TEAM – Adam Colton
DURATION – 21 days, 20 nights
DISTANCE – 808 miles
Solo trip down the Danumbe from Ingolstadt, Germany to Belgrade, Serbia.
SUP THE DANUBE by a River Rat.
If you were to ask me what did you do every day on the Danube, well it’s quite simple actually you know, fight crime, outrun bad guys in speedboats with machine guns, almost died a few times from river monsters and 20 ft waves. Oh yeah just like the movies I tell ya but you have to throw in sleep, eating, epic poos and paddling. It’s simple times on the river when all the crazy action subsides. I know what I’m doing everyday and the outfit I’m wearing accents my earlobes nicely. There is no end destination, I just take each day as it comes, get as far as I get. There are themes throughout the day, I know I can paddled for a long period of time then come around 1-2pm I find myself needing to take a break. Then back on the board for some more hours until I’m scanning the shores for towns and small little restaurants to plunder and feast upon. After dinner I then paddle until it gets dark, set up the tent and do it all over the next day. Each day waking up psyched to get back on the river moving and fighting crime.
I remember when I first began the Danube I had that excited nervous energy, everything is so fascinating and new that you just want to take a picture and video of everything. Oh look water, lets film it. You are almost too excited, too clean and the gear too new, a little river poser you are. I remember it feeling very slow. Like wow, this is damn slow, this is going to take awhile. Through all kinds of weather I moved slowly. Rain, hot sun, cloudy days, headwind, tailwind I could feel my emotions changing with each turn of the weather. I really enjoyed the rainy/cloudy days that cooled things off, the cool air gave me energy. Though after too many cloudy days in a row, I could feel myself missing the happiness of the sun to uplift my mood. Headwinds what can I say they always happen you just got to sing a song, put the head down and get through them.
I had my doubts on day 5 on the river. The question of why am I doing this crept in. I don’t feel it, it just feels like a waste of time when I could be doing so many other things with my time, like go on a rad mtn bike trip. This is a normal phase of distance traveling, the doubt phase. But I know each day can present a new headspace and outlook and you just have to take it a day at a time. Soon I became dirtier, worn in, tired, submerging myself in the trip. Every day I was figuring out how to more efficiently organized my gear, how to best attach it to the board, paddling techniques, small details of what items to bring in my tent and how I constructed the day. Everything was becoming easier and time just naturally floated by. Progress was being made and I could feel it and see it. I was not an over excited traveler any more, I was a worn in dirty river rat, everyday getting more stoked on my progress, every day getting better at what I do.
You notice things on the river because you move so darn slow, sometimes so slow it can drive you insane and actually feels painful but no reason to fight it, you can’t go any faster. Scenery flows by slow. At times I was right next to a bike path and as I compared my speed to land dwellers, it became a bit demoralizing when you’re slowly being out edged by a struggling, hobbling 102+ year old man. It put it into perspective on how slow you’re going at times. Now let’s not even think about how slow I’m moving in a full on headwind. We might be going backwards. It was fun to pay attention to all the changes in wildlife, trees and current. You would just wander into another country, there was no cheesy welcome slogan to Austria, you just mosied on in. Though I tell you it’s like on cue, birds know if it’s a new country; they switch it up and sing a new song, and every country had its own unique bird calls and whistles that I enjoyed. I was never endanger from man eating snakes or fish. I did get scared a couple times by beavers. Swimming through the Danube with their slicked back wet shiny heads like an Italian gangster. Kerplunking into the water when I got too near. Beavers look intimidating; I wouldn’t want to mess with one. I had 2 nights where I woke up a bit afraid from wildlife. I was hearing moaning and crashes of sticks, I was afraid something was going to collapse on my tent while I was listening blindly behind my rain tarp. My tent can hold up a falling tree right? I’m pretty sure it was beavers gnawing on wood and collapsing branches or some crazy clown tripping on foilage with his big shoes trying to locate me. Another night I was awoken to the heavy breathing, snorting of a wild pig. I’ll call him a wild boar; he might of had razor sharp tusks. All I knew is when I looked out my tent, my nylon fortress, this pig creature was bigger than I liked and closer than I wanted and I had me a cooler full of food. I just envisioned this wild boar charging at my tent full speed ramming me in order to get to my food. I got out of my tent to grab my paddle just to have it near if he decided to get close. Good thing I have some experience with action role play, I was ready. I was on high alert that night but nothing happened, only if it were the movies. It’s crazy though even with not much sleep I woke up the next morning energized and pounded out the miles, go figure.
Yeah sleeping on these trips… it’s always funny the most demanding things I do in life may it be distance skating, or SUPing down a river I end up getting such crappy sleep from wind all night or mosquitos buzzing in my ear and I wake up to do some of the most physically taxing exercise of my life and I still make it happen. I guess that just goes to show you how remarkable the body is and how it arises to the occasion if you push it. This was a first for me having a night terror on the river. I have a theory that it arose from the time I was hit by a wave in my tent that a passing ship created and that experience of being all cozy in my tent to violently getting picked up by a wave and crumbled in a bunch affected me some way. There was one night in particular were I was exposed on this really long flat beach. No rain tarp on, just me and the nights dark sky through my nylon mansion. It was howling wind that night. All of a sudden I was floating down the river in my tent, my SUP board was gone, my paddle gone. I had this rush of sadness come over me like dang my trip is over, I’ll never be able to find my board and paddle. I was so sad not to see my trip through. Then fear crept in. I was on the rive ralone in my tent and surrounded by darkness and water. Where was I heading? How was I going to get out of this situation? All I could see was the silhouettes from trees on the shore. I felt so lost, I just had to gather myself and open my tent door and touch the ground to feel the water, and sure enough it was sand and relief rushed over me. Adam you are in your tent sleeping on a beach your board is over there, you are okay. AWWW it felt good!
It’s always satisfying when you have an idea and you make it a reality. I’m so glad I did this trip and saw it through. I was genuinely bummed when I had to finish. I was on such a roll, I had momentum of stoke and river rat power with me and things were going so smoothly that it felt like in just 16 more days (give or take) I could have made it to the river’s end, the Black Sea. Well, that is just one more reason to go back to the Danube, paddle through Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and make it to the Black Sea. Maybe next year, shall see what happens.
Thanks to all my sponsors, Indiana Sup for providing me with a beautiful amazing tough board that still looks brand new after the journey, NEMOequipment for the most comfortable night sleeps I have ever had on a trip before, and Patagonia for solid clothes that just work day after day of abuse and dirt.
I wish you all many fun adventures and good times. If you dig this trip and write up please check out past videos and write ups from previous trips. If I was to make a recommendation please check out LongTreks Peru Y Bolivia, that was a crazy time.