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Ben Mercer, WA representative on Australian down river team touring Europe for World Championships, 2004

Letter 1

30th April, 2004,

 Hi All

What a great start to the trip... the flights were good and no damage to the boats or gear. Once in Zurich we made our way to an Australian white water connection, Torsten Krebs house via an incredible journey through the city in places that should not be travelled by car ?! But reading signs was not our stong point.

We paddled on the Limmat River through the city which was a great experience and the water was very cold. Quite a bit of current so it was a good lead in to getting on some white water.

We slept on the floor and I had an ever reliable inflatable mattress that needed attention at regular intervals throught the night. I knew when to start pumping it up again by the pains in my back !

The next day we drove to Moutathal about and hour or so away and being new to Europe I was blown away by the scenery. The course at Moutathal is being used for our last world cup race and so it was good to get a look beforehand. We got onto the river from a small creek next to paddocks full of cows with bells on. Once on the river it was basically 20+ mins of constant short choppy water and IT WAS FREEZING !! It will be a physically demanding course as you had to keep punching the boat through the waves all the way. There were a couple of reasonable rapids with the usual boat magnet rock in the middle of the river. I did three runs and the others a couple.

We stopped at a town called Schwyz on the way home and saw the most elaborate church I have ever seen. One of the boys employed a bit of Australian ingenuity and there being no labelled toilettens in the vicinity, snuck behind a building and was chased, AND CAUGHT, by an old man wearing a suit. After a stern telling off in German then French and then English he was aware that "We do not do this in Switzerland !".

We then returned to Zurich for the night and then drove to Garmisch via lunch at Landeck. Austria was a beautiful place although the buildings were not as lavish as Switzerland. We arrived in Garmisch last night and went for a paddle on the lake. This would be the most scenic paddle session I have ever done... where a mountain with snow on the top drops straight into the lake. In the evening it was a great place to be and the water once again was very cold for the first five minutes.

We spent our first night at our Garmisch accomodation where the French and Italian teams were staying. It was hard to find a parking spot with their team buses and trailers around ! The Italian tent for doing boat repairs was cool and the large flag a nice touch.

Our first run down was this morning, following a British paddler who lives in Italy and knew the river fairly well. It was not enough to save me hitting quite a number of rocks and racking up a fair damage list for the first day. Infact all our practice boats are looking rather ordinary this far out from the competition. The course is truly a great test of white water skill... it was very tough with huge boulders EVERYWHERE and gaps that you have to make that are barely the width of the boat ! It will take some work to get the lines right !

Must go... hope everything is well.

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