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

Rafting down the Isel’s Rapids

Waking up at six o´clock in the morning was easy, knowing there was a day of rafting ahead of us. As we were warming up with capoeira exercises, we had two new faces joining our team. We met Noel from Belgium and Corina from East Tyrol the night before while watching Germany win the World Cup. Excited about the Riverwalk and the upcoming rafting adventure, they decided to become a part of it.


The guys from the rafting club and a friendly beagle called Betty White picked us up in Feld and took us to the starting point. After a few instructions and a quick test of the current, we got the boats into the water andRW_PapCam_Reduced_Day5_013 started to paddle hard. Fortunately, apart from a few people “taking a swim”, there were no riverwalkers injured during the raft. We also did spins, stand ups and a lot of tequilas between the paddling – hold on, not those ones! It means dipping your helmet in the water, cheeky!RW_PapCam_Reduced_Day5_014

After lunch we were looking forward to meeting the ORF!!! We were filmed and interviewed during our hike towards Lienz. Not even the rain could stop us from bRW_PapCam_Reduced_Day5_001eing TV stars, putting up a QR-code and enjoying the stunning view of the river all at the same time.

As we were taking a short break at a fountain, we ran into a couple whom we met at Iselfest. Towards the end of today´s hike, sandbanks and a breathtaking path called “Katzensteig” led us over a cliffy river bank over to little wooden bridges, steep steps and finally the city of Lienz.RW_PapCam_Reduced_Day5_006

Tip of the day: We are sure you have stacks of plasters (band-aids) at home, but Katja swears that laughter is the best medicine for blisters!

From damp, soft forest ground, back to the grey asphalt – but only for a short while! Stay tuned 😉





The edible trail!

Having mastered the group warm up called, a human knot, we began the third part of our walk.


+RW_PapCam_Reduced_Day4_003As soon as we put on our backpacks and made our first steps, vivid conversations started. With the sun coming out, our mood got another boost.  Joyfully we walked through thick groves of fir trees and enjoyed the scent of the forest. Some parts even brought up a jungle-like feeling, with all the lush and dense greens. While always having the sounds of the wild Isel in our ears.

Having had two days of a warm up behind us +RW_GrpCam_Reduced_Day3_017doing only light walking, the real thing was about to start. We had 15km before us and needed to find a pace that the entire group was comfortable with. That wasn’t always easy as we have some experienced riverwalkers as well as some amateur walkers. But we knew that some delicious local food was awaiting us in Feld, our destination, and that was some good motivation.

But that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had lovely food on our way. Because as always the kitchen team did a good job with lunch. Also mother nature treated us with some of her fruits, along our path hungry mouths got satisfied with tasty wild strawberries, raspberries and black currents.

+RW_PapCam_Reduced_Day4_011Lots of laughter accompanied us and eventually we got to Feld. A little shower of rain welcomed us as we arrived. After it had gone, we decided to have a reviving swim in the Isel. We can tell you this works better than five cups of coffee! Finally, we got to indulge in some “Schlüpfkrapfen,” pasta dumplings stuffed with a potato filling, served with chives and melted butter. Domen set a record of 18 “Schlüpfkrapfen” at one sitting.

We ended our day with some planning work for our upcoming art project, which will be presented to you in Bovec. So stay tuned, it’s going to be mindblowing.

A Festival for the Isel!

At 6:30 in the morning, we woke up with sun shining in our faces and we packed our stuff and broke down the tents for the first time. After breakfast, we took our FIRST STEPS toward Slovenia…only 200 kilometers to go!

RW_Ian_Trafford_Reduced_Day3_009Our first stop was in Prägraten where we prepared everything for our workshops at the Iselfest. The festival was organized by the citizens group working to protect the Isel River, OEAV (Alpine Association) and WWF.

As the kayakers arrived in bright colored boats, the festival officially began.

We organized an info stand and had a stream of visitors who were interested in our trip and asked us lots of questions.

We offered 3 workshops on Land Art, Water Ecology, and “Mit Allen Sinnen” (With all your senses) led by Riverwalk participants.

About one hundred people attended the festival: young and old alike! There was music, local food, and a positive atmosphere. Everyone was having a good time in the warm sun near the flowing Isel. The land art project was a great success.

After a big farewell from the organizers and public, we continued our walk with a shower of applause!

After 2 hours of a beautiful hike along a path in the woods that crossed countless streams flowing down the mountainside, we arrived at the Niedermauern Campground (near Virgen).



After finishing dinner, we watched the rain coming closer and closer and soon we were soaked (again)!


A walk toward the source of it all…

We woke up to a cold and rainy morning. After breakfast, the rain stopped and we did some activities outside. At that time, National Park Hohe Tauern park ranger Andreas joined us. Then he lead us along the Isel river up to the Umbal waterfall. Along our way, the first stop we did was beside the river, on the gravel bank where the hydropower plant directly on Isel River is planned.

riverwalk_Reduced2_001We were discussing the project that is planned at the Isel river, that is 12 meters high dam, for the water power plant. Behind the dam, lake will flood the gravel island on the Isel and the place where we stood will be gone forever. We wanted to mark that special place and to give people that are coming behind us knowledge how important that place is and that it can be lost due to the proposed dam. We made stone towers from pebbles to remind people how fast we can lose this precious place. We are appealing to all the people that are aware of the importance of free-flowing rivers- now the last 10% of them in the Alps (the Isel is one of them!), that they join us and make a stone tower. The location has number 2 in our marked way that you can follow!








Further up in the valley we found some blueberries beside the path. How delicious they were!






Later on, we reached a wider path and followed it further up the valley. We saw a lot of small waterfalls on the left side of the valley. We continued and soon reached the Umbal waterfall. It is so impressive how much water is running downstream! We took some photos and continued a few steps further to a nice grassland plateau.






The time was right for lunch, so we enjoyed it there beside the river.  After lunch we found the perfect place for another location for project QR-code that leads to the website with the guide how to follow our way and some information about the place and why it is important.






After lunch we did another group activity, we got a little bit into art! Each group found some objects along the way and then they made a picture with them. Other group has to re-do the same picture with prepared objects. The group that re-made it first won!






We returned to the camp, did a short meeting for tomorrow and prepared the dinner. Tomorrow morning we are going to hike to Prägraten where the Iselfest is taking place!







Riverwalk’s first steps! The first meeting

After waiting for a stream of bicyclists, who were racing across East Tyrol and Austria, to pass, the bus from Innsbruck and train from Villach carrying the Austrian and Slovenian participants finally arrived at the train station in Lienz and met for the first time.  Backpacks were slung across shoulders and faces looked tired after the early morning journeys from the different starting points. After assembling everyone, we jumped aboard the bus toward Matrei and beyond…taking us deep into the heart of Hohe Tauern National Park, where our journey begins!

Surrounded by towering mountains of rock and green, the sound of the rushing river – Isel, fills the air – mixed only with the song of birds hidden in the woods.

Upon arrival, we put up the tarp tents for the first time, fumbling with knots and trying to figure out how to get all 20 people under them!  We prepared our first meal under the glorious sun!  After settling in, we started the warm up and getting to know us activities: starting with the people, the place and the crew!  One of the activities was a solo and silent walk in which we were asked to explore the area, feel the place with all our senses and bring back a natural object in order to describe our short journey and then we created a “landart” heart (as seen on the photo).

We are looking forward to our upcoming adventures that will span the next 2 weeks, starting with the Iselfest on Saturday in Prägraten from 12:00-17:00.

Meanwhile as we closed down the day with a short reflection and then headed under the tarps as the first drops of rain began falling, we fell asleep to the song of the Isel River.