First, the Kayak
Scott sat in a large box grinning and waving a paddle in the air, in our living room in East Berlin. The box had contained our Nortik Scubi 2 hybrid kayak. We’re going kayaking. We were trying to follow the German instructions and build it in the safety of home before taking to the lakes the following weekend. Our German was not up to it, so we found a YouTube clip which made it look simple. Turns out, it was simple.
The Kayak has a metal frame, two seats, and inflatable sides. It has a splash cover. But that doesn’t do it justice. It is the coolest black and white streamlined swish of wonder ever to be released from a large box. Because apart from me and Scott, it can fit in a tent, two sleeping mats, two sleeping bags, one picnic blanket, a food cold box, our clothes and toiletries. It then has space for a gas stove, two bowls, sporks and other kitchen items, torches, a full seat with wheels, another small folding seat, two pillows and a water bag. And several bottles of wine which fit snugly near my feet at the front, on the PVC floor, cooling on the water. We could live in that kayak forever if the end of the world came and the floods were at hand.
Why kayaking was the answer
I have a back condition from an operation I had in my teens. I am now in my late forties and consequently get a lot of pain in the sacroiliac joint. The precise German doctor showed me an X-ray of my body and pointed with a stick.
‘Your bones are disintegrating here, here and here’ she said. ‘Your joint is crushed here. It will get worse. We can’t help you.’
I have always been a keen hiker and backpacker; dashing about up hill and down dale, searching for the next adventure. Now I find I am in pain after a few hours of walking. How could I continue to see the world and get lost in nature without long treks or motorized transport? Hmmm…. by water!
Paddling – the new walking
So the trial day came and we caught a train to Gross Koris, a village half an hour south of Berlin. We pulled our kayak in her bag, on a fisherman’s folding wheeled chair. We carried the other equipment on our backs until we got to the beach at Schweriner Lake. On the grass, we launched the kayak empty, to get a feel for her. She bounced on the glinting wave tops of the early June afternoon. She couldn’t wait! Most people come to Berlin for the history or the techno scene, but there are 33,000 kilometers of lakes, rivers and canals around Berlin. Endless gentle sandy-bedded clear waters for exploring nature and drifting.
We packed her up using all available space and lashed the wheeled chair to the top. Scott sat in the back because he is sporty and we needed him for power. While he did most of the work and steering, using the foot-controlled rudder, I sat in the front clutching my paddle for, well, ‘helping’. There was a waterways map in German that needed reading for the turn into a tributary two kilometers ahead and at a pace of a few knots – we wouldn’t want to miss it, would we…?
And so finally began an adventure that took us paddling and wild camping over 70 kilometers through quiet lakes, where herons stand still as windless reeds, and beavers bustle in the dusk. We glided past falling forests and wide fields. In the evening we labored through locks and long canals, until we paddled down into the wonders of Spreewald Biosphere. Here the blue fairy dragonflies hover and the waters are trailed with pale green leaves. And the shallow narrow channels allow only the quiet plash of a kayak into their ancient ways.