パックラフト・アディクト | ＃30 ドイツ・ルーア川 ２Days Trip
The ups and downs of our Two-day Pre-Christmas Paddling Trip on the Rur, Germany
The packrafting community in the Netherlands is still relatively small. But there are a few people who are rather active in it. And I am lucky to know most of them as well.
Two of these people are Remi and Harold. I met both of them during the first European Packrafting Meet-up in Slovenia in 2018. Then, last year, I followed the Rescue 3 course with Harold and paddled the Tara Canyon in Montenegro and the Dommel in Belgium/the Netherlands with Remi.
The three of us had also talked about paddling together somewhere ‘closer to home’, but we never got a chance until the last weekend before Christmas last year when we decided to go for a two-day trip to Germany, to paddle one of the rivers there.
The river we have chosen for this trip was the Upper and the Middle part of the Rur (not to be confused with the Ruhr river). It rises in the High Fens upland region in the East of Belgium, flows through Germany for most of its length and, at the end, enters the Netherlands, where it empties into the Meuse.
The area it covers was an important strategic point in the Second World War and was the scene of heavy fighting in the beginning of 1945. Even now, a lot of fortifications from that period still remain and can be seen in the fields surrounding the Rur valley. But history was not the reason why we chose this river.
Our decision was based on the fact that the Rur is the only real white-water river in this area, and possibly the best one in the close vicinity to the Netherlands. And all three of us were looking forward to some ‘quality’ white-water paddling again. In addition, Harold had paddled it before and strongly recommended it to us.
As we had to come from different parts of the Netherlands, we agreed to meet at a campsite in a small village of Hammer, which is located on the Rur. We checked it on the internet and this camping seemed to be one of the few places that were still open in winter.
Having left home around 7 a.m., I picked up Harold on the way and we headed to our rendezvous place together. The weather forecast for the Rur area said that it would be rather cold and rainy, but most of the way the weather was rather fair, which raised our hopes. But alas, the forecast was right and when we arrived in Hammer around 12:45, it was drizzling a bit. We also could not find anyone at the camping who could help us to check in as they seemed to be having a long afternoon break. That is why, not to waste valuable day time (it was the shortest day of the year) we pitched up our tent on the camping field next to a small stone beach on the river, with a picturesque 15-meter cliff on the other side.
The water levels seemed to be rather low, but definitely enough for packrafts. And that was just what we were hoping for. So, when Remi arrived, we quickly moved his camping gear into my car, which remained at the camping, packed his car with our packrafting stuff and set off on the way to Monschau, the starting point of that day’s trip.
Monschau is a very beautiful little town, the historic center of which has many well-preserved slate-paneled and timber-framed houses and narrow streets that remained nearly unchanged for 300 years. With the Rur running below and an impressive medieval castle above, this town is a popular tourist attraction, visited by many people.
At the time we were visiting it, it was overflowing with tourist as it had a Christmas market as well. The narrow streets that were not always broad enough for two cars to pass, were filled with pedestrians. The parking garage we were hoping to use was packed and there was a line of motionless cars waiting for their turn. We tried to search further but the only place we could find was at a caravan camping ground. Located at the dead-end road, it was away from the busy center and just next to the river – a perfect place to park a car. And that’s exactly what we did…
The section between Monschau and Hammer (around 10 km) is rather an easy one and is mostly WW Class I or II. It has some nice eddies and there are places to play on the water, but as we were rather pressed for time, we could not enjoy it to the fullest.
It did not help that Harold and I had some technical problems with our packrafts – as it turned out, Harold, who has an Alpacka Denali Llama with a whitewater deck, had left one part of the spray deck coaming, which is why he could not use his spray skirt anymore and was forced to stop and empty his packraft after any more or less noticeable rapid. In my case, the T-zip on my packraft started to leak and even though I tried to fix it with some Tyvek tape, I was forced to step out and top my packraft up same regularly as Harold. Only Remi in his self-bailer Gnarwhal seemed to have no problems and could enjoy the trip to the fullest.
We reached Hammer and our camping just around the time it started to get dark. Remi quickly pitched his tent up, after which we took my car back to Monschau to pick up his one. “Maybe we could have a dinner there and have a look around the town?” we thought. But this was not destined to come true as when we arrived at the caravan camping ground where Remi’s car was parked, the gate was closed and locked, and there were no one to be seen. Next to the entrance a small notice, that we somehow had missed earlier that day, indicated that the place was closed for winter. Shocked and baffled, we stood in front of the gate not knowing what to do next. We tried calling the number on the notice, but no one picked up. Eventually, as not much could be done, we decided to go back to our camping and try our luck the next day.
The way back seemed very long as we drove mostly in silence, interrupted by some awkward jokes. The same mood reigned during the dinner that we cooked at the little beach next to our tents (we were also told off by the camping ground owners for not checking in before pitching out tents, which came as a surprise for us as that was a common practice in the Netherlands. The rain that had been on and off for the whole day started to intensify as well and eventually forced us into out tents, making it an early night…
When we woke up the next morning, it was still raining. The heavy mood from the day before and the weather made me question if I wanted to go paddling that day at all. And I was not the only one wondering what to do next – both Remi and Harold seemed to be rather slow and not very motivated. We briefly discussed our next steps and decided that our priority lay in retrieving Remi’s car and that paddling would be secondary. And with that in mind, we left for Monschau again.
What followed was a chain of positive events. When we arrived at the caravan camp ground, there were some people there and we could get the car back. We found a free space to park our car just in front of where we wanted to finish our trip that day. When we arrived at the put in point (at the Belgium/German border near Küchelscheid), the rain mostly subsided.
The water level had also risen a bit, which made it possible to paddle this upper section as well. Usually kayakers start a bit lower, at Reichenstein, as this upper 2.5 km-long section is mostly WW Class I and II and there are some places you need to portage as trees block the way. But with packrafts portaging is not much of a problem, so we were able to paddle there as well. The next 4 km were an exciting WW Class III(+), which ended with a weir that bore a scary name “Knochenbrecher” (The Bone Crusher).
As you may expect, we did not want to test this claim and carried our packrafts around. The last two kilometers took us through the heart of the town, and to our end point – the weir that is called “Favoritentöter” (“Killer of Favorites”). Though it is a long slide, it is rather straightforward and ends with a big splash that became the end of our two-day, pre-Christmas trip.
Looking back at the trip, it clearly had its ups and downs. We had some good fun and some less ‘funny’ moments. We discovered some new things and I, for one, know for sure that I would like to come back to paddle the Rur again. And I really hope that this time I will have a chance to savor this exciting river as well.
パックラフト・アディクト | ＃29 アムステルダム運河・デイトリップ
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