Former Waitaki Boys’ High School teacher Russell Leader has come back from an expedition filled with mishap and adventure.
About a month ago, Mr Leader and friends Ben Macgregor, the Waitaki head boy in 2002, and Michael Burgess attempted to canoe the length of the Rhine River throughout Europe, in an effort to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
The men were scheduled to be in the water for three weeks, starting in Switzerland, and finishing in Rotterdam.
However, the trio had to cancel the canoe after a week.
“It didn’t go quite as planned,” Mr Leader said.
Their first set of woes came about after they started at the source of the river in Switzerland.
“We hit, straight off, two sets of rapids,” he said.
“The first set, we survived – the second set, we capsized.”
Mr Leader watched the canoe float aimlessly downsteam as he scrambled to grab the group’s belongings.
Fortunately, he managed to grab everything, bar one jandal and their tent.
“We got a kayaker to come and rescue us and we got our boat back.”
Knowing there were even worse rapids further downstream, the men decided to pack up their canoe and take a train to their next scheduled stop of Landquart, Switzerland.
Due to infrastructure maintenance, the men were unable to enter the river, and instead had to lug the canoe about 5km to their next campsite.
“We got to the campsite at about 10 o’clock at night, fairly exhausted,” Mr Leader said.
With no tent, and only a shipping container and an awning for shelter, the group set up camp for the night.
Soon after, it was discovered the group could not put their canoe into the river for about 70km, because of a rock face that blocked entry into the river.
In the days following, the men faced several minor setbacks, which made the challenge even more interesting, Mr Leader said.
“They were fairly long, hard days.”
The final straw came for the group after Mr Burgess had to depart from the trip, and fly back to New Zealand for personal reasons.
“At that point, me and Ben decided to carry on to Rotterdam by train.”
With 10 days left to fill, the pair decided to visit Berlin and Hamburg, in Germany, before coming back to New Zealand.
Looking back, Mr Leader said the trip was a “partial success”.
“Every time we came to something difficult, there was no hassles,” he said.
From the trip, they managed to raise about $3500 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
The group hopes to canoe the Rhine River again in 2020, picking up where they left off.