• Andy Bartlett

Week Three Update

Updated: Mar 18


Kate:

2067km - starting from near the Danube source are distance markers, which are regularly displayed on the side of the river counting down the kilometres until the Black Sea. They are there for the many shipping vessels that use the river but they are also brilliant for two SUP travellers. They act as a guide, an encouragement but they can also be a frustration when we are forced to move slowly, making you painfully aware of just how slow you are crawling. Tonight we're stopped at 2067km meaning in two days we'll move into the 1000s, there is still some way to go but it's a major achievement.

Moving slowly or being forced to accept that plans for the day simply aren't going to happen is something we're learning to deal with. Each evening we look at the map, check what kilometre we stopped on and try to line up our next day. But then you can wake up and discover there is a powerful headwind blown up overnight, or get on your board and discover there is simply no flow to the water for the next 20km. We've also had illness strike several times meaning inforced rest days - basically each day is a complete adventure of its own and we are facing each one with a smile and with learnt patience.

Our blog is a week overdue this time, and for that we apologise. It's amazing how tired we are at the end of a day and 9pm is fast becoming a normal bedtime. There has also been a lot that has happened, and it's easy to lose track of days. We've left Germany and headed into the green, beautiful forests of Austria. Germany showed us a constantly changing river, stunning historic towns and much drama, including the finding of a body in the river. Here's Andy's description of what happened; we are both ok and have come to terms with the event:

"This is a story of something that happened to us over a week ago now. Something that neither of us had ever considered we would have to deal with on this adventure but, sadly we have. Following what had been a lovely lunch stop in the town of Ingolstadt, we paddled on with a slight headwind but the sun high in the sky. A few Km's out of town was a large industrial site with two tall red and white striped chimneys and a sign warning that a large volume of water could be released in to the river at any time so we should move to the opposite bank. With the active wind and the width of the river this was a pain but nothing to seriously complain about. Having completed the manoeuvre and hugging the bank as closely as possible to gain maximum shelter from the wind, we noticed an obstacle in the water up in front of us. The river is full of pieces of dead trees, old tree trucks sticking through the shallow water and all other manor of items so thought nothing of it and paddled on.

As we got closer and with almost a double take, it looked like the shape of a human head half pertuding from the water, face down, with its body submerged beneath, arms stretched out in front of them. As Kate took hold of a nearby stone to save from drifting off I inspected things more closely to ensure it was a human body, not just a manaquin disguarded from a shop display. I've never been in a situation anything close to this before and it's amazing how far your brain goes in hoping that it's seething other than what it appears.

Having circled a couple of times and taken photo and video as evidence it became clear we had found a human corpse. Back with Kate I called the police and managed to explain what we had found and where we were to a very confused sounding German police officer. They asked us to stay where we were and advised people were on there way so, we headed for the bank, drank tea and waited. We didn't need to wait for long. Within 10 minutes we could hear the first sirens and shortly afterwards were joined by 4 boats, 3 ambulances and a fire/rescue appliance along with roughly 30 personel. The body was retrieved from the water onto one of the boats and, with no easy way to transfer it to an ambulance they all left as quickly as they had arrived. All told the whole episode lasted no more than 45 minutes. With no one left behind to stay with us or ask any questions everything seemed (and still does) very surreal. We know nothing of the individual we found and probably never will and it's at this point words fail me. What more is there to say? A tragic situation and one we hope to never repeat again but some solace in knowing we did the right thing and maybe the hope that a wife, brother, father or child may now have some closure."

There are moments when this journey still seems completely unbelievable to me, but as the days of weeks two and three ticked over I decided the best option was to take each day as it comes. For me and for the river it seems, it's the best plan.