Dryfix News

Hitting 30 - Its not all about Work (Part 2)

4th January 2013

Day Four (day one on the raft).

Up early at 7am before loading a truck with all our gear and another bus ride 90 minutes North to Banas where we were met by Jan our Swedish instructor. Jan showed us the biggest pile of logs we had ever seen, before simply allowing us to get on with it and build a raft. The logs were seriously heavy and whilst the other teams had 4 - 5 persons building their raft, there were only two of us. Gem and I however had buckets of energy and had loads of fun rolling the logs down river bank shouting - LOOK OUT - TIMBER!......

Our alternative raft design

Despite only being two of us, we moved quickly and had our platform constructed before any other team, probably thanks to all my years experience scouting and in the building industry. Most teams were building a double section raft but as there were only two of us we were building just one section which was approximately 3 m x 3m in size. The conventional design for the raft was an apex roof with a tent although this would have meant us leaning out the raft in a rather awkward manner to paddle, so I decided to change the design much to the surprise of Jan. My design was to build a high apex roof with cover to the rear and mono pitch canopy roof to the front, this would allow us to paddle, stay dry and appreciate the views as we drifted by. I was confident of the design although Jan was somewhat sceptical whether it would work - I was to prove him wrong.

After a long day building the raft and gaining Jan's permission to set adrift, we were off.

We had been warned prior of all the obstacles we could and would hit whilst on the river including 'black water' (water moving in the opposite direction) which would send the raft into a violent spin, sand banks, trees and bridges which could all be catastrophic to our safety and the raft. Feeling confident we set off only to encounter our fist obstacle within minutes, a bridge! Obviously still learning how to move the raft we headed straight for the central concrete pillar and gave the bridge an almighty nudge, although it didn't move much. The raft however survived, thanks to my lashing skills.

After drifting for a few hours that evening I set out in the canoe to find a nice spot to pull the raft over and camp. We had quickly realised because the raft was so heavy and difficult to move with paddles particularly across stream, our technique was to send me out (alone) in the canoe with a really long rope, where hopefully I could reach a nice spot on land, to bring in the raft in a controlled manner.

Camp Fire

We found lovely little spot for the first night, tied up the canoe and raft and pitched the tent. I lit a fire for warmth and to keep away the mosquito's and gem cooked tea. We sat by the fire with a few beers watching the stars in the sky before hitting the sack.

In Sweden, particularly the North so close to Norway it doesn't really get dark, the sun disappears around 11:30 pm although it's still not dark and then reappears between 3 & 4, so it daylight almost all of the time, which is splendid.

Day five (day two on the raft).

Early morning again although trying to lie in when the sun rises at about 3am is difficult. We awoke to find during our camp last night we had been descended upon by the biggest bunch of mosquito's ever. Although at the time we knew we were being bitten once or twice the extent of their feeding frenzy only became apparent when we woke scratching like dogs, we had been bitten all over.......

Cooking and eating breakfast on the raft

As I unzipped the tent door another group of hungry mosquito's we awaiting us outside the tent, so we got dressed in the tent before making a sharp exit onto the raft. With fear of being bitten further we decided to have breakfast whilst on the move after I had ran round the site like a dog chasing his tail quickly pulling the pegs and dismantling the tent and poles before setting adrift.

After drifting down the river for an hour or so I suddenly remembered I had forgotten to pick up my knife which was a Christmas present from my dad last year which I'd left at the campsite, it was lost now forever as it was too far to travel back upstream by canoe.

We drifted down the river all day quite uneventfully with no major obstacles to collide with which was pleasant and although it rained on and off and the sun struggled to burn through the high mountain clouds we were quite happy. Around 3pm after watching the forest and banks drift by we decided to look for a clearing in the wood where we thought the mosquito's would be fewer, so I hopped back in my canoe to find dry land.

I found a lovely clearing although a bit boggy at the water's edge which had obviously been used by campers before as there were the remains of a fire (lazy campers). We decided tonight we would have ago at catching our tea, so I set Gem up with the rod whilst I went off in search of the impossible, some dry wood. Neither of us were successful, Gem coached the fish with sweet corn, bread and river bog and each time the fish somehow manage to steal the bait and avoid Gems hook. I wasn't successful in finding dry wood either, everything was soaked from the days rain however I still manage to get a fire going by scrapping away the wet bark. So we had a fire but with nothing to cook.

(Me) Preparing fish superPreparing tea

Neither of us being great at fishing prior to setting sail we'd had a chat with some locals who had advised us to use worms as bait, so after a little digging we found some worms and I took over whilst Gem tended my fire of crackling damp wood. Within minutes it worked, the line was tight and I quickly yelled for Gem to grab my arm as I was precariously perched on the edge of the raft and thought this fish might pull me in. After a tug-o-war battle which I won, we landed a huge trout weighing about 3 - 4kg. Gem decided it would be best if I sent him to sleep, so I did the honest thing and gave him a crack with lump of wood. The fish took the walloping but refused to sleep, Gem didn't help much 'He's still alive, he's still alive' so I ended his misery and cut his head off with my new Bear Grylls knife! albeit he was definitely asleep his lips kept moving from his decapitated head like he was blowing us kisses and occasionally his body would have a little wriggle - Gem found this slightly nervy and I had to reiterate 'Gem, he's definitely dead, he's got no head!'. We cleaned him up and removed the nasties before cooking him on the fire. Gem turned him into a fish cuisine with cuscus and potatoes which was fantastic with a beer.

My role was to put the tent up whilst gem finished the washing up and prepared a bowl of warm water for a full on body scrub, well it was day two and I was in need of a wash. I came back to the raft to find Gem unsteadily leaning over the side of the raft into the water with a paddle. What are you doing? and with that she burst out laughing......... It turns out whilst washing up she had dropped our cooking tins in the water some 30 minutes ago but had decided not to tell me because she thought she could retrieve them herself by hooking them with the paddle. 30 Minutes later she was still trying with her head almost in the water, silly if only she'd asked. I got the pans out............

We had our first wash in the woods stripping naked and having a good old soap scrub with warm water boiled from the retrieved pans brilliant, but we had presented ourselves as diner to those damn mosquito's again.

drifting by in the rain

It rained all night and although we had a fantastic spot, because of the rain there were still thousands of mosquito's in addition to another little biting pest which turned out to be Knotts. Knotts are a form of Swedish midge, and although we had every piece off protection available; mosquito cream, wrist bands, spray, citronella candles and face nets we were getting bitten all over again, so decided to retreat into our tent for some homemade sloe gin and chocolate.


Day Six (day three on the raft).

We awoke the third day looking like we both had chicken poxs, we had been bitten all over and it really was quite painful. The mosquito's and midges were vicious and were lurking outside the tent again just waiting for us to exist so they could have breakfast. Same rule applied this morning, throw your clothes on quick and run to the raft. Gem prepared breakfast again whilst I fought the biting enemy and dismantled the tent quickly and set us adrift.

Luckily there were no mosquito's or midges whilst we were actually drifting down the river, they resided only to the river banks usually in deep forestry and vegetation, so we could spend the day in peace of our own company.

We had another great day sailing, again it rained on and off but atleast we managed to stay dry and warm due to our fantastic raft design (Jan was going to eat his words when/if we ever made it back). The days sailing past quickly as we learned trying to move the raft with paddles was pointless unless we had about 3km of advanced warning, so we just drifted effortlessly watching the scenery go by and reading our books. I was reading a book called 'Dark Summit' about the tragic climbing season on mount Everest in 2006, whilst Gem was reading 'fifty shades of boring' obviously written by a board lonely housewife who had too much time to fantasise.

A clearing in the woodsDown stream for a paddle looking for a clearing

After a good sail we had cracked it on day three, no camping in the woods or in vegetation so we held out until we found a perfectly clear spot by the river bank. Again I set out in the canoe and managed to lure the raft into a beautiful clearing which was pretty much mosquito and midge free. After wondering off to explorer our new site I set up the hammock in the trees, and attempted to catch some more fish for tea, but was unsuccessful so Gem cooked Chilli concarnie (out of a tin!).

A beatuiful evening for a paddle

The evening was beautiful so around 11pm we decided to go for a paddle together in the canoe and explore. The strangest thing about the being in the woods and on the raft is you feel like your completely alone, you can spend hours drifting and see no-one. Finding suitable clearings to camp is also difficult, you need to spot them well ahead to prepare to land and if you miss it, you can bet you last can of river bog there's another clearing on the opposite side of the river which is impossible to reach. Usually the river flow at 2knotts however due to the heavy rain fall in the mountains over the past few weeks the river was flowing around 3 1/2knotts much faster than usual making it hard to land the raft. In addition many of the sand banks which are usually visible for landing the raft and camping were flooded due to the high water level.

As we paddled upstream literally about 100meters up the river was another raft with a tent pitched in the woods. We thought it must be three Swedish lads who were with us at the start as they had no canoe, so we paddled over but it looked like they receded to their tent probably to escape the mosquito's. This is the problem, if only they had floated down stream where we were they would have been fine, but you just never know what's around the corner. We had heard from another group they had already spent their first night afloat till 1am trying to land and only the next day getting stuck in backwater for 4 hours.

As we paddled past their tents I called 'Evening boy's' and after short scuffle a half sleepy Dutch chap fell out of the tent looking at us like we were canoe pirates coming to rob them of beer. It wasn't the Swedes and we or mainly I had just awoken another group of campers by mistake. We paddled back to our site rather embarrassed.

All the protection but just no use!Happy campers Gem, just drifting along(Me) Just drifting along


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