Olivia-Petra Coman is a traveler and writer from Romania with a great passion for the outdoors and animals. She tells the story of paddling the last spring together with her boyfriend across the Ukrainian and Romanian parts of the Danube Delta, a story about chasing pelicans, recalling traditions, and connecting the two lands.
‘The color of the water looks the same’ I tell myself while crossing from Romania to Moldova and then on to Ukraine.
The view over the Danube is as mighty as it always is and I get the shivers, once again. They’re not from the cool wind that the locals confess at times in Romanian and at others in English it’s been blowing hard ‘for some days’. It’s a feeling that I get whenever I’m around the canals that haven’t left my sight, not even here.
I’ve had a secret wish to cross the border by kayak accompanied by Marcel, my life and travel partner, but the control points on the river are a bit too far away one from the other for the short time on our hands.
Details catch my eye – the blue of the houses, also typical for Romania’s Dobruja; the warmth of the people, also shared; the fish that Marcel’s always keen to have for lunch or dinner.
In the morning I watch a woman swim in Ochakivs’ke River, directly communicating with Chilia Branch. ‘It must be warm, Marcel.’ We discover that it is, as we launch our kayaks and paddle around; we see old fishermen at work and we try not to disturb them. Entire lives are built here, on the river bank and on the outskirts of Vylkove, closer to wilderness than to civilization.
It is so remote, yet so naturally inhabited. By birds and fish and the occasional abandoned boat on a narrower canal. The animals remain hidden under the drops of rain, but we continue our search and are welcomed by the familiar. The willow trees framing the canal give off a taste of the Danube Delta – paddling along them feels the same, irrespective of the location shown by the map.
There are more familiarities, as the short distance to Primorsk makes me recall one sandy visit to Romania’s Sulina, also a Black Sea resort. Have you ever tasted the mix of salty and sweet water?
It seems that everywhere the traveler goes around the Delta, silence is the typical companion, even through the hustle and bustle of people eager to get a proper tan.
As the wind drops and good weather returns, we find ourselves under the same sun, in our native Romania.
We have returned to our favourite spot, in the Upper Delta. Right before splitting into its three branches, the Danube creates a micro-paradise around Parcheş, with a collection of lakes and secret passages. You can spot egrets, terns, swans, and cormorants… and the lucky ones will find the pelicans that return here, just like us, year after year.
A goat herder passing by, a water lily opening up, a sky full of stars, an oak forest to camp in… what more can a nature lover wish for?
Continuing towards Tulcea, there’s water to pass and then the usual document control – I can at times spot the bank that hosted us some days back and I remember that my first trip to the Danube Delta was precisely on the other side from Vylkove, in Periprava. I remember the sand and the heat and the sunsets.
We stop around Pardina this time around and continue by water. It’s greener this way. Some years we’re greeted by cows and horses along the banks and it used to be cormorant heaven. But things change and there’s a different surprise in store: ‘I’ve never seen so many pelicans on the water!’.
Or so many cygnets fearlessly swimming around.
After all, I’m just a girl in a pink kayak. I mean no harm. I just want to see them, understand their behaviour and way of life, share a few hours of my day with them, and then leave as I’ve never ever been there.
Traces of my paddle blade on water lost, but such a great richness left inside my soul!
As we pass neat orderly blue houses on our way back to truly hectic ways, we whisper ‘goodbye’ to the willow trees and realise that rivers should not be seen by default as borders, but as binders.
Adventurer, Traveller, Travel Writer, Author of the Inreperta blog
Photos: Marcel Băncilă.