The Baltica Project is an initiative of Zuzanna Lukasik that incorporates environmental education and action leading to preserving a unique region through adventure – crossing over the last of the European great lowland rivers, which at least partially retained its natural character.
The project team traveled the length of the Polish Vistula river in the early summer of 2012 on a raft made of PET bottles and other recyclable materials. The total length of the route amounted to an incredible 861 kilometers stretching from the beautiful Polish city of Krakow to the Baltic Sea. On the way, the participants of the project documented the beauty of the valley of the Vistula river, carried out measurements on water purity, and shared their newly acquired knowledge with all encountered people who showed interest. Various activities along the river were organized: clean-ups, promotion of a healthy lifestyle, presentations about the expedition and the importance of water in human life. The outreach to the Polish people was imense, also due to the great media coverage. Zuzanna: “We hope to share our passion for ecology and travelling and make them realize the beauty and significance of the Vistula River.” The expedition came to an end in Gdańsk, where the raft took part in a boat parade. Following, all pieces and parts were dismantled and the materials used for the construction were recycled.
“We hope to share our passion for ecology and travelling and make them realize the beauty and significance of the Vistula River.”
However, this was not the end. The participants will keep their knowledge about the river and its beauty. This knowledge has been shared with Polish students, in the social media, in exhibitions and lectures making the impact ever more lasting.
Here you can read the BLOG:
13th of June
Baltica Project – School visits
It took us only 4 days to sail through the Vistula river between the two beautiful touristic cities of Poland, Sandomierz and Kazimierz Dolny, and yet we had so many adventures on the way! According to Marek Kaminski’s guidebook, the Vistula river between these sites is presented in the best of beauty and I can totally agree with what the explorer said! This time, our crew was composed of 5 people only:Julia, Krzysiek, Grzesiek, Maciek and Zula, but we had many more activities on our way than before.
After some sightseeing in Sandomierz, we left the harbour and sailed into the plain river. I almost forgot how difficult the beginnings are 🙂 In good weather (and with experienced crew), it is quite easy to steer the raft, but our first day together on the deck was windy and we had serious problems on the water. Of course each person went through a safety briefing and had knowledge on how to behave on the water, but it was a new situation for 80% of the team. Happily we moored the raft in a beautiful place where San meets the Vistula and two huge rivers continue their way to the Baltic Sea.
Each expedition needs some sun and some rain also. We reached Józefów nad Wisłą in the pouring rain. There we had a great time at a local school, where I met children of different age groups and talked with them about environmental protection. I was very surprised to see how well-educated in the question of ecology the kids were. Józefów nad Wisłą is a small village situated in area protected by a program ‘Nature 2000’. It turned out that people involved in environmental protection often visit this school and give presentations to the kids.
9th of June
Baltica Project – Life onboard
Rafting on the Vistula river can be both boring and exciting at once, depending on how you look at it. The most important factor on the water are people. On such a small raft (3x6m) it would be impossible to stand checky behaviour of people you don’t really know or like. Our team is composed of a bunch of friends, from different communities, having different passions but one thing in common: love for outdoor activities and fun. 7 people all together: Ania, Irena, Kasia, Marianna, Zula, Andrzej and Kacper. We share responsibilities, without any traditional divisions: boys help with cooking, girls wash the dishes and row (the boys row also), and after the first day we built up a steer and then it became so much easier to control our way.
The level of water in the river was very low on the first two sunny days. After that it was raining cats and dogs for the next 48 hours so all our stuff, including sleeping bags, one of the tents, waterproof jackets were soaked. Day by day we were increasing our skills of communication and cooperation as a team.
Having a kayak next to the raft helped us avoid sandbanks and branches protruding from the water. Well, unfortunately you need to make a mistake to be able to learn from it. On the second day we spent nearly 2 hours evacuating the most heavy equipment from the raft an pulling it through very shallow water. Hard work it was, but lots of laughter and cool memories too.
We were impressed by how the locals treated us on the way. On the third day of rain, when we could simple wring one of the tents, we stopped at the village of Szczucin. Not only the police came to take
care of us, brought us some warm tea (we have a gas stove on the deck), but also they let us hang our wet wet clothes in a nearby building.
And now, after all these adventures, after loosing 1 cell-phone, 2 pairs of short trousers, swimming in the Vistula river (surprisingly warm and clean water!), observing rare wildlife (foxes, birds and roes), after a trip to a swimming-pool where the whole group showered 😉 we finally reached the city of Sandomierz. Beautiful landscapes surrounded us for the whole way and living in the wilderness (no telephone signal, no internet, rare civilisation) taught us a lot during the last 5 days. We covered nearly 180km on water, through sun
Time to change the crew on the raft, time for another stage of the adventure.
5th of June
Baltica Project – Launching of the raft, first day on the water
We woke up quite early to arrive in the village of Grabie at 7 o’clock in the morning with all our equipment and obviously the raft. It is so big and heavy that we had to transport it in pieces. First the ‘bananas’ = floats, then the wooden part of the deck and some food and water supplies. The cars (driven by our fathers, without whom the raft would have never ever been made) couldn’t reach the shore of the river so we carried our stuff for about 300metres. Seems like nothing, but it created quite a delay.
With a bit of help from outside and a huge interest from the locals, we managed to put everything together within a couple of hours. The raft finally looked like a raft :)! The biggest news TV station arrived at the moment of the launching. They filmed us moving in to what will be our house for the next 6 weeks. What an exciting moment!
The TV station came and filmed our freshly assembled raft that would become a home for the upcoming weeks.
The day full of attractions ended with a campfire, sausages and singing. The night was surprisingly warm and the next morning, we started (as the Selection Camp’s tradition says) with a run. Then a quick breakfast, important safety recapitulation and we started the expedition!!!
The way went smoothly, we have a kayak to check the water route, as the raft is difficult to navigate, and, to be honest, slow as hell. Today there weren’t any difficulties, the river was calm, the weather
pretty good (only 3 hours of rain) and the river bad still regulated. The level of water is so low, we saw many water level measurement stations on our way and their results were quite shocking. Despite the easy route we arrived at the planned campsite late in het evening. From today until we reach Tarnobrzeg, we won’t have any computer, so expect news from the raft no sooner than on the 8th of June. Ahoy!
2nd of June 2012
Baltica Project – Ready to go
Our trip was supposed to begin in the historical capital of Poland, the city of kings, Krakow. Unfortunately, the weather cheated on us: the level of water in the Vistula river was too low to pass the ‘Przewóz’ water-gate. This water-gate is well known among kayakers and sailors as the most tricky place on the whole river. Even Marek Kamiński, Polish explorer, mentioned it in his guide as ‘a true nightmare’. It was constructed years ago and now it is unnavigable at low water levels. This is why we had to make a decision that we will not sail through Krakow, but start our expedition just a few kilometres outside of the city, in a village called Grabie, where there is a very comfortable stony beach. Instead of starting the trip on Friday, we moved it for Saturday the 2nd of June.
Friday: the day began with a thunderstorm and since morning, the weather was only getting worse! There will be definitely more water in the Vistula river now :). Such an unpleasant weather surely scared away most of the people who usually go for an afternoon walk to the Vistula boulevards. At least we know that even if we had gone through Krakow, probably no one would have seen us = no occasion to spread the
message. We did some promotion in Kraków anyway. A bunch of school friends went to the streets during the night and sprayed the Baltica logo and website address on pavements in the city centre. Organising
that small event helped us improve coordination and communication between team members. Every minute we learn something else!
We had a lot of fun preparing ‘furniture’ and ‘moving in’ to the raft! For example, we built a table out of 3 old, useless plastic boxes and a piece of OSB. The table is multifunctional, it serves both as an kitchen surface and a small storehouse. We also found another use for plastic bottles! On the water it will be very hard to keep our things dry and in a proper order. Remembering that muesli is not eatable when it gets moist, we decided to put it into dry bottles that once had milk inside 🙂 Day by day, we are getting more and more creative.So now we are all calling each other every half an hour to ask if something more is needed, if the other person could organise something else, if something something something… The so called ‘reisefieber’
is very strong! 🙂 We already packed one car and tomorrow 7 o’clock in the morning we drive to Grabie. Even the raft-dog, Fleja, seems to be excited. What about you?
30th of May 2012
Baltica Project – Raft Building
The main idea of the project was to build a floating vehicle of recycled (and recyclable) materials only. Well, I think we made it! The Baltica project team is still working on the construction of the raft, but we are planning to finish it tomorrow.
There are several major construction materials out of which we build the Baltica raft. First of all, plastic bottles. They were collected in various schools in Kraków. In each school, the collection was preceded by a series of workshops and presentations on the subject of the project, the importance of water in human life, the Vistula river.
The response was different, depending on the school and the age group to which the presentation was addressed. Some kids were extremely active and interested in what we are doing, some kept on repeating
‘this can not be done’. Well, we will prove that it can be done! At one of the schools, we asked the kids to draw how they imagined our raft. Their ideas were truly amazing, crazy and inspiring! I think we all discovered that working with children can give a lot of satisfaction and it is the best way of bringing a change to the world.
We packed all the collected bottles (didn’t have time to count them properly, but according to our calculation we have something around 2 thousand of plastic bottles!) into plastic bags that are normally used for potatoes or onions. Did you know that around 34 bottles fit in one bag? We do know it now! We made over 50 bags like that! Each bottle cap had to be tightened and at the end of the ‘packing-day’ we had
blisters on our hands :). Then we used salvage mesh-fence for stiffening the construction. We got the mesh-fence from different people, always for free and always in a pretty poor condition :). At the end of the rafting it will be totally useless and we will take it to a scrap-heap. So this mesh-fence had to be separated into pieces 1,5m wide and 2m long. Then we put the potato bags full of bottles, rolled the mesh-fence and
eventually combined several pieces together to get a ‘banana’ in effect. This ‘banana’ is how we call a 5m long float. The whole raft will be built of seven such floats.
So now we only need to attach the wooden deck (made of pallets we got for free) to the bottles… Friday is the launching day! We are very busy completing the equipment, media work and obviously the construction but I believe we will make it on time. The river is waiting for us to come and I count minutes and seconds until the start of the adventure!