Final steps of Riverwalk 2014 – Until the next journey begins

It marked the end of a great journey.

We gathered one last time on a sandy bank of the Soča River – the turquoise water rushed loudy by on its way down to the sea carrying its message of “wildness” and freedom.  The rivers we followed filled us with similar yearnings.  As we stood in our last group circle and passed the small stone sculpture we received at the Iselfest (nearly two weeks ago), each member of the Riverwalk team had a chance to speak out about his/her experience. It was clear that it had touched us in so many different and profound ways and a clear thankfulness for our time together was heard. The words, “family,” “adventure,” “thankful,” and “deep connections” kept echoing in the group’s words.

We poured the water from the Isel and the Soča spring together while thinking of how the journey had changed us. Then, one by one, we walked to the river, each with a small handful of water, and while letting it fall back into the river, made a silent commitment to the rivers and nature.

Eva then led us through an activity called, “Strongback” where we wrote short messages on the backs (on paper) of the group – messages that could be read on the journey home.

While the Riverwalk I project ends here, our journeys continue and we clearly hear the call of the river and are ambassadors for these rivers now. When asked if we would be willing and ready to stand up for the rivers in the future, a definite, “We’re in!” rose out.

Thanks to all who walked, thanks to all who followed and supported us!  Thanks to the rivers and amazing areas where we connected to. A-ho!Riverwalk_IanTrafford_lastGroupPhoto

Our last day together

While writing this, we’re gathered around a campfire – our last one of our trip! Looking into the dancing flames, making music and singing!

Watching the flames, our whole journey flashes through our minds again. The first day when we met in East Tyrol, we were just 20 “strangers” – individual participants and now, over the last 2 weeks, we have developed into a circle of friends, who care for each other and learn from each other. We’re bound through memories now; that nobody can take away from us. So many beautiful days we’ve spent together.

Today, for example, was a very enjoyable one. We started off with an abundant breakfast, as always, and then we devoted ourselves to the preparation work for an art project and presentation of our adventure in downtown Bovec. Press would come, the mayor would welcome us, and we would be part of a larger “Save the Soca” art exhibition of photos from the river.

We worked like crazy to put a good “performance” together. We practiced the music, swung our pencils into action, and shot new and selected the “best of” photos for a slideshow. Check out some of the works that came out of our hard work – click here! With our packs slung on our backs, we set off to Bovec. We were received with a warm-hearted welcome and some traditional music on the accordian. Then, we were officially welcomed by the mayor of Bovec, followed by Irena (Save the  Soca) who explained the importance of protecting the Soca for now and future generations and the photographer explained how she selected her photos.

Then it was our turn, to give something back and try to let others experience our project and the magical rivers with which we connected. We combined music, pictures, poems and speeches and made a little performance out of it. The crowd applauded at our performance and peppered us with questions afterwards. Good food was our reward: at first at a local food buffet (cheeses, breads, etc.) and then some delicious pizza. Thank you, Christoph for treating us to a great meal! It was another great day and finishing it with the campfire now feels so right.

As they say, 0ne journey has ended and a new one is just about to begin. We are all sitting here with mixed feelings, I imagine. Wanting to hold on to the good times and yet ready to get back to a real bed 🙂 .

It was a fantastic and one-of-a-kind experience, thanks for making it all happen Riverwalkers!  Thanks to our sponsors, funders, and supporters who’ve made it all possible. Let us know what you think!  Please leave us a comment.

Along the turqouise “Queen of the Alps”

RW_(c)IanTrafford_2014_day13 (2)Today we woke up to a beautiful clear morning and brought the sun out with a mornging song that we sang (Annette you are with us!).

Tired from the day before, we started the last part of our journey, the 25 kilometers long path, along the Soča river. The river’s color kept us gaping in wonder. As we dripped in sweat we could only think about jumping into the icy cold water.


The Soča rushed down between gorges and turquoise pools, singing its song to us as we moved along its banks.

After an hour of walking, we emerged from a wooded area into an open field and decided to take a group photo. Then, we started our “solo walk”: we spread out into a long line and walked together but kept a significant distance between one another to be alone with our thoughts and to reflect on the past two weeks. Some walked for 2-2,5 hours others for a shorter while.  We were asked to write down our thoughts, a poem, and a word that reflected our time during Riverwalk.

At lunch time, we all gathered at the river to “taste” the chilly Soča, some with our mouths, some with just feet and others who jumped into the water.

Here we again met with Irena and Christoph. From here we began the hike toward the camp where we will spend the last two days. We were lucky enough to walk in a cloudy weather, but Bovec was determined to show itself in all its colours. As we arrived, we saw dark black clouds moving quickly down the valley and as we were quickly setting up tarps, a drenching rain began.  We prepared a warm meal under a cooking tarp and could barely wait for the warm couscous and veggies.

What to do when the night falls and the rain won’t stop? Play games – a round of werewolf kept us howling and warm!

Night night 🙂

The circle of the water

RW_KatjaK_Day11_Reduced (1)With getting up at 05:00 o clock, leaving at 06:30, being on the way for 12 hours, included 1100 high meters uphill, we gave all we could today to reach the Soča finally.

We are getting to know the Triglav National Park, the landscape is exciting and impressive all the time. The mountains are giants, the water flows free and the vegetation seems to be really diverse and the smell in the air reminds us of fairy tales.


Together we did a great job climbing the highest mountain of our journey; we found a really good group pace and reached the top before 12:00 o clock! We also experienced finally how efficient we can be in the morning if we all help together and it made us really proud. We are in the “flow” now…

In the afternoon we visited the spring of the Soča. It’s a seriously impressive place. The Soča flows right out of a mountain cave, you can see a deep blue hole, looking totally surreal. The water is ice cold and as clean so that you can hardy see any movement. We filled some of the water in a bottle, to do a little water ceremony when we arrive in Bovec, as we are still carrying water from the Isel with us. While just feeling the place of the spring, I got the feeling that that’s a really sacred place. I felt really disturbed by all the people around there. I wonder if we humans lost the connection to listen to the wisdom of nature and react to it, and I wonder how we can find this connection again…

Today, nature was really with us, we had really comfortable, cool weather for our hike up, and the thunderstorm in the afternoon waited for us to be back from the spring to start… Still we got really wet, but the water for the rivers needs to come from somewhere, right?

Now we are drying at a wonderful campfire, and then will try to get a great sleep to reload our energy to explore the Soča tomorrow!

What a Day!

Better late than never!

The plan for today was to cross the Wurzenpass – Korensko sedlo, and of course, the border between Austria and Slovenia. To do that we agreed on an early rise. We woke up at 6 o´clock, packed our backpacks, ate the breakfast and then started walking.

We also welcomed a new face into our group- Aljaz and had to let one of ours go free- goodbye Anette, all the best!!

Right from the start we were divided in two groups. Some of us wanted to get some oil, which, according to the housewife of the farm where we were staying, can heal practically everything! We met a really nice woman who showed us her shop and then drove us some way up the pass, so we actually had a chance of catching the others. Well, sadly, that didn´t happen until the top!

After absorbing the spectacular view on the top, in Kreiberg, we continued towards the border. We enjoyed eating lunch on Slovenian grounds and then had fun with a pop quiz based on facts about Kranjska gora and its´people.

During the descent we met a whole zoo!! A horse, some cows and an ostrich. There were also lots of spiders!

When we arrived to the camp we decided to go for a swim in lake Jasna. The water was very clear and beautiful but also very cold. After that we treated ourselves to some well deserved ice-cream –YUM!!



Ups and Downs!

Has it really been ten days?? Time really flies when you Riverwalk! The end of the Austrian part of the journey is coming to an end.

RW_(c)IanTrafford_Day10_Reduced (2)Guess what came after cleaning up the campfire and the backyard of the farm house in Krass where a lovely family let us stay?

More biking. A lot of biking. And have we mentioned biking? Nearly 40 km of sunny flat terrain, with a view of austrian landscape.

RW_(c)IanTrafford_Day10_Reduced (1)Though it was not in the original plan, our photographer sacrificed his face to selflessly raise awareness about the importance of wearing a helmet when biking.

After lunch and a quick jump in the Gail River, we got a tiny bit lost and nearly ended up on the motorway! Oops … in the forest we connected to Alpe Adria trail and the longest ten kilometres later we reached a friendly farm/guesthouse in Neuhaus (Gasthaus Oitzl). After heaving the bikes on the back of the trailer and settling down, we met the newest member of the Riverwalk team – Daniel, from Lower Austria, will join us for the reamaining days of the project…the Slovenian part.

While we tried to stay focused on planning the route and the morning routine, cuddly kittens, piglets, a bunny rabbit and not to mention the lambs kept distracting us! But we did it.The plan for the next day is made: rise at 6:00, leave at 8:30!

Some ice cream and a hot potato soup later we are getting ready to curl up inside our sleeping bags with the sound of a guitar playing in the background. Goodnight!

Waterfights and waterfalls!

RW_IanTrafford_Reduced_002No! No! No! Let’s not leave this paradise!”

That’s what most of us thought this morning – or at least the group writing this blog did! After a full day of relaxation and enjoyment it was hard to leave the blue beauty, better known as “Weißensee.” But it was not up to us, we had to move…so we headed off toward Kraß (near Hermagor).

RW_IanTrafford_Reduced_001It will only take us about two hours” the guiding team announced. That caused some chuckling in the group, as we all know, that we never arrive on time. Read on to find out whether we managed to stick to our timetable! We left at 11:30 and started up a steep, windy road which left us with sweat pearls dripping down our foreheads. Then came the, oh so anticipated, downhill ride and let us tell you, it was well worth the hard work. Feeling the fresh air on our faces, cooling our sweat, enjoying the mountain views and letting all of our joy out with a loud “wohoooh” – the ride nourished our souls.

Leaving the main road, we took a bike trail and upon reaching the next village, we came across a little fountain and filled up our bottles to stay hydrated. Then suddenly “splaaash” a waterfight began. Let us say nobody stayed dry!

Continuing our ride, we took an “off the beaten track” forest road, but we must have somewhere taken a wrong turn. Going uphill again we were quite upset when we noticed, that we ended up on a dead end road. We couldn’t stand the thought that all of our hard effort would be for nothing. So we opted for a small footpath; however, we didn’t know then what kind of adventure we embarked upon. Not just one fallen tree blocked our way, but several lay directly across the trail. One bike after another was heaved over or pushed under these trees. But as you know, “no sweet, without sweat.” We were rewarded by a beautiful waterfall and decided it was a perfect place for a lunch break.

Eventually, we managed to reach our final destination for the day, a farmer’s house in Kraß. As soon as we saw the house Dani said “I could really imagine to live in such a house sometime.” After our “tour de detour” we all had a little rest in the grass. After that we split up and some went to Hermagor to indulge in some frozen deliciousness, while others went to a lake nearby and a few chose to stay and help with dinner. Mirjam, for example, who stayed said, “I just want to stay here – it`s so beautiful” When Lisa was asking what we’re having for dinner, Maegan jokingly said “On va manger crotte de mouches.” Google translator is your friend! Actually we’re having a barbecue and all of us are looking forward to it. After that we’ll have a campfire, grill marshmallows, sing campfire songs and might as well dance around the fire.

We almost spared telling you the good news. We worked on a press release that will hopefully be published in many newspapers tomorrow. To support our message we produced an awesome video about the Riverwalk project. Mirjam put many hours of work into it. So make sure you check it out!

RW_(c)IanTrafford_Day10_Reduced (3)


Video: Riverwalkers speak up for the protection of the Isel River!

RW_IanTrafford_Reduced_004We started our journey a week ago in the heart of the National Park Hohe Tauern.  From there we walked to the Umbal waterfall, passing by the location where a hydropower plant is planned, and right now being negotiated about. There is the opportunity to protect this amazing river by declaring it a Natura2000 area, however, there is pressure to exclude parts of the river – exactly where the dam would be built.

In response to this ridiculous proposal, the Riverwalk team has created a video response which we hope you will watch!

Riverwalkers speak out for the Isel! from Nathan Spees on Vimeo.

Note: we are currently walking, paddling, and riding and therefore, have minimal equipment and time, therefore, we have uploaded a lower resolution version.  As soon as we have a higher quality version, you will find the link here!

– Thank you for protecting wild, wonderful rivers and supporting us!

The long ride up!

_MG_2671We started our beautiful day quite early, but not too early; one of the group’s best consensus decisions. Our motivation was high and the preparation went very smoothly, was well organized and quick. After a gospel inspired motivation song before departure we saddled our bikes and hit the road. Sun was shining from a blue sky and an easy breeze was refreshing our bright eyes.

In the very beginning we started the first steep part. Although it was very short, it was a great indication of what was ahead of us. Reaching a slight downhill section was a real relief and our guides were leading the way. After approximately 10km we reached a splitting point where we needed to decide which way to take to climb the steepest part of the day; ca. 4-5km of uphill and several hundred meters. The group decided to split into two groups. One took the asphalt road and the othes took the gravel road. Jure, Neza and Domen took an asphalt road because they decided that they could do it without having to push their bikes. It was quite difficult and uphill the whole 4,7 km. But they made it and their sweaty, salty lips changed into big smiles.” We made it!” they exclaimed! All that was left was 1km of easy downhill and the lake was in front of them. On the entrance to the camp Lea was already there with a car. Bikes were parked, swimsuits were pulled on and hot bodies sank in to the lovely “white” water of a precious Weißensee lake.

After a while the other group arrived as well, they had a beautiful ride (or pushing) uphill as well, a little bit slower than the other ones, but the view was great and everybody was proud afterwards. Eva said “I never thought I would make it up there, but I did it!” The smiles when they arrived were as big as the challenge had been.

After everybody arrived at Weißensee the whole group enjoyed the free afternoon spent in the amazing surroundings. Some of us wrote an emotional and intense press-release to answer the political discussion about the Isel, Natura 2000 and hydropower question that is taking part right now in Tirol. You will hear about that tomorrow!

We finished the afternoon with a delicious dinner and Judith , Ian´s girlfriend, joined us and our family gained yet another member. Night came down on us while we were still finishing our work. At the end we all gathered again around our first Riverwalk open camp fire, which´s heat warmed our smiling hearts and tired bodies. Stay tuned! Love ya!!

Meeting the Drau

RW_(c)WWF-IanTrafford_Day5_015Today we woke up to a beautiful sunny day. Right after breakfast we had a photo shooting for a local newspaper.

Then some of us went shopping for food and some went to rent the bicycles. We picked our helmets, packed our stuff into bike bags and started riding towards Berg.

Lady luck wanted us to cross paths with our friend from the Iselfest yet again. What a coincidence! We got an update about the current happening around the Isel issue which gave us a fresh insight on the importance of Riverwalk and a new drive to keep on going.  Here is a link to an article (in a Tyrolean Newspaper) describing the “dirty politics” at work!

Finally it was lunch time! We got off our bikes and walked to a sandy riverside where we dipped our feet into the Drau for the first time. A funny thing happened when a ball that we had already seen when we made a quick stop an hour before came floating by.

When we arrived to the camp, the guys got a ball so the first thought was – of course! – volleyball. Covered in sand we hit the showers because dinner was almost ready. Meagan and the cooking team made us a delicious meal with rice and spicy curry. Thank you Maegan!!!

Now we have to stop writing because spiders are starting to take over the tablet – YIKES!! ;D