Defeating the Pandemic

“I hate this pandemic,” says Katharina.  “The only place you can do something is outdoors, and with these frosty temperatures that’s not always fun.”

“Mmmh,“ says Mike, “my spirits would also be higher if we could do something to beat the pandemic.”

“How about canoeing?“ suggests Katharina.

“But it’s so very very cold in a canoe.” mutters Mike.

“We have warm clothes, and we can make some hot chocolate, too,” says Katharina.  “Do you think you could find a beautiful river close by?”

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Mike chooses a stretch of the Sieg river between the towns of Eitorf and Hennef.  At this time of the year the Sieg usually has a decent water level with some moderate rapids every now and then and no portages along the way.  The river valley is pretty, too, and the train service in the valley makes shuttling the car to the take-out point easy.

Katharina and Mike start first thing on Sunday morning.  Outside, everything is still frozen.  Their back yard looks pretty, but it seems they will have to dress warmly today.  In Eitorf, Katharina and Mike unload the canoe and the other gear – like paddles, PFD, food and drink – and Katharina leans back on the camping chair in the sun to do some reading for her history class on Monday morning, while Mike does the shuttle and drives the car to Hennef to return by train about an hour later.

Then they hit the water.  How good it feels to be paddling again.  Like in the old days, except that Mike is relieved from the steering responsibilities of the stern paddler.  The stern is Katharina’s place in the canoe these days, so Mike takes his place in the bow and enjoys an unobstructed view onto the river.  But apart from that, paddling is just the way it has always been.  You talk about everything and anything – not about corona though, to keep the spirits high – and enjoy the beauties of the river valley and the riverine wildlife, as well as the excitement of the rapids.  In the rapids, however, the joy is more on Katharina’s side.  With Mike in the bow, the bow for some reason likes to lie considerably deeper in the water, and more than the normal amount of water likes to splash into the canoe, preferably right onto Mike’s legs.  “Fresh!”  is Katharina’s favourite comment in the rapids, and Mike has to admit that she’s all too right, but he doesn’t say much because in these situations warming up by paddling stronger is more important than talking.

Wildlife on the Sieg river, particularly birds, is exciting, too.  Apart from the usual suspects like ducks and herons, there are also rarer species like mergansers and a real lot of kingfishers.  The kingfishers are Katharina’s and Mike’s favourites, they are so much more colourful than other birds.  After three hours on the river, Katharina and Mike eventually take the canoe out of the water right below the highway bridge in Hennef – not the most scenic of spots, but not tragic either after such a great trip.

“What do you think: Did we score the much needed victory against the pandemic today?” asks Mike while already in the car on the way home to Rheinbach.

“You bet,” says Katharina, “I liked the kingfishers so much – what a great trip.”

“Let’s do something similar next weekend?” asks Mike.

“Sure,” replies Katharina, “you know another river with so many kingfishers?”

“Umm,” Mike has to think for a while. “That’s a tough one.  Mum and I once saw a real lot of them on the Okavango.  But that was a long time ago, and the Okavango is not a very good option for next weekend.”

“Then we’ll have to beat the pandemic without kingfishers,” says Katharina and concludes the trip with a last scenic shot of the setting sun on the highway.

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