Crossing the Danube Dams on a Pirate Ship
Our biggest logistical problem (aside from avoiding large, fast moving boats), was always going to be crossing dams. As we paddled across a large (1km across), slow moving body of water, we knew that we were approaching our first dam. This was bad news for the Pirates of the Danube.
The plan was to avoid the shipping lane by carrying out raft over the dam and entering the old Danube (a channel only used by very small boats- for fishing). There was just one simple problem with this: the raft weighed several hundred kilograms. A man with a car trailer attempted to help us before conceding that our raft was too big and heavy for his small trailer. Instead, we disassembled the raft and then used the barrels to roll the billboard structure from one side of the land to the other. Moving a few hundred metres took over three hours and an awful lot of sweating. We would put a barrel in front of the raft, push it a metre, then insert another barrel at the front end. Metre by metre, we made our way across the sand.
When we had traversed our first section of land, we were delighted. As we hit the water, we lost control of the heavy raft and I was thrown into the water while still wearing my trousers. In need of washing away the sweat and cooling down, I didn’t care and I was happy to have the raft where we needed it to be.
After reassembling out raft, we continued on our way. To our surprise, the water appeared to be moving backwards, so we paddled hard until darkness fell. We were treated to a pretty sunset and rather than fighting the water in the fading light, we chose to enjoy it. In a whole day, we had moved little more than three kilometres.
Sadly, within a couple of kilometres, we found a second dam. This unused dam was on the old Danube, a side river that runs off the main Danube channel and was free from ships. It looked like it hadn’t been touched for years: in fact, they never quite finished building it.
All day, we cycled around the nearby area, crossing from Slovakia into Hungary and purchasing supplies. We were delaying the decision of what to do about the dam. It had an opening, but the far side of the opening was a churning pit of death and we decided against going through it. The river also split into two channels: one passed through the dam and the other went over a rocky rapids. Again, the rapids seemed like suicide. There seemed to be only one option left and that was to take the raft apart once more and transport it across land. None of us were keen on this idea.
Fortunately, at the last minute, a man told us that if we waited until the following morning, he would open the dam gates for us. We were delighted (except that we had once again, done only around 5 km in a whole day of rafting).
The next morning, we arrived at the dam expecting the worst.
As it happens, the opening of the dam was a very tranquil non-event and we soon found ourselves floating down the river and relaxing once more.
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