Man on the Snow report

Dear friends of Man on the Snow (and River too!),

I still thank you all for your precious help.

As you probably know from the web site and Facebook page of Man on the Snow the project has been moved to the next winter. I passed through some problems and changes.

First of all snow conditions were not good at all. At the beginning, in January,  in Oslo it was raining and the few centimeters of snow started very quickly to melt. The situation didn’t change for all the winter. All Norway passed trough one of the warmest winter since many years. In the Svalbard archipelago the situation was serious. In December, January and February the average temperatures have been 15 C° higher then normal. In Alta, near Nordkapp, in late february it was 5C° above zero. A very unusual situation for above the polar circle zones. (more…)

 

Fair Winds to a friend

Köln, a former Roman Colony. It once was a wonderful city, but 77 minutes of wretched bombing destroyed it almost totally in a woeful day of the last century. Cologne boasted the best roman aqueduct north of the Rhenus (the Italian river Reno near Bologna). The Romans were masters in moving water: Probably more skilled than us and certainly much more respectful.

I’m currently writing from aside a fast flowing Rhine. Right now I could sail it upstream since the wind is so strong.

I can’t wait to get back on Clodia, I miss it so much. Foggy mornings, cold, mist, scents from the river. I just finished reading a nice book, “Il respiro delle acque” (The breath of the waters”), telling the story of a great man who has done a lot for the rivers: Renzo Franzin. This book was a gift from Eriberto Eulisse from “Civiltà delle Acque” (“Civility of Waters”). We’ll catch up soon.

But, what am I doing here in Cologne? Working for water once again: I’m planning a new project with the help of a few friends. After arriving to Istanbul I’ll write more about it, we’re still at a very early stage.

I have to tell you very briefly about the World Water Forum in Marseille.

Here I’ve seen many white collars who love water just when it serves them to make money, opposed to some others who truly care and fight for water protection. The most pathetic thing was the Kyrgyzstan stand, promoting their glaciers and the dams that could be built to sell water and energy. Merchants. (more…)

 

A long, fast winter

It’s been a long winter, but it passed quite fast to me. As always, still over the water, or close to it.

I’m currently writing from a train that’s running over the water too: It’s the bridge connecting Venice to Europe. Connecting Europe to Venice, more precisely.

Last time I wrote, I was in Budapest. In the meantime, Clodia has taken a most deserved sleep under a blue sheet and a blanket of snow and ice, that has caused so many troubles around the Danube this year. I’ll soon get to see what’s left of this tough winter. After taking a few days of rest in Venice along with my parents, my best friends (Kaos & Nix) and a few other very close people, I reached my beloved boat (and house) Brancaleon.

A dear friend of mine, skipper Stefano Leon Rodriguez, sailed it in just 12 days from Kos to Port de Pollença in Mallorca: 1.200 miles east to west.

In my plans, a week should have been enough to check it and then move on to Wien, as I promised to Captain Franz aboard the Frederic Mistral.

However I underestimated the task. My winter has been all about scratching, sawing, painting and cleaning.

Brancaleon was left on its own for nearly two years: An old lady like her, alive as all wooden boats are, gave it up a bit.

A relationship requires closeness and participation, otherwise things may get harsh.

In the nice bay of Port de Pollença I found the beauty of a wonderful island and many new friends.

(more…)

 

Our journey keeps moving at a fastly slow pace. We cover an average of 30km per day.

We left our story in Cambrai, on the Canal De Saint Quentin: The city is nice and rich in history. Funnily enough, here in 1508 Pope Julius II created the League of Cambrai, an alliance between the greatest european powers of the time against Venice, my adoptive city. Too many cooks spoiled the broth and the League faded like snow under the sun, with intrigues and sudden changes in alliances.

Whilst our companions set sails, Fine and I stay in Cambrai to update the website, a very difficult task now because there are very few villages along the canals. We agree with Bruno, Francesco and Sandro to meet again in the evening, just before the Riqueval tunnel.

Thanksfully we manage to get a lift by a very kind friend, met the night before in the beautiful Port of Cambrai, where Captain Jean Luc granted us free mooring. Julien Debut, that’s his name, is very helpful and takes us to the meeting point just after work (in an italian pizzeria, by the way).

Our deepest thanks to him.

In these days we get through wo tunnels, the most important of them being the Suterrain de Riqueval, 5.671 metres long, that leaves us breathless. An electrical towboat, equipped with a long chain and connected to overhead lines, called “Toeur”, pulls a convoy of six boats. We are at the tail end. This is one of the two French tunnels using this system: The other one is located in Mauvages, on the channel connecting the Marne to the Rhine.

Rock, bricks, a dreadful endeavour to get past a little hill. In 1801, Napoleon wanted it built: For the next ten years, thousand of desperate people dug it into the rock almost by sheer hand . You can still see the signs of chisel and pick’s cut. In the following video you can see the tunnel through our eyes.

Inside, the tunnel is very cold: Bruno and I, on Clodia, lay under a sail and sleep for a long while, until we get close to the exit.

In the evening we reach Saint Quentin, towered by its awsome Cathedral: beautiful city. In the nice and little Marina, unlike what happened in England and in Cambrai, a little generous captain doesn’t help us much, but you can’t have it all…

The next day Francesco and Sandro leaves us to get back home after their share of the “Man on the River” adventure.

Francesco heads to Plymouth, in the UK, where currently lives, while Sandro gets ready to walk once again on the campi and the calli of our beloved Venice.

They’ve been wonderful mates in very harsh travel conditions. For now, we’ll stick to the original plan: Two rowers over a nutshell.

We row for about 35 km in ten hours, up to Fargniers, taking turns every two hours against a weak wind. We enter the Canal de la Sambre à l’Oise. We stop for the night on the banks, close to the next lock. As usual, we meet new friends: Two nice Dutch, who don’t speak English but, after seeing us very tired, are so kind to offer an excellent beer.
The next day the winds gets stronger and we can’t proceed any more than 22 km.

We soffer and tow the boat from the bank with a lace, but eventually we enter the Canal de l’Oise à l’Aisne.

French Canals are so many! If you want to take a look, you may find a full list here.

The wind fades off because it now blows at right angles and the trees offer us a very efficient and most appreciate shielding.

We cross the first suspended bridge, better still the first “suspended channel”: We’re rowing 15 metres over the Ailette river! Reached Guny, we sleep in a gorgeous area dedicated to sailors, and equipped with haulage slipway, bollards, etc: An example to be followed. The night is cold and windy. In the morning we decide to visit the boulangerie for a croissant and a baguette, honouring local traditions…

A nice cathedral stranded in nowhere, the City Hall, a school with gender-separated entrances for boys and girls, lots of silence. Wonderful!

I like this simple landscape, wild nature, hills, rare glades, untouched by man.

We keep going with the wind blowing over us, but our protector trees provide us a great barrier.  Silence, trees, birds, water: And Clodia sliding.

We have no chances to get any food from local farmers, because we simply can’t find any. The wood is almost continuous and when the first shades of the evening begin to fall, we stop for the night.

From Guny, by rowing (very little sailing) and getting past many locks (we already conted more than 50 of them), we cover about 21 km to reach Pargny-Filain, where we find again a very cool mooring area equipped with electricity and water too. In the evening, looking for a bar, I see a funny sign: “Compagnie Isis”. My instinct brings me there, looking for the “mad men”, the nice and useful ones.

As expected, we see two big tents and we get to know that, 15 years ago, a few guys have founded a Circus Company.

There’s also a Cambodian company getting ready to move on. They invite us to eat tasty crepes with them, in a beautiful old stone house once belonged to their philanthropist grandfather and actress mother.
The two young sons, helped by their lovers and some Swedish friends, decided to give life to this little big dream.

We have a good time, talking about the future in front of a big fireplace (in the evening it still gets very cold here) and listening to great music. Tonight they invited us to watch a show: We’ll tell you more very soon.

We’re 58 km away from Reims, capital of the Champagne. We’re a bit tired, but the mood is very good indeed!

A big hug. Giacomo

P.S.: Thanks to Bea and Dieter for suggesting the title of this post

 

Countdown…

The Man on the River team welcomes two new members, making even more intriguing the journey and effective the themes that we like to promote.


Bruno Porto will be the co-protagonist of the project and the “green power” aboard Clodia: The Brazilian skipper has plenty of strength, experience and will, and he fluently speaks five languages. He’s the perfect team mate for Giacomo that is still recovering from the potentially deathly illness that forced him to stop his navigation last year. Bruno’s help dramatically increases the odds to get to Istanbul.

“Luckily – says Bruno – this year I could join Man on the River. Helping a good purpose is always satisfying, even more so, when you have the pleasure to share it with Giacomo and to learn through new experiences”.

Josephine Schaumburg is a cultural researcher and will assist Giacomo and Bruno in two ways. She will be organizing meetings with local press and environmentalists; and, she will document with photos and small films, the progress of their voyage on her blog (www.riversidestories.com, coming soon).

My last eight years of travelling – says Fine – have all been beautiful and valuable. But I started to feel that something was missing: an utility that goes beyond my personal enrichment. I wanted to do something that also others could benefit from. Documenting, even in a humble way, our journey is a good opportunity to share the experience of exploring our world with friends and any other interested persons… Well, and even more important than that, I admire Giacomo and his dedication to environmental protection. It is a big honor for me to assist him in his mission.

Fine will travel aboard a small electric boat following the same itinerary of Man on the River. If possible, she will try to get in contact with local people through the online-platfom CouchSurfing.

Wait. CouchSurfing!?, you might ask. Couchsurfers are a community of around 2.5 million members worldwide that offer hospitality in their own country and ask for it when they are travelling in others. Therefore, the word refers to the practice of moving (or “surfing”) from one sleeping place (most of the times a simple “couch” in the living room) to another. But offering a couch is not obligatory. Also just spending time with that foreign traveler and showing him or her around in the city is common practice. The philosophy behind all this, is, to create an alternative way of travelling where a true exchange between the traveler and the local person can take place.

Or citing the official mission: At CouchSurfing International, we envision a world where everyone can explore and create meaningful connections with the people and places they encounter. Building meaningful connections across cultures enables us to respond to diversity with curiosity, appreciation and respect. The appreciation of diversity spreads tolerance and creates a global community.”

So if YOU are a couchsurfer or not yet, but decide that you like the idea – feel free to contact Fine and offer your time – or even a sleeping place – to her. Be part of the project!

And now, the programme for the first month of travelling:

April 8th – Departure from Venice and arrival to Faversham, Kent

April 10th – Meeting with all people interested in listening to the Man on the River story. Creek Creative (1 Abbey Street, Faversham, Kent ME13 7BE, United Kingdom) has invited us to make our contribution to the preservation of the Standard Quay. It’s a wonderful and unique district that restores and saves many historical boats such as Times Barges that helped in building London and make it wealthy by transporting goods along the Thames.

April 11th-16th – Boat preparation for departure.

April 16th – Departure to London, sailing and rowing to the Albert Bridge and mooring next to Mouette, an old ferry that was once operating in the lake of Geneve.

April 18th – Joining Thames cleaning day from Thames 21.

April 18th -27th – Interviews and training along the Thames.

April 28th – Arrival of Bruno and Fine.

May 1st – Departure from Albert Bridge, the following day to the royal wedding between William and Kate, and navigation downstream along the Thames. We’ll stop to Erith, Southend on Sea, Whitstable, Margate, Ramsgate.

Within May 15th – Channel crossing from Ramsgate.

 

A new dawn

Man on the River

Previously on “Man on the River”: Giacomo De Stefano, documentarist and traveller, undertakes a new endeavour: Rowing and sailing through the waterways connecting London to Istanbul, to get attention on the poor conditions of rivers, that could become a valuable resource by developing local economies and sustainable tourism. Many friends help him, from boatbuilding to the official departure on April 2010. After a month of navigation along the Thames and the Northern Sea, Giacomo is forced to stop on the wake of crossing the English Channel, due to a sudden illness.
After receiving first aid in England, he’s recovered to Venice’s Hospital where he fights a pneumonia virus that could have been deathly. Won this battle, Giacomo spends the last months in an effort to regain his physical strength, in order to set sails from where he left last year.

 

Beloved travellers of the rivers, of the seas
and of life, I am back!

Mascareta

My body has forced me to stop for months, except for a few occasional escapades aboard a traditional “Mascareta” up and down to Venice, to deliver zero impact veggies grown by my dear friend Federico and his dad Marco. I’m still not at my best: The doctors are not happy about my decision to set sails once more, but I feel fine.

 

This journey is different from my previous ones: It’s an experience that I’ve shared with many others and that maybe someone else could get done. I can’t say I wouldn’t be over the moon to row all the way to Istanbul: I’ll spend all my energy, love and passion to make it. However, as I’ve learned last year, things could have changed.
We are moving to a world where the absolute ego does not dominate anymore: The new driving force is the word “Us”, that brought me such a long way both in my life and in this Man on the River adventure. So, I now have to consider the opportunity to share the journey, should I have to stop again.

I’ve spent a lot of thinking about that. I’m not interested, not anymore, to be remembered as “the Man on the River”, the single individual that has rowed so many rivers and miles, meeting lots of people along the way.

I wish that many Men on the River could share the commitment about this journey and future ones: to dream and make dreams real. To care about others, about life and lives.

I’m not a performer. My goal is not arriving, but walking and sailing well in this life, bearing in mind the planet that I share. And to do that, I’m ready to take my risks, as many people do in these very hard times for the entire world.

I travel for me and for all those who “travel”, forced to run away from other men. I know that they don’t feel the same pleasure as I do: If they could, they wouldn’t move.

I see the damages caused by men that cared just for themselves, building empires and monuments. Sooner or later people open their eyes and make them fall, badly, causing further ruins and despair.

I can see a meaning only in sharing actions, with commitment and attention.

HelpIf the guys from Eden Exit didn’t help me, if Lago didn’t give me the opportunity to build Clodia, I wouldn’t be here. If John, Lena, Bob, Vitaliano, Sandro, Marco, Giuseppe, Marisa, Stefania, Silvio, Nicola, Paolo, Daniele, Lory, Roland, Claudio, Luca, Massimo, Pati, Malcolm, Paolo, Phyllis, Padri, Michael, Nicolò, Diana, Jacopo, Harry, Earl, Guy and many others didn’t support me I wouldn’t be here and the journey would never had begun.

I wish to set sails by the end of April, from the Albert Bridge in London, because I feel it’s important: A friend invited me to restart from there and I know he would be glad.

Along the way, in Faversham, I would be happy to help my friends from Historic Quay in defending from speculators, then return to Ramsgate and thank once more Pat and Ian who saved my life, and drink a good tea made by Corby. And then crossing the cannel, slowly.

Bruno PortoThis year my travel companion will be Bruno Porto, a great friend and skipper from Brazil. A great gift as Jacopo was last year.

What about Jacopo? This year he won’t be able follow me all along the way, but he’ll surely be aboard at some stage. He’s a great man.

Fine SchaumburgThis year we’ll also get ground support from Josephine Schaumburg that will take care of blogging and videoblogging from a different point of view. A great novelty that enriches our project.

What else can I say… Let me work over Clodia that is still sleeping in a stable with her fellow horses, in Essex.

Then I’ll take water and set to Istanbul, we’ll set to Istanbul together enjoying every single moment along the way.

Just a little plea. Last year we had problem with an issue that got more complicated than expected: feeding. Giacomo and friends just have basic needs and we’d be grateful to everyone than could provide even just a meal or a place to stay overnight in case of bad weather conditions. This would be a great way to contribute to our project.

Let’s call it Gift Economy. Fair winds.

Giacomo

A note from the team: Shortly you’ll find on the right colum of this website a “call for entries” banner. It will take you to an application form for requests about coming aboard with Giacomo for a few days. Due to the large amount of appliers and too little available room, this year we decided to make a selection, picking at first those people who can contribute in various ways to the project. If you feel that your presence would be important for a reason (culture, science, ethic, politic, sport, journalism or anything else) please write it in the application form and we’ll carefully consider it. Also, it will be quite important to know if you have a story to tell: Man on the River is all about stories. The team members will review every position, however the final decision will be taken by Giacomo.