Sid (= Hippo) talking:
With summer 2000 approaching, I had the idea to visit my parents in Czech Republic and to try
making someone local join me for a trip there. To Austria, perhaps (as I did previous year in fall), or
Switzerland. Mountains in June are gorgeous. Over the net, with
Yahoo! Messenger, I started talking Des into it.
I guess I should mention that Des is a fun little witch (I call her Little Trumpet, and her full handle is
Desideria), and we have known each other only
over the net for about a year. She has got a boyfriend, Sneer, so I naturally counted on him as well
and suggested to invite another nice girl, to make the gang more balanced.
Don't think I was begging for any dating service!!! Quite the contrary, I had to explain at length
that I really wanted to put together only a hiking trip. Eventually, to make things chaste, Des
invited a woman who is so self-reliant and solid that we would always be just friends. Oh, well.
Her name was Carol
and I immediately noticed from her web site that she is a climber.
Rock climber. An outdoor girl, hooray!
Oops. Her first mail read:
well des lured me on vacation, but my summer's cemented (and bricked and tiled :(((
so I have no time nor money and would be no fun anyway (I suppose
now that my mind is full of water pipes and bathroom tiles)
But then we started exchanging e-mails about life and found out that we enjoy each other
both in Czech and in English. Carol still refused to go to Alps, but in return she offered to organize
a canoe ride on Vltava. It was the end of May 2000 -- and we had it set.
Carol arranged practically everything for the river trip. We still had almost a month to go, yet
we were already incredibly anxious to see each other; we spent long hours (three a day, on average)
online, talking about all possible things, e-mailing...
One could actually say that we got to know each other gradually quite better this way, long distance,
than by meeting somewhere in person. Soon it was clear that our trip would become something special.
Des (who was our confidant for most of the time) could not believe what was happening.
|Sid on Fremont Peak, CA.
||Carol in the streets of Prague.
- Praha 17.5.2000
- I politely turn down Desi's offer of a vacation in Switzerland with her, Sneer and some
I plan a general reconstruction of my flat this summer, so I have neither time nor money
to wander around places. But I don't want to be rude, so I send regrets in all directions.
Virtual Hippo included.
- Praha 18.5.2000 - 15.6.2000
- Hippo replies that he can't see why people need to plan vacations a year ahead and
why we could not go for just an extended weekend? and why not already in June? he would simply
hop on a plane a and get here. I take him at his word and just to challenge, I suggest
my first free weekend (16.6.), plus a moderate trip on a river. He shocks me by having
his ticket bought on the following day, arriving 14.6., and I am to take care of the rest.
Gradually, I slip into an inexplicable mental state - I LOOK FORWARD to work, and weekends -
gaps in our intense mailing and yahooing - become intolerably long.
- Praha 14.6.2000
- I think he probably expected some other welcome than a shocked: "Gee you're really terribly big."
Having seen Hippo as big as life, I manage to catch my breath during our dinner.
- Praha 15.6.2000
- Naturally, it starts to rain on the day we leave for the water.
In a rainstorm, we pick up Sneer, Desi
(who's wearing an optimistic straw hat) and our course towards Vyšší Brod.
|Frozen Carol, no longer making fun of life jackets,
is trying to decipher from a map, how we ever going to ride the next dam.
||Des is grinning for she changed into dry clothes
and looks forward to our next stop, a pub, where she will consume tea in large quantities.
- 16.6.2000 09:00
- Our boats arrived. Based on information about Hippo's dimensions, we rented polyethylene ones.
They're supposed to be unbreakable!
- 16.6.2000 11:00
- We board our boats at Vyšší Brod. I make fun of Sneer, because he's wearing a life jacket.
- 16.6.2000 11:10
- We get out of our boat before the first dam and take out bags and barrels out, just in case.
- 16.6.2000 11:15
- We board our boat again, heading for a sluice.
- 16.6.2000 11:16
- We get out of our boat. Truth is, this time it is not our doing.
Our vessel decided to be emancipated, to reverse the order of things and get on our backs.
I dodge. Sid does not. He takes a deep breath and dives under, to escape the boat.
(For old river rats - we made it through the sluice just fine, the screwup happened
when I tried to turn the fore elegantly against the stream and get back for our baggage.
All my previous years, I managed this manoeuvre just fine, but with Hippo in the front,
a boat has a momentum of a Titanic and turns painfully slow, hence we caught a side wave.)
They all got pretty scared, when I disappeared under the boat. My scuba diving reflex triggered:
biggest commotion is always on the surface, and you can wait it out at the bottom.
Still, Vltava took my sunglasses.
|Camping. So many things! Where to put them all?
What's for dinner? Where did I only put ... (whatever)???
- 16.6.2000 12:00
- Sun has cowardly deserted us, the shower's on and goose bumps under my wet clothes reach the
size and the colour of blueberries. We pony our boats over the Herbertov dam, and I contritely ask
Sneer to lend me his vest I used to make fun of. I am cold in my wet shirt, and there's no point
to put on my other, dry one, as it still rains. Having seen a herd of rocks sticking out of a training channel,
I let Hippo walk along the stream and I crawl through them on my own.
Before my true front man comes aboard again,
we warm ourselves by rubbing each other, and with Domestic Rum.
A little later, unafraid (for we're very wet anyway), we speed without looking into Rozmberk Sluice.
Hippo yells, having become a veritable breakwater.
No wave can ever pass his majestic figure and splash into the boat,
as it stops at his chest. When I am so cold that I rattle my paddle on boat sides,
we arrive at our planned campsite.
Fortunately the sun comes out with the evening,
and we get warmer through the exercise of building a tent.
Carol "forgot" to mention that while she was changing into the vest, she became
a road hazard. It ain't enough that nobody's around on the river -- a road is right next to it, just
not visible from the dam. Momentarily topless Carol ran up and down, and suddenly, a large, speeding truck
appeared. Driver's eyes almost fell out, he himself almost fell out of the cabin, and the truck
almost fell off a bridge...
My wonderful front man invents a theory that he was dipped on purpose.
So that we would not need to drag him during a boaters' baptism.
Well - it sounds much better than the other theory,
where the one who steered (that's me) is to blame for a bad judgement.
|Český Krumlov Castle. The town is saturated with tourists,
Historic Days Festival in progress.
||They capsized! They capsized!
We'd been waiting for two days for this.
- Sun shines, it is getting warmer.
We look over Větřní, last year the retardant was being built over.
This year it looks well. We let ourselves down with a full boat - and it seems to work.
We dare a sluice at Nové Spole without even looking, I have known the boulder on the right
for a few years now. Unhappy about the sound boats make when hitting a step in a sluice,
we pony over first dam in Krumlov. Retardant is all right. We stride out to find a place
for lunch, Krumlov is saturated with tourists. With some luck we catch a spot at a
Gipsy pub, no starving today.
It gets worse when we look for boaters' utilities. Browsing through the whole down town,
thousands of tiny stores with "art", postcards and wooden toys, to no avail.
Saddened we return to our boats, but suddenly look! They carry both rum and toilet tissue
at a cigarette store near a bridge. Grasping our bounty we rush to embark.
Desi with Sneer try to brave the Castle Sluice. (We don't, can't risk making our newly
acquired rolled treasure wet!!!) They finally dip in, though they show great sportsmanship
and try again, successfully.
|Rapids. Hippo learned to paddle
no matter that he turns into a breakwater.
- The most beautiful stretch of the stream awaits us, from Krumlov to Dívčí Kámen.
Sun is shining, river is bubbling, nothing is really going on.
Sipping at rum, we joint our boats and enjoy the ride.
Ruins are to be seen at Dívčák. Looking at the ruins, Sneer turns green.
He may have had too little rum. We break for the pub.
- Last day. We eat our breakfast slowly, savouring the sunshine.
A fee collector approaches us. Keeping a safe distance, he probes
for our willingness to pay (though neither Sneer nor Sid shaved
for last few days, they can't look THAT wild...).
When he finds out that we're ready to pay for camping, he suddenly
starts demanding all kinds of information. Sid (who normally has
a pretty, typically Czech first name) nicely tells him his full U.S.
address... the collector's eyes glaze over - obviously he is not
quite sure if we make fun of him, or if it is a secret signal to attack.
He had it coming.
The man muttered something from thirty feet away, as if he did not dare to
come closer. Forget unshaveness. Sneer was just playing with (throwing)
his knife and Des in the background was trying out some karate kicks.
And me? Some people fear me just because of my size...
We slowly push down the river, but it is no longer quite as fun.
I start picturing a tiresome voyage on a train to Rybník, changing trains
for Vyšší Brod, fetching our car, and driving back to Prague.
I have had my fill. Still I hope the theory is right, which
states that a water ride lets you know your partner completely.
So far I only heard of couples who got SEPARATED by their water experience.
Could we be a shining exception????
Sid (= Hroch) talking:
|Could we have some privacy?!?
Gone were the thoughts of rebuilding, of tiles, bricks, cement ...
our lives stopped being separate. As it came natural to us
to stay together after returning from the river trip until I had to leave Czechia,
it was no less natural for Carol to visit me in the States during August 2000.
At the beginning of our plans, Carol mandated me to read
Proč bychom se netopili (Why Not Get Drowned) by Zdeněk Šmíd.
The book is based on a fact that going on water makes
all that sleeps inside a soul swim out to the surface.
Our first river trip showed with no compromise that we
So much that it may just last, till death does us part..
Text + Photography copyright ©
2000 by Carol
& Sid Paral. All rights reserved.