Like everyone and everything we are also facing evolution. 2018 will be a big year for Balkan rivers and for us. We are turning a page in what is now becoming a thick book with new name that gives much better insight and explanation into what we are all about. Here is a little interpretation on why and how:
We started Balkan Rivers Tour flying by the seat of our pants. What took off as a crazy idea turned into the biggest (and most fun) river conservation action in Europe. We started by touring the Balkans to raise awareness about the stunning, wild rivers that call the Balkan Peninsula home. We paddled, partied and played along the way meeting locals, people deeply connected to these rivers for hundreds of years and many generations. After two years and two tours, BRT has evolved past just a ‘tour’ and has turned into a movement. A movement in defence of wild rivers. It’s time to take on a new name, but to carry on the same mission; defending wild rivers of Balkans.
Which is why we are changing our name to BALKAN RIVER DEFENCE (BRD).
Balkan Rivers Tour (BRT) will still exist, but it will represent the annual paddling and protesting ‘Tour” we take through the Balkans. BRD is the group; the family, the hand. BRT is the event; the party, the megaphone.
Things should always end with a nice get together and party. To celebrate the completed tour we teamed up with Soča Outdoor Festival and Kamp Koren to provide best venues for best actions on the banks of Soča.
We have brought another edition of Balkan Rivers Tour to reality. It was different than the first edition. Is was not that big, that is for sure, but it was more focused. With two river systems paddled from source to sea we showed what a river truly is. How it travels from mountains down to the sea and connects these two seemingly unconnected ecosystems.
Action on Soča exposed the negative effects of dams and it was really painful to see experience that from a kayak. On the other hand action on Morača was so invigorating; 200 kilometers in a kayak trough 2 rivers and one big lake without a single dam, well it was just amazing.
Our adventures in Dinaric Alps brought this forgotten pearl of European mountains to public and we hope many will decide to go there and enjoy its pristine vibe in next years, this way supporting local sustainable tourism and resistance against aggressive development.
All in all we did it again. With the help of all of you we managed to bring the topic of unnecessary dam craze to front pages of regional and national media, we brought people behind the same table, organized some creative protests, did lots of kayaking and on top of all we had fun doing that.
Here is Balkan Rivers Tour 2 in numbers:
Lets hold fingers crossed we can make the third edition happen in 2018!
There is a special connection formed, between a paddler and a river, when it’s paddled from source to sea. Seeing the changes of the rock formation and vegetation. From alpine shrubs and rock gardens, to stark canyon walls with dancing grasses and fig trees, the changes are visible but also tangible. The air and the light changes; the volume and the power of the river too. This power is something that as kayakers, we seek. We respect and we cherish. But for other, for people who haven’t been deep within the canyon walls, for people who haven’t felt the euphic freedom of a perfectly executed boof, this power is seen as something to be harnessed and sold.
The Balkan Rivers team was lucky to have the chance to experience Montenegro’s mighty Morača River in this way. They built a relationship with the river. They gained respect during the 1.5 days paddling the continuous, bony flows of the upper Morača. Low water levels provided challenges of their own, but also revealed the potential of this technical river at higher flows. Humility and wonder grew from the fun drops and sections of playful whitewater in the middle portion of the river. These class II-IV rapids are intermittent with mellow sections of flow, where paddlers drift through sprinkling waterfalls, and stare up at the hundred foot canyon walls. And an admiration was fostered for all the life that the waters of Lake Skadar feeds.
Interacting with locals along the way, it’s clear to see what this river means to the people who are still living in close connection with nature. A fisherman along the side of the river talked about how just a few years ago he caught a eel in these waters, proving that this species, which migrates from the coast of Canada, was able to travel unobstructed, to the canyons of the Morača. This is significant as traveling high into a watershed via a river is something that is impossible on so many European rivers now because of dams. BRT hopes that by sharing these stories, and the images of the Morača, we can help give the river a voice and the people fighting for it some extra momentum.
On day 4 of the Morača Action, BRT brought together a number of different groups and organizations fighting to protect the Morača. This was the first meeting of it’s kind, and the round table vibe of the meeting, and causal dinner and drinks atmosphere allowed for networking and discussion about how groups can work together for the common purpose of saving the Morača from the 4 major dams proposed to be built on the river, and the many slated to be constructed on the tributaries. Groups that participated include Za vode podgorice ,Rijeka je zivot, NGO Peručica and many individuals that are not part of formal NGO or organizations but that are also resisting the dams.
Montenegro has been identified as one of the sunniest countries in Europe. If we can develop and design dams that are hundreds of meters high, surely we can design solar and wind power that can harness the power of the natural world, without destruction. The BRT team physically experience this power in each country it visited; the high winds of the Pindus Mountains of Greece, and the strong sunshine in Albania and Montenegro.
These are forms of energy production respect nature, and don’t destroy it. These are the kinds of alternatives that we want to see included in dialogue. If we can show the tourism potential of these rivers, and offer alternative ways of producing energy, maybe the next generation can paddle, fish and swim in the wild waters of the Balkans. BRT aims to destroy the myth that hydro energy is green and clean and sustainable. We want to share with the people – with paddlers and locals alike – that success can come from hard work and perseverance protecting a river. The recent success story of the Vjosa battle as a court case has just showcased that it can be done even thought it sometimes seems close to impossible! Hats off to all involved in this passionate and sincere fight for the right!
Once again we proved that we can have power in decision making if only we decide for that and lift our asses from sofas and do something. At the end it is as simple as that – If you love a place you have a duty to protect it. Get out, experience Mama Earth and help her!
It is on! Tomorrow we are starting with Morača – Skadar Lake – Bojana River paddle event. Check the program here (only change is DAY 4 – instead of end of paddling in Vranjina we will paddle till Virpazar, restauran Silistria tripadvisor Restaurant Review) and join us!
“Experiencing this amazing valley on skis, in waders and in a kayak brings you closer to nature and realization how complete she is. Valbona river is the vein of the valley, the essence, as she transports all information from the highest of peaks to the lush forests right at the bottom of it. She makes sure the cycle keeps on going like it was in the last millions of years. Local people have always acknowledged that in many legends and cherished her flows but now new age of money dwelling leaders set their feet in this eden, trying to take advantage of this same invigorating flow. It is time to raise our voice and take a stand for what is right!” Rok Rozman
Bulldozers invade paradise. Backed by current Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, decision makers are skipping laws and policy, going straight to clear cutting the pristine riverside forest and blasting banks with dynamite. These big fellas are ignoring the resistance inside Valbona Valley National Park, appetites set on big profits with small hydropower plants. Take a moment and imagine this was happening in your backyard; what would you do? If the answer is act, then add yourvoice. Together we have to be the voice of the river. Tell Edi Rama what you think on Facebook, and Twitter. Voice your opinion. Put pressure on the Albanian government to halt construction by SHARING this film and TAGGING Edi Rama and #mosmaprekvalbonen.
The Valbona River needs your help right now. The bulldozers are running everyday. Time is not on our side, we need act now.
Donations to support the legal action against the dams can be made here http://toka-albania.org/join-us/.
TOKA NGO donation money transfer details. If you feel like helping from far away just put in the amount you would buy a beer for!
Sometimes, it’s easier to look on the bright side – to focus on beauty and clear water, wild rapids and wildlife – than it is to stare straight at a garbage-clogged tributary, or concrete filled river. In Greece, we were exposed to remote and absolutely breathtaking canyons. But as we traveled north, this kind of untouched wilderness was harder to find, as the people of Albania struggle to carve out a life in a developing country.
Passing hydro dams on the highway our minds were quickly distracted by another stunning view – vistas of towering mountains, trees, rocks, and water. But the dry riverbeds became more frequent, and the pipes draining the life from these rivers stayed in our minds. The litter-filled tributaries of the Vjosa and Valbona, seemed to settle in somewhere deep. We all felt it.
On our way to the Valbona Valley we drove through crumbling towns where locals make a living as shepherds or running fruit and veggie stands. Like crossing a threshold from slum to mountain paradise, we felt spoiled and ‘safe’ being back in the mountains. But this feeling of cleansing and elation was erased completely when we saw what was being done to this National Park. Hearing and feeling the vibrations from dynamite blasting holes through the mountains in a National Park is an emotion that can only be described as sickening.
Big businesses fuelled by foreign investment are going ahead with construction, illegally and without permission. Locals seek information but have no idea what is going on – they just see new cars and big equipment driving through the valley, turning into newly made roads into the mountains, with guards at the gates.
The destruction is happening at river-level too, and Rok and Andraz took these images while paddling the most beautiful and best kayaking section of the Valbona. With construction workers making violent gestures and shouting at them not to take pictures, it’s clear they have a lot to hide.
This kind of exposure is exactly why BRT was created. Please help by putting your voice behind the river. Speak up on her behalf and encourage locals to do the same. There are no political or legal ramifications if we share a post on Facebook or Instagram, but for locals, fear of losing jobs or being penalized is real if they speak out against this destruction.
You can help save the Valbona by:
If there is a river in the Balkans that needs your help right now, it’s the Valbona.
After one week in Greece, it feels like we have seen only a fraction of the snow and whitewater that the Pindus Mountains have to offer. Full days were spent exploring and ski touring in the Lakmos and Smolikas Mountains. We found tons of late season snow and a combination of stunning/challenging terrain and mellow turns.
We paddled deep into the gorges of the Voidomatis, walked beside the construction site of new dam on the Metsovitikos and portaged over an old, abandoned dam on the Aoos. Slowing down to wade into the green water of the remote canyons of the Arachthos and Kalaritkos to fly fish, we have further confirmed our belief that the geology and ecology of the rivers of northern Greece are a paradise for fly fishing.
The people, the geography, the food and the culture have the whole BRT team feeling a new connection and love for Greece. With sunburnt and wind bunt faces and a trunk full of wet kayak and ski gear, we head into Albania in search of more Balkan magic.
After Soča source-to-sea descent the crew boarded the ferry and after 2 nights on the big boat we have just landed in Greece. The 3 weeks of exploring one of the most stunning regions in the world can now begin – we will be searching for hidden valleys in Greece, Albania and Montenegro that can provide ski touring, kayaking and fly fishing in a single day. Stay tuned and follow our adventures on our webpage and social media. Wohoooo!
Breakfast time gipsy style. Photo by: Andraz FB
The crew enjoys the sunset, like in a movie. Photo by: Andraž FB
We hit Greece. Photo by: Andraz FB
Wow, these 4 days were a blast. Beautiful mountains, sunny weather, crystal clear waters of Soča and one amazing crew showing respect and support to the wild river first 2 days and then exposing the dam affected flow last 2 days. Lots of paddling, conversation, laughs and deep thoughts accompanied us during the day while nights were packed with great music, beers and some staggering dance moves 😉
We reached the goal – we had fun, put pressure on the decision makers & SENG, got into media and reached the sea in a big group. No new dams and time to say so long to old ones!
Big thanks to everybody involved in this descent, this wouldn’t be possible without all of you!
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