Our (home-made) rafting journey to the Danube began on the Morava River. For two full days, we rafted this river and life was very serene. The only panic came when we had to avoid the occasional fishing line. Clearly the fishermen’s lines were more important than our raft, so we paddled around them while they watched us with curiosity.
One great surprise to us, was the shallow depth of the Morava river. From the Banks, it appeared as if the river was fast and deep. Despite growing up next to the river, Daniel (our resident Slovakian) told us that he’d never dared swim in the river because he’d been told that it was too dangerous. A little bit of splashing around proved that this was not the case in certain parts.
Our raft started with 8 barrels, but we desired a couple more, particularly to support the tented end as most of the weight was located here (particularly when we were all sleeping). We were lucky enough to find an old, abandoned raft, so being pirates, we pirated a barrel for ourselves.
So there we were, myself, The Monkey (Leah), Daniel, and Patrick aboard a raft. Everything was simple.
On the second night on the raft, we stopped in a Slovakian pub where a very drunk man made friends with us. He came to the raft with us, accompanied by several litres of home-made spirit. When he left, he fell in the mud many time before nearly driving his Land Drover over the river bank and into our floating home. I shouted at him, took his keys, and reversed his car away from the river. If he had have stopped his car a metre later than he did, I would be telling a very different story about our rafting adventure.
I believe in people being free to do what they want, but not in the case of drinking and driving. This should never be done. Ever.
One of the (many) glorious joys of the raft, was that we moved so silently, we could sneak right up on nature without it knowing. We saw a few deers on the first day and on the second, we saw some beavers. We were so close to one that it terrified me, leaping into the water by our raft and making a big splash before I’d even noticed it was there. Another beaver sat before us for many minutes, happily washing himself and ignoring us. It was the very first time I can remember seeing a beaver in such a way.
When we actually hit the Danube river, panic ensued. The current was so much stronger than we had expected or from what we had experienced on the Morava river. Thanks to my Dad, we were all wearing life-jackets, but we had very little control over the raft. At high speed, we raced down the river and paddled to avoid rocks while trying to stay out of the shipping lane.
When we hit a left hand bend (we were on the left), the current threw us out into the centre of the river. It was too strong to fight and we saw a huge ship (around 100m long, weighing hundreds or thousands of tonnes) approaching from the opposite direction. “That’ll be here in five minutes,” I claimed while someone else countered that it would be at least fifteen. It took about four: four minutes of us paddling like mad people in a desperate attempt to reach the right side as the boat passed us. We made it, tied anchor, then got battered against the rocks by the ship’s wake. At this point, rafting the Danube didn’t seem like such a good idea.
But then, as with life, everything was OK. The joint between the Morava and the Danube is (apparently) one of the fastest parts of the whole Danube river. After this, we controlled the raft easily and navigated far from the oncoming ships. When we reached Bratislava, we disembarked to walk on the shore for some minutes and Daniel began to walk the boat down the shore. When I asked him what he was doing, he simply replied, “Walking my boat.” Of course.
We took this photo especially for one of his uncle’s who had said that we would never make it to Bratislava on our home-made, recycled raft (about 50 km from our starting point). The bridge signifies the start of Bratislava. Daniel is ‘walking his boat.’
During our first night on the Danube river, we were lucky enough to find a beautiful sandy beach. It must have been man-made, although we have no idea why, because it was so isolated. There we sat with a large fire, cooking our dinner and reminiscing how successfully we had traversed through Bratislava. Even when the police had tried to stop our rafting journey (because we smelt of marijauna), they couldn’t. This may be largely due to the fact that there were not and never had been any drugs on board our boat (the claim was a false one based upon our appearance). It also proved that rafting the Danube is not illegal (although we had checked this out with the river authorities already).
As I fell into sleep, I was awoken by Patrick and Daniel shouting my name. I ran down to the raft to find that a huge boat had passed, washing our raft onto the the rocky shore and the ropes had become dislodged. One of the barrels (the only one of the nine that I hadn’t tied- a constant area of debate aboard the ship), had come completely free from the boat. We spent a cold hour or two using logs to wedge the boat away from the rocky bank and promised to find better places to stop the raft overnight. Our pirated barrel would be re-attached the following day.
In the daytimes, we did ‘piratey’ thing like drinking rum and fighting.
But mostly we just enjoyed the sunshine and life on the river.
We were pirates after all and we were living out a dream. A major concern was learning how to look ‘piratey.’ Are we scary enough?!
Every fear we had, had dissipated. Except that of big boats. If there were no big boats on the river, we would have rafted all night. There was one point on the journey, when we approached a dam, that the river widened out to almost a kilometre wide. If our raft sank, it would be quite a swim and we would never see our stuff again, but this is just a reflection and at the time, the thought never even crossed my mind. I was living in the moment and life was great.
Then we realised that we had to cross some really big dams and that our raft weighed over quarter of a tonne… But when there is a challenge, we will rise up and we will overcome it. And we did: it was a sweaty job, but we really did it.