Preface: Some say that life is a journey while others state that we are eternal and all of our experiences are simultaneously occurring, it really is a matter of perspective which changes as our consciousness shifts and expands. This is our diary of a journey that brought both points of view together. It is also a story of love for when one steps in to the eternal that flows continuously there is only one heart beat and it is felt in all things.
Written to inspire others to find the courage of their heart to challenge themselves with every breath. To let go of the installed beliefs of limits for there is no greater gift than to accept the freedom of Spirit on this boundless sea.
Twenty One Days on the Danube | A Journey of Endurance and Grace
Thirty hours on a plane from Central Mexico to Bucharest, Romania seated in a suspended space of time only aware of the hour when I needed to make a transit from one plane to another. Arriving late I am greeted by the face of one I love so much, loaded into a vehicle and whisked out of the city to Giurgiu, a small hotel room and much needed sleep.
Semi-awake the next morning we re-sort our baggage and prepare for the first day of our river journey. After a quick breakfast and shopping we take a crazy taxi ride as the driver didn’t have a clue as to where we wanted to go so we finally use Google maps (which became my best friend and nemesis later on in our travels) to find a remote beach on the Danube. The day is spent assembling the Russian made kayak, of seemingly hundreds of interlocking tubes and parts. Since I could be of no help I sat waiting and pondering, my silent engaged observer content to be going somewhere unknown.
“Courage is grace under pressure.” ― Ernest Hemingway
Cristian puts the kayak together. It is portable when disassembled a very ingenious design.
Slipping Into Silver – First Night on the Water
It was late afternoon when we took to the water, the full moon rising as night was approaching. The shine of the smooth water reflecting the sky was my first glimpse of what was before us. Cristian paddled the three man kayak through the night as I curled best I could in the seat at the bow of our craft. Lulled into a transcendent sleep as the sound of oars and water claimed me into a state of deep inner peace. When I woke it must have been 3 a.m. as I felt the kayak glide onto the white sand of a river island where we set our first camp, the moon still lit the sky and everything took on an ethereal glow as we slipped into our tent, briefly wrapped our arms around each other and then fell into a deep sleep.
The squawking of river birds woke us in a few hours time. As we shook the sleep from our eyes we brewed a pot of coffee with its ever welcome scent, the first hot sips rising us further awake. By this morning all the time-lag has left and my brain returned to a coherent, “I am here! state of mind”. I recalled that yesterday I had spied the first of the kilometer markers letting us know that we had at least 488 km to the Black Sea, that number didn’t mean much until later in the day.
Having packed our gear on board the kayak we began our in unison paddling down the slow moving river. The Danube is very low due to drought in this portion of the world while torrential rains pour down elsewhere. These first hours are both wonderful and daunting as I realize the speed at which we are traveling, I content my inner dialogue with letting it know that we are in flow, are going to take it easy one stroke of the oar at a time and let each day reveal the next course. As was to become our rhythm we occasionally stop and then keep pushing on until we feel the tiredness set in so we scan the river banks for a special spot for the night. This evening as we turned a bend where the river divided we found a precious sandy inlet with trees and lots of dry firewood. Without words we set our camp in the shared communion of motion. Cristian finally speaks, “I want to stay here for ever and ever.” I nod knowing that we won’t stay but share the sentiment of the quiet, the natural world around us that speaks on the wind, the crackle of the fire and the sound of water gently lapping the shore is all we need to be content.
We try fishing and I laugh inside watching our valiant impatient attempts. The one thing I know about fishing is you have to have the right bait and lots of patience. Ah well, perhaps luck would strike.
Oars to the water in one beat.
Days and Nights Slide Seamlessly One Into The Other
We don’t hurry our departure the next day as we bathe in the warm water then re-accommodate our supplies in the kayak. The sun grows hotter so eventually we push off. Through the lens of my left brain I watch the kilometers go by too slowly while my right brain and body engage with the river that flows beneath us. My senses pick up the river’s dance, the variations of movement both side wise to shore and then surprisingly up and down, a sensuous snake like movement of undulating and barely perceptible waves. Sometimes it feels like we are paddling up hill then the long slow downward slide. I realize that this motion can only be felt by being so close to the water, the Kevlar covering of the kayak is only a few millimeters thick so it puts me in almost direct contact with the river.
The day drifts by timelessly until hunger lets us know that a shore break is needed so we slip into Bulgaria the closest shore and nearest village. No border patrol, no check points, a moment experienced as a world without borders just as it should be. We find a simple riverside café where we order fish and chips which are washed down with cold beer. The day was scorching hot and this moment is embraced for its comfort and the friendly service of the man who attended us.
Paddling at sunset we scan the shore for a campsite.
Six Days On The River We Meet Adi
There have already been moments when I question why we are making this trip as the physical challenge of hours of rowing began to show on my body, not unwelcome for my arms and back are showing muscle while the hot sun has tanned my skin to a golden hue. The encampments are now a routine of unpacking and repacking though this is not unpleasant either. I am feeling challenged to let go further of any and all expectations, let go of a sense of obligation from across the world that plagues me in moments of tiredness.
I allow myself to slip into states of consciousness that only experience the now moments, the one row at a time beat and then the resting float. It is the sun’s emanations, the sunrises and sunsets that now mark the passage of time and keep our spirits uplifted by their beauty.
We stop counting the hours, the days and the kilometers. When the mind stops all chatter what is allowed entry is a state of eternal presence where every action becomes one of graceful beauty in fluid motion. Seamlessly we move through the day, at moments laughing for we use the language of the child that only we understand. Occasionally we point out something we spot hiding in the bush or moving across the water, this is when we see our first water snake idly slither in front of the kayak, as soon as we focus our attention on his silent movements he senses us and moves quickly away, this happens every time with the many snakes we encounter as the connection through the airwaves of spirit is revealed.
We are on a part of the Danube where there aren’t any villages within reach. The afternoon grows long, I am tired as the day before I had a headache from the relentless glare of the sun on the water boring deeply into my skull. By this afternoon I am fully recovered from its lingering effects though my body is seeking refuge and comfort. We’ve also experienced the first strong headwinds that make paddling an exercise of willed strength, missing one stroke and we are blown backward on the river. What surprises me is how strong my body is and how much vitality is called forth in these moments of endurance, something I’ve learned to be grateful for.
The river banks are high on this bend so we know we have a paddle ahead to find a campsite when we spy in the distance a few men standing on a cliff bank, they are waving at us and beckoning us to their shore. This greeting is irresistible so we ground our kayak on the narrow beach then climb up the steep bank hanging on the tree roots and a well placed knotted rope. We are embraced by a rotund man who tells us his name is Adi and whose laughter is as big as his belly. Within fifteen minutes we are seated at his long makeshift kitchen table with a bowl of hot Romanian stew, huge slices of polenta, fresh cheese and shots of homemade sour cherry liquor being poured.
This is grace and you simply can’t say no to her. Both Cristian and I are mostly vegetarian and its been years since I’ve eaten a meat stew, it is a split moment of knowing that says go ahead for to refuse this meal would be to counter the gifts offered. I won’t go to philosophy here but I will simply state that it was the cleanest best stew I’ve ever tasted, there is a huge difference when one cooks on fire with what is given from nature and not purchased in one of those horrible super markets of slaughtered animal flesh. We thanked our host profusely and were offered a bed for the night which we gratefully accepted.
Adi, a retired sailor and a most excellent wood fire chef, a gracious good humored host.
There are a few other men visiting this fishing camp, a sea captain and his friend. Even a few locals come by and to our delight one man offers Cristian the opportunity to ride his horse. Another gift as Cristi has never been on horseback a dream fulfilling and a more fine spirited animal could not have been delivered.
Happiness sparks the air in moments like these…
Cristian riding Blondie, a contented man. We also went on a buggy ride pulled by two galloping horses, I decided to name them gypsy horses for their spirit of wild freedom.
A gentle soft sunset reflecting the peace of a perfect day.
The Days In Between and Changing Horizons
We set off around 10 a.m. the next morning never knowing what we would find downstream, not knowing that morning we were going to enter an industrial part of the Danube with big oil tankers passing or the slow moving barges being pushed to unknown destinations.
Clouds appear and disappear as do the barges and oil tankers. We watch them pass …
The wind picks up at times in hard blowing gusts then moments of calm as we paddle on. Landmarks we’ve marked on the map are met and passed though we occasionally stop for supplies, a bottle of wine, some fresh vegetables and the fuel of the trip for us has become a cold beer for Cristian and smokes for me.
Perspectives change on a river with a constant of new horizons forming in the distance.
Rested and revitalized this day moves easily into the next and the next as we make two camps captured in my memory now as one flow. Animal spirits have greeted us and shown us how precious are their gifts finding them as life is lived simply and pared down to only what is necessary. We’ve met a hawk perched on the branches of a half sunken tree as we pull one camp then a dragonfly plays with us on a rest stop and there is even one big scare as a water viper that had made his bed for the night at the rear of the kayak decides hours into our paddle to show its self as it slithered out between Cristian’s legs … we didn’t jump overboard though that was the impulse, what we did do was straddled the kayak paddling standing on the side rails that held it together to get to shore.
continue reading on page two …