Peter and Abel are back in the civilization – with mixed feelings. Somehow happy to be warm and safe, somehow sad that the adventure is over. Abel is back in Czech Republic, where he works and Peter is home in Gosdorf. They did not make it to their destination, the Black Sea, but they paddled an impressive 700km in 2 weeks.
Spending most nights outside, in a tent by the river. From Austria to Hungary, to Croatia, to Serbia. Their journey ended in Beldgrad. The forces were against them, the temperature was constantly below freeze, they saw the sun only once as it was constantly foggy, the rivers had an historically low water level and the strange Hungarian Police also did not help…
Here is a recap of their epic frostbite paddle…
12.11.2011: Graz-Spielfeld @ low tide
Peter padels the Prolog, from Graz, Austria to Spielfeld, 55km in 7 hours, passing 7 watergates. As the Mur water level is on a historic low, he is using an inflatable SUP.
14.11.2011: Arrival in Gosdorf
Peter paddels from Spielfeld to his hometown Gosdorf, where he is waiting for Abel to arrive with the custom-shaped 17′ boards.
18.11.2011: It’s a go, finally.
Abel finally arrived with the boards and the real journey begins, 2 weeks later than planned and certainly much colder than anticipated.
Peter recalls: “We had stowed 60kg of luggage on the custom 17’ Boards, that worked quite well, still we had to take good care at the pillars of the bridges and in difficult conditions. We mostly paddled on our knees when it got tricky. We were wearing the PFDs all the time, they did not bother us at all.”
22.11.2011: Arrival in Barcs, being welcomed by the police
„In Barcs we were welcomed by the police who made us pay a 70 EUR fine for illegal use of waterways. So after 2 warm nights in Barcs we left in the middle of the night, to continue our journey to Croatia”
25.11.2011 Arrival in Osiek, Croatia
“3 days later we arrived in Osiek at lunch time and started to paddle on the river Danube, the fog was so dense, we couldn’t see a thing. We did not find any landmines, but we did not go looking either….”
26.11.2011 Passing Vokovar, Croatia
“The next day we passed Vokovar, Croatia, a seaport at the river Danube in dense fog and with heavy cargo boat traffic. But this day was special, a few hours after Vokovar, we saw the sun for the first time ever during the whole trip. This gave us a big boost and paddling against 2-3 Bft headwind was all of a sudden easy. We were approaching the Serbia Border watching one of the cheesiest sunsets ever. What we did not find at all at the Serbia however were customs officers”
27.11.2011 Arrival in Novisad
“The next day we paddled to Novi Sad, there we had no joy getting the official immigration stamp into our passports either. So we continued paddling to look for a nice place to stay, we found a nice sandbar to sleep on that was safe from the landmines.
We were approaching Belgrade and again were rewarded with sunshine and downwind. About 25km out of Belgrade we camped out once more. The downwind turned into icy headwind by then.”
29.11.2011 Arrival in Belgrade
“The morning came and we approached Belgrade, again in dense fog, all we could see was loads of trash lining the shore.”
1.12.2011 Returning Home
“We decided not the continue the journey from there. The conditions were just not right. Wolfgang, a friend of mine, picked us up in Belgrade and we stored the Boards at an Austrian construction company where I happened to know someone. So all sorted? Not quite. We made the mistake to go to the local police to get our immigration stamp. 6 hours of what felt like being in jail later, 22:20 at night, we finally had the paperwork together to leave the country. We had been given the choice to pay 100 EUR or spend 10 days in jail. Abel was going to take the jail, but I was able to talk him out of that. So after a short night we happily arrived back in Austria. Next year we will continue the paddle from Belgrade to the Black Sea, hopefully with better weather, a higher water level and the right immigration stamps….”
And here’s a short interview with Peter:
Peter, you are back home in Gosdorf, a bit earlier than expected, how do you feel?
“I am fine, my big toe is still defrosting and feels numb but other that all good. I am a bit disappointed but also proud to have made it to Belgrade in these conditions.”
And you are continuing your paddle next year? Again in winter?
“Continue the paddle yes, winter no. Well we had never planned to start in winter anyway, it was supposed to be autumn, things just got delayed.
My plan is to start right after BOP next year. We will leave from Belgrade and go through the Danubian Delta instead, that’s about 300km longer, but better.”
What else would you do different then`?
“Hah, everything, where should I start…..No seriously, our plan was not too bad, the equipment was right, the dry bags from northland and K-Gear worked well, The Ecka trolley was essential, without it we would not have been able to make it further than Hungary.
We did not use the Neoprene Booties and wetsuits at all, so logging that around was a waste. We were running out of camping gas as it was so cold and barely made it to Belgrade. My feet were close to the limit, I was wearing neoprene covers from cycling over climbing shoes, sometimes cross training shoes, but my toes were constantly cold and still have not fully recovered. Well, and the whole immigration thing obviously needs to be better prepared.”