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Old April 8th 04, 07:43 PM
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Default "How to steal your own boats..." (Wilko Sized Trip Report)

"How to steal your own boats..." (Wilko Sized Trip Report)

Paddling the Kamenice creek, northern Czech republic, April 2004.

Having just moved to a new house, I didn't get to paddle enough lately.
Hooking up with Peter Wieske, a German paddling buddy, we arranged for
a weekend paddling trip in the Czech republic. Of course, not everything
goes as planned. First Peter informed me that his non paddling
girlfriend would thoroughly enjoy seeing Prague, and then I end up
spending most of Friday overseeing the replacement of my windows with
double glass ones, ending up in Aachen (Germany) way too late to pick
the both of them up.

The 950km (~600 mile) trip the day before Germany's Easter holidays
isn't as eventful as I had feared (I saw 126 different traffic jams on
the traffic information website when I left home), so we arrive in
Prague at 02:30 hrs (AM) with only a little delay. I quickly lock the
boats with the cables and padlocks I always have in the car, because it
won't be the first time someone tries to steal something from or out of
my car in Prague.

At that time it seems like a smart thing to do...

Although we had planned to go paddle at the Troja artificial slalom
channel, the races there during the whole weekend mess up things
considerably. Sleeping late and playing tourist sightseeing Prague meant
that paddling on Saturday was no option. Luckily someone at a Prague
paddling shop we went to told us that the Kamenice had 60 cm (minimum
level is somewhere around 45cm).

We quickly arranged for shuttle and other paddling partners, planning to
run it on Sunday. After a day of walking too much and not paddling
enough, I looked forward to the Kamenice.

Sunday morning we went to the boat house, hoping to meet six paddlers
and two cars at 09:00 hrs. At 09:30 hrs Martin and Ondra showed up. In
the mean time we had inquired and found that the others had already
loaded up their boats and they had gone off to another river (the
Jizera). Oh well, we had two cars, so who cares...

The trip to the Kamenice put in (a town called Tanvald) went rather
well, except for one minor incident. Czech boaters have interesting ways
to carry boats on their cars, Martin and Ondra not being an exception.
They put both boats side by side, nose to the front, cockpits up, on the
roofrack. Then they used the elastic bands with hooks on the end to,
ehm, "secure" those boats to the roofrack.

As we drive onto the highway, the boats start to lift. At first, maybe
ten to fifteen centimetres (4-6 inches). As the speed increased, the
noses lifted up like plane at take off. The angle of the boats became
more and more diagonal, untill the front was about 40 to 50 centimetres
(1.5 ft) off the roof. Since I drive behind Martin, I would probably
catch the escaping boats with my windscreen. I overtake him and direct
him onto the emergency lane. One strap and a little while later, we are
on our way again.
It's a pity I didn't get a picture of that sight!

As we get close to Tanvald, several cars with one or two boats on top
come driving in the opposite direction. Peter immediately started to
doubt the water level we had been told. We just laughed. We reach the
old deserted factory and broken down buildings at the Kamenice put in,
seeing lots of boats, boaters and a couple of German and Czech paddling

We get out... and I start to curse inwardly! The boats, which were tied
and locked so carefully to my (bolted on) roofrack, probably won't come

....Because the keys to the padlocks are still in the Netherlands,
roughly 1100 km away!


I had changed keys on my new keyring when I moved, forgetting to add the
key to the padlocks. The spare key that I had stashed in my car for so
long had of course miraculously disappeared during the move. Now we are
there in the middle of nowhere with no way to go paddling.

A quick search in my pockets turns up the Swiss Army knife/toolkit I
always carry everywhere. The woodsaw doesn't work on steel cables, but
the little steel file might... Much to my mixed relief and dismay, the
little aluminium clamp on the first cable succombs to my filing efforts
within minutes. By the time I have started filing away at the second
one, Klara turns up with a steel hacksaw she asked for in one of the
nearby houses.

Klara takes a picture of me liberating our boats... With only a few
minutes of delay, the boats and paddles are freed. Although I am very
happy to be able to paddle, I am definately going to buy some different
steel cables!

We change and then set up for shuttle. I'm still thinking about what
has just happened with the locks on the boats, so as I drive backwards,
I drive into a Czech paddler's boat. Luckily I wasn't going very fast,
nor did I hit it very hard, but I felt really bad about it anyway. The
guy gives me a surprised look, but then tells me in Czech that there is
no damage to his boat.

We have to drive from Tanvald (For those who understand German: yes, in
the times of the Austrian-Hungarian occupation, it was called
"Tannenwald, or "Pine Forest") to a little town south called Jesenny,
then back up again through the hamlet of Navarro. That's the theory at

Martin instead gives us the touristy route, asking the locals for
directions several times and looking on his map while rallye driving
over the narrow roads in the hills. With all of us looking on the map we
finally find the route to the put in. In Jesenny we drop off my car, and
in Navarro we drop off Peter's girlfriend Senait (albeit with a large
scale hiking map and directions to find the path next to the river ).

Navarro is basically a few buildings near a small military style bridge:
a small pension, a house, a chateau and a castle ruin. The Kamenice
flows right next to the pension, and the path goes right next to it, so
we'll meet Senait somewhere upstream.

Since I recognised the surroundings from my Kamenice trip two years ago,
this time we are back at the put in in no time. We quickly hop in
our boats and start playing... only to stop rather quickly! This water
was cold! Looking at the side of the road we had seen some snow every
now and then, but because of the nice warm sun, no-one anticipated such
cold water. Martin has just left his gloves at the put in, and Peter and
I left our mittens and gloves in the car at the take out. Whoops...

It is a nice water level, and we gently float over the gravel beds that
had been pretty scrapy boat-thinners during my first run two years ago.
After the first bend, the stream narrows, and the hils creep closer to
the water. A little while later, a couple of railroad tracks, complete
with sleepers adorn the river right hillside. At least you know that
there is still a complete railroad up there somewhere, otherwise the
image of a low flying train plunging towards the river bed comes to

A couple of little wooden huts show up on shore, all of which have smoke
coming out of their chimneys. The smoke only moves up a little bit,
before hanging still in the air, as if some big transparant lid keeps it
from moving further up. It's a nice peaceful float, only interrupted by
Peter's cartwheels every now and again.

After we have had time to warm up a little bit, the first gorge showes
up. The rapids in this gorge are little drops, interspersed with short
rapids and liberally strewn boulders. At this level it's a set of class
III rapids, closely together. We run the drops rather quickly, catching
eddies and moving on, only looking to see if the person behind also gets
a good line. Although Ondra hadn't paddled at all in the last couple of
months, he has some decent lines. Martin, despite his new Zelezny Wigo
playboat, has some pretty good lines, so do Klara and Peter.

I'm having a little adjusting time because I hadn't run that many rapids
in my Flip Stick since the end of the summer. Now I'm wearing a thinner
(no inbuilt knee pads) wetsuit, and I feel that I can paddle it for a
couple of hours without immediately having my legs fall asleep.

It feels good to paddle a playboat again in the rapids. Martin thinks
differently though: the first couple of holes he hit made him wonder if
he had any stern at all... Every time the nose came up quite a bit.
I suggest that he leans forwards more agressively and uses his paddle
further forwards when hitting the hole to support him and pull him
through. The first hole after that he almost loops over the nose...
that was leaning a bit too much in the opposite direction.

Klara is a bit tense, in part because of not paddling so much lately.
The funny thing is that she has rather good lines despite that.

After a short distance, the second part of the gorge showes up. This is
all a bit steeper and the drops are higher than in the first part. I'd
rate it class III/IV at this level. There is nothing that can't be boat
scouted, although it helps if you can catch smaller eddies to scout.

As we enter the gorge, there is already a group of boaters and rafters
filling the eddies.

The first rapid consists of a diagonal drop, immediately
followed by a current that wants to push you to river right. Most of the
water goes down that right side, untill a couple of metres downstream a
rock blocks the current, forcing it sharply towards river left again. A
little siphon (sieve) on river right completes the rapid.

Peter goes down first, going over the center of the drop and catching an
eddy below the frothy stuff. I setup to boof the entrance drop straight,
but when I come over the edge, I notice a submerged rock dead ahead,
forcing me to change direction sharply right. I land in the current,
braking hard and then steering downstream without hitting any rocks.
Klara has a similar line, although more smooth than mine.

The next couple of rapids are pretty easy, with small holes and drops.
We let two of the groups go down ahead of us, but when it becomes
obvious that some of them need a lot of time to figure out their line,
so we push on. As I wait below one of the last drops, I see a boater
approach the drop, flip and immediately swim out of his boat. He is to
shore before his boat even goes over the drop. Some of his buddies go
after the boat. After we have all gathered at the end of the gorge, we
decide to quickly move ahead of the biggest group.

We reach Navarro, but without having seen Senait anywhere along the
route... Strange. Considering that it's six or seven kilometres from
Tanvald to Navarro, she could not have made it all the way upstream and
down again without seeing us. Klara and I discuss it, but decide against
getting out and looking for her.

After paddling passed the pension and the bailey style military bridge,
we quickly reach the "Toboggan" rapid. A couple of big tree trunks block
most of the river, but someone with a chainsaw seems to have cut an
opening for us. This rapid consists of a drop into a powerful hole,
immediately followed by a curved channel to the right, which flows
around a high rock formation.

Upstream, and on the river left side of this rock formation is an eddy
that can hold a couple of boats (and a bit of wood in our case). If you
have enough speed, you can boof the hole and get into this eddy. Then
you can just slowly steer back into the current and let the water carry
you around the turn and over the drop at the end of the channel. Missing
the eddy is not a good idea: you'll probably go down the very turbulent
channel backwards.

Peter and I look at it from our boats, it seems clean. A bunch of Czech
boaters are standing on the rock island, observing these wacky
foreigners asserting the drop, while others portage their boats around it.

Peter goes first, he has a clean line into the eddy, and I follow him.
Sitting in the eddy, once again I meet a Czech paddler that I've met
several times before in Slovenia and the Czech republic. We exchange
pleasantries and she goes on her way, carrying her brand new kayak. It's
a small world.

Klara's unsure whether or not to run it, and Ondra had already carried
his boat down. After a while, Peter and I assume that the rest of our
group would carry too, so we head downstream to the eddy after the
island. Ondra quickly joins us, launching from the rocks into our eddy.

Shortly afterwards I see an upturned Zelezny Wigo come down the channel.
At first I'm not sure that there is still someone in there. He goes over
the drop and we witness a failed roll attempt... I hold my breath,
hoping he won't bail out.
As he reaches the calmer water, Martin rolls up, gasping for air.
After seeing Martin's, ehm, "interesting" line, Klara carries as well.

From now on the Kamenice calms down quite a bit. We float next to each
other and chat a bit. The warm sun sure makes this a great day to be on
the water. A little while later, we reach the first weir. This used to
be a dam wth sluices to channel water away through a channel to the next
vilage or factory. Now it's only a dam. The good thing is that you can
see it from quite some distance because of the iron and concrete
construction towering high above the water.
The drop is probably 3 to 4 metres high, and it seems pretty deep at the
bottom. Martin and Peter run it while I scramble for my camera. After
handing it over to Martin, I also set up to run the drop.

As I see a Czech boater before me miss his boof, I realize that I've
never run anything this high in my Flip Stick... I boof nicely and angle
the boat and paddle just right. Much to my surprise I land very moothly,
the nose coming up before I can go deep enough to get my nose wet. Cool!

Martin asks me if I want to run it again, but since I'm out of pictures
by now, I decline. From here onwards, the Kamenica gets to be rather
flat. There is one last nasty weir, which is being inspected by Peter,
before we all carry around. The end comes near, and much to our surprise
we see a group of German boaters in new models of creekboats put on. We
take out shortly thereafter, and to my knowledge there is no more
whitewater on thsi part of the Kamenice...

On the way back we stop in a little Czech restaurant, where a couple of
drunks look at a badly tuned black and white TV, which produces loud
static against a barely visible background full of snow. After we ask
for the sound to be turned down, the lady of the house climbs on a chair
and tunes the TV. It turns out to be a colour TV after all!

As we're ready to leave, I notice a familiar face. Our friends that we
had missed this morning have recognised my car and stopped to say hi! We
talk for a minute or two before getting back on the road again. The trip
to Prague is uneventful, save for one traffic jam, and that evening we
have a good (and cheap) meal in a Prague restaurant (thanks Peter!).

Not a bad day at all...


Picture of the Kamenice run two years ago:

Kamenice and Jizera pictures on a German paddler's website:
Wilko van den Bergh wilko([email protected] dse d.o.t)nl
Eindhoven The Netherlands Europe
Look at the possibilities, don't worry about the limitations.

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