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We had a good night sleep after the first day of paddling down the River Dee from Braemar. Everything was frozen when we woke up. The day however seems again to be quite promising with a blue sky and nice scenery.
The worst was however not to sit in a frozen packraft …
… but to slip your hands into the frozen neoprene gloves. However, after a few minutes of paddling with gloves we just decided to continue paddling without gloves as they were just too cold to wear. But first we had breakfast.
For breakfast we still had some Japanese dehydrated camping food with us which taste much better than the camping food you can buy in our camping stores. So we ignited our MSR Windburner stove with our Light My Fire FireSteel Scout 2.0 Fire Starter and got the water boiling.
Visiting Balmoral Castle
Since we just camped almost next to the Balmoral Castle we decided to get a bit closer and explore it a bit.
Back into the River Dee
Once back from the Balmoral Castle we packed our gear and got our packraft ready. The day was again beautiful and we were quite excited to continue our trip.
There was ice everywhere but fortunately it didn’t have any impact on our packrafting trip.
Abergeldie – The falling castle
After some paddling we passed by Abergeldie which almost fell into the river after the last flood. It seems that they were able to prevent the worst so we were still able to get a nice picture with us and the castle.
The scenery was again breath taking on the second day. Even so the night was freezing cold the sun kept us warm once we came closer to lunch time.
Unfortunately, the water level was just too low on some spots so we had to step out and walk from time to time.
After some paddling we found a really nice beach with rocks and gravel on the left hand side of the river where we stepped out to have our lunch breack.
We filled the MSR Windburner stove with water from the river and a few minutes later we poured it into our dehydrated lunch packages.
Flat river and great scenery
After our lunch break the river continued to be quite flat but we were able to paddle most of the time.
The river was marked from the last flood. Fallen trees and the undercut shore are witnesses of this tragic event 2 months ago.
The flood and remainings
The damaged bridges, the castle, part of the road, the caravan park – on the way it looked like on the Grensmaas where we paddled a while ago. Lots of rubbish. We also met a local guy on our trip who was taking pictures on the river. He told us that the stationary trailer destroyed against a bridge on the river. There was all kind of stuff in the river once we paddled it further down. Furniture, contorted bikes, bedding, clothes and a small Scottish St. Andrew’s flag was hanging on a tree. However, there was also something positive on the flood – we were able to find a lot of firewood.
And then we came to a bridge where we could see even more evidence of the past flood.
A trailer smashed against one pillow of the bridge. There were also lots of sharp metal objects in the water. So we just paddled and tried to be careful without think too much about the sharp objects – self-fulfilling prophecy.
Tea Time in Ballater
In Ballater – just after the bridge – we stepped out to get some food at Dreeside garage. We got tea and chocolate. We also asked there if there was a good place to eat.
The store owner said: Well, the town centre had all been flooded. Were they too? Yes. They got the water, but from the village, not directly from the river. When did it happen? On the 30th of December. Merry Christmas and a happy new year. In a way yes, he smiled bitterly.
Then Konstantin returned to the place where we stepped out from our packrafts while Patrick has unpacked the backpacks to get our gear drying in the sun.
We enjoyed our tea and asked a passer-by if there was a shop. We actually saw the shop but we were not sure if it was open. The passer-by said: “Yes, behind the church. Just follow the main road”.
Getting food in Ballater
Konstantin walked with his dry suite to the ship. It felt strange to walk in a village with a dry suite but it was comfortable. He was anyway not there to impress people, but to get the food. No one asked me any questions, I didn’t give any one any explanations.
On the way to the shop, Konstantin saw that there were many closed shops. The Royal appointment for this or for that. The floor boards were ripped off, heaters and fens staring there to dry the aftermath of the flood.
For more than 100 years nothing happened like that. People have already forgotten that it can be like that. And they got careless. But the nature reminds us of its might from time to time.
Preparing for the night
After we got some food in Ballater we continued paddling down the river almost until the sun went down. We pitched our tent and also met the owner of the field where we camped. He said that it’s ok that we camp here over the night.
We collected a lot of firewood. There was so much of it so we kept the fire burning till late in the night. Patrick went already sleeping quite early while Konstantin was still enjoying the warmth of the fire.
On the next day we had a quick breakfast and started paddling shortly after. The weather turned already bad and we decided that we will paddle only till early afternoon to take the bus back to Aberdeen. The last day however, was offering us the best rapids of the trip.
Deflating the packrafts
Once we passed the last rapid we came to bridge which we had to cross to get to the bus stop of the village. So we stepped out and packed our gear.
We felt a bit cold and it also started to rain a little bit. Fortunately, it was only raining for a couple of minutes.
Searching for a bus
Once we were back on the road we walked towards Dinnet where we searched for the bus stop. Fortunately, Dinnet is quite a small place so the search was quite short.
Well, this was our packrafting trip to the river Dee. It would have been interesting to paddle the river further down even so the scenery was not that spectacular anymore as it was higher up in the mountains. Well, maybe we will return here one day …
Interested in more packrafting stories? Read about the first Swedish Packrafting Round-Up which was our next packrafting trip.