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What it takes to film an expedition


I was NOT having a great day. I had literally just broken down in tears in the comfort of my cellar, back against the wall, feeling crushed (ONCE MORE) by the changing plans of #ChasingCurrents. My main goal for the afternoon was simply to control my breathing. Brushing off the cellar dust, I mutter: “Other people’s fears are not my own,” (trust me – few parts of adventure planning are as mentally taxing as not letting other’s anxieties get to you), I make my way up to my apartment. I knew @cine.roy would be there.

I did not expect the extent of entropy and chaos he had brought with him.

“HELLO!!!!” He greets me at the door, the usual roy of sunshine I adore. I take a brief look past him into my living room – and nearly have a heart attack. “THERE IS NOTHING TO SEE HERE, IT IS FINE,” he chirps, quickly closing the door and ushering me into the kitchen. “Tea?!” I just nod, shell-shocked. One tea (and nap) later, I finally brave the living room.

Which is where I find not only 100KG of gear for a film crew, carefully assembled in labelled water proof bags – but also Yo (@yosimo_costumes, producer and costume designer of #ChasingCurrents) and Mariano (@donthomed sound guy and very supportive brother of Roy).

We end up getting pizza for dinner, chatting about problems with the film crew boat. Out on a walk to get some last gear, the gang had realised that the boat (an inflatable party boat we borrowed from Denis) had nothing to attach a motor to. That piece had gone missing during The Driftwood Misadventures of 2021. Together with Yo’s (also supportive) brother, the gang spend the evening hours in the garden creating one out of a broken pram, two pieces of wood, zip ties and (of course) ridiculous amounts of tape.

The sun had already set by the time I get the message: “WE DID IT. WE CAN ATTACH THE MOTOR TO THE BOAT.”

“AWESOME! Let’s set alarms for 7:40AM for our film training trip in the morning,” I respond, wondering silently:

Will this work..? Or will we sink?

The essential ingredients to filming an expedition on the water are not just an indestructible sense of humor – but also an indestructible boat.

Unfortunately, we only had one of the two.

“I can HEAR the air coming out of the boat,” Mariano (@donthomed) made his point by pressing his ear to the float. “But it’s small, right?” I asked, yawning. While the film crew had been busy setting up their boat and equipment, I had been busy being 50 shades of “UNHELPFUL” by napping beneath a nearby tree. We’d arrived at a small beach by the “Langer See”, a few kilometers east of Königs Wusterhausen (which itself is south of Berlin). We almost hadn’t found the beach, which had been recommended to us by the local tourism office as I, in a moment of unjustified confidence, simply pointed at a random street close by the lake an announced: “This will get us to the lake!” when actually, it landed us on a dirt track towards nothing but a few pine trees and a questioning look on Roy’s (@cine.roy) face. “You said you knew where we have to go,” he remarked. “I know *approximately* where we need to go. Like always,” I shrug.

We do find the beach a few kilometers farther down the dirt track – and it’s perfect, just like the woman at the tourist office said it would be. Free wifi, a public restroom – and no one but us. Ideal for shooting a few scenes for our documentary.

Of course people show up the moment we begin filming.

“Well, at least the ones who got naked for their sunbathing session stayed out of the scene!” Yo (@yosimo_costumes) chirps as she carries over the equipment. The film crew’s boat is fixed and taped up by now, and we gingerly place the (disturbingly, non-waterproof) equipment on it. The boat seems stable enough, so the crew hops on. Carefully, I push them away from the beach, half expecting the entire thing to capsize –

But it doesn’t.

Yet.

There are the usual things that (almost always) capture my attention on outdoor trips:

The light, how it reflects on water when you can see the ripples in the canopies of the trees…

And then the unusual things specific to this adventure: the fact that most people just don’t greet, no matter how enthusiastically you wave at them.

Welcome to a river trip in Brandenburg.

We navigate our way past giant, stinky, obnoxious motorboats. I cannot even begin to understand the size of these boats, some bigger than the houses lining the water. The film team (@yosimo_costumes, @donthomed and @cine.roy) seems to be doing relatively okay, even though their motor is a tad too weak to move them any faster than 2-3km/h.

Not that my “motor” is going any faster.

In my experience, when you’re in a “equipment/people testing” phase, it’s best not to add too many new Unknowns in the mix. Add one or two (like traveling with a much larger group than you’re used to with much more (expensive, definitely not water-proof) equipment than used to). For those, and a few other reasons, I had chosen to go by boat as well. But since you should ABT (“Always Be Training”), my boat (a packraft) did not have a motor.

Needless to say, my arms were sore after 2KM.

But the lack of a motor doesn’t stop me from leading the way, paddling alone, while I can hear the others sharing jokes, conversations and gummi bears on “Floaty McFloatface” (the name we’ve given to the film crew boat). It’s a strange feeling of being left out, while remaining too involved to completely detach from them.

As I wonder what this feeling (of envy…….?) might be managed on the actual expedition, I hit a dead end, and ask a fellow paddler for directions. The crew is still a few hundred meters behind. “This is the entry to a port, go back and use a little pulley system to drag your boats up to where the canal continues!” I’m told, and notice a rusty wagon on a track leading off into the undergrowth. I think of all the equipment we have on Floaty, and sigh.

Good thing that my arms aren’t sore yet……

The rest of the trip in bullet points:


🚣‍♂️ I had some adventure astronaut food (aka freeze dried trekking nibbles). The team had a freeze-dried pea-and-carrot soup from Decathlon. We each thought the other’s food was, though also gross, better. (They were both disgusting, but one can use the “the grass is greener on the other side” effect also to one’s advantage.)

🏕 We camped in what turned out to be a mosquito-infested swamp. There was no filming, it was all about survival at that point. I had, naively, thought I would be fine in a bivy/tarp setup. Thankfully, @yosimo_costumes let me stay in her tent with her. I wouldn’t be here if not for her. There were. So. Many. Mosquitoes.

🚣‍♂️ Paddling back home was easy. We went into the “Schleuse” (aka boat elevator, aka “boat lock” according to dict.cc) and were greeted by the most friendly Boat Elevator operator I’ve ever met. He gave us maps to explore the area and threw candy at us. 10/10 Boat Elevator experience.

🦆 We made ducks choose between the food we would feed them. Being stuck between two good choices made them very angry and leave us. Ducks are weird.

🔥 Conclusion: It was fantastic, BUT: Floaty McFloatface was loaded with too much gear! Not great for any emergency situation that would require a quick response. Speaking of quick: One is not quick with a film team tagging behind. 😀 While I was done packing up the raft after 10ish min, the others needed at least a good hour. In terms of the expedition, we’d need to find a way for me to disentangle myself (mentally and physically) from the team and just leave when I’m ready.

Or maybe Roy just gets up two hours earlier than me. 😏 Well – we got 7 more weeks to sort this out.

Yup, that’s right – the expedition shifted. New starting date:

🔥15.07.2022.🔥

*GULP*

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