We’ve gone prepared anyway, my intention is to paddle. On arrival we get boats off the cars and go to look for get out eddies. From walking up and down the bank I can’t see an eddy I’m happy with, and I must get off by the car park as there’s a big rapid just below that I wouldn’t want to wash in to. Knowing this would stress me out the whole way and my nerves easily rattled at the moment I have to make the decision that I won’t go. I’m gutted and feel a bit guilty, as I’d pushed a little to have this river included in plans (although it may have been included anyway) and now I’m bowing out. There are a couple of eddy options but my confidence in being able to get them on big fast water simply isn’t there, add to that the options of getting off the river early are none (because I can’t get off and just wait for the shuttle as it’s the taxi!) and this makes my decision.
I break the news to Keith first, and as he’s been tired the last few days and doesn’t want to spoil yesterday’s confidence boost, he decides not to paddle as well. (I did check that his decision wasn’t him feeling guilty about leaving me at the get out, but he said he was only going to paddle because I was anyway). We let the rest of the group know, and I hope they aren’t too disappointed.
Keith has search for local climbing crags (we’ve had climbing kit in the cars for a few days just in case) and he finds one in Sharnitz, just 1km away. We enquire at the tourist info booth that’s on the car park at the get out, but unfortunately the crag has been closed for the last two years due to the construction of a new tunnel. Although some locals still climb there, officially it is closed and fenced off with signage, so should anything happen of course insurance would be void. Luckily enough though there is another crag not far away near Weidach, called Flamenwandl. The lady at the tourist info gives us a map, and it’s about 10km away so it won’t be far at all. We find the car park easily and the walk into the crag is a pretty woodland walk, alongside a stream, and only takes a few minutes.
What a lovely little crag it is too! North facing so it’s still in the shade when we get there, the stream just behind you and what seems like a popular little trail too. There’re already two girls there climbing and not much later two guys come to climb too. There’s probably about 12 routes, ranging from 4c to 6a, on a lovely limestones face. Keith and I take turns to lead and then second the 4c routes to the one side, then we both have a go at a more difficult route further along. We’re both pleased with how we’ve done, as the more difficult routes are ones we didn’t necessarily think we might finish, but we both did them well. We decide it’s time for a break now and consider popping to town to get a bite to eat. As our original plan was to paddle with the others, we haven’t bought a separate lunch!
Just as we are debating whether to do one more climb or to go to town, we get a call from Rob. They’ve already finished the river! They are going to head back towards the house but stop by the Rosanna for Chucky, Matt and Brian to run that again as they now have time! Keith and I decide to head back to the house and stop by a café for a drink on the way home. When the others get back they tell us how spectacular the river was, and that although some fun bits, it wasn’t a difficult run and in the end they used a good eddy under the bridge. I’m even more gutted now, but hind sight is a wonderful thing and it was nice to spend a day alone with Keith too. As I often stay away from home with my job and work weekends too, we don’t get masses of time alone together, so it was nice to have that time in our holiday.
Thursdays plan is then to paddle to RiBbach, which is definitely not one for me, it’s a grade 3/4 run. Keith is fairy sure he doesn’t want to paddle it either, again he’s happy with the paddling he’s done and was so pleased with the Loisach that he wants to leave his paddling for the holiday on that high. However, all the others want to paddle so we go with them to scout the river and do the shuttle. As we scout the river, they find the two bigger grade 4 pieces. The one is difficult to see all the way through, it goes round a corner through a small gorge like section (only about 100m of gorge), although we do manage to view through the trees at the top of the small gorge, we can see there’s some trees at the entry to the rapid, and the run out at the bottom looks good. All blockages are easily avoidable, but the one does block off the best eddy for getting out to portage. The other rapid has a line of sight all the way through when we stand on the bank, and they all work out their lines. We check where the get out is, and in the guide book there’s a description of some ‘parking bays’ for the kayaks in the rock. These look good too so it’s up to find the get on and get ready.
|Inspecting a grade 4 rapid|
|Perspective is difficult - top of the 'gorge' looking down on the rapid|
While inspecting Rob has said he will definitely portage the one rapid and may portage the other depending on how he feels. It’s been a long three weeks, so everyone is feeling tired by now, and he’ll only paddle if he feels on form with the rest of the river. While he and Keith shuttle the cars, the rest of us wait at the get on. The river here is grade 1 at most, with a lovely little beach area and some rocks in the shade. I sit in the shade with Chucky and dangle my feet in the water. It’s lovely and cooling. Once the shuttle is done and the three Kayaking are ready, Keith Matt and I head down to the first bigger rapid to set up some bank support (we’re there so why not).
Being on the river bank gives the paddlers a clear indication of where the rapid is, as no-one has paddled this river before it will be hard to tell which corner they will turn to come up on the rapid. It also gives Rob time to eddy out to portage and the other two paddle on through. There’s some whooping going on at the bottom so we know all is well, and we leave Rob to head down and get back on the river.
We have to be quick to the next rapid as there isn’t far between them. On fast flowing water it would be easy to end up behind the paddlers. Once again I’m the marker on the bank for the paddlers to be clear when the rapid starts, and Keith and Matt set up for some bank support/video. Rob is feeling good so has chosen to have a go. He’d picked a line on inspection, and went for it. All 3 paddlers did great, some more whooping and hollering and then they are on their way. We meet them at the get off and there are some very happy faces. An excellent last paddle for them all.
Friday is our last day before the long travel home. Rob wants some rest before the journey so has already said he won’t paddle. Chucky wants to paddle and is itching to get to the Sana, but the levels are higher again and although Brian might be convinced to paddle, he doesn’t want to do that one. Keith and I are happy with what we’ve done so want a rest day too. Matt has found a waterfall walk he’d like to do, and the group also has a free pass to use the Gondola nearby on a weekday so would like to include this too. Keith and I drop chucky off to investigate the Sana and pop in to Landeck while we wait for him. When we pick him up, we go to St Anton for a bite to eat and a look around the town there before heading back to the house. Rob Brian and Matt went to the gondola and then the waterfall walk. It’s been a lovely relaxing day.
Saturday starts at 8am and we drive all day, only stopping for a few rest stops and about 40 minutes for lunch. We reach our overnight stop in Dunkirk at 7.30pm, and we’re all ready for something to eat! We see a pizza restaurant nearby on google and it’s in walking distance, so we decide to give it a go. When we get to the street it’s an odd back street with some industrial units, job centre and so on down there but we don’t see the pizza place where google says it is. Up ahead though there’s a grubby canopy saying “Restaurant” over a little doorway, and a sign to the side saying “Zapi’ng – Drinking, Eating, Listening”. We head over and it looks open, Chucky checks trip advisor and it’s on there with good reviews so, in we go! Turns out to be this awesome little Jazz and Blues, pizza joint. Such amazing character in the place with records and photos of musicians covering the walls and ceilings, a little stage area opposite the bar and a handful of tables in the remaining available space. Service is good, the pizza is amazing, made fresh in clear sight in the kitchen area behind the bar, and the guy who seems to be the owner/manager is this a cliché, a jolly large bellied guy who brings us a shot of home spiced rum with the bill! Out the back is a lovely little patio area where we sit to finish off our drinks. From the moment you step through the front door you’re completely transported to this whole different place, and you’d never guess it’s a hidden gem in a back street of Dunkirk! This is probably the find of the holiday I most enjoy, purely for being such a surprise find.
Sunday’s travel is shorter, we’ve a half hour drive to the ferry which leaves at 8.40am so we leave the hotel at 7am to ensure we get there in plenty of time for booking in, then Dover back to home in Kidderminster. The drive drags a little, with some traffic along the way, but by 2pm we’re home! It still hasn’t sunk in that the holiday and the adventure is over when we go to bed that night, but it is nice to be back in our own home.