Canoeing in the Rain

“It’s all dad’s fault.  He said the sun would always shine in Mecklenburg.”  Katharina wipes off a bunch of raindrops from her neck, but the more she moves, the more the water keeps flowing.  Big and heavy drops.  Their expectations were so great:  Sunshine all day (Katharina), spotting eagles and ospreys (Felix), swimming in the lakes (all three), being the fastest paddlers on the lake (Felix and Katharina), relax in the canoe while the kids paddle (Mike), drinking Coke (Katharina and Felix) or a nice fresh beer (Michael) for sunset.  But now, they cross the lakes in the rain, and at their last campsite they had to hide in their tent at sundown rather than enjoying a nice fresh beer at the lake.

“I guess we have to get through this”, says Mike, and then he tries to cheer the kids and himself up:  “Look, our next campground is right across the lake.  We’ll pitch the tent, head into the bar and have some yummy hot burgers with Coke.”

It turns out, however, that this is not how the elbow lake campground works.  At the elbow lake campground, everything is organic.  No hamburgers, but veggie burgers and whole-grain sandwiches, no Coke but some organic soda called Bio-Zisch – with flavours of either raspberry-cassis, litchi, rhubarb, or natural orange – even the mineral water is certified organic, because it is, as the label reads, “bottled with its own gravity”.  Mike stares disbelievingly and rather grumpily at the goods in the little store.  Felix, who notices Mike’s expression of sadness, quickly tells him:  “I guess you have to get through this.  We have already pitched our tents.”  So they stay.  And why not.  In the cafeteria, it’s nice, warm, and sheltered from the rain.  Besides, Mike has already spotted real beer in the little store – well hidden behind three cases of organic Bio-Zisch soda and a tray full of bottles with milk from free ranging cows.  The beer does have a big organic certificate on it, but other than that, it’s fine, at least the alcohol content is normal.  So, this evening, Katharina, Felix, and Mike end the day playing cards and enjoying whole-grain toasts with Bio-Zisch and beer.

The next day, they paddle towards Fürstenberg, and the weather changes:  It starts to rain really hard.  In a haste, Katharina, Felix, and Mike pitch their tent and decide to go to town for a pizza place – everything warm and sheltered from the rain is fine – so everybody to the washrooms, and let’s go.  At least, that’s Mike’s plan.  The reality, however, is that Katharina spots the big velcro mop of the cleaning staff in the washroom.  And – although you’d never judge from the usual state of her room at home – cleaning is something Katharina really loves to do.  She starts cleaning the washrooms.  That’s fine with Felix because it gives him some extra time to dig new canals between the puddles at the campground.

Mike, however, who is not so good in digging canals, prefers to wait for Katharina in the rain.

“Katharina, hurry up, I’m getting wet!” he urges his daughter.

“So is the floor of the washroom that I’m cleaning”, is her answer.

“But I’m waiting for you in the rain, and rain is awful.”

“Then come and help me.”

“No, I may not, you are in the Ladies’ room.”

“Then it’s still going to take some time.  I’m only half through.  Besides, rain is fun.  Ask Felix.”

So he has to wait longer until finally they set off for Fürstenberg – barefooted in their crocs, because that’s how the water best flows off again.  What a terrific walk!  The puddles at the campground were already quite impressive, but they didn’t even come close to the ones they encounter on their way downtown.

“Felix, come here, this is great!  I’m almost to my knees in this puddle!” exclaims Katharina.

“But only because your knees are closer to the ground than mine”, is Felix’s prompt answer.  What an unfair competition.  But a funny one, and that’s why Katharina and Felix don’t miss a single puddle on their way.

When the three return after dinner, the puddles on the campground have grown precariously.

“Wow!” exclaim Felix und Katharina and they start digging some more canals.

“Let’s just hope the tent stays dry inside”, says Mike more to himself.  But when choosing their site they had good luck and by sheer coincidence pitched their tent on a somewhat elevated spot.  Their tent looks a bit like an island in a sea of puddles now.

Katharina, Felix, and Mike finish the day playing cards.  While doing so, Mike addresses another important issue.

“We have to call mum.  Make sure she doesn’t worry.”

“Why would she do that?” asks Katharina.

“Well, because of the rain and all.  She’s a mum, you know, and I’m sure she watches the weather forecast.”

“And that makes her scared?”

“We could get wet, or our clothes, the sleeping bags, all our gear.”

“And then mum wouldn’t let us paddle here again?” asks Katharina, now worrying herself.  “Dad, you absolutely got to tell her that the sun is shining.  Then we can return to all these great lakes and puddles.”

“But if she finds out?” asks Mike.

“How could she ever find out? We are so far away.”

“I don’t know, maybe she’ll check our website one day.”

“Oh Dad!”

But Mike feels rather unsure.  Not that he’s inexperienced in lying, but this evening, he prefers rather not to talk with Mecki about the weather.

The next morning, the campground looks quite interesting.  Their tent narrowly survived the nightly rainfalls that according to the local newspaper totalled 100 mm.  The puddles made it to the rim of their tent but not further.

Their neighbours from some fraternity from Düsseldorf, however, had chosen a different spot that had a much better view onto the lake and lay only half a foot deeper.  But this night, half a foot deeper meant camping deep in the puddle.  So the guys from Düsseldorf had to move in the middle of the night from their almost floating tents – the ones with the beautiful view onto the lake – to the roofed breakfast tables.  From there they watch from their puddle-soaked sleeping bags how Katharina, Felix and Mike leave the campground, paddling towards the beautiful villages of Himmelpfort and Lychen.

And then, something completely unexpected happens:  It stops raining.  Even better:  From Himmelpfort on, it’s the finest of summer sunshine all day long.  Also, more and more interesting animals pass their way:  Eagles, ospreys, kites, storks, a crane, and at the campground in Himmelpfort a beaver.

Close to Lychen, the final destination of the trip, Felix relaxes in the canoe to enjoy the sunshine, and he sums up his wildlife encounters:  9 eagles, 26 ospreys, two birds of prey he optimistically identified as lesser spotted eagles, a crane, a beaver, and 20 storks – not too bad for a one week canoeing trip.  And one day still is to come.  On their last day, Katharina, Felix, and Mike want to paddle the Küstrinchenbach.  Thanks to the rain, by the way, because the Küstrinchenbach is a lively little creek with crystal clear water, that has only one drawback:  during the summer months there’s usually much too little water for the creek to be canoeable.  Except for when it has rained cats and dogs, then the water level is of course better, and this luckily is the case now.

From their campground in Lychen, Mike orders a canoe taxi that carries them and their canoe upriver to begin a most enjoyable day trip.  For almost two hours they follow the winding creek along its way through the lonesome woods.  Occasional (very light) rapids and toppled down trees provide welcome changes every now and then.  After the creek, Katharina, Felix, and Mike continue their route across 4 of the altogether 5 lakes of Lychen back to the campground.

“Tomorrow, we’ll drive back to Rheinbach”, says Mike in their tent at night.  “How about calling Mecki now?”

“Don’t say anything wrong to her”, warns Katharina.

So Mike tells Mecki about eagles and beavers, pizza and Bio-Zisch, lakes, locks and the Küstrinchenbach creek.

“But tell me”, interrupts Mecki, „with this horror weather forecast … aren’t you guys totally soaked?  How was the weather?”

Mike hesitates a moment.  Quickly, Katharina pinches him in his leg.

“Oh sure, … well, lots of sunshine … you know, the way it always is in Mecklenburg.”

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