I was lucky enough to go kayaking through a beautiful Dzukija national park in the South of Lithuania. I couldn’t have done it without the excellent help of Vilma who organised all the transport, kayak hire and accommodation – not an easy task, even for a Lithuanian!
The Dzukija national park has a limit of 100 visitors a day to protect this fragile environment. It is necessary to get a special permit from the park authorities, not expensive, but difficult to get hold of in peak periods.
The lovely Ula river cuts through glacial moraines and sandy eskers. Conifers cling tenaciously to the precarious slopes.
But they don’t always manage to hang on. Fallen trees were a constant source of ‘entertainment’ and required a certain amount of paddling skills. Apparently, the majority of people fall in at some stage. We were lucky and/or more cautious.
There was just one place on the river where the kayak had to be carried around the fallen trees. Not recommended as a loaded fibreglass kayak is pretty heavy.
This is a picture of Ula’s eye, a spring situated about fifty metres away from, and two metres above the height of the Ula river. The water which bubbles out is rich in iron and is said to have medicinal qualities.
The ‘landing stage’ at Ula’s eye. I wore boots for the trip but sandals would have been better. Next time…
‘Look out for the orange umbrellas,’ said the man who rented the canoes. ‘That’s Angela’s place.’ As you can see, there were no orange umbrella’s but this is Angela’s lovely house – popular with canoeists, including the President of Lithuania. Angela’s husband was very generous with the moonshine vodka and after six tumblers of it, I had to have a little lie down…
Here is one of many storks in the area – what superb birds they are.
Day two and equally good weather. The Ula River became wider and later joined up with a larger river, making the canoeing much easier, but less exciting.
These dragonflies were buzzing around for most of the journey.
This little butterfly refused to hold its wings open but still looks great. You can clearly see its proboscis.
Marcinkonys Station. Marcinkonys is the main village in the national park area. The railway liine used to extend from Warsaw to St Petersburg but now trains only run between Marcinkonys and Vilnius. Could this be the chance for Lithuania to put in a long distance cycle path? Or get the trains running again? Or will they ‘choose’ to build super 6-lane highways – with over-generous EU grants?
Right next to Marcinkonys station, an architectural gem – the public toilets. It even has a chimney; how thoughtful.
After canoeing, we visited another part of the national park, a vast area of wetlands, home of a variety of animals including elk and boar. Unfortunately I saw neither elk nor boar but did become very closely acquainted with the park’s population of flies, midges, mosquitoes and horseflies.
For information on Lithuania’s National Parks
For information on cycling in Lithuania
Want to see more of Lithuania?
Jeremy’s work in Lithuania
Kayaking in Lithuania