Results 1 to 27 of 27

Thread: Tanks, Trees & Teenagers Paddling Polands River Obra

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, West Central Scotland
    Posts
    335

    Default Tanks, Trees & Teenagers Paddling Polands River Obra

    Introduction

    In May 2018 David, Robbie & James (Robbie’s 17 year old son) marked the end of James’ school days with a paddling adventure on Poland’s beautiful River Obra. For David, after only a year of canoeing and a harrowing viewing of ‘Deliverance’, the challenge of paddling 80 km over 6 days through wild and remote forests laden with wartime history brought huge excitement and not a little nervousness for this non-swimmer!



    Two years before, Robbie and Andy (Chaffinch) had paddled the Obra; falling in love with its ever-changing landscapes, abundance of wildlife and charming locals. This year’s expedition would however, face a new problem – the legacy of the biggest winter storm to hit the forests of western Poland in a generation.



    This fabulous trip couldn’t have succeeded without the energetic commitment of two fantastic Polish businesses: Anglo-Polish Holidays (www.anglo-polish-holidays.com) run by Roy and Cecylia – an ex-pat British couple who are keen paddlers and who provided all our transport, accommodation, local advice and translation (and some amazing meals!); and, Stanica Kajakowa Święty Wojciech (www.obra.pl) run by Stanisław Cap a construction engineering contractor who also runs a kayak hire business on the Obra. Stanisław’s passion for his local river and all forms of paddling is infectious, and his tales of an earlier paddling expedition from Sweden to Istanbul in a home-made boat left us awe-struck.



    After many months of practice on Castle Semple Loch, Loch Lomond and the River Gryffe, and practice camps in the hills above Lochwinnoch, the team were trained, packed and ready for this trip of a lifetime.


    Day 1 – Friday 18th May – Lochwinnoch to Chycina via Berlin

    Our adventure started at 03:45 when our alarm clocks woke us from a restless sleep. David’s brother Andrew and a taxi whisked us along empty roads to Glasgow Airport where, after checking in and clearing security, we treated ourselves to breakfasts fit for condemned men.



    We sat nervously on our EasyJet plane waiting for take-off. The minutes ticked by without movement and unusual activity in the cockpit caught our eye until the pilot came on the intercom to say that a technical fault required a full shut down and restart - the crew obviously took advice from their IT department!

    During this delay we couldn’t help but notice the number of girls on the flight who had biceps the size of tree trunks. It transpired that they were going to Berlin to take part in a women’s body building competition. We were a bit gutted to discover we couldn’t fit this into our busy schedule.

    Eventually we took off, and on arrival at Berlin’s Schnefeld Airport, we found Roy waiting for us in his luxurious Mercedes ML320 CDI, ready for the two hour drive to Chycina. With Roy providing an excellent commentary on the route, the miles slipped by until we got to Sulęcin where we shopped for the beer, food & supplies needed for the first half of our trip. Whilst there, Robbie spotted an ice cream stall, so we all sampled this most wonderfully creamy treat.



    After a short drive beyond Sulęcin, we arrived in Chycina where Roy and Cecylia have their fairytale cabin, on the shores of Lake Długie, along with the holiday chalet which we would be using for two nights at the end of our paddle. To say that the area they live in is beautiful would be a huge understatement!





    After a delicious lunch cooked by Roy, we started the task of getting all our kit and stores sorted and packed into dry bags. This chore was made more pleasant by the local birds serenading our work – woodpeckers drumming, cuckoos calling and the fluting calls golden oriels echoing round the woods.



    After another delicious meal it was time to head off to our overnight accommodation. As Roy and Cecylia’s holiday chalet was already booked, they had arranged for us to stay 10 minutes away in a lodge run by carp farmers Anna & Piotr.



    We spent the rest of the evening sitting by the farm’s carp lagoons, listening to the birds, and watching a deer graze quietly on the lush grass surrounding the ponds.



    Day 2 – Saturday 19th May – Strzyzewo to Jezerio Wielkie (14.5 km)

    Cecylia collected us at 07:30 and drove us back to Chycina for a breakfast that threatened to sink our canoes!



    Then we were off to the nearby village of Święty Wojciech to collect our boats from Stanisław. We’d initially requested the Old Town Penobscot that Andy and Robbie had used two years before and a touring kayak but, spotting Stanisław’s personal solo canoe, an Old Town Discovery 119, we gently enquired whether this might be available as an alternative to the kayak. Stanisław’s generous nature and enthusiasm for our adventure shone through and he immediately agreed. He even went to the trouble of removing the middle seat from the Penobscot to give us more room for our kit.



    Having loaded the boats and bags in the van, one of Stanislaw’s employees then drove us the 45 minutes to our starting point at a riverside bivouac site 1 km north of the village of Strzyzewo. Within minutes, the boats were off the trailer and, after waving goodbye, our driver disappeared down the dusty track leaving us feeling awfully alone and more than a little nervous about what the Obra had in store for us.



    By 11:15 our kit was stowed into the boats and we were ready to go, so it was time for a final team photo before we set off on our adventure. Was that the sound of banjos we could hear in the distance…..?



    After getting the boats into the water we were off onto the forest-lined river under a canopy of cloudless blue sky. Huge grins graced our faces – our adventure had begun!



    After only a short distance, it became apparent that we might be the first paddlers down this part of the Obra this season. The beavers had been busy and the severe winter storm that had lashed this area had left many fallen trees in the water, some of which were completely across the river.



    We had to get our saws out three times during this stretch and cut away branches to create gaps big enough to get the boats through. We’d taken a Laplander pruning saw and also a Max Fuchs folding bow saw (bought from ‘Amazon’), both of which proved to be invaluable bits of kit throughout our journey.



    The fallen trees acted like dams, catching smaller debris which also had to be cut away. At one of these points it was so bad that the only way to clear the obstruction was for David to get in the water which, fortunately, was only waist deep. Wet feet for the rest of the day but, almost refreshing in temperatures in the mid-twenties oC!



    From the outset, the bird, insect, reptile and amphibian populations were unbelievably abundant and spectacular. There were cuckoos galore, herons, egrets, kingfishers, eagles, harriers, warblers of all kinds and we even had the pleasure of listening to a bittern. The dragon and damsel flies were out in force and were mating, doing their dances across the river. They were so numerous they were landing all over the boats, on our kit and on our heads.



    Then the frogs started to sing in astronomical numbers; what an amazing sound requiring us to speak up to allow ourselves to be heard.



    Leaving this stretch of river, we entered Lake Lutol; a home to many mute swans.



    It was nice to catch a breeze in the open water and enjoy the view provided by longer sight lines.



    In the hour and a half since we’d launched we’d made good progress but, we were getting hungry, so it was time for lunch. Pierogi (Polish ravioli) and beer filled our bellies as we sat in a pretty woodland glade surrounded by the remains of wartime trench-lines.



    Setting off once more we paddled under a bridge on the motorway linking Berlin to Warsaw.



    After another hour’s paddling through stretches of river interspersed with small lakes, the small town of Trzciel hove into view. David and James took a stroll to see the nearby red brick church whilst Robbie kept an eye on the boats and kit.



    Rumour had it that ice cream was to be had from a nearby shop and sure enough the shore party returned with well deserved sweet treats.



    With the blazing sun steadily building the afternoon’s heat, it was time to get back on the water for the final stretch to our overnight camp on Lake Weilkie. As we approached the lake we heard the booming of a nearby bittern – the first David had ever heard. After cutting through another blockage and taking a wrong turn in the marshes, we finally broke out onto the lake amid the screech of hundreds of common and black terns.



    We had initially planned to camp on the southernmost island on Lake Wielke but, while doing a reccie for a landing point, we couldn’t help but notice the cacophonous noise coming from the cormorant colony and their hundreds of squawking chicks. Of course, the circling white tailed eagle might have been making them slightly nervous. Another campsite would need to be found.



    Paddling a further 1.5 km into a stiffening breeze and passing another tern colony, we found an ideal spot to land and set up our camp in a beech wood, not too far from the shore.



    David and Robbie had chosen to sleep in hammocks and James had chosen to use a tent. This dry open woodland was ideal for both.





    We then set about making our evening meal. We’d decided early on to opt for one-pot-cooking to reduce the kit we had to take and also the washing up we’d have to do. Although heavy, we’d gone mainly for jarred foods as they would keep fresh. There are plenty of options in Polish supermarkets and we went for goulash, meatballs and bean stew, all of which were very tasty. We bulked these out with noodles and Polish smoked sausage (lots of it). We also tried the goulash with pierogi mixed in and this worked very well. We tried the goulash, sausage and noodles at our first camp, topped off with a brew and a bit of chocolate.



    We’d better mention the mosquitoes! Yes, there were some about but, taking the time to apply repellent morning and evening kept the worst of them away. We tried a repellent called Odomos which, as well as having a pleasant smell, seemed to do the job just fine. We also took a small fire box to produce a bit of smoke which also worked a treat.

    [

    With the light fading fast after sunset at 20:45, we retired to our hammocks and tent for a well-earned sleep. With nightfall, the wildlife quietened down a bit although we heard plenty of rustling amongst the leaves in our wood but, we didn’t see what animal life was moving around.
    Last edited by MagiKelly; 5th-June-2018 at 08:39 AM.
    Robbie & Steph

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, West Central Scotland
    Posts
    335

    Default

    Part 2

    Day 3 – Sunday 20th May – Jezerio Wielkie to Ransko (11 km)

    We’d decided in advance that we’d work with the daylight, with early rises and bedtimes, to try and get most of our paddling done before the afternoon heat became too uncomfortable. To that end, our first morning in camp saw us up at 06:00, greeted by a deafening dawn chorus of birds and frogs that ensured further sleep was unlikely. As we climbed out of our tents and hammocks, we were greeted with perfect conditions and beautiful surroundings; what a great way to start the day.



    We squared away the hammocks and tent and then set about making breakfast. Again, we’d opted for one pot cooking so had bought rolled oats and granola cereal. We cooked the rolled oats in milk and added dry fruit along with some delicious homemade jam that Cecylia had kindly given us. We’d bought full-fat UHT milk that was ideal both for cooking and for keeping fresh in the heat - it started off in the low to mid twenties Celsius and by the end of the week it was thirty in the shade! Plenty of factor fifty sunscreen was required on our pasty Scottish hides and a good wide-brimmed hat proved essential. We found that regularly dipping our hats in the river helped to keep our heads cool.



    By 08:30 we were on the water, paddling across Lake Weilkie towards the start of the next section of the River Obra.



    As we passed through some magnificent wooded areas and marshlands we were again greeted by ranks of reed, willow, marsh and grasshopper warblers singing their hearts out. Added to these were yet more clouds of dragon and damsel flies dancing across the river.



    Sunday must be the main day for Polish fishermen to be out and about as the bank-sides on this section of river were manned by dozens of serious-faced anglers, landing tidlers and adding them to keep-nets in what appeared to be a competition. None of them seemed bothered by our passing and a few even interrupted their endeavours to give us a cheery wave in response to our greetings.



    As we approached a low dilapidated footbridge, Robbie warned David and James of the need to be careful of the line to avoid hitting the stanchions. Unfortunately, this had the reverse effect to the intention, and James and David found themselves doing a noisy and splashy’ three-point turn before coming under the bridge backwards, much to the amusement of the watching anglers. Priceless!!



    After an hour or so, we stopped for a break at a river-side bivouac site. These excellent facilities are maintained by the Polish forest service and are rarely anything other than spotlessly clean. The wooden bike rack left us slightly bewildered however, as anyone who can’t find something to lean their bike against in a pine forest probably shouldn’t be allowed out from their care facility.



    Back on the water, we now entered Robbie’s favourite section of the whole trip – easy paddling in almost primeval forests and marshes.





    As we paddled on, the river widened and the trees gave way to endless reed beds, free from the obstacles that made other sections more demanding.



    This area is the most remote of the whole Obra trail, with few if any signs of humanity, under huge open skies filled with countless birds.



    We got our first view of red kites, along with jays, buzzards, reed buntings, golden eyes, great crested grebes, widgeons and yellow hammers.



    The sight of cuckoos flitting between trees became so commonplace that they stopped being mentioned or pointed out. At one stage we counted 15 herons and great egrets above us at the same time: what a sight!



    Grass snakes swimming from one bank to the other, seeking out frogs to hunt, became a frequent sight. Every bend in the river revealed another kingfisher, and a host of female goldeneye with ducklings scuttled along the banks.



    By noon we were pulling our boats ashore at the Ransko forest service lodge, with its adjacent bivouac site. After finding good spots to pitch tents and sling hammocks we explored our surroundings, finding picnic tables, a ‘long-drop’ composting toilet and a standpipe.



    After a bite of lunch, we set about getting ourselves and our clothes clean. Having not been able to get a proper wash the previous day, the standpipe was very welcome. We set up a tarp as a privacy screen (not for us but, to protect the foresters’ families from our dazzlingly white flesh) and were able to get a decent wash, albeit in cold water, which was actually very refreshing. During his scrub, James spotted the biggest slow worm any of us had ever seen, crawling through the undergrowth beside where he was having a washdown. We then took the opportunity to do some laundry which, in the heat, was dry in a couple of hours.



    Later in the evening, the wife of one of the foresters came out to collect the modest fee for using the bivouac site – 10 Zlotys (about 2) per person. She was really cheery and we had a bit of a laugh with her, especially when we said we were Scottish and she instantly responded “whisky!”.



    With time on our hands, we decided to stretch our legs a little before dinner and go for a walk through the woodlands. The acacia trees were in full bloom and their sweet scent was almost overpowering. We had the chance to look over the expanses of marshland we’d paddled though earlier and came across a track-side shrine.



    On our return, it was time for dinner, with tonight’s offering being bread and cheese followed by meatballs and chopped sausage with noodles, washed down with a nice can of beer and some chocolate for afters.



    As the sun set, we felt well rested and ready for whatever the next day would bring.




    Day 4 – Monday 21st May – Ransko to Nad Obra Camp Site (15 km)

    Another great wildlife chorus greeted the dawn and we were out of our tents and hammocks by 06:00.




    We all took time to savour the sight of the mist gently swirling over the cool water as the sun slowly rose.



    Whilst at the riverside we noticed a fresh wide trail of flattened grass leading from a muddy chute to the water that hadn’t been there the day before. The obvious damage to a nearby tree provided the conclusive proof that we’d had a beaver in our campsite during the night. We’d all been sleeping with earplugs in (Robbie and David are notorious snorers) but, even so, were astounded that we’d slept through the munching and chewing that must have gone on within metres of us.



    Just as we were finishing breakfast, two of the foresters came over to introduce themselves before they headed off to work. They’d heard we were from Scotland and had come over to say hello and mention “whisky” and a long list of Scottish footballers whose names sounded vaguely familiar - lovely people. We said our farewells and set off at 08:15. The first couple of kilometres of paddling were a real treat.



    James was enjoying solo paddling, admiring the local architecture as we approached the village of Policko.



    As we paddled under the village’s road bridge, it became apparent that the easy paddling of the day before was not to be replicated.



    Just beyond the bridge, we turned a corner to be met with a massive tree right across the river. We tried to clear a way through at the edge of the blockage it has accumulated but, we just couldn’t clear a path.



    With no way of cutting through this, going under it or going over it; the first, and not last, portage of the day was underway. The bank we had to get the boats and kit up was pretty steep but, thankfully, we’d brought a rope with us which really helped with getting the boats up the slope.



    Then it was back on the water, enjoying making progress in the cool of the morning.



    After a short while we decided to take a break. With the exertions of the earlier portage, a well-earned rest was greatly appreciated at the riverside picnic site.



    Not long after we launched again, we found ourselves facing portage number two; this time it was along a muddy river bank. As the mud was very slippy, we decided to try and move the boats with the kit still in. With the help of a couple of branches, used as rollers, this worked a treat, although we did feel a bit like polar explorers dragging sledges.



    Between the fallen trees, the beauty of the river made the paddling a treat.





    Before long, there were more fallen trees resulting in the third portage of the day, then two blockages we had to cut through, followed by two low trees that we had to limbo under and a couple of step-overs.







    During all of this we did manage to get a lunch stop on a jetty at the beautiful Lake Żłwin and take in the wonderful scenery.



    After Lake Zolwin, the number of fallen trees tailed off and the paddling became more pleasurable.



    The birds and insects were again out in force and we got a fantastic view of a rare bird in Poland, a black stork, which flew right over us. We also passed a swan with its cygnets and then a moorhen, only a few feet from us, which continued about its business, totally oblivious to us. The plants and insects were a bit easier to photograph though!





    After a tougher day than we’d expected, it was a bit of a relief to finally arrive at the Nad Obra campsite around 15:00.



    The campsite, a mix of A-frame timber lodges and space for tents, set amongst pine trees is also owned by Stanisław, the chap we’d hired the canoe’s from. In no time we had our hammocks and tents up and were ready to see what else needed to be done.



    After a hard day’s work, we were in dire need of a good wash; then we noticed the hose pipe lying in the grass. What happened after that isn’t for the faint hearted and was not captured on camera for very good reason. James believes he is now mentally scarred for life having watched his dad and David hose each other down. Not pretty! We also made good use of the hose to do some more laundry, especially our paddle gloves which were rather unpleasant by this time. Whilst we were doing our admin, a greater spotted woodpecker visited the camp and, like the moorhen, was oblivious to us. It was only a few feet away from us and put on a bit of a show.



    Bean stew and sausage for dinner, a can of beer, coffee and chocolate then off to bed. We’d only just started dropping off to sleep when at 21:00 sharp we were wakened by the sound of a bugle call drifting across the woods from the nearby Polish Army camp.
    Robbie & Steph

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, West Central Scotland
    Posts
    335

    Default

    Part 3

    Day 5 –Tuesday 22nd May – Nad Obra Camp Site to Gorzyka (16km)

    We knew from Robbie’s previous experience that the next section of our trip would probably be the most difficult – even more so than what we had experienced the day before. To help maximise the cooler hours, we were up at 05:30 and set off at 07:45. As we were getting ready to launch, we were greeted by the sight of some very fluffy ducklings.



    The first section was pretty easy; with clear open water.



    There were still some trees down in the river but, we only had to stop for one cut-through in the first hour. James was rapidly becoming ‘King of the Saw’ and would firmly reject any offer to give him a break from this chore.



    Within a short while we were reaching the picturesque town of Miedzyrzec, where we were going to top up our rations at the local shops.





    Having done our shopping in the Netto supermarket, only 200 metres from the river, we then relaxed with some cold drinks and yet another wonderful ice cream.



    As we sat on the bank, we were serenaded by some of the loudest frogs of the whole trip.



    Back on the water, we cruised passed a picturesque section of river along well-manicured banks.



    After around 500 metres we stopped to explore Miedzyrzec’s medieval castle. Dating from the time of the Teutonic Knights, this classic motte & bailey fortress looked like something straight from a story book.



    We discovered that all good castles in Poland come with a friendly ginger cat!



    A short walk led us to gardens with some fantastic wooden sculptures. We each chose the one we thought best represented our aspirations. James’ choice of a beer-swilling Viking proved to be a bit worrying!



    All good things must come to an end, so it was back on the water and off towards Święty Wojciech.



    As we approached another motorway bridge, we had a tricky cut-through that required a fair bit of sawing to create a passage.



    We’d had a good run that morning, making 10 km, visiting the castle and resupplying our stocks of food, beer and drinking water. It was time to rest, have some lunch and prepare for the most difficult section we’d face, so we pulled the boats ashore at a lovely bivouac site on the western edge of Święty Wojciech.



    As we got ready to re-launch, a series of explosive booms roared through the forest. These continued on and off for the next three hours, with us never finding out what was causing them, and them making us more than a little nervous.

    A couple of bridges provided the last bit of humanity before we plunged into the densely forested section ahead.






    Then came the afternoon from Hell – five hours to cover 5km!!!!!!!

    Robbie had warned us about this section having been through it two years previously but it was far worse than it had been before.





    In this short section we had to portage four times, cut through three times, drag the boats over partially submerged trees four times and duck under trees twice.







    It was hot and hard work but, there were pleasant stretches of shady river in between.



    Many woodpecker-holed trees lined the banks and the tree trunks showed the signs of higher water levels during the winter floods.





    Sometimes we’d spot surprises, like lizards scuttling between our feet.



    The strange thing was, the harder it got, the more the mood lifted. We were facing every new challenge with a smile and every new obstacle with gallows humour.



    After the hardest five hours of the whole trip, at 17:30 we arrived exhausted but, elated at the campsite in Gorzyka. We’d missed Roy & Cecylia by only 30 minutes after they’d driven across from their home to see how we were getting on. We really appreciated the message they’d left us though.

    As we emptied the boats and dragged them to land, David noticed a sign that he thought was a mirage! In front of us, in big bold letters, was the word BAR. You’ve never seen three tired men move so quickly and we covered the three hundred meters like Olympic athletes.



    Within seconds we had an ice cold Tyskie in our hands which slipped down without touching the sides. We then noticed a menu board, so decided that after the strenuous day we’d had, to let someone else cook. We ordered, by way of Robbie drawing a picture of a pig (more like a cat!) pork (or perhaps kitten?) schnitzel, chips and salad, along with three more beers which we would come back for at 19:00. At this time it was 17:50 and, normally, it took us about 90 minutes to set up camp and sort ourselves out. Somehow the thought of schnitzel and beer turned us into super humans and we managed to set up the camp, sort our gear out, have showers, get changed and sit down to our meal at 19:01; it was fab and very inexpensive!



    As well as having great food and beer, the rest of the facilities in the camp were very good. There’s a log fire-heated shower that you can use for a small charge and the cleanest toilets you’ve ever seen. This was well appreciated after our cold hosepipe shower the previous day. The family who run the campsite and its adjacent fishery were extremely helpful and friendly, with the lady who made our dinner singing along to the radio as she worked away in the small kitchen in the bar. As we relaxed, David showed off his swollen hand – the result of a mozzie bite that had caused a bit of swelling.



    Needless to say, we had an early night, with David and Robbie having slung their hammocks inside a bunting-trimmed ‘picnic pagoda’ at the campsite.

    Robbie & Steph

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, West Central Scotland
    Posts
    335

    Default

    Part 4

    Day 6 –Wednesday 23rd May – Gorzyka to Lake Chycina (15km)

    Another fantastic dawn chorus and beautiful scenes of mist rising from the water greeted our bleary eyes.



    After the previous day’s arduous afternoon, we all agreed to have a slower start to the day. After getting dressed and making a cuppa in the early morning light, we all took a stroll around the nearby carp ponds to shake off our aches and tight muscles. We had good fun trying to identify the animal tracks left in the sandy trails, confirming that in truth we knew very little about tracking.



    The day was due to get very warm, so we eventually got ourselves packed up and breakfasted, ready to launch by 08:45. We knew that there was the possibility of more fallen trees for the next 5 km, and that we would have to portage around causeways at the 8 km and 13 km marks but, were hoping for a reasonably easy day. Unfortunately, you don’t always get what you hope for and the first 5 km turned out to be almost as challenging as the previous afternoon.



    By this stage of the trip we’d all, especially James, become masters with the Laplander and bow saw and were cutting through the trees as quick as the beavers.





    We’d all also become quite adept at balancing on partially submerged trees while pulling the boats across them and, by this time, very used to having wet feet.



    Then we had a bit of a disaster as the blade on the bow saw broke. It’s not surprising this happened as it had done a huge amount of work. We were able to make a temporary repair to the blade but, the lesson learned was to either have a spare blade or a spare bow saw. We’d also take two Laplanders the next time.

    Fortunately, the primitive beauty of this difficult section more than made up for the challenges it gave us. The richness and diversity of life was almost overwhelming to our senses, with us making comparisons to the planet Pandora in the sci-fi movie Avatar.











    At the 8km mark we came to a causeway that we knew we’d have to portage around.



    We quickly got the boats and kit across. The solo boat was easy to shift and for the tandem boat we used the rope and roller technique again that had worked well before.



    We had a break for lunch of sausage, bread and crackers, washed down with full-fat Coke. While sitting on the bank, we were amazed at the amount of activity in the river. Big fish were jumping for flies, small fish were jumping in shoals to avoid predators and the frogs were as active and noisy as ever. A large grass snake had Robbie squealing out like a girl when it slithered passed his feet. James kept us laughing with his sausage-based impression of ‘Hagar the Horrible’.



    The next 5km was a nice easy paddle, crossing more open water on Lake Bledweski which, was truly beautiful. It was so nice to feel the fresh air brought on the breeze after the stifling heat of the dense forest.



    With James taking over the solo boat, we took the south-west channel out of the lake that headed through a series of lagoons towards Lake Chycina.



    This was a particularly spectacular part of the journey; a mixture of woodland and reed beds with small channels opening into a series of lily ponds.







    The second portage site was approaching but, when we reached the causeway it looked like we might just be able to squeeze under it. Although we all made it through, it proved to be a rather unpleasant experience as the cool underside of the causeway turned out to be the favoured roost for tens of thousands of tiny flies to breed and our noses were only a few inches from the roof.



    As we rested next to the causeway, a huge digger rumbled along the forest track; scooping up water in its bucket then carrying it up to a nearby worksite.



    A couple of kilometres of stunning slow-moving channels linking idyllic lagoons followed, each with thousands of small fish swimming in crystal-clear waters led us onwards towards the pearl of the Obra – Lake Chycina.



    Paddling 500 metres along the lake’s north shore led us to our final campsite.



    This spot has a lovely jetty, covered picnic tables, bins and three clean ‘long drop’ composting toilets. There was no stand pipe or running water but, the lake was only a few metres away and was perfect for washing, bathing and doing laundry/dishes.

    On laundry; Robbie came up with the great idea of putting our dirty clothes in a 40 litre dry bag, half filling it with water and a squirt of travel wash and turning it over and over for five minutes; using it like a manual washing machine. It worked a treat and the clothes came out much cleaner than by a rinse through by hand.



    The site was set in a mixed wood with plenty of pine trees to hang the hammocks from. After getting the camp set up we went down to the lake for a wash and cool down. Being off the beaten track you don’t really expect to bump into anyone but, when you do it usually results in an embarrassing moment.

    Having had a dip, one of us (who’ll remain nameless) was drying off in the camp, totally starkers, when a cyclist on a mountain bike appeared and got more of an eyeful than he was expecting. We couldn’t all help but have a good laugh and at that a car with four people aboard went past, bumping along the forest track, also shocked by the sight of a bare bum disappearing behind a tree. And so the laughter continued….



    Before dinner we went to visit the remains of part of the Festung im Oder-Warthe-Bogen or Ostwall (East Wall). This is a defensive line that was built by the Germans between 1934 and 1944. The bunker we visited had been destroyed by the Soviets during their advance to Germany but, much of it remains visible and well worth a visit. However, as this bunker is not on the tourist trail, great care had to be taken as there are no hand rails or barriers and some of the drops are potentially lethal.



    We tried some goulash mixed with pierogi for dinner and this proved a great success. We ate sat out on the jetty where we’d landed and were joined by two local lads who were fishing. Their English was as good as our Polish but, we managed, through many hand signals, to communicate. Unfortunately, the lads didn’t have much luck and went home empty handed. Maybe they’d have had more luck trying to catch the myriad of frogs that thronged the lakeside.



    We spent the rest of the evening sitting on the jetty watching the wildlife and looking across to the picturesque village of Chycina; a nice way to end the day.




    Day 7 – Thursday 24th May – Lake Chycina to Lake Długie (5km)

    Dawn broke across a perfectly still Lake Chycina.



    Being the last day of paddling and not having far to go, we were in no hurry to get away. After getting up we sat on the jetty with a coffee and watched the wildlife go about its business.



    We skipped breakfast and headed off at 10:30 in the direction of Chycina where we were drawn by the mention of more ice cream. The paddle across is about 1 km but, the wind had started to get up so took a bit longer than expected. In Chycina we found the ice cream shop, bought some and the enjoyed them in the small play park.



    We then did a bit of exploring around the village, talking to dogs, cats and chickens, before heading back to the shop for yet another ice cream.



    During both visits to the shop we bumped into one of the local characters who appeared to be just a bit more than tipsy. He chatted to us and said “piwo” but, we’re not sure if he was offering to buy a beer for us or asking us to buy one for him.

    When we got back to the boats the wind had risen quite a bit. It’s about a 2 km paddle from the jetty at Chycina to the end of the lake and we were due to head right into the wind. We decided that it would be quite a challenge for the solo paddler, so made the decision to lash the boats together and travel as a threesome until we reached the sheltered waters at the far end of the lake. This turned out to be the right decision and we covered the distance in no time.



    At the end of the lake, we untied the boats next to a small jetty and David solo paddled the final section of our trip.



    We then passed through the beautiful channel between the two lakes.





    The Polish wildlife had some final surprises for us on this pretty section.





    After an enjoyable chilled paddle, we came across our final fallen tree (but, not our final obstacle). With a bit of cutting, bumping the boats and limbo we reckoned we could get by. The two forestry workers standing on the bridge behind us must have had a right good laugh.



    We then came to our final obstacle; a very narrow metal-sided channel that opened into Lake Długie. There were only a few inches to spare either side of the boats and there was a decent water flow passing through it – in the wrong direction! We were all determined to get through this last obstacle flawlessly and, after much thrashing about we succeeded and passed into Lake Długie without touching the sides.



    With a little pang of sadness that our journey was almost over, we cleared the final patch of reeds into Lake Długie.



    The final part of the paddle was across 300 metres of beautiful lake to Roy and Cecylia’s house where we arrived safe and sound, tired, very happy and full of good memories.



    Then it was the final portage – unloading our boats for the last time and moving our kit up to the chalet.



    Although that was the end of the paddle it wasn’t the end of the fun in the water. In the time David has been paddling he’d never been dislodged from a boat, so had no idea of how it felt to capsize. Robbie and James were only too glad to help with this so, when we got to the end, they made sure that David got wet, despite his inability to swim a stroke! With a rope firmly attached to David he got ready to tip himself in.

    What he didn’t notice was the other rope Robbie had attached to the side of the boat and, as he was about to tip in, Robbie yanked on this and catapulted David sideways into the water. After a lot of splashing and arm-waving David managed to get himself, his paddle and the boat back to shore, accompanied by much laughter from the spectators.

    After this hilarity we set about cleaning out the boats before Stanislaw came to collect them and also getting our kit sorted out and ready for packing for the trip back home. This took up the rest of the afternoon and early evening and by the time we’d finished we were ready for dinner.



    Roy and Cecylia had given us the option of barbeque or cooking over an open fire that evening. We went for the open fire option and they produced a wonderful meal for us; chicken and sausage roasted over the fire, pickled peppers (delicious), marinated tomatoes, Bombay potatoes, gherkins, quiche, lovely fresh salad and beer. And then came some whisky, vodka and the most delicious homemade limoncello.



    We spent the rest of the evening sitting by the fire sipping our drinks, chatting, watching the bats swirl overhead and looking at the stars in a clear sky. Heaven!
    Robbie & Steph

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, West Central Scotland
    Posts
    335

    Default

    Part 5

    Day 8 – Friday 25th May - Sightseeing

    We’d planned to have a day off for sightseeing before going home. We’d asked Roy and Cecylia if they could organise something for us which, they were more than glad to do. After a hearty breakfast, Roy took us into the beautiful woods that surround his and Cecylia’s home to show us the remains of the German trench systems that can still be very clearly seen. A sobering reminder of what once happened in this lovely country. Then it was off in the car to explore the many relics of the pre-war defence lines, including swing bridges used to block roads.



    We then headed to the village of Pniewo where a large section of the Festung im Oder-Warthe-Bogen or Ostwall (East Wall) remains and has been turned into a museum and visitor centre. We opted for the two and a half hour guided tour but, tours of up to eight hours are available.



    To say it is impressive is an understatement. In the central section the bunkers are interconnected with an underground system of tunnels, 32 km long and up to 40 metres deep. In the underground system there are also railway stations, workshops, engine rooms and barracks. The tunnel system is also a refuge for bats. During the winter approximately 35,000 bats of 12 species hibernate in the tunnels. We saw a few sleeping while we were there.









    There’s plenty to see above ground as well. There are artillery pieces from the last war, a T34 tank which, you can climb on for pictures, a BTR 50 armoured personnel carrier which, is in working order and acts as your transport back to the centre following a tour. There are also various stalls selling memorabilia and plenty of places to eat and get drinks. This is a fantastic place and well worth a visit.





    We got back to Chycina just in time to get changed and freshened up ready to head to the town of Łagw, where there is a spectacular Templer castle. The castle has been turned into a magnificent hotel but, retains a lot of the original features. The courtyard has been covered in glass to form a light and airy atrium that is now part of the hotel’s dining room. We had a lovely meal in here (almost as good as Roy and Cecylia’s cooking). We had starters of chicken salad and traditional recipe Polish soup, both of which were excellent. We then had main courses of fillet steak and duck, again, both excellent and exceptional value.



    We then retired to the rustic bar area where we managed to consume very large ice cream sundaes and great coffee. All the meals and service were first class and highly recommended.



    Then it was off for a walk about the picturesque lakeside town before returning to Chycina to finish our packing. Another lovely day in Poland.

    Day 9 – Saturday 26th May – Time to go home

    After a final delicious breakfast, it was time to leave and we said our goodbyes to Cecylia.



    With lumps in all our throats, Roy called us to mount up ready for our drive back to Berlin’s Schnefeld Airport.



    Having checked in and gone through security we had enough time for the last beer of the trip and a bit of airport shopping. James also managed his last sausage of the holiday (he is very fond of wurst) accompanied by a huge pretzel. Then it was time for the flight. None of us wanted to leave and would happily have done the whole trip again; what a great escapade.

    Retrospective

    True adventure is rare in the modern age, and normally comes with a price tag in the thousands of ’s. In the era of Facebook and risk avoidance, rites of passage for our young men are perhaps rarer still. In this wonderful week on the Obra we found true adventure for 450 per person (all costs including flights, beer & ice cream!) and a father and son shared a special moment in time in the company of a true friend. In adversity, resilience was built. In discomfort, jokes and laughter prevailed. In a place of true beauty, wonder and civility were there in abundance. And, in a place of past conflict, an appreciation of peace and love for our fellow travellers was found.



    A special mention is due to Stanisław Cap for the use of his boats, arranging transport to our start site and for providing maps for our journey. A very special mention is due to Roy & Cecylia for organising our trip, for their friendship, generosity and professionalism; they are truly the perfect hosts to help you discover this little corner of heaven.
    Last edited by MagiKelly; 5th-June-2018 at 09:17 AM.
    Robbie & Steph

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Chirk, North Wales
    Posts
    400

    Default

    A wonderful adventure told wonderfully well. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Central Scotland
    Posts
    4,336
    Journal Entries
    14

    Default

    Dang robbie that was good, I popped in for the T34-85 but got a lot more! Top stuff sir!
    Cheers,

    Alan


  8. #8

    Default

    Superb stuff. Thanks for putting the effort in to post it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Kettering Northamptonshire
    Posts
    1,076

    Default

    Enjoyed that.....cheap, picturesque, ditchy at times, Polish beer....what’s not to like?
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, Scotland
    Posts
    16,880
    Journal Entries
    2

    Default

    Great blogg. I find the getting through the tree fall sections the most appealing for some reason but I do like a challenge.

    Having heard the hose pipe shower story in person I’m glad it was edited and James has my sympathy for the lifetime of counselling that awakes him

    I’d not have thought of bringing paddling gloves but now I see them it is something I need to remember if I do a long trip.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, West Central Scotland
    Posts
    335

    Default Spotter!

    Quote Originally Posted by Chainsaw View Post
    Dang robbie that was good, I popped in for the T34-85 but got a lot more! Top stuff sir!
    Hi Alan, many thanks. Not many people would have spotted that shes the -85 type. Shes in pretty good nick for her age. The handles on the hull for infantry to hang on with are an interesting feature. The BTR50 looks like its just out the factory, as does some of the towed artillery. Theyve even got a huge SA4 missile on site. Youd love it almost as much as the paddling!
    Robbie & Steph

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Central Scotland
    Posts
    4,336
    Journal Entries
    14

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ginger-Paddlers View Post
    Hi Alan, many thanks. Not many people would have spotted that she’s the ‘-85’ type. She’s in pretty good nick for her age. The handles on the hull for infantry to hang on with are an interesting feature. The BTR50 looks like it’s just out the factory, as does some of the towed artillery. They’ve even got a huge SA4 missile on site. You’d love it almost as much as the paddling!
    Think I've seen about half a dozen of the -85 version but only ever one example of the -76 and the BTR would be fun to take off road.... The Ost Wall place looks amazing, I might even love it more than the paddling...
    Cheers,

    Alan


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Yorkshire
    Posts
    303

    Default

    Wow! My jealousy knows no bounds! Thank you for sharing.
    Calefactio orbis? Culus meus!!

  14. #14
    Crow's Avatar
    Crow is offline こんにちは。私はカラスと私はスコットラ ンドの出身で す。
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Third stone from the sun
    Posts
    16,068
    Journal Entries
    10

    Default

    Great stuff.

    I remember your blog from there a couple of years ago.

    Good to see you went back.

    Really nice to see Cecylia and Roy again, hope they're doing well. And to see all those wonderful places again, must go back (we were there in 2015).

    Excellent adventure, thanks for sharing it.


    Here comes the future and you can't run from it
    If you've got a blacklist I want to be on it


    Crow Trip Log

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, West Central Scotland
    Posts
    335

    Default

    Hi Crow,

    Roy and Cecylia were asking after you when we were there. When are you going to do another Obra trip?

    Quote Originally Posted by Crow View Post
    Great stuff.

    I remember your blog from there a couple of years ago.

    Good to see you went back.

    Really nice to see Cecylia and Roy again, hope they're doing well. And to see all those wonderful places again, must go back (we were there in 2015).

    Excellent adventure, thanks for sharing it.

    Robbie & Steph

  16. #16
    Crow's Avatar
    Crow is offline こんにちは。私はカラスと私はスコットラ ンドの出身で す。
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Third stone from the sun
    Posts
    16,068
    Journal Entries
    10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ginger-Paddlers View Post
    Hi Crow,

    Roy and Cecylia were asking after you when we were there. When are you going to do another Obra trip?

    I would love to go back. And to see more of Poland too. Great place!

    Not sure when, but one day...

    Here comes the future and you can't run from it
    If you've got a blacklist I want to be on it


    Crow Trip Log

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Shefford, Central Bedfordshire
    Posts
    993

    Default

    a great blog and pictures. What an adventure, thank you for sharing it.
    Simms ..

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Location
    NE Scotland
    Posts
    40

    Default

    Great blogg, many thanks for taking the time to share

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Robin Hood's Bay,Yorkshire
    Posts
    2,739

    Default

    A brilliant and interesting blogg with fantastic pictures to boot!
    http://www.davidwperry.blogspot.co.uk/

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southport, really in Lancashire, UK
    Posts
    1,933

    Default

    Quite an epic blog. Read with a touch of jealousy.

    Madness essential to take on all those trees! Great weather and photos to match.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Doug
    When there's trouble on shore, there's peace on the wave,
    Afloat in the White Canoe.
    Alan Sullivan


  21. #21
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Surrey
    Posts
    21,066

    Default

    That was excellent!

    Already on the radar for a trip, thanks to the previous blogs, but you've just bumped it up the list!

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, West Central Scotland
    Posts
    335

    Default

    Thanks for all the lovely compliments and positive feedback you’ve all given. Really appreciated.

    David, James & Robbie
    Robbie & Steph

  23. #23

    Default

    Nice blogg, it is always nice to read with what adventurous feelings the islanders venture as far as Poland.

    But did you know you missed the most exciting part of the Obra river?

    It starts just below the Bledzew-Dam.
    For more information see the First British Solo Descent of the River Obra, beginning with day three: "Discovering places untouched by British Tourism is always an adventure ... in my mind it had became a psychological endurance test between me and the river. .... I couldnt even reach my mobile phone to call for help. !!!"

    A year later, in 2008, I had a family trip on River Obra. We started right in the lakes where you finished, and went down all this last part of the Obra to its mouth into the Warta river.

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, West Central Scotland
    Posts
    335

    Default

    Hi Spartaner,

    Your photos look great but, between them and the blogg you referenced, it looks like the section below the dam at Bledzew is one long log jam, even in a good year.

    We’re considering heading further east next year to do the Guaja in Latvia. It looks quite different in character to the Obra but, I’m sure we’ll be back to it in 2020 or 2021.

    What’s your next big trip?

    Quote Originally Posted by Spartaner View Post
    Nice blogg, it is always nice to read with what adventurous feelings the islanders venture as far as Poland.

    But did you know you missed the most exciting part of the Obra river?

    It starts just below the Bledzew-Dam.
    For more information see the First British Solo Descent of the River Obra, beginning with day three: "Discovering places untouched by British Tourism is always an adventure ... in my mind it had became a psychological endurance test between me and the river. .... I couldn’t even reach my mobile phone to call for help. !!!"

    A year later, in 2008, I had a family trip on River Obra. We started right in the lakes where you finished, and went down all this last part of the Obra to its mouth into the Warta river.
    Robbie & Steph

  25. #25

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ginger-Paddlers View Post
    Your photos look great but, between them and the blogg you referenced, it looks like the section below the dam at Bledzew is one long log jam, even in a good year.
    It is not always so bad. We were lucky to have much water. Compare the fotos from the wooden "selfmade" bridge, mentioned by Louxx: "Id paddled another couple of km when I came across what looked like a broken down old bridge. It took me ages to get my boat to the other side. I had to jump on the front of the canoe to push it down far enough to get under struts then climb back over the bridge, jump on the other end to get that end under. It was actually quite dangerous as the bridge felt like it would snap into pieces beneath me as I climbed back over. "

    When we crossed this bridge, the water level was as high as the walkway. And so many trees laid below the water surface. Of course, there were still many obstacles, but it was an easy trip, compared to the horrible visions I had from this part of the river.

    My picture of the bridge is exactly after the photo of the midge at the tent.
    I apologize for the photos on Shutterfly. Functionality is getting worse and worse. The photos were originally on pictures.aol.com. That was really good back then. But they've stopped the service.



    Quote Originally Posted by Ginger-Paddlers View Post
    Were considering heading further east next year to do the Guaja in Latvia. It looks quite different in character to the Obra ....
    Very nice river, too! I have been there 3 times. My recommendation!


    Quote Originally Posted by Ginger-Paddlers View Post
    Whats your next big trip?
    река Баргузин

  26. #26
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Yalding, Kent
    Posts
    2,650

    Default

    Lovely trip report again. Added this to my list after reading about your first trip there. Need more leisure time, need to take a leaf out of Big Al's book!

  27. #27
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, West Central Scotland
    Posts
    335

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Spartaner View Post
    Very nice river, too! I have been there 3 times. My reccomendation!
    Hi Spartaner,

    Many thanks. Do you have a link to any trip reports or photos of you paddling the Gauja?
    Robbie & Steph

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •