Louis-Phillippe Loncke, paddling down Poland's Vistula River. Photo: Tomasz Grzywaczewski
By Candace Sanders
On Saturday, May 5, Louis-Phillippe Loncke packed and charged his electric car for a trip to Brussels. He picked up a kayak and then met with the Polish Ambassador, Artur Harazim. The sole purpose of this meeting was to discuss the importance of the Vistula River and the ecologic issues it is facing. He told Harazim of his plans to journey over 700 miles through Poland's Tatras Mountains, down the Vistula and eventually out to the Baltic Sea.
"Water is the most precious thing we have on earth," Loncke says. "Like the rain, I will start my return journey from the high mountains to the sea following the streams of water. I will also show trash & pollution along the way. We all can do something about it to preserve our environment and, thus, ourselves."
Now on day 10 of the “Poland Trek” expedition, the trip, which is estimated to take around four to five weeks, has already presented its fair share of challenges.
Mount Rysy (8,199 ft.), Poland's highest point and the official starting point of the Poland Trek, greeted Loncke with low visibility, snow, slush and loose footing. On Day 2, Loncke and the other three members of his team who are joining him off and on throughout his journey to help him document it, decided to use an alternate route that was lower in elevation to avoid snow. This meant backtracking and more miles. Their feet blistered and their bodies burned under the alpine sun. When they finally exited the Tatras and made it to the valley between the Tatras and the Beskid Zywiecki mountains, the rain set in and they were forced to trek over the Babia Gora massif (5,807 ft.), soaking wet and exhausted.
Loncke finally reached the source of the Vistula River on Day 8. The locals traditionally keep the source hidden, but because of the nature of Loncke’s expedition he and his team members were shown its origin. That same day, Loncke was transported to a medical clinic to receive treatment for his horrendously blistered and infected feet.
Day 9 brought relief to the crew as they were finally able to get off their feet and into their packrafts. By the end of the next day, Loncke had paddled or portaged over 200 small dams that are scattered over the beginning of the Vistula River.
The trip seems to be slow going at this point, but the determination of the expedition also seems to overshadow all the setbacks they've encountered so far. Good news for any expedition.
Check out the introductory video from the Poland Trek below and stay tuned to CanoeKayak.com for more updates. You can also visit Poland-Trek.blogspot.com for more photos and video from the team.