Events described in this story happened on Friday the 12th of July, 2019. We paddled Zucchini from Au an der Donau to Grein in Austria. We crossed state borders from Oberösterreich (Upper Austria) to Niederösterreich (Lower Austria). This was a distance of 28.8 kilometers.
One Night in Au an der Donau
Our one night in our ‘wooden tent’ was quite pleasant. We woke up to the murmurs of early risers in the tents next to our fancy tent. Most of these people are doing a long-distance cycling trip, like along the Donauradweg (Danube bike path). Mornings are tough on all of us, but it had rained a bit in the night. They now had to pack a wet tent, which is something Jonas and I go through great lengths to avoid doing. Some parents let their boy child piss on the wet grass where people pitch their tents instead of at the toilets. It’s too damn early for this. And I’ll never understand these people.
We visited the bakery and café inside the town of Au an der Donau to get our snacks for the day and a hot coffee. On the way back, we passed the very cute fire station in the village. Back at the campsite, we brushed our teeth, packed up our stuff, and carried it all back to the river. Since we hadn’t packed up our boat properly the day before, Jonas had to walk twice to pick up some more stuff and also check out. I mounted the fin and inflated the boat in the meantime.
By the time we were ready to go, the father-son (‘Florian and Simon’) duo we’d met the day before arrived at the riverside. They indeed left their wooden kayak at the shore, turned upside down at the high embankment next to the bike path. Valiant move.
A man and his child were watching us preparing to go. I took a photo of Jonas at the boat, which prompted the man to offer to take a photo for us. Since we barely have any photos of us and Zucchini together, I really appreciated this offer. He came down the embankment and I explained the action cam had a 3-second delay before it shoots. I walked back to Jonas and posted. At the time, I wasn’t sure whether he pressed hard enough and if there were any photos. But there were!
Leaving Au an der Donau for Grein
These one-night stops are quite tough on us; not only do we carry the physical strain of the day before with us, but it also means we can’t work. No work for me means that I amass a big amount of stories I still need to write or finish writing. The only chance I have to catch up with that work is our two-night stays, the three-night stays, and the occasional stays of longer than three nights. Not finishing my backlog of stories means I get more and more stressed out. I was all caught up with these stories in Linz, but after two days of continuously paddling, I already feel the heat again.
It’s 9:20 when we’re paddling away from the campsite in Au towards Grein. Today is a very cloudy day and we have a slight tailwind this early in the day. I’m hoping the wind picks up so I can use the kayak sail some more. For the first time ever, a cargo ship with actual containers – kind of like you can see at sea – passes us by as it travels upstream. What an interesting model. We also spot the famous fish statue named ‘Doni the Fish’ for… some reason. Jonas was excited to see it.
We stick to the left-hand side until 9:50 when we cross to the right in anticipation of the portage at Kraftwerk (power plant) Wallsee-Mitterkirchen. At 10:30 we’re at the 2100-kilometer sign. We spot some paddlers behind us, which might or might not be familiar people. There’s also a colorful Zille boat moored at the shore when a tiny cruise ship comes by to wreak havoc.
The skies are getting more beautiful. I deploy the kayak sail enthusiastically in the last few kilometers before the portage. It does help a little bit.
Portaging around Kraftwerk Wallsee-Mitterkirchen
We arrive at the slipway of the portage at 11:10. Florian and Simon land behind us at about the same time. Jonas goes to pick up the boat wagon and I’m trying to not impede the other paddlers. They look a little annoyed that we arrived first. It takes a bit before Jonas returns with the L O U D E S T boat wagon ever. I think its tires are deflated, but Jonas thinks the wheels are made of ‘full rubber’, meaning there’s no air in there.
We put the boat on the boat wagon and start rolling it out of the way for Florian and Simon. The boat wagon makes an absolutely horrible sound and it’s also very heavy to roll it. On the other side, we put the boat back in the water of the Altarm (old arm the Danube) of Wallsee. Florian and issue soon follow behind us. The sun comes out from behind the clouds more and more.
We make a quick stop to relieve ourselves and then continue paddling to the main Danube at 11:30. This old arm is quite long, so it will take quite some time to get out of it. I put back up my kayak sail at the first signs of a breeze. The beginning of the old arm is very calm and full of waterfowl. We paddle between several little islands or sandbanks that are not on the map to find the exit. Towards the exit, there are many people fishing this Friday afternoon. I have to put the sail down to navigate between the bobbers. We can already see the main Danube, but it takes quite a while to get there.
Back in the Danube
At 12:20, we’re out of the Altarm. The wind direction often changes before and after a dam, so I keep the sail down until we’re headed in a single direction again. We look to the left to see if there are any big ships in the locks. We can’t see any, so we paddle into the strong current and cross as soon as we’re sure there’s nothing coming. It’s so nice to have the current again. We appreciate the view behind us as we get a good view of the castle (Schloss) of Wallsee.
I put the sail back up. The left-hand shore of this stretch is incredibly beautiful. There are tiny sidearms where water flows in from our river, which is a little higher up. Then that water rejoins again a bit later. There are river islands and small tributary rivers. It’s sunny, so we reapply our sunscreen and eat a snack.
We see the duo Florian and Simon behind us on the right-hand side. They’re picking up speed quite a bit while we’re casually sailing, so they soon overtake us. They decide to go on the right-hand side of the river island named Hochau, and we never really see them again afterward. We know they’re staying at the campsite in Grein, while we’re staying in a hotel for three nights. They’ll arrive in Budapest much sooner, probably on time for the child to go back to school.
While they pass on the right, we pass on the left and get a close-up view of a castle named Schloss Dornach.
Arriving in Grein
It’s 14:00 by the time we approach to enter the final turn. There’s a kind of religious building on a hill named Kollmitzberg that we use as a reference point for our progress. After the big bridge, the bicyclists join us again on the right and left shores. To the right is a bit of a natural area with a few big hills where I’d like to go hiking if we have the time for that. To the left is the start of Grein and its own Schloss.
We see the ferry that crosses from Grein to Wiesen and check on our maps for our anticipated landing spot. We either have to land at the slipway of the ferry, or at another slipway right behind the ferry. If we need to share the limited space with the ferry, we’d like to do that before the little wooden boat returns. So we paddle on to make it before the ferry returns.
I see that it’s a different slipway from the ferry’s, so we don’t need to pack our stuff very quickly. We land our boat parallel to the slipway and finally get out. It’s 14:35 and Jonas is very hungry. We empty the boat and take a break at the wall. After not folding the brand new kayak sail properly for two days, it’s time to ‘pringle’ it so the big circle becomes three smaller circles. So far, whenever I had to fold the sail away, I just pringled it once so there are two smaller circles, which should put less pressure on the fragile thing.
A Fellow Paddler
While we struggle to fold the kayak sail without making it knack, an older man with long white hair asks us some questions from high up on the big wall. It’s something about the kayak sail. Jonas answers him that it’s sometimes nice to have. The man walks away, I think, but then he comes down to us to ask us more questions.
He is a paddler himself. He says he paddled with some 200 paddlers just a few days earlier. I’m thinking it’s the TID-people he’s talking about, but Jonas says that can’t be the case because those passed Grein at least one week ago. I’m still not sure if he isn’t talking about the TID-people. Who else paddles in a group of – ballpark – 200 people down the Danube? Exactly.
The man asks us more about the kayak sail. We tell him we’re on our second one because the last one broke. And yes, it’s a lot of fun to have when there’s wind, but it’s a total pain in the ass to fold it back up. Does it help? Yes, a little, but the conditions to use it need to be near-perfect. Perhaps it’s more like a gimmick or a toy than a serious part of a paddler’s kit. We tell him he can order it off Amazon.
He thanks us for the chat and says goodbye to us in German and in English. That was a nice interaction.
Checking in to Grein
We wait for the boat to dry, watch the ferry cross many times, eat, and Jonas befriends a very large beetle that doesn’t want to leave his wet neoprene sock. I’m getting kind of icky to check into our hotel. It’s already kind of late in the day and I’d like to take a shower. We’re staying in Grein for three nights at Pension Martha.
When we’re finally packed up and ready to leave, we still have a small hike ahead of us. I immediately notice that the kayak backpack is very badly balanced, which makes me want to walk fast and arrive as soon as possible.
At Pension Martha, a friendly lady gives Jonas the key while I check out the patio. They mostly cater to cycling tourists and they have lots of helpful things for cyclists. The bike shed has charging points to plug in your electric bike. There’s a drying room for wet clothes and a rack with a Very Specific machine that dries the inside of your shoes. I think it’s originally for ski shoes, which get stinky if you don’t dry them well.
We get the corner room, which is absolutely huge and has a couch, a table, some chairs, and plenty of space. It’s not cheap, but it’s exactly what we’re hoping for on a 3-night stay. We shower and then head out to a kebab/pizza restaurant so that Jonas can finally eat his first-ever Austrian kebab. It has been a while.
Back in our hotel, we can enjoy the boosted internet with our Mango Box. Hopefully, we get a lot of work done from here. It’s time for me to write a lot and catch up with these long blog posts!
Enjoyed this Story? Please Share it with Your Friends!