They say rations gifted at the beginning of a journey bodes well for the remainder.
Well actually I just made that up, but we barely had a chance to walk around Ĉeský Krumlov before being showered with food! A fellow traveller was spending his last night in our hostel and graciously offered us his leftover spices, rice, cream and vegetables. We put them to use immediately in a delicious stir fry.
The next morning offered fine weather and saw us preparing to go rafting down the windy and beautiful Vltava river. As soon as we made the booking we started spotting wildlife - while waiting for our driver I felt something on my hand and turned around to find it being licked by the owner's pet lizard!
The driver didn't speak much english, but really didn't need to. The message was pretty clear when he stopped next to the river, threw us some life jackets, oars, waterproof container and dragged the raft near the water. And just in case there was any doubt, gave us a wave and drove off.
So we set off down the river, mere centimetres standing between Dry and Very Wet™. With three people in the boat and approximately zero rowing experience between them you might think some organisation is warranted, but our unanimous non-vote was "eh, wing it". More rotations = more fun, anyway (indeed many rotations were achieved over the next three hours).
Didn't take us long to work out that those little white bits on the water generally indicate the presence of rocks. ;)
There wasn't a lot of development around the river, so for most of the trip we had an unspoiled view of the forest, which was simply beautiful. There were some stalls set up at fairly regular intervals advertising beer, but much to Amanda's chagrin they were all closed (because it's off-season?).
Eventually we had our fill of the forest and took our amusement into our own hands:
"I spy with my little eye, something beginning with R."
Yes. River. Very creative Ness. My turn, but before I can come up with anything my thoughts are interrupted by something on my hand. I instinctively flick my wrist while turning my head, only to discover a dragonfly (still!) perching there. It flies off after just a moment, but turns around to land straight back on my arm! Very still, I call it:
"I spy with my little eye, something beginning with DOMA... You might want to turn around for this one."
Unfortunately it was a little camera shy, the delightful little dragonfly. Now thinking about it I cannot lie, it was the same hand the lizard decided to try. I wonder what scent it had thought to apply, and hope to find more before I die.
Other wildlife highlights included a water snake swimming along the shore, and a couple of fish keen for some fresh air.
Much of the rest of the trip was spent prone, after Amanda had the fantastic idea of lying down IN the raft. We let the current do the work and just used the oars for achieving more rotations, especially when the sun got in our eyes.
However, eventually our peace came crashing to a halt - quite literally - as we hit the river bank, a rock and a tree branch/root? I'm a little hazy on the order of events, but no damage was done so we were all quite amused.
We had a small "rapid" section to navigate shortly before we reached our destination, which was little more than a sloped waterfall. There was a channel cut for so we didn't have to worry about rocks, however it was barely wide enough for our raft. We must have come to some unspoken understanding about rowing and navigation over the journey as we managed to straighten up and got through the channel with only minor scrapes along the side of the raft.
Our landing was a little awkward, and we finished the journey almost as dry as we started which I was a little disappointed about. But I didn't spend too much time in remorse about that as my lower back started complaining while pulling the raft out of the water, presumably about the posture I'd been keeping for the last couple of hours. It's quite a familiar feeling for me, and I have some idea how to deal with it - I go lie in the grass and do my physio prescribed lumbar rolls.
We call the rafting crew to let them know we've finished and wait for the van to come pick us up. Before it arrives we are joined by more rafters - we chat for awhile and I attempt to start some hacky sack but it doesn't go so good. Well, it serves its purpose as amusement, but mostly involves the ball flying everywhere rather than any display of skill.
Eventually our driver arrives - it's the same guy who dropped us off, and the girl's dump the task on me of trying to ask him to drop us at Tesco's Hypermart on the way back so we can get some shopping done. I'm game, I figure I have a simple strategy for communicating through the language barrier here:
- Help load the rafts into the van (thereby non-verbally communicating comraderie, friendship, as well as getting me close to him)
- Repeat "Tescos" until he figures out what the hell I'm saying.
He seemed to grasp it after only the second time, but I wasn't quite sure he understood we wanted to be dropped there until he pulled up outside the hypermart. Shook his hand as we disembarked, top bloke :)
Bankwest turns out to be fail - me and Amanda are refused service by the ATM. Ness' card still works though so it's just a minor convenience. We get our shopping done and commence searching for the way back to our hostel in the dark. Top the night off by walking along a highway we are apparently not supposed to walk along - when we get to the next intersection the cops are waiting for us! We took a shortcut up an embankment which means we bypassed the no walking sign, and having had a second look at it I don't think it would have clicked had I seen it. The sign was just a silhouette of a walking man surrounded by a red circle (which was also the edge of the sign).