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パックラフト・アディクト | #40 ポーランドのウォブジョンカ川 4DAYS TRIP <後編>倒木とイラクサとの戦い

2021.02.10
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Paddling the Łobżonka River in Poland:Part 2

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DAY2
The second day of my four-day paddling trip on the Łobżonka river in the North-West of Poland started with a lazy morning. I took my sweat time eating breakfast, drying my tent and checking the forest near me for any traces of my previous night’s neighbors (I did not find any).

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I also studied the map and the old trip report trying to figure out what the second day had in stock for me. From what I could see, that day I would mostly paddle through a forested area, which made me really happy – on the one hand, I was not looking forward to fighting through the rushes like the day before; and on the other, I was really hoping for some nice shade that would hide me from the relentless sun. (Somehow, I completely forgotten to take any hat or even sunblock when I was preparing for the trip, and if it were not for my wife’s colorful scarf that she gave me at the very last moment, my neck would have burnt to the crisp.)

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They say you have to be careful with what you wish for. And indeed, while I got a lot of shade, I also got a new problem – the river was often blocked by fallen trees. Instead of a paddling trip, it often felt more like an obstacle run. I had to climb over, crawl under or walk around numerous fallen tries that blocked my way across the river.

At first, I try to count them, but very soon I gave up. There were just too many of them. Sometime during this run, I realized that I had punctured my packraft. I could not see where the puncture was exactly, but I could hear air escaping and bubbles forming up on one of its side. Unpleasant as it was, I was happy it was nothing major and I could carry on (trying not to think about it that much).

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Whenever, I left the forest with its obstacle run and I went into the open areas, I had to fight though rushes again. But either it was not as overgrown, or I had developed a special skill of dealing with this, it never felt as bad as the day before.

After about 7 kilometers I reached the Młynski Pond, with the second hydroelectric powerplant at its end. Though large in size, the pond was very shallow and partially overgrown which is why I had to search for suitable passages to get to its end. Things became somewhat easier when I spotted a fisherman in a motorboat, who was going towards the dam as well. He seemed to know where the “deep water” was and, so, I followed him. Once I caught up with him at the shore, where he was busy pulling out his boat with a trailer attached to his car, I asked if it was always that little water there. “No, this summer is really bad,” he replied.

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After portaging the Witrogoszcz dam (39th river kilometer), I had another couple of kilometers of the forest with more fallen trees in it, before deciding to stop for the night. Even though it was still relatively early (only 6 pm), I did not want to camp in the “open” and I also needed some time to fix the hole in my packraft.

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The place I found was just next to the river and, what turned out to be on an animal path – later in the evening a deer was really surprised to see me there when it was trying to cross the river from the other side. Having taken a refreshing swim in the river, I spent the rest of the evening repairing the boat and talking to my wife (this place had a surprisingly good mobile internet connection as well).

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DAY3
The next morning, I had a late start again. This time I went to explore the surroundings a bit – from the river, across a meadow and up the hill into a forest behind which there was a large wheat field on which people were working. Should I have known what I were to expect in the evening, I would have started paddling a lot earlier. But as it was, I got onto the water only at 11:00. After a couple of kilometers of paddling (and “log jumping”), I reached the town of Łobżenica, with a small pond and another power plant in its center (33rd river kilometer).

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Having thrown out a small collection of plastic bottles I picked up from the river, I tried to find a reentry point, which, according to the old trip report was on the right side of the dam. However, all access points were blocked, and I had to go through the town until I found a way to get to the river from the back of someone’s house.

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The Łobżonka river here was broader and even though it was flowing through the open area, the part immediately after the town offered really beautiful views and was easy to paddle. It was also the place where I spotted a couple of European kingfishers. It is not often that you can observe these very illusive birds from relatively close distance. I was especially happy to be able to see how one of them caught a small fish. This was definitely the highlight of that part of the day.

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A few kilometers further, the river started to get overgrown again. I even had to pull out my packraft once more when it got completely stuck in the rushes. However, this time over, I did not have to walk far before getting back on the water. Still, I was very happy when a small side stream joined the Łobżonka, making it broad enough for a hassle-free paddling again.

I reached the fourth power plant at Kościerzyn Wilelki (25.5 river kilometer) at around 17:30 (where I put a new batch of found plastic bottles I found that day into a recycling bin), after which “the most attractive section of the river” according to the old trip repot I found began.

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And indeed, it was very beautiful. The river entered a narrow valley with high wooded slopes. With its accelerated current, rocky bottom and even small rapids, this section resembled a bit of a mountain river. I only wished there were more water as it was just too shallow, and I had to step out of the packraft a lot.

This was a beautiful but a relatively short stretch of around 3 kilometers. What came next was a stuff of nightmares – after a narrow-gauge railway bridge (22nd river kilometer), the Łobżonka entered a thick forest where at times fallen trees almost completely covered the river. What I had experienced before was not even close to what I had in front of me.

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Dozens of fallen trees one after another with just a few meters of free water before a dozen more trees blocked my way. I vaguely remember seeing something like this in one of the YouTube videos. At first, I made an attempt to “log jump” as much as possible, hoping that this would soon be over.

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Didn’t the old trip report say that “there are fallen trees that sometimes require dragging the canoe?” SOMETIMES. That means that this nightmare would soon be over. But the further I went, the more I realized that there was no end to it. Hungry and already tired, I decided to abandon the river and just walk out of this forest.

At first, I spotted an old overgrown forest road and tried to follow it. But soon it disappeared forcing me to find my way through the undergrowth. So, I decide to go back to the river again. And unlike the people in that YouTube video who had done it in early spring, I had to fight through thicket of stinging nettles and brambles.In my shorts.

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After two unsuccessful attempts I finally found a spot where I could reenter the river. It seemed to be less blocked than before as well. But by the time it happened, the sun had almost set, the clouds pulled in and it started to drizzle a bit. “There is no way I can get out of the forest before it is completely dark,” I said to myself and started to look for a suitable camping spot.

To my huge relief I found one really soon, which was relatively flat and without the cursed nettles. Having pitched up the tent almost in complete darkness and having had a quick cold dinner again, I was in my sleeping bag ready to sleep within half an hour.
However, the sleep never came as my scratched legs were burning mercilessly and there was no way I could fall asleep.

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At first, I tried to ignore the pain and force myself to sleep. After two hours of these futile attempts, I realized that I need to do something about it. Good thing I had internet connection on my mobile and I could google what could to be done to lessen the pain from the nettle burns. One of the suggested remedies was the application of alcohol to the affected area.

Luckily, I had some disinfectant with high content of alcohol with me (a COVID essential), which I used on my legs. And it helped. The scratches from the bramble hurt me a lot when I was doing it, but the burning sensation from the nettles eased enough for me to fall asleep.

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DAY4
Unlike the previous two days, I had an early start and was on the water before 9:30. The night before I made an appointment with my wife that she would pick me up from the town of Wyrzysk in the early afternoon and as I still had almost 10 kilometers to go, I did not have time to waste.

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The remaining section of the forest still had a lot of fallen trees, but in many cases I manage to find a way to paddle under them without leaving the packraft. I also appreciated other times, when I had to climb out and stand knee-deep in the cold water as this soothed the burning sensation that I still felt in my legs.

After a few kilometers I reached Kleeck power plant, the fifth one on the Łobżonka (17.5 river kilometer). Having carried my packraft to a reentry point at a relief canal, I faced another obstacle – a freshly-broken huge willow tree, which trunk and branches completely blocked the passage. The only way out was to climb up with my packraft and over it.

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The remaining 5 kilometers to Wyrzysk, the Łobżonka flows through a semi-open terrain, with surprisingly many old think tree trunks (some of which were over 2 meters in diameter) blocking the way. Quiet of a few of them bore the toothmarks of beavers that seemed to be active in the area.

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Finally, around 14:00 I reached the city center of Wyrzysk (12th river kilometer), where my wife and my daughter had been waiting for me. This was the end of the slowest, most tiring and extremely frustrating trip that I have ever had. It all started with an Instagram picture and turned into a small adventure. At its every stage the Łobżonka tried to show who was the boss and certainly made it very unforgettable. In the type-2-fun sort of way I mean.

(On the way back, my wife told me that, while waiting for me at Wyrzysk, she had spoken to a local guy, whose child was also playing at the playground. He told her that he had paddled the Łobżonka several times, but not the recent years as the river became more overgrown and there were more fallen trees than before. I wish I had known that before…)

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WRITER
Konstantin Gridnevskiy

Konstantin Gridnevskiy

1978年ロシア生まれ。ここ17年間はオランダにある応用科学の大学の国際旅行マネジメント課にて、アウトドア、リーダーシップ、冒険について教えている。言語、観光、サービスマネジメントの学位を持っていて、研究は、アウトドアでの動作に電子機器がどう影響するか。5年前からパックラフティングをはじめ、それ以来、世界中で川旅を楽しんでいる。これまで旅した国は、ベルギー、ボスニア、クロアチア、イギリス、フィンランド、フランス、ドイツ、日本、モンテネグロ、ノルウェー、ポーランド、カタール、ロシア、スコットランド、スロバキア、スロベニア、スウェーデン、オランダ。その他のアクティビティは、キャンプ、ハイキング、スノーシュー、サイクリングなど。

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