We are happy to present a set of posts that will show how our initiative is rooted in kayaking community, Science, Art, Outdoor community and much more.
Top level athletes, scientists, conservationists and artists speaking about the tour.
MARIANN SAETHER – REIGNING EXTREME KAYAK WORLD CHAMPION
Mariann Saether (35)
Born and raised in Norway, Saether is the current Extreme kayak World Champion, and holds a number of titles ranging from big volume freestyle competitions to canoe slalom titles under her belt. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast, and enjoys nature even more than books, which says a lot concerning her 9-year university degree in history, Spanish, English and Norwegian. She is a dedicated to stand up against hydro-power schemes in Norway and abroad, helping the Norwegian Paddling Federation limiting the amount of dams being put on rivers in her home country. She lives in Voss, Norway, and Futaleufu, Chile.
THE BALKAN RIVERS TOUR
As the world descends into a spiral of green energy frenzy, the waterways of the world are under threat. Grave threat. For example, in my home country of Norway more than 98 % of our waterways are dammed – yet the decision to dam the Otta river, a giant flowing from the Jotunheimen National park, was made the fall of 2016. It is the biggest hydro scheme in modern day Norway – including piping the water into a tunnel with a diameter of 60 meters, taking the water through the mountain for more than seven kilometers. Some might call it a technical wonder that will power Europe´s hungry need for more green power – I call it a reckless rape of untouched nature that will destroy valuable eco-systems, along with the natural beauty of the valley. The Otta is my home river, and I am sad to se her go.
Over the years I have been involved in many projects in where we protest they hydro plants immerging in Norway. There has been some feeble success stories, but mainly we get shut down. Kayakers in the end, are not high up on the political priority list. That is why we need to focus on why these rivers and waterways are valuable outside of the fact that we like to kayak them – take for instance the White Nile in Uganda. I have helped creating awareness for the consequences of the proposed Isimba dam, which will be a disaster for the local community, the wildlife and ultimately – the climate. It is now documented that huge reservoirs caused by Mega-dams create more emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than first thought. But we can not just fight the mega-dams, we need to fight the global thought that hydropower is green energy. Yes, it is green compared to coal and gas – but is it green compared to solar, waves, tidal current, geo-thermal and beyond? That is the real question we need to wake up to – this is the question that needs to get put on the table.
The Balkan River Tour is a significant contribution in changing the global hydropower perspective – with more than 2.700 new dams scheduled to be built in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Albania the threat to the fragile ecosystems in and around these rivers are real. Help supporting the cause by joining the Tour as it will stop in 6 countries, at 18 rivers and 11 main events. Share the message – it is time to stop the hydro-power craze that has taken hold of the modern world. We can not afford to wait.
ANIOL SERRASOLSES – A MAN THAT IS DEFINING THE MEANING OF EXTREME IN KAYAKING
Aniol Serrasolses (24)
Born and raised in Spain, Aniol has traveled the world in the search of the hardest whitewater. He has found it and meanwhile defined what can be paddled…with a style.
THE BALKAN RIVERS TOUR
Coming from Spain I’ve been raised seeing dams all over the country since a very young age. Most of these old dams produce little energy, are in poor conditions and a real danger for the villages below them…
These are hard times for the rivers of the world. After traveling all over the world with my focus on paddling rivers I can tell you that the future is very scary…. Every country in the world is trying to exploit its rivers in an unsustainable way…from rich countries to developing ones. The greed and ambition of the humans never ceases to amaze me… The excuses are always the same. Need for energy and power. “It is clean energy, ” they say… The impact of these huge or little dams is so big on the ecosystems, and on the people that live off the river…
We have a super powerful and end-less resource that the sun is, we have wind, tidal current, geo-thermal… How can we turn our backs to these natural (real clean) resources and we keep on committing the same mistakes?! I grew up in a house where all the energy we spent was produced by solar panels, where electricity was a very valuable resource and not even a bit of it was spent on an irresponsible way. The direction is to produce less and spend it on a smarter way, not the other way around, and that will only happen with the proper education of our kids.
Everything in this life happens for a reason and I do believe that not having free flowing rivers is totally related to the fact that we are getting less rain. Spain for example is slowly becoming a desert…
We are living life in this planet as if we had another one to go live when all the resources in this one is over and I think that this is totally insane…
These new dams scheduled to be built in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Albania would be a total disaster for the ecosystems and the people around them. We can’t let them happen.
Please help us stop them. We aren’t strong individually but if we all push together we can make anything. Join the tour! 6 countries, 18 rivers and 11 events – more than enough reasons to get involved in this amazing project!!!
NOURIA NEWMANN – LADY THAT PROVES KAYAKING IS ALL ABOUT FEELING AND NOT FORCE
Nouria Newman (24)
Nouria Newman loves nothing more than whitewater kayaking in all it’s forms whether it’s in freestyle, canoe slalom or extreme kayaking. If racing has always been a big part of her kayaking career (freestyle junior World Champion in 2009, Slalom vice world champion in 2013, extreme kayaking world champion in 2013 and 2014), nothing beats being out on a beautiful river with your friends.
THE BALKAN RIVERS TOUR
“Le Villaret du Nial”. People always make a funny face or make fun of me when I tell them where I come from: a village in France they don’t know because there is no more than ten houses, no shops and pretty much nothing to do but enjoying the national park and the mountains right behind the house. As a kid I grew up playing outside. On a good winter day we would make an igloo or a ski jump, in summer we would climb little rocks, explore small caves or go for a swim in the creek…
Le Villaret du Nial was a magical place to grow up…until the magic disappeared. In spring 2000 we didn’t see the blue crystal water of the lake when we looked out the window. Instead we saw a huge field of mud. They emptied the lake to do some maintenance on the dam. The worst part wasn’t actually the view but to see my neighbor Paul. When the water started dropping he changed. The less water there was, the sadder he would get. After a few weeks we started seeing ruins. Paul used to live here. In 1952 a big dam was built and the old town of Tignes was flooded. Like many other inhabitants Paul tried to resist. He stayed in his house until the very last minute and lost most things he had.
That year I fully realized what a dam was. I realized that the painted giant on the dam wall wasn’t holding the water, concrete was. I realized that it was super dangerous to keep playing in the small creek behind the house because there was a dam with automatic releases just above us. I realized that the river I was kayaking on wasn’t free flowing but running on dam releases.
Coming out of the Great depression or the war, dams seemed to be a great idea. It made sense couple decades ago but not anymore. Hydro Power isn’t green. Dams – even small ones – affect the environment. A dam limits sediment transport, changes the water temperature, limits fish migration…It drastically alters the entire eco system and leads to the extinction of endangered species. Hydro projects also cost a lot of money. Most dams are located in remote areas and involve cutting trees, building roads and power lines. The energy dams produce is just not worth destroying a free flowing river.
When I was 5 years old I felt in love with the sport of kayaking. It took me to some incredible places. I feel very fortunate for getting the opportunity to paddle on a few free flowing rivers and it makes me very sad to see that all my home rivers are dammed or that there are people who never paddled anything else than an artificial river. Whitewater kayaking gave me more happiness than anything else in my life and I wish everyone to get to experience the strength of whitewater and the power of a free flowing river.
I can only support projects such as the Balkan Rivers Tour and I hope there will be lots of paddlers joining the events along the tour!
BORUT KORUN – SLOVENIAN AUTHOR, ADVENTURER AND PIONEER IN KAYAKING AND RIVER CONSERVATION
Borut Korun (69)
A gentleman, author of many amazing books and a passionate kayaker that is best described by foreword to his book Rivers, Gorges, Rapids… (1987):
When a man truly dives into the rivers, gorges and rapids, he will probably never let his mind off them. He is again and again drawn by the world that is different than the one we are used from the riverbanks. If you look at them from the river, if you observe them with the current, you will catch a glimpse of a formerly unknown landscapes, skirted with trees that are bending above water surface, with wide dunes or rock walls, that are ascending to the sky.
Sometimes you scare a flock of birds that are resting on sand dune or a solitary animal that is drinking from the shore, you see shepherds with their herds, lone cottages and towns and bridges, over witch cars are rushing. Only a boater, who flows on her knows, how alive a river can be. And how hopelessly dead she is, when a man destroys her, when she is poisoned by sewage from factories and cities. This is why kayakers are among the most active of ones that try to wake the conscience in humanity and save the rivers before destruction.
You have to experience the river. For those that are not given to taste the enticement of paddling, to fight with rapids and become aware of their own insignificance in the deepest of canyons, this film should unravel just a tiny bit of amazing world of rivers. Comfortably sitting or standing travel with kayakers and explore the beauty they are witnessing when paddling.
THE BALKAN RIVERS TOUR
When our ancient ancestors became aware of what was around them for the first time they realised that the world is beautiful. A morning is beautiful when the sun comes up above the horizon, when the sun sets, it is shockingly beautiful to see a storm covered with dark clouds and lightnings. In springtime, we listen to the birds singing, in wintertime, we discover the melancholy of snowflakes, falling from the grey sky.
As a kayaker, I discovered the beauty of rivers. You get to know it already by simply walking along their banks or by leaning on a bridge and looking down to the constantly rushing streams. But when you sit inside a kayak, you enter a different world, a world which immediately takes you over. You run through primeval nature, where things can not be taken for granted. You surrender to this new place, where there are no people, no cars, where you listen to the voices of birds and the murmur of a paddle. You go through the rapids, where the ”music” wins you over, be it pleasant or threatening. When you overcome troubles, you can feel your power and experience the symphony of murmur and spark, it all becomes perfect. If Aristotle was still alive, he would compare the ride down the rapids with an Antique drama. When reaching the goal, you are cleansed and reborn.
Even poets couldn’t go past the beauty of rivers. Prešeren, Slovenia’s greatest poet, turned old tales, created by looking into deep, green river pools, into verse. Gregorčič wrote a hymn to our most beautiful river Soča. What would he write, if he got to know it, like we do, the ones who paddled through its rapids?
On the other hand, technocrats speak of progress being inevitable. But progress which is one-sided does not deserve to be named that. Is everything that comes with progress, worth destroying the world? Instead of the real world, we offer people its substitute on TV and film screens. Advertising signs turn night into day, the volume of speakers destroying our eardrums. Roads in villages are still lit at night, even though no one walks on foot anymore. We light up our churches, castles and monuments every single night. We behave like the energy is just a number on our account. And to produce it, we are destroying the world.
When the world is changed, it is no longer beautiful. The naked slopes and avalanches where there used to be woods look ugly, smokey industrial towns look grey, the view of the cities through opaque air does not look nice. The view of the river that used to be clean and green, sparkle and rustle now flows without beauty and life like an old tired lady. There is no challenge, no encouragement for the young, no option for catharsis. Instead, they are left with illusions, substitutes for the real world, boredom, drugs.
We have to decide, and reach a deal between greed for comfort and a healthy mind. We will not bring the world back to the Middle Ages, but we need to preserve healthy, beautiful and encouraging environment: clean, pure and flowing rivers, the true beauties of the Earth’s surface. Let’s preserve them for our future generations, for future optimism, for the healthy spirit in a kayaker’s body, let’s preserve them for the fish and the fishermen, too, for bold swimmers, walkers, lovers, poets and painters, for the murmur of the waves, that caresses our ears. For the sun and the moon, that will look at each other in their waves.
BENJAMIN WEBB – AUSSIE THAT IS PROVING ALL CAN BE DONE IF YOUR MIND IS OPEN AND READY FOR ACTION
Benjamin Webb (27)
Learning to paddle in Australia, I never had the chance to see what was lost to dams in Tasmania, but I did have the honor to experience what was saved. After several journeys down pristine wild rivers in Tasmania I was left in awe and inspired by the previous generation which had lined up in front of the machinery, determined to stop dam construction going ahead. Without their fortitude and action, those places would not exist. It was easy to appreciate what was right in front of me, but almost impossible to imagine what was no longer there. If the last wild rivers are lost, how will the next generation learn about the riches we once had? How will they know that some things are worth protecting? As the wild places diminish, will those willing to defend them also disappear?
THE BALKAN RIVERS TOUR
There is a theme running through the world today; the stated need for development and progress, with seemingly little attention given to what we loose in these transactions. What we gain in cheap energy we loose in experience and appreciation for the world around us. If you gain a television, you loose the peace, tranquility and sense of community you had before. Every extra megawatt gained helps to expand a distant city, helps to cover some piece of land in concrete. Is that really our goal, to keep expanding bigger and bigger until everything is covered? Where will it end? Why is development automatically accepted as a worthy goal, while protection of our natural treasures shunned to the sideline? If we follow the current path, it will end when no river remains free flowing. Then how will the city continue to expand?
They are all in danger; the last pristine rivers of Europe through to the last free flowing tributaries of the Amazon. As long as there is a fortune to be made by someone, the wild places will remain under threat. As long as the river flows free, someone somewhere will want to stop the flow. They have money; they have purchased power and have billions to gain in meaningless dollars. We, the people that appreciate the wild places, are only as strong as we stand together. All we have are our voices and our actions.
The Balkan Rivers Tour is an incredible initiative; uniting those who care for the river and helping to connect with more people who do not know its wonders yet. How will it make a difference? Simply by going out there, seeing these places and connecting with them you are making the difference. Creating conversation, creating knowledge of what might happen and what will be lost. If we realise we love the places we visit, we will find a way to protect them. We must.
ANKA MAKOVEC – THE LADY THAT DEFINED WHAT IS POSSIBLE IN RIVER CONSERVATION
Anka Makovec (77)
I was born in Slovenia beside the beautiful mountain river Soca, a blue-green jewel from our Alps. That deep love for pristine Nature went everywhere with me when my spirit of adventure took me to the other side of the world, finishing up on a magic island of Tasmania, home to now world renown – wild river Franklin.
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Only when you personally experience such enchantment, you will begin to understand WHY so many love it so deeply. It was in the early 1980s that the news hit the headlines that the huge dam is going to be built in our beloved wilderness. We soon realised that our unique treasure could soon be lost, drowned under a huge Hydro lake. It shook people deeply when the stark truth was out?
Before long, the news kept showing streets packed with protest marches, right across the country. SAVE THE FRANKLIN, SAVE THE WILDERNESS slogans kept appearing everywhere! On banners, t-shirts, caps, shop windows and cars. The money worshiping people raised their anger calling for more industrial developments. Their banners declared: DAM IT!
The political establishment sided with them, starting to roll in the machinery and boats filled with the police force, to keep the green protesters at bay. In the capital of Hobart, conservationist
Dr. Bob Brown, called a public meeting for immediate action plans. He insisted ours will be a peaceful stance, strictly a non-violent direct action. The community started to divide into the
Pro and Against camps with unreal speed. Press and protesters created a real human tide. Bob knew that I was recently involved in similar events in my home country, together with my part of the Mihelic family in Bovec, teaching me all about the Non-violent Actions.
So I was sent to the town of Strahan on the West coast to open and run the Wilderness Society Centre as the meeting place for our direct actions.
These were hectic times involving also Tasmanian Aboriginal group who made it possible that the area was put on the World Heritage List, and thus saved for all time.
You are on great path to do similar things with the project Balkan Rivers Tour and we are with you with all compassion!