Initially as we left the locked section of the Rhine for its quick downstream waters, it was stressful and unnerving. We were dodging boats and being battered by high waves. But we quickly grew used to it and the towering industrial river banks one would expect to find ugly were an incredible sight from our low view point on the river. Huge cranes and massive factories where the river was hundreds of meters across, provided a new type of scenery and tankers moving past made us feel like tiny explorers on Europe's busiest commercial river.
After the last blog we awoke on a beach on the inside of a larger meander. I washed in the river while Nathan ran and then he did the same as the rain began to fall. The shower passed quickly and we paddled downstream to Mainz, a significant point on our route. Here we locked Dora to a jetty and wandered into the Gutenberg museum close by. After wondering for a while what 'Gutenberg' was we found he was the inventor of letter-press printing and born in Mainz. So we looked at some very old books, acknowledged the importance of his invention, and bought two massive pastries which we ate with our sandwiches back at the canoe.
For us Mainz was an important point because it marked the end of the Rhine and the end of downstream paddling for a longtime. After eating we crossed the channel and headed east and upstream on the river Main. Immediately we hit difficult, fast moving water and were shown how our memories of the Loire have already been given a romantic gloss. Scenic, and rich in history, I seemed to have forgotten how hard that upstream paddling was!
To make matters worse, due to my poor judgment, we found ourselves lodged behind a tanker being loaded with shipping containers and had to move out across its propellers to get back on to the water. We held our nerve crossing its wash and got around its bows but the waves of tankers are less fun without the help of the river flow.
After a difficult 3km though, we hit our first lock on the Main and, using an easy portage route, we put the canoe into far nicer water on the otherside. From here, there are locks every 10km or so and these should slow the water to a much more manageable level.
With better progress made on the upstream water we camped that night in a nice canoe club where we drank beers with a friendly member and used their boathouse and freezing shower. With the river water remaining decent and helpful diagrams on our map making portaging the commercial locks less of a challenge than normal, by lunchtime the next day we sat outside Frankfurt city centre. But as we lunched, boats seemed to be stopping and we discovered a small sailing regatta was using the river and therefore stopping any traffic. Then we realised it was actually the international BMW sailing cup. Then we saw lot of people lining the banks and filling Frankfurt's bridges.
After chatting to a police boat I discovered there would be a half hour break for river traffic to resume. When this half hour window came it was like a starter firing his pistol. Every boat that was waiting, from notched up speed boats to cruisers and tankers, put their respective feet down and steamed along the water. After a second's hesitation we joined the melle: riding the crazy waves and getting soaked by the spray. For a kilometer we paddled on this hectic water, through what we later discovered is Frankfurt's annual summer festival. With thousands of people, bands on big stages and busy stalls all along the banks we had one of the coolest and most unexpected hours of the expedition. Music blaring, people staring and us jumping around on the waves like a canoe in a mosh pit. It was awesome.
On the otherside of the mental celebrations we looked back on the Frankfurt skyline which was quickly growing dark. We pulled up to a jetty as the rain started to lash and found a friendly rowing club. They gave us beers, despite the fact that no-one else had started drinking, and allowed us to lock up and leave our canoe there till Monday.
Which brings me to the here and now. We are in Frankfurt. I rang a friend I met three years ago in Canada who had offered us a couch to sleep on and we trekked through the city centre in the pouring rain to get to his place. Bags on backs, food barrels in hand and dodgy sandals on feet... we commanded some funny looks on the metro. Cleaned up in this swish apartment, we were kindly taken out for the most tradditional Frankfurt meal imaginable by Ingo and his flatmate Martin, before crashing back in the living room for an applewine-induced sleep. The rest-day shopping remains to be done and a visit to the apple store in an attempt to fix the broken i-phone (yup that is pretty bad for us...) will have to wait since by law in Germany everything is closed on Sundays.
Perhaps we'll have to rest for once.