Clear water, clean air, lots of plants in water and on land – and all as natural as possible. A tour with a canoe through the Aukstaitija National Park in Lithuania offers the most beautiful aspects of Lithuanian nature. I also took a tour with the boat – even if it was a bit shaky.
I would like to be a tree log. My muscles hurt already. Especially after my fellow traveller Rob read the map wrong and we had to make an extra trip back and forth across one of the lakes in the Aukstaitija National Park – only to discover that it is leading nowhere and we have to go somewhere else. Yes, I would like to be a tree log now.
Tree logs were here in masses, driven down the river. The river Buka, we are canoeing on, was one of the main routes for timber from the forests of Aukstaitija. It seems to have done little damage to the woods though. „Some people refer to this region as the Lithuanian Jungle,“ says Rimvydas Grusnius of whom we have rented our boats. I agree silently while we are going downstream. Every few dozen meters there is a tree or a part of it in the water. Some branches reach onto the river. Twice we have to take the boats out and set them back in a few feet downstream. Luckily we are three people. Doing it alone could have been madness.
Yes, I would like to be a tree log. Then I could just float down the river Buka until I would eventually arrive at the end. I would drive a bit through the clear water and whenever I would get stuck somewhere, at some point certainly another log would nudge me. Or a lumberjack would push me back into the right stream after some time.
Instead, I have to row. Sometimes left, then right again – I’m alone in my kayak. After all, the river makes it endurable. The Buka has a very relaxed streaming flow. It makes navigating easy. However, I’m still a little unbalanced and only occasionally dare to get the camera out of the waterproof bag that Rimvydas Grusnius has given us. „Approximately 15 percent of all visitors fall into the wet“, he says. I can still remember that on my first visit to Aukstatija at the beginning of September 2007 one of our boats tipped. „This happens mostly when people are getting in and out,“ says Grusnius. I also feel insecure especially at the beginning and scream almost in panic when my co-travellers Rob and Julia (accidentally?) ram me with their boat. It’s not really weather for swimming this Sunday. However, swimming is allowed in the river itself. But hardly anyone is interested. Only fishermen in their hip-length rubber pants come across or journey. You are welcome to enjoy the freshest air in one of the remotest regions of Lithuania. You can almost catch the small fish in the river through the clear water. Occasionally, a duck mother swims by with her little ones. She is just like a couple of swans waiting for the bread leftover from breakfast.
After about six hours we finally have fought our way through the water plants and the wind on the lakes. We have arrived. We had parked our car at the water mill of Ginučiai before we left. Now, I have the feeling I want to jump into the run of the mill after all this effort. It is a popular swimming spot. Some families are there. Some people barbecue. Rimvydas Grusnius hooks our our boats onto his trailer. „I’m glad you didn’t fall into the water“, he says. I am glad too.
Here you get your boat: Rimvydas Grusnius is the owner of the boat rental company Sakarva. For our six hour tour we paid a total of 70 Lita for the transportation of the boats. Normally it’s 100 Lita, but they matched us with some Lithuanians. Otherwise the 100 Litas are good for the transport of up to 8 people. The kayak for 2 people cost us 50 Lita for rent, my one person kayak was 30. Prices vary depending on day and season. Besides Sakarva there are other boat rentals. The tourist office of the National Park has compiled a list here.