A Boy, his Bike, and his Boat

He is blooded to the open and the sky,

He is taken in a snare that shall not fail

Rudyard Kipling

I’ve never been one for New Years resolutions. Maybe this is because I could never get past the arbitrary demarcation of a “new year”, or perhaps I subconsciously believe I don’t need improvement (more likely, I’m privately afraid to fail).

Keeping with such anti-resolution tradition, the goal I’m about to describe is decidedly not a New Years resolution. Nevertheless, it is nearly 2013 and I have a goal.

I am going to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea using only human powered amphibious travel

Specifically, I am going to follow the inland waterways along the rivers Rhine, Main, and Danube across Europe, and because I apparently harbor some (not-so) latent masochistic tendencies I’ll be doing this during winter, that is, starting tomorrow.

I’ll be journeying by bicycle and packraft. A packraft is an inflatable dinghy-style craft that is quite light and paddled like a kayak. I packrafted for the first time on Christmas Day this year after buying my floating blue transport (pictured below).

There’s something about human-powered travel I find indelibly attractive. Applying a bit of sweat and wit to traverse long distances is my little rebellion against this machine dominated world of automation and instant gratification.

Now, self-supported amphibious human-powered transport, hah! What a notion! Water and land. Suddenly those blue squiggles on a map aren’t an annoying obstruction.

Surly Long-Haul Trucker Deluxe folded atop an Alpacha Explorer 42 packraft in the water

Bicycle and gear strapped to my packraft. They call this bikerafting

The Plan & Difficulties

The plan is quite simple: follow the skinny water east until I arrive at the big water.

I’m not one for elaborate preparation, in fact, all I’ve really done to prepare for this journey is buy the packraft and relevant water gear (paddle, drysuit, etc), and some extra cold weather clothes. Traveling with a full camping kit has become standard practice for me.

This is my first European winter, so we’ll see how I fair. I will certainly encounter snow in Germany, and I can’t imagine the paths along the River are high priority for the snow plows.

Wikipedia informed me that the Rhine flows from Switzerland towards the Atlantic, which means I’ll be peddling along shore upstream until I hit the Danube. From the Danube I’ll blow up the raft and paddle onwards. I’ll buy river maps in each country as I go.

Excessive planning destroys the adventure.

Having a contingency plan for every possible hurdle is antithetical to my idea of adventure. Now, this is Europe after all, a highly populated area. I expect my most arduous challenges will be finding rural camping spots (I hope to eat these words).

Here’s an interactive map of the route I’ll be following along the rivers:

Interesting Statistics

  • River Rhine: 503km / 312mi
  • River Main: 384km / 239mi
  • Rhine-Main-Danube Canal: 171km / 106mi
  • River Danube: 2412km / 1499mi

Total Distance: 3,470km / 2,156mi

  • Alpacka Explorer 42, Blue
  • Weight: 3.1kg / 6.8 lbs
  • Length: 2.65m / 8.7 ft
  • Surly LHT Deluxe w/ Tubus racks
  • Weight: 12 kg / 27 lbs
  • All kinds of crap: about 18 kg / 40 lbs