Canoeing on the Danube with Florent and Decko

Florent is a long-time traveler. At  25 years, he is a globetrotteur, who has been traveling the roads for 6 years. And this year, he set himself the challenge to go up the Danube by canoe, crossing Europe. In this adventure, he wasn’t alone because his three-month-old husky Decko accompanied him on this crossing.

 

Day 66

Unbelievable.

Today Wednesday, September 5, 2018 at 16h58 it’s with pride that I arrive at kilometer 0 of this incredible journey.
After 2852 kilometers in canoe, 66 days of travel, 57 nights in a tent, 3 in a hammock, 2 under the stars and 3 in an apartment (in Budapest). After crossing 10 countries, 4 capitals, from the black forest in Germany to the Black Sea through the Austrian mountains, the Hungarian and Bulgarian sandbars, the Serbian canyons and the great Romanian plains I saw a small river, where the water flowed hardly, to become a huge river until throwing itself into a sumptuous sea.

My trip doesn’t stop there because I’m tired, exhausted or because I’m fed up but really because we can not go further, I reached the end of this huge river: the Danube.
Rowing without engine without polluting for a moment, respecting to the maximum this dazzling nature that was offered to me every day. Until this little village Sulina a sort of end of the world where the only way out is to take the road taken to come.

During this trip I met a lot of people in different countries, I do not count the number of photos, cuckoos and smiles. People, intrigued by my adventure, helped me, applauded and encouraged each day, offered me food, drink and sometimes a place to sleep.
I posted here some photos accompanied by a small text so that everyone can understand and appreciate my way of traveling, it resulted in many messages of support from friends as anonymous who encouraged me, reassembled morale and helped overcome difficult times. I thank you all for reading me and forgiving my sometimes awkward pen.

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This trip allowed me to find the feelings, I think, the first travelers. Go down the river to the end of the world through all the possible obstacles, borders and different weather, over the encounters and landscapes I walked across Europe without imagining that there would be an end.

Sulina kilometer 0

Thank you and see you soon for a new expedition.

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Florent Chabrier

 

Why did you decide do to this trip?

I made a challenge. I met someone who traveled on the Danube and I thought it was really interesting to cross it by canoe. There is a real ecological conscience behind and it is a challenge because you have to sleep outside and go camping wild during the whole trip. The goal was to cross Europe without using a single transport that pollutes. It took me a month to prepare this trip for me and wait another month for my dog to be vaccinated.

Did you do canoe before leaving? Have you physically prepared yourself?

I had already done a little, but like everyone on vacation. I didn’t really prepare myself physically, I didn’t do any special training. In life I am a sporty person and I have a good physical condition, but that’s all. In fact, the first two weeks of canoeing served as preparation, as I was going slowly enough for my body to get used to aches, pains in the hands and back. In hindsight, I think that physically everyone can make this journey, it’s rather mentally that it’s difficult.

And did you buy it or rent that canoe?

I bought a canoe in Clermont Ferrand, city where I come from. I did it again and completely refurbished myself. The departure of the Danube is 600km away, so my parents took me there by car. But for the record, after two weeks I broke it! Finally, a gentleman in Germany gave me his! He took back the old canoe seeing that I had broken it and gave me another one. It was incredible.

What material did you bring with you in this small space?

I wasn’t really limited and space-wise since I had a three-seater canoe. I took a lot of things that allow a little comfort; 30 kilos of material in total. I had everything I needed for the bivouac; the tent, the sleeping bag, etc…stuff for the rain, since whatever happens we are outside, water and my stuff too. And since I was with my dog, I also had croquettes, a toy, a leash and a 30-meter rope so that he could still run when we were in the cities.

Why be gone with your dog?

If I took a dog, it’s for him to follow me everywhere. I left last year in the Arctic with sled dogs and I’m going to graduate to become a polar guide. I love huskies and coming back from this trip I met someone who makes sled dog next to my house and had a litter. I wanted a dog so it was an opportunity. Suddenly, I delayed this trip by canoe a month to take with me, time to make vaccines and all the steps. From the moment I took Decko, it was clear in my head that during 10 or 15 years of my life he would go with me everywhere.

 

 

Did the trip on the water go well for him?

Very well. He was three months old. Since he was a puppy he slept a lot, 10 to 15 hours a day, and it helped me a lot. I think that with an adult dog, especially a husky, it would have been difficult for him to stay in a canoe half of the day. I made him a place in the shade in the canoe, which changed according to the time and on which I put a tarpaulin so that it was not cold. In the evening, when I stopped, he was free most of the time and could run, play, and let off steam.

So you took care of his education during the trip?

Yes. It was 24 hours a day with me and for his education it’s great! I did not have to leave it alone for more than 8 hours, as most people do. And it helped me because today I’m like his mom. We met a few people in town and full of animals, like horses, cows and even snakes and foxes, but I really remain his reference

Is it easy to travel to Europe with your dog?

It was super easy. It even helped me meet people, they are much more receptive when they see a little puppy and they come closer.

By the way, I had no problem going to restaurants with Decko for example. Even in the shops I went back with him, except for the supermarkets. In Germany for that matter it’s great, there are hooks next to the cadis and bikes to hang his dog. There are cameras and everything is monitored, it’s super reassuring. In other countries, I left him in front when I couldn’t take him, there was always someone to check that everything was fine for him.

In Hungary, everyone has a dog. There are lots of parks to walk around. And in poorer countries, like Romania or Serbia, there are more stray dogs. When you have your dog you have to be a little more careful because they can attack; but I did not have a problem.

Did you encounter any difficulties during this trip?

On an expedition like this, you have to be focused, it’s not always easy mentally. It was also necessary to find food. I sometimes had to cross entire cities to find croquettes at Decko. In Romania and Hungary, there are not always shops like ours. After that it’s mostly at the administrative level. Always have the dog’s documents on you, like his own. I got control at the border in Serbia. As the country is not part of the European Union, I went to a veterinarian, we checked his microchip and his health book. The vet then makes a paper to tell if the dog is healthy and can enter the territory. You have to be aware of the administrative procedures. It didn’t cost me money but it’s mandatory and if we don’t do it, we can have problems.

Was Decko sick during this trip?

Once. He ate a little pudgy on the side of the road that has not passed. After he’s a puppy, he tends to eat everything he finds, even if I try to control it to the maximum. Otherwise he had no health problems.

 

 

Did the return to the mainland went well?

Yes very well. Decko had spent more than half of his life on the water and out, but the return was easy. He’s still today almost always with me. When you take a husky you must know that it is a sporty dog and that it will have to be spent, outside and in contact with nature.

What are your travel plans with your dog?

With him, I would like to do Morocco for example. Anyway he’ll follow me as much as possible. It will depend on the conditions imposed by the countries to return, but I don’t want to take him to a country with forty. For others, it’s usually vaccines and some formalities to do, it must be done in advance, but there are many countries that accept dogs.

According to you, what does it bring to travel with your animal?

It’s still a company that is with me all day, it takes care when you’re alone and you could be bored. But also, the dog’s morale never goes down and it helps to stay the course when it’s difficult. The dog helps to clear the mind and you have to think about him, take him running, make him eat, etc…Today I don’t plan to leave without him!

What advice can you give to travelers who don’t dare to leave with their dog?

We can go to bookings on Airbnb to bring their dog. I don’t find it really a constraint to have your pet traveling, in France or even abroad. If you’re all day with him, why not bring him on vacation? For me he is part of the family. It just requires a little organization in terms of vaccinations, formalities and the reservation of housing.

Florent leaves on November 20 in the Arctic for four months. He’ll leave France to drive to Lapland. Decko will obviously be there!