The 2016 Junior & Under 23 World's tour finally began to happen with Josh, Martin, Otis, Mary and Gordon’s arrival into Prague and transfer to the Lodnica kayak club boathouse at Troja on the banks of the Vltava river and meeting up with Courtney, Callum Aitken, Zac and Kaydi who were already established in the Czech Republic. What an amazing place to be deposited from a wintery, grey landscape to a lush, green Kayaking paradise.
Some of the team had a late afternoon training run on the Troja course before the crew headed down town to "Lokal" restaurant for a familiarisation session of local cuisine in the company of old and new friends Czech friends. An early night for most of the team but Martin and the remaining team members trammed further across town to visit the newly opened Kayak Beach Bar established by slalom icon Vavra Hradilek.
The training got underway the following day with hour long sessions on the Troja course in the morning and at midday with Martin coaching. The team shared the course with other kayakers practising slalom and rafters from the Phys Ed department of nearby Charles University. It was a good opportunity for Otis and Josh to get the feel for their first European slalom course, joining the other kiwis who were well acquainted with the whitewater conditions.
Then an afternoon in town taking in the splendour of some of Prague's old historical precinct concentrating on Charles bridge and Prague castle with winding medieval streets, glorious church sculpture in Saint Mikulas, the ordered utopian architecture of the government buildings and the soaring Baroque ornateness of St Vitus cathedral in the castle precinct. We only had limited exploring time so barely scratched the surface of this lovely city.
The team had been invited to a boathouse barbeque with the local kayak club members, many of whom had spent time in New Zealand and many of whom were Martin’s old kayaking buddies. Callum Aitken was celebrating his 17th birthday and enjoyed a birthday cake and candles "kiwi style" and then partook in the local Czech birthday tradition with a full aerial immersion into the Vltava in front of the clubhouse.
We had an early 6am start, quick brekky, trailer pack and departure towards Germany via the Galasport factory at Susice to pick up Josh’s new C1 and fit it out. Some of the other paddlers took the opportunity to check their boat weights and make some minor adjustments and repairs.
We got back on the road and picked up James Thwaite at Munich Airport, a rental car, and rolled into the second oldest city in Germany, Augsburg, at 7pm. The course was busy with many paddlers in both slalom and plastic boats enjoying the 1972 purpose made slalom course for the Olympics. The paddlers were happy to see such a beautiful setting and challenging whitewater course.
We ended our huge day at an Augsburg local around the corner from our hostel. Cuisine of the evening was 1/2 pork knuckle, 1/4 duck, wiener schnitzel, and spaztle (ingredients unknown).