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Monday, 31 August 2015

Project DeltaKayaking2015



It’s been a full and crazy summer, that’s for sure. Actually, I could barely find the time to write this article – delayed too much, anyway. 3 months. Of heat, happiness, and many-many projects... some of them still under construction. It is nice, however, to recall one of my most rewarding trips ever.

Day 1
On a late-May Saturday morning [we decided for an early wake up rather than for a sleepover somewhere in between Braşov and Tulcea], we grabbed our equipment [pretty much the same as during last year’s trip into the Delta], loaded our kayaks, and were off via Buzău.
Marcel and I had decided to paddle the first 5-10 km towards Lejai Lake (to be reached on Day 2, after the remaining 10-15 km), leave the kayaks ashore and approach the lake by foot, hoping to see pelicans, which was actually the ultimate goal. Then, try to return by paddling 5-10 km and camp, by leaving the last 10-15 km to Dunavăţu de Jos for the last day, with a late lunch and the road back to Braşov.
However, plans change. Well, not in the beginning. We crossed by ferry from Brăila [managed to find out that the ferries run round the clock; it’s every hour from 10pm to 6am and it costs 42.50 lei for 2 people and a car, though]. We stopped in Tulcea, at Hotel Delta, to get our permits for the Danube Delta. There is a device issuing them in the hotel lobby; we paid 15 lei for a 1-week regular permit, while permits for students are free of charge, but still have to be printed out and available for control at all times. [It was funny, because I managed to get them really wet, alongside my mobile phone and the adjacent SIM card, so I spent some precious hours hanging them in the tent and praying that they’d dry.]
As my attempt to settle my sweet-spot search abruptly ended when I found out that the frozen yoghurt place in Tulcea had closed, we drove all the way to Dunavăţu de Jos, where the official road ended, and had a tasty late lunch/early dinner at a very nice guesthouse with an inviting pool – Pensiunea Peştişorul.    
It was time to head to the pier, park the car there, pack our kayaks, and start paddling. We never got too far. Why? Because there were plenty of tourists not even minding us, which felt rude. I mean, I know that it may be fun for you to drive your rental boat like a lunatic, but I’m in a small boat trying to cover certain distances, not stop minute after minute to surf your waves.
In the end, as it was close to sunset, we stopped and camped on a higher shore, overlooking a small lake inhabited – amongst others – by a couple of pelicans: the evening’s high note. Clearly not thrilled by the area or by the scenery, optimism didn’t accompany me to sleep. I couldn’t put my eyes together. Fireworks, cattle roaming around our tent, plus some low temperatures prevented me from getting rest.

Day 2
I woke up a bit sad, but immediately had a change in spirits when Marcel asked me – ‘What do you think? Shall we head back? And go to...?’ ‘Parcheş?’ I added. Last year’s idyllic spot. Hell, yeah!
We were off in no time after exploring the small pelican lake and getting mud all over us because of the low water level.
We had a nice lunch in Tulcea, at Hotel Insula. The heat was something hard to digest and – tired as we were – drove towards Şomova and stopped on a hill to sleep, in the shadow of an old oak. I felt my childhood reloading and the sensation was deeply fulfilling.
So was the one I felt when reaching Parcheş – the orange light was still there, no one had stolen it. There was also a ground squirrel welcoming us, it had to be a good sign! We drove down the steep road until we reached the water. There was no other human soul in sight; we unloaded the kayaks and head off to explore those known places. Feelings intensified gradually, fairy tale-style. Herons first, then egrets, then a big otter, then tens of cormorants, then pelicans. As I stood 10 meters – maybe – away from them, I realised how lucky I actually was and started crying big tears of joy.

We watched the sun set from our kayaks, then returned to shore. The water level was high, so the stretch of land used by us to camp a year before was flooded. As camping under the stars was no longer an option, we slept in the car, at the end of one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever had travelling!


Day 3
We started paddling really early to feel the morning energy of the animals. We did! Common terns, cormorants, herons, and even a flock of mighty pelicans flying over our heads made our day. A.k.a. Bliss.

Sadly, the fast-rising temperatures and the perspective of the long-way ahead made us pack everything and head home, happy and charged, promising myself to return, especially to Parcheş and the Măcin area, which doesn’t cease to fascinate me year after year and trip after trip. I shouldn’t forget to tell you that I saw pelicans here one more time. Mission accomplished.

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