  No fish for me tonight though, I am having a big tofu noodle and veg soup and a long sleep.



June 7 HUNGARIAN SPIRITUS Challenge...When I woke up and turned on my phone I had a lot of helpful suggestions.  This should be a part of the Amazing Race when they come to Hungary.  Find 2L of spiritus and then make your way to the next pit stop.  I set out alone with Patrick's map and lots of texts of addresses and places I could look.  I caught the bus and the train like yesterday and found a cool outdoor shop (thanks Niko). I found some other things I wanted, but no Spiritus...next a long walk to a hardware store that was off the edge of my map (thanks Wil).  I asked in the camping section, but they only had gas cylinders and lamp oil.  I almost gave up there.  If you are Australian you will understand what i mean when I say it was like shopping in Bunnings (we all know how helpful they are in bunnings), but imagine the staff all only speak Hungarian and you dont know the name for what you want to buy!  I showed them my spiritus bottle and that didn't help.  Then I re-read Willy's text and he said look in the paint section and he told me it is denatural alkohol.  After some looking I found what i thought was right, but the bottle logo looks like an explosion so I asked a woman shopper who spoke english to help me and she verified with the store person that i was not going to blow myself up! So it is 'Denaturalt Szesz' that I was looking for, which somehow Willy got out of google translator! (Genius).  I also read the chemical ingredients on the bottle and I hope it is all ok - testing this arvo! I reckon it is all ok and I am outa here tomorrow early (yay). I want to go and the Austrian guys are now three days ahead of me so I have to paddle fast to find them...they could be 180kms ahead of me if they are going well.  Thanks also to my mum who phoned the Hungarian Club in Australia to see if they knew :) Ha ha, you are all on this adventure with me.  They said I could get it in a supermarket (yeah maybe now I know what it looks like).  Happy Birthday to my little sister Dallas!

June 6 Rest Day, Budapest Sightseeing Foot Fungi. Yup, I need to find some athletes foot creme today - could be a challenge.  Thank goodness the fungi is only on my feet hey.  We had found out from Aniko which bus to catch to get in to the city and onto the metro underground system that takes you all over Budapest to the sights.  Leaving the campsite we were glad to be a group as it is scary when you first venture out in a country on public transport when you dont know the language.  We had a high five when we got to the underground successfully with no problems, and actually the train was really easy to follow because Patrick and Johanna have a great map showing all the stops.  We checked out the St Stephens Cathedral and I lit a prayer candle for a continuing safe journey - this is becoming a rest day tradition that I go to an amazing cathedral and light a candle. Someone is looking out for me too because it is all going really well.  After the cathedral we crossed to the other side of the Danube - one side is Buda and the other is Pest.  On the other side we went to the big royal castle on the hill. We had a lunch break there.  All of our sightseeing today was interluded with lightning and thunderstorms.  At one stage in the afternoon we all got soaked through running in the rain to the train.  I was glad I was not paddling in the storms.  After the Parliament and the Heroes Square and lake we decided it was time to find a shopping centre as I needed a big shop for the week and the foot fungi remedy.  The pharmacy was ok, they had a book with different language sections and I could point to what i wanted and the translation was there for them in Magyar.  However, this was where I could not find the fuel for my stove anywhere.  In Australia it is methylated spirits.  In Germany Spiritus, in Hungary I don't know.  I bought some window cleaner with spiritus in it to see if it would work but it failed miserably! (My tent windows are sparkling though)  I phoned Aniko and she came down to help.  She went off with my spiritus bottle to see if she could find it, but came back with no luck.  I texted everyone I could think of that might be able to figure out a solution.  The phone a friend option was definitely needed, and a good googler may be able to figure it out for me.  We cooked spaghetti for dinner and drank red wine, found a hedgehog in the garden and I decided I would have to stay another day to find the spiritus.

June 5  Szentendrei Island to Budapest, Hungary:  Beautiful morning on the river with many rowers, canoeists, kayakers etc out for a paddle.  The Hungarians love their river and wildcamping here is no problem and a great way to make cheap travel (I am speaking broken English now I think).  Seeing everything from the Donau is great.  A very different travel perspective to other travellers I think.  On arrival in Budapest I looked for the accommodation place and was befriended by a lady who helped me find the campsite and then took me to her house to use the internet and have lunch.  I offered her a bottle of wine, but she said she helps me because she is a kayaker, so I have another new friend - Anikoe Balogh ist super :) (I am still speaking German).  When I got back to the tent from Aniko's house (after a lovely lunch), I was wondering what I would do until Johanna and Patrick arrived and then I got a phone call to say they are here early.  That was great.  It was awesome to see them again.  I had sent them a text with directions for where to land so it was easy to get their kayak up to the campsite and we went out for dinner and ate Goulash, it was a bit of an average one I think, but i didn't care, I didnt have to cook.  Tomorrow we are planning a sight seeing trip in the city and I have to shop for the next weeks travel.
June 4  1745 to near the end of Szentendrei Island, 81km:  Today I paddled alone to make my way to Budapest.  Jo and Patrick are on holiday and want to do short days and swim in the river, but I want to catch up to the Austrians.  I had a great day starting at 5.30am and paddling all day.  I caught up with the Austrians in the evening and they have had some early problems and one guy may pull out of the trip.  I said I would see them in a day or two as I am stopping in budapest to use the internet and they are not staying here because they have not covered the distance they planned initially.  I think after yesterday that I will have no problem to do 2 big days and catch up to them later.  Tonight was my best wild camping place so far. It had a big lovely tree and a chair and table by the river.  The only thing missing was Jo and Patrick...I will miss them.  They are great friends now.  Patrick said he may cry when he has to say goodbye.  I was hoping to get a chance to teach him to roll...maybe in Budapest.


June 3  1779 - 1745 (Wildcamp), 34km:  Patrick was tired today. It rained last night and on the faltboot it sounds like someone walking around the tent so Jo kept waking him up, Patrick there is someone out there! There was nobody, just the thunder, lightning and rain.  The thunder scared me a little, I thought my tent might be struck by lightning, but it was ok.  I am gettting used to the thunderstorms every evening.  Niko was glad we made only a short distance today.  In the middle of the day we found a restaurant that gave us a place to fill up water and directions to the supermarket.  While Niko and Jo went shopping at Kaufland, Patrick swam and found a small watersnake...I laughed very hard when it tried to climb up his leg and he got the biggest fright - so funny!  Patrick tells me how he fell in love with the faltboot.  He paddles an old Klepper that is maybe 40 or 50 years old and uses wooden paddles too.  It is similar to what Oskar Speck paddled I think.  Jo has made leopard print backrests and cushions and a pocket for their glasses and cigarettes and things in the back of the seat.  One day he will build his own faltboot and send me a photo of it.  He sold his play station to buy the faltboot for this trip and it cost less than 500 Euros - they travel in syle for sure.


June 2  Dunaremete - 1779 (Wildcamp), 47km:  We are enjoying paddling as a group and camping wild for free and having a fire by the river at night. - why would you want to live inside.  This is the life.  I think tomorrow or the next day Slovakia ends and I am in Hungary.  We have to look for a place to change our money there to the Hungarian currency.


June 1  Bratislava - Dunaremete (Wildcamp), 41.5km, 2 portage:  We ease off on the kms now that we are in Slovakia/Hungary.  Today we had to follow the river markers on a very wide part of the river that is like a sea when the wind blows up a head wind.  Luckily we had a tailwind.  We had two portages around a lock and around some stones in the river that make a big rapid, it is like a stone weir.  We saw the Bratislavan Whitewater park near the first lock, I had heard about this in Australia.  Also today we met a group of Austrian guys who are paddling to the black sea.  I am happy some other paddlers will be on the river when I am in serbia.  The border for Slovakia/Hungary is in the middle of the river so we can say, which country shall we sleep in tonight?  We look for good wildcamps.  I had my first swim in the Donau today.  It is greenish brown with stuff floating on top that looks like frogskins (weird).  Nice and refreshing though (bit cold for and aussie).  Then we had a bottle of wine around the fire at night and Patrick tried to teach me some Bavarian songs and words.  The Bayerish are cool.


MAY 2011

May 31  Wein - Bratislava (Slovakia), 70.9km:
  Punching headwinds again, but the Wein canal was a highlight to travel through the city and then Niko met us further down the Donau and is paddling with us for a few days in his Faltboot, so now we are a group of 4!  Peter took photos of us in the morning in Wein.  The city was very beautiful to paddle through at the beginning of the canal and then recedes to little cottages lining the shores, each with its fishing net out front on the poles.  I'd like to see how these work.  We stayed at a canoe club in Bratislava and went on a shopping adventure at the local mall.  Now everything is in Slovakian and sometimes people speak english so I can be the translator at times.  At the canoe club they speak German and Jo translates and organises the key with them.  MMMMM hot shower.  Patrick is really sunburnt and avoids the shower.  We were all too tired to go and explore the city unfortunately.


May 30 1989.4 - Wein, 54.1km: Another long day punching headwinds.  We stopped in Tulln for lunch and for a TV interview and shopping.  I will post the link later for RTL TV.  They bought us Pizza and coffee.  No more media for a while after this...Arriving in Wein, Peter the Austrian paddler who bought me the hotel night last week, he met me at the rowing club and helped us organise to camp there through his friend Wolfgang.  We had a funny night there and drank some Austrian wine and Niko from Wein (he had emailed me) came along and met me with his wife).  Then Peter and Niko found out over a map of Greece that they know people in common (small world).  Niko is Greek and is giving me some useful advice for Greece and Peter has crossed the Aegean in a kayak so between them I have some very good contacts and information now.  What fun.

May 29 Ybbs - River Marker 1989.4km (Wildcamp), 68.3km, 1 lock, 2 portages:
A very long days paddle and we eventually found a wild camp near the cycleway and cooked dinner on the cycleway.  We called our restaurant 4 as it is on the number 4 river marker.  Today we made a long rest stop in Melk and went for a coffee in the altestadt (old part of town, cobblestones, tourists).  After the coffee we tried to go up a trail to the old building on the hill (castle? not sure).  We went the adventure way through a jungle of nettles, not the tourist way. At the top we couldnt get in to the tourist side of the place so we ate wild strawberries growing on the hilltop and then I saw my first Austrian snake - I yelled out snake as it headed toward Patrick and Jo, but sna-ke in German I think is snail, so they took a second to realise what I was going on about and then got scared as I went after the snake trying to see it.  I wished it was a Kuezotter (spelt wrong, but it is the only poisonous snake in these parts).  I dont think it was, it had a black head and slithered away before I could get a photo.


May 28 Linz - Ybbs, 76.1km, 3 locks:  It rained a lot yesterday and the river is a foot higher than yesterday, I cant even see the platform that I landed on here yesterday.  The flow is AWESOME.  We were a good group of paddlers leaving Linz with Heinz (Mike's dad) and his wife, my freind Willy and also a couple in a faltboot (Johanna and Patrick).  The Linz paddlers just came to the first lock and then I paddled with Johanna and Patrick.  They are good to paddle with.  In the first lock, from his broken English comes 'are you ready to rumble' as the lock door opens...I like these people!  I think he watches american wrestling on tv for that phrase.  I was going to go only 40 or 50kms, but it is good paddling with J and P from Straubing, and it is easy to go through the locks together as a group.  We use the lock telephones because they can speak German and they let us through as a group without a ship.  We got to Ybbs late and they let us stay upstairs in the clubhouse and cook in the kitchen.  This is great after a long paddle.  The media are looking for me! German TV.
There are some more new media links below in the text...and if you speak german have a look to this Link from Werner Goetz: http://www.kanukarte.de/component/content/article/128-hauptseite/2995-sandy-robson-qyes-i-am-crazyq-ihr-plan-ihr-weg-ihr-ziel.html

May 27 Aschach - Linz, 26.6km, 1 lock portage:  Overnight there was lightening and thunderstorms and today a change in the weather with rain forecast all day.  Actually a cool change was welcome after a few days of paddlig in the heat in a t-shirt.  Mike launched in Linz at sparrows fart (that's early) and nearly paddled all the way to Aschach.  I met him not long after launching.  I red kayak paddled toward me and he said hello with a big smile and handed me a single pink rose! Then told me he found it in the river.  Will was going to launch later and paddle to meet us somewhere.  Mike and I paddled together for a while and then he spotted his dad paddling near the shore so we joined up as a group of three and paddled to the Lock at Ottensheim.  There were portage trolleys ready waiting and I had help to get my kayak on the trolley which makes life so much simpler.  Then we found some big snails and Mike's Dad started collecting snails for his garden because they eat the red slugs that are eating his plants.  Mikes's dad has very old gear and a beaten up kayak, but his wisdom is this...Many people in his club have very nice new kayaks and they hardly ever paddle them, but he has old gear and he paddles every day.  So new is not always best... and he takes off one sock to collect the snails I think and then transfers them to a container in his kayak.  Soon Willy joined us. He is my facebook friend and my postoffice for the trip.  Without people like this the trip would not be easy.  Willy has let me stay at his place, use his computer, share his food and he has loaned me some equipment that I needed.  I will never win lotto, because my lotto in life is finding people like this who will help me along my way.  THANKYOU!

May 26 Schlögen - Aschach, 26.6km, 1 lock portage:  Nothing will make this day less than perfect. The Donau winding through forests, steep sides to the river, castles on the hill top, little wooden ferries taking people across.  I saw a lizard at lunchtime with a green body and a blue head (not what I expected) and I am paddling to MY HOTEL!  First I checked out the museum with the big Trauner boat on display out front, then off to Faustschlößl for some R and R and my first sleep in a bed in Europe. At the top of a big hill that almost killed me I found a parking spot for my kayak next to a pink car and then I settled into my room with views over the Donau.  Then dinner on the terrace.  Austrians are pretty cool.  Peter from Vienna has kindly sponsored me with this night.  THANKYOU.

A bit of Aschach info from my museum pamphlet...Aschach has a very old history of human habitation.  The celts and the romans lived here.  The border of the roman empire went along the river Danube.  It had many strong fortifications, and was called LIMES.  What I was interested in was the ship builders.  Many mariners, merchants and innkeepers had their home in Aschach.  At the times of the toll, every ship had to stop in Aschach to pay a river toll.  On the way to Linz there was a rock in the water called Kachlet, and it was advisable to engage a navigator if you did not know the route well.  A special order regulated the traffic.  Going upsteam the ships were pulled by 30 to 40 horses.  In 1775 the toll was transferred to Engelhardszell.  Aschach had much less income, and tried to compensate for this by fishing and building ships.  There is a long ship building tradition in Aschach.  The location on the Danube is favourable, and also there are many ash trees growing in the vicinity.  The ships built were the large Steinzillen capable of carrying 100 tons and used for shipping stone from Donau quarries (the stones used to regulate the bed of the Donau).  They also built a smaller boat called Trauner capable of carrying 20 tons and Waidzillen.

May 25 Passau - Schlögen (Austria), 39.4km, 1 lock portage:  I am now in Austria, it is very beautiful here.  You say it Schloooogen.  When I arrived I asked a guy where the reception was and he said some reporters were waiting for me in the restaurant.  I didn't want to see any reporters, I dont look so good today after a silly incident at Lock Jochenstein.  I was looking for the portage route and my hat obscuring my vision and my natural capacity for being a clutz resulted into me walking into a metal bar at head height and almost breaking my nose!  Fortunately I had an instant ice pack for this situation. (Max now I can be Harry Potter too with the scar on my head).  The paddling with very steep sides to the river, forests and little Austrian houses and castles is amazing. I felt like I was in the set of 'The Sound of Music'...High on the hill is a lonely goater yodeley yodeley....I am pinching myself still..I am paddling in Austria and this is cool!  The reporters had left by the time I checked in.

May 24 Rest Day in Passau & visiting the cathedral for the concert from the largest cathedral organ in the world.  Resupply food etc.
I went to St Steven's Cathedral to hear the Organ concert.  The cathedral almost completely burnt down in 1662 in a fire.  It was rebuilt by a famous baroque architect Carlo Lurago, its stuco works were done by GB Carlone and the frescos painted by Carpoforus Tencalla, all of them italian Baroque artists.  The organ has 17974 pipes and is the worlds largest cathedral organ.  I thought they could have played it louder!
May 23 Vilshofen - Passau, 24.7km, 1 Lock:  An easy days paddle.  I got my sail rigged for the first time and cruised down the river.  At the lock a car came up close and two reporters from DPA jumped out.  They had been looking for me thismorning.  The funny thing is that they found me by the lock surveilance video monitoring, and I didnt know their were video cameras.  The first thing I did when I got out at the lock was go up the bank for a pee!  Thinking no-one is looking!  Actually they said they saw a policeman peeing into the lock from his police boat, so I didnt feel so bad.  They got a few photos and met me at the Faltboot Kanu Club in Passau for an interview.  Max is also following me along the riverside today.  Passau is the town where Max was born and he took me for a walk through the town, showed me where he will get married soon and we had lunch at his favourite beer garden. I was awarded a gold medal today for making it to Passau.  Then we went with Max's brother and sister-in-law for a view above the city before they had to head home.  Spectacular views.  Camping in the campsite tonight are Thomas & Sebastian and also, the school group that I met in Straubing, as well as a few cyclists following the Donau.  It is a lovely group of Donau Fahrers. PS Thanks to Barbara who helped me to recharge my german phone today...I wanted to take her little dog with me but he wouldnt come...dashhound is just the right size for the day hatch I think!
Click here for the Passau News Report

May 22 Kleinschwartzach - Vilshofen, 43.3km, No Locks:
  I am enjoying paddling on he river with no locks.  The river is more alive and healthier when it can flow I think.  I see in Oskar Specks journal that he had to portage some rapids at Regensburg.  These days there is not really much moving water.  You get a bit of faster water under the bridges and when the river narrows, and there are a few Danube Whirlpools, but they have lost their power with all the dams.  It's not the same blue danube of days gone by.  Max and his friends are protesting against plans for further locks on this section of river.  This day was hard.  I was feeling a bit sore and in need of a rest day.  Bring on Passau.  Vilshofen's place to camp is the Ruder or Rowing club. Swish new showers and gym. I thought I was in a fancy hotel as there is a hairdryer!  The tent site was on the edge of a runway for small planes.  I was hoping they did not overshoot the runway. 

May 21 Straubing - Kleinschwarzach, 35.1km, NO LOCKS:  Donau Max and I went out to a hotel in Straubing for breakfast. That was a good way to start the day. Then I hit the water with a huge group from the TID organisers and the Straubing Kanu Club.  Heidi organised the day and gave a briefing at the start, of which I understood nicht except something about the schwimmen vests (life jackets).  I met Werner again, paddling a faltboot and also a big group of Straubingers in a large canoe.  I dont know anywhere in Australia where you would get a group like this paddling together down the river. What a laugh...this is my introduction to Bavaria. Apparently I have to yell out Kristi to everyone to say hello...some paddlers already had beers out at 9am before departure and the canoeists had a couple of bottles of Scnapps for the bridges (he Brücken).  You must drink a scnapps as you pass under each brücken!  I wouldnt have made it to the end point if I had, but now I can't paddle under a bridge without smiling and thinking of these crazy and funny Bavarians.  We stopped half way for a drink at a cafe and had a great BBQ lunch when we arrived.  I am lucky that Donau Max has a little cabin here where I can camp tonight.  THANKS MAX.  At about 5.45pm I was on Bavarian TV and in the evening I was hosted by a fellow camper, Paul.  We had a BBQ dinner and then went to see a band in Deggendorf.  I sure managed to fit a lot into today.

May 20 Regensburg - Straubing, 55.4km, 1 lock, 2 portages:  Yesterday in the evening I was contacted by Bavarian TV.  Today they arrived at about 5.15am to film the sun rise, but it was quite overcast, so they filmed the river and some rabbits at 5.15am.  Then I had to act out the story that Nils had planned for his short film project...turning off the alarm, getting out of my sleeping bag, breakfast etc.  Then I could pack my kayak and get going.  I was keen to get on the water early and worried that if I didnt then I might not make it all the way to Staubing today.  The distance is long when there is no current.  The TV crew kept me entertained though, filming me from a boat for the first 2kms and then from a car up until Lunchtime.  Thanks to Alex and the Regensburg club for providing the boat for the TV crew and also Alex for oprating the first Lock (this makes life easier).  I met Thomas and Sebastian again today.  They were relaxing on the shore and planning to go to Whalhalla today.  I paddled past Whalhalla in the mid morning, what an impressive monument that is!  At the Geisling Lock the TV crew waited for me, but they were on the ships side and I took the small boat passage and they had to climb the fence to get in - it was a laugh.  They bought me an ice coffee and waved goodbye after a final interview.  I just wish they had let me keep one of those go-pro cameras (one of the things I would have liked, but it was not in the trip budget in the end).  After a long day on the water, I did make it to Straubing Kanu Club.  I had a nice dinner there, met lots of club members and enjoyed the hot shower at the end of the day.  This evening a group of school children paddling down the Donau are also at the campsite in a Grösse Tselt (huge tent).  They sang me to sleep with songs in English.
Regensburg News Report with Video!

May 19  Wöhr/Nuestadt - Regensburg, 48.8km, Portage Lock Bad Abbach:
  The advantage of camping right on the river bank is it is an easy and fast launch in the morning.  I was on the water early for the long paddle to Regensburg. Having heard lots of good stories, I was keen to get around into Weltenburg Gorge.  Soon I could see the towering limestone cliffs up ahead and the beautiful monastery appeared on the point.  As the river narrows through the gorge, the current speed increases and it is so so breathtakingly lovely zipping through the gorge in a kayak.  I think the monks had the best choice of location.  There is a power that you can feel in this place.  If you have not been there, you have to go!  The water level is very low and I am not sure if they are letting the tourist boats in right now, but after the monatery on river left there is a place I saw where you can hire a canoe, and of course have lunch in a beer garden...this is Germany.  After Weltenburg the river sped me along to Kelheim with it's lovely historic buildings, but I was not stopping here today (it's on the next time list).  Before Lock Bad Abbach I stopped at a yacht club and had second breakfast.  An Omlette recharged me.  Arriving at the Lock I saw two other kayakers paddling in and I met Sebastian and Thomas.  They are from northern Germany.  I had seen their kayaks on the jetty at Neuburg, but they didnt stay. Now I was excited to chat to the first kayakers that I had met expeditioning on the Donau.  They are going to Passau.  It was fortuitous that our meeting coincided with the lock because the water slide was closed due to low water.  The guys helped me with the portage and I didnt have to get my trolley out.  Thomas showed off his luxury trolley (they call it bootswagen)....not only a kayak trolley, but also doubles as a deck chair! I want one :)  I took off for Regensburg.  I had been invited to stay there by Alex (you can meet him in the video link above this post).  This was a great easy platform to get off the river and I ended up somehow with luxurious quarters, the young peoples room with couch and kitchen.  Alex took me to the shops and helped me get a german sim card (Aussie phone is expensive).  I had dinner at the club with a great group of people and they really looked after me.  I even now have a Regensburg Club rashy to paddle in.

May 18 Nueburg - Wöhr/Neustadt, 45.2km, 3 Locks:
  The highlight of the day was shortly after departing Nueburg I spotted a beaver swimming across the river.  It was very exciting to follow the beaver. He or she dived twice.  I managed to get fairly close to the beaver when he re-surfaced, but then with a mighty flick of the tail he was gone.  Leaving Nueburg I was on a bit of a mission to make it to Staubing by the evening of the 20th as I had promised Donau Max that I would come for a paddle with a group there.  So I forgoed a stop in Inglostadt, went past Vohburg and ended up camped on the river bank out the front of the Nuestadt River Rescue house.  On my map it says the town is called Wöhr.  Today at the second lock of the day I met a man who was working with a boat and some measuring equipment to survey the depth of the river.  The cool thing was he sent me down in the lock and worked the controlls with a special stick for holding in the button so your finger doesnt get sore pushing it.  Then a a special bonus, he was there at my third lock with the lock already full and waiting for me to go though, once again with the special stick to push the buttons.  THANKYOU!

May 17 Rest day Nueburg:  I had a successful trip to the bookstore and found a great bird and animal ID book so now I can start to find out the names for everything that I am seeing (at least the deutsch names).  On the grass where I have my tent there are a lot of mounds of dirt where a mole has been digging...I now want to see the mole, but I am told that he stays underground and you will never see him.  Also I have found out that to see the beaver you must do a night paddle.  Today I met with Uschi (PR Bavarian Canoeing) and also Michael from the local newspaper.  Later in the day Donau Max is arriving to meet me.  I will write more about that when i next get an internet opportunity.  Some internet places I cannot download the photos off my camera, so the photos will come later - stay tuned.  Today I found powered milk! That was exciting.  Silvia in Australia told me the German name for it and it is not used much here so I had to ask in a few places to find it.  Now I can have my muesli mit milch.  Another thing that makes me smile is I got a sponsor email offering a night in a hotel in Austria - that is going to be awesome.
If you speak German you can read an article about my trip from the Ulm newspaper here: Ulm Local Paper

May 16 2517Marker - Neuburg, 40km, 3 locks:  It was difficult to convice myself to get out of my sleeping bag in the morning as the temperature seems to have dropped today and it was overcast, I was also running low on dry warm clothing.  After breakfast I packed the tent down and then faced the wet thermals!  The hot water in the wetsuit booties trick made life all ok.  Soon I was on the river and enjoying the bird life.  My favourite is a water bird with head feathers that make it look like it has been to the coiffure.  They are funny to see, but I can never get close enough to take a photo because they are shy and dissapear quickly to hide underwater when they see you coming.  There are loads of white swans, some sitting on nests and some with cygnets.  Ducks and ducklings are everywhere.  Geese are common.  Today I saw a red eagle up close for the first time.  I now want a bird book as there are more but I cant identify them all.  I have also been looking for the elusive beaver.  There are lots of trees that have been munched, but I have not seen a beaver yet.  At the first lock today the doors were really slow and I was glad I was doing this today and not yesterday afternoon - it had been a good decision to make camp.  At Donauworth I actually got my first moving water and I was really zipping along.  I got to thinking that there must have been a lot of flow on the river when Oskar Speck paddled here.  I dont think that there were any dams on the river in those days.  Now the river generates a lot of hydroelectricity.  At lunchtime I came across some limestone cliffs and a cave, so I stopped there to have a look.  It was a more relaxing days paddle today as I had less locks, more river flow, the sun came out a bit in the afternoon and I got to Nueburg early.  Nueburg is stunningly beautiful.  I am staying at the Donau Ruder Club Boathause camping ground.  There was the luxury of a roller on the jetty to get my boat out of the water.  I am stopping here to meet Uschi, the PR person for Bavarian Canoeing.  She is writing an article about my trip.  We will meet tomorrow, so I have done my washing and I hope the sun will come out to dry out all my wet stuff.
View Uschi´s article and photos here.

May 15 Gunzburg-River marker 2517, 45.1km, 6 locks:
  I departed early when their was still some early morning mist on the water.  I planned to paddle to Donauworth today, but in the end, the locks slowed me down too much.  There is hardly any flow in this upper section of the Donau because there are so many dams or weirs.  At each dam I must pass through the lock to get downstream and this process takes 30minutes per lock.  At each lock I found I was getting cold standing up there.  At lunchtime I changed and put more layers of clothes on.  Later in the afternoon it rained and after the 6th lock I decided I would look for a camping site on the riverbank.  The 6 locks today had taken me about 3 hours in total and I was getting too cold to keep going.  I found a really easy place to pull my kayak out and a beautiful spot to put up the tent.  The river has km markers all the way to the Black sea and I was camped near the 2517km point. 

May 14
is the date that Oskar Speck departed!  TV Interview from my launch at Ulm
Ulm-Gunzburg, 24km, 4 locks:  I launched on the Speck anniversary and my launch plan was broadcast on the local radio station about 15minutes before I was scheduled to depart.  One person came to watch and two paddlers from the Ulmer Kanufahrer came with me at the start of the day, Thomas and Dagmar.  It was great to have their company on the river.  Dagmar showed me where the beavers have been eating the trees and Thomas brought along fresh pretzels and croissants from the bakery and a thermos of coffee.  Everything fitted in my kayak and it was easy to pack.  Just before the first loch we came across some Ulmer Schachtel boats moored on the river side.  They look like fun.  Then came the first lock.  This one has been upgraded and you have to call up for permission to use the lock, then you push the buttons to close doors, open doors and raise and lower the water.  It is confusing for me because all the directions are in German.  Thomas and Dagmar figured it out and I paddled through the first lock, a little nervous for the first one.  The second lock was a little older and more simple to operate, once again Thomas and Dagmar operated the buttons and explained it to me, then we waved goodbye and I was off on my own.  At the third lock I met a couple walking their dog and the woman offered to help, but my German was not good enough to explain to her what to do with the buttons.  In the end we said goodbye and I did it on my own.  This is funny as you must fill the lock to the up-river level, then open the door and paddle your kayak in.  Then you get out of your kayak onto the platform and hold it with a long rope.  Then you can close the upstream door and let the water out of the lock so the water sinks back to the downstream side level.  It is like pulling the bath plug.  The kayak drops down in the bath to 6metres below you.  Then you open the door to the downstream, climb down a slimy ladder into the lock and climb into your kayak and paddle off.  After the third lock I paddled a bit and then met a man calling me in to the river right.  It was Wolfgang from the Gunzburg Kanu club, what a lovely surprise.  He gave me some choclates and said he would come and work the 4th lock for me so i would not have to do the slimy ladder again today!  At the Gunzburg Kanu Club I met lots of paddlers and campers staying there.  I am allowed to sleep in the clubhouse for the night.  Well, I`'m off for a Bratwurst & Brot!  Tomorrow 7 slimy ladders and over 50kms if I can manage it in the weather - the forecast is rain.  Day 1 was WUNDERBAR :)

May 13
The day began with a cup of english breakfast tea with a nice man who is camping here in a caravan, then later in the day he gave me a present - a whole box of english tea - it is hard to buy this here and I was really missing the flavour.  These tea bags are so great (ah the simple things in life hey).  After the tea I went to see the Donauschwäbishes Zentralmuseum.  To quote Alfred whom I met in Moers `In the south of germany there are two tribes, on one side of the river are the Schwäbish and on the other side the Bavarians.`  The museum I went to today documents the Schwäbish history and culture.  From what I can understand without speaking German, in the depression in the 1920s these people moved along the river and settled in many places along the river, well this is my basic understanding and I am not understanding or explaining it all that well.  However, I have tried some traditional Schwäbish meals here and they are good.  The main reason I went to the museum was to see the traditional craft that people used to travel along the Donau (Danube).  These are the Ulmer Schachtel.  They were built here in Ulm and used to transport timber, goods and people along the Donau.  Some people here in the Kanu club remember these boats on the river.  I think they were also made and used in Austria on the Donau.  Thisafternoon I had a TV interview for local TV.  I will add a link to it when it comes out.  I had some last minute preparations to do today and now I think I have everything I need to start the trip.  Thanks again to Jochan for your help dealing with getting the last part of my kayak trolley from the transport company and Thomas for driving me there.  I also was generously loaned a fahrad (bike) for the day which was the best way to get around here when you are not in a kayak.

May 12 Ulm at Last:  I arrived in Ulm today and went for a climb up the 768 stairs to the top of the cathedral.  Then I got dizzy coming down the spiral staircase.  I lit a prayer candle in the church for a safe trip.  In Ulm I am hosted by the Ulmer Kanufaherer Club, I think my candle is working already.  They have a luxurious club house with a restaurant, gym and sauna.  I am staying in the room above the sauna (mmmmm, so warm).  Today the club president, Thomas, organised the local radio and newspaper to come and interview me and tomorrow the tv.  I have decided to begin the paddling on the Speck anniversary date - May 14th.  It is a Saturday so paddlers will be able to come with me when I depart at 8am.  You can come as far as the first lock or further if you wish.  After that, call my mobile if you want to join me for a day of paddling (see the contacts page).


May 11
  Every town has an impressive castle on the hill or the spire or steeple of a church or cathedral with bells clanging on the hour.  I took the scenic route along the mittel Rhine, ate freshly picked strawberries which are in season and then hopped on the autobarn again and started heading south to Ulm.  I have a list of places to come back to now.  You cant stop and look at everything.  I can see why Tom and Barbara are doing it all by bike. That is a fantastic way to explore this region.

May 10  In the morning I relaxed in Cochem and then went on to Bernkastel-Kues to find a camping site and meet Tom and Barbara, (my friends from Australia).  It was like something out of a movie.  The plan was to be in the main square (markt) by the fountain at 6pm and look for each other there.  I was the one with the carnation in my pocket, he was the handsome fahrader (bike rider), actually, slip back to reality, the sweaty bike rider having just ridden 75kms to meet me in the markt.  I helped them with their bags up to the hotel and then we met up after they had freshened up, Barbara sporting the new haircut.  We shared a bottle of wine and some german food and it was a realxing evening speaking english and sharing travel stories. Definitely worth the drive to catch up with them.

May 9 I collected the hire car today with some help in translation from Jochan Lettmann.  Then Jochan helped me for the whole day with fitting out my kayak with the sail, bungy cord for the spare paddle, a boat trolley for portaging, blow up Handy Rack roofracks on the car, spare parts and repair gear for my repair kit etc.  It was a good day and I was impressed with the fantastic attention to detail.  Everyone was keen to make sure I would be starting the journey with everything perfect. 

In the late afternoon I was finally loaded up and ready to drive to Cochem where I am meeting Tom and Barbara briefly as they are cycling across Europe.  Thank God for SAT NAV!  Jochen adjusted it to English and this made it really easy to navigate to my destination and negotiate the autobahn.  I stayed in the slow lane with the trucks and it was fun driving on the right hand side once I relaxed.  The place where I camped is on the Mosel near Cochem.  It was a late dinner and a welcome sleep in my little tent.
May 8 Klause and I went for a 40km paddle on the Rhine today and then we had the Mutter Tag (Mothers Day) BBQ in Klause's forest.  The forest even has a phone to call for help if you get lost or need another beer.  The Lettmann family are wonderful hosts and there was much fun and laughter today.

May 6-7 Being a Tourist & Expedition Fit-out at Lettmann Kayaks in Moers.  The kayak I will be paddling is like the one in the picture below, except, mine is yellow and black.  On the morning of May 6, Maya made us a great German breakfast.  The highlights were German bread and rose jam from Bulgaria.  Then Maya went to work and I waited for the courier to bring my bag which BA had now found (thank goodness).  After my bags arrived I was off to the train station for a trip to Moers to meet Heiko who works at Lettmann and also the Lettmann family.  They have very generously hosted me here for a few days.  I had a tour of the Lettmann factory and it is amazing to see all of the ways that kayaks are made and how big this production is.  My compass was fitted on my kayak and we have start fitting the sail.  I know certain people out there think sail is a four letter word, but I like using the wind to assist me, and lucky for me, Oskar Speck also used a sail, so I think it is ok.  My sail is donated by Flat Earth Kayak Sails and these are a very good product.  Mick sent me every little piece that I need to fit the sail so I did not have to purchase anything extra.  He emailed me full instructions too, and the team at Lettmann are drilling the holes in the boat to attach everything.  Tomorrow I am going for a tourist paddle on the Rhine.  It is all so new and exciting.  I spent ages in the supermarket yesterday trying to get my food - it's all in German of course, so it is fun finding what I will try.

May 5 Arrive London and fly to Dusseldorf, Germany.  Thanks Maya for offering me accommodation in Dusseldorf - my first German host.  When I arrived in Dusseldorf one of my bags was missing, and to think I had dismissed reading that section of the phrase book thinking, ´that wont happen to me'.  Looking at it positively, although I was now missing all of my essential equipment except my paddle, sail and tent poles....I had a very easy zug (train) journey now with no heavy bags, just the paddle bag and the hand luggage!  I caught the train to Hochdahl and was met by my couchsurfing host, Maya Schultz.  This was my first night in Germany, my first night couchsurfing and Maya was a terrific host.  Her couch was very comfortable too. 

May 4 Sightseeing in Singapore & night flight to London

May 3 Fly Perth to Singapore - Thanks Judy Blight (Sea Kayak Club WA President) for the lift to the airport :)

May 2 Fly Geraldton to Perth Final Preparations for the trip.



APRIL 2011
I am now into the frenetic preparations for my departure from Australia and planning for 6-months of paddling.
Mainpeak are on board again as my major gear sponsor (THANKS MAINPEAK)  and thanks to Mainpeak Paddlesports, I am talking to Lettmann in Germany about getting a kayak for the trip, trying to squeeze my gear into the 23kg baggage limit and all sorts of other chores that I have to attend to before I fly out.
The last task for April is storing my Australian kayak in my parents shed....





NOV 2010 - TRIP RESEARCH
In late 2010 I visited the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) in Sydney to view the Oskar Speck collection.
I had two days and really, I could have done with about four days to read everything that I wanted to.
In the collection I was thrilled to be able to look at Oskar's original diary (and the English translation).  Most interesting though, was a series of German Newspaper articles in which Oskar describes sections of his journey.  If I go back then I will finish reading these.
Special Thanks to Hal Paine from Capricorn Sea Kayaking who donated an airline ticket to get me to Sydney, Michael & Audrey Steinfeld who hosted me during my stay and Rob Mercer & Sharon Betteridge who let me try some European designed sea kayaks and cooked me a great roast dinner on my last night in town (thanks Sharon!)



TOUR INTERNATIONAL DANUBIEN
I am excited to find that there are a collection of international paddlers who paddle the length of the Danube River each year. They are a part of the "Tour International Danubien" or TID.  During my trip research in late 2010 I found a fantastic contact to help me with the planning of the Danube section of my trip.  His name is Max.  Max is helping me with detailed information about the Danube River and contacts linked with TID.  Maybe you might like to head over to Europe and join the TID paddlers.  You can check-out their website at: http://www.tour-international-danubien.org/

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