Maciej and his friend Stanislaw Knapowski took part in the Il Carnevale Di VeneziaEvery year approximetely 3 million people participate in the Venetian Carnival. However, they did while sitting in their packraft.

Maciej is a Polish cayak instructor and also a bushcraft and scout instructor. He also won (2nd prize) on a worldwide blog competition and got the 2nd prize in a Polish photo competition for students, Discover Europe.

Marciey is planning much more such trips - till May for several Polish rivers and then heading to Danube Delta in Romania and finally travel to Panama with the packraft in his backpack. Stay tuned!

by Maciej Tomkowiak, Poland

Saturday, 27 of January. Today at 18:00 will begin the night parade through the canals, officially starting the Venetian carnival. Masks are displayed everywhere on the streets. Real, Venetian, for 80 euros, looking at you with empty eyes from behind the windows of the shops decorated with the brightly Christmas lights (the same are also used to illuminate Venice during Il Carnevale), as well as Chinese masks, quite decent, sold on street stands for 5 euros. Crowds are marching around Venice.
Among them, attention is paid to a group of men dressed in one-piece pyjamas as pink panthers with long tails, Jedi in long coats, with glowing swords in hands and pirates, whom we meet again a day later in the middle of the Grand Canal, where they will prepare their pirate gondola to participate in the Carnival Parade. In the crowd one can also notice two Polish guys who are going their way through the pits, carrying an inflated packraft on their shoulders - Anfibio Delta MX, very light, only 1.7 kg, pontoon, which can be rolled up to the size of a middle sleeping bag. We are heading towards the nearest bridge to launch our urban packrafting trip across Venice.

After travel with a truck driver from Szczecin, Poland, to Mantua, Italy, I've met with Stanisław in our common friend's apartment. We've heard that paddling on the lake in the winter, in Mantua at night, is probably forbidden. Because nobody does it. So we went to try the packraft on a nearby lake, before we have highlighted it with flashlights, for a better effect. During the march through the old town we were accompanied by a group of Italian students, probably counting on some show. We were cheered up by an exclamation and an Italian gesture of respect made by an old man who came out from the passed cafe to shake our hands.

La Serenissima Venezia
On Friday morning we hitchhiked to the subburbs of Venice, where we took the train to the Santa Lucia station. We had the accommodation arranged by Couchsurfing in the center of L'Arsenale, in a district whose canals unfortunately lead to the open, ugly water full of vaporetto (water trams), and cruise ships, or to the military zone, where the gondola, motorboat and pontoon are blocked with a steel mesh (we had no doubts that our urethane nylon Anfibio Delta MX packraft was able to withstand a collision with a steel mesh, but the fearsome snipers in the Arsenal aroused our fears).

Fogged canal leading to the military zone. In the mist there were lurking snipers waiting for someone to flow in the pontoon through steel wires and chains fixed under the bridge. On the first day we limited ourselves just to sightseeing.

Urban packrafting 
"Ma sei pazzo ..." - our host briefly acknowledged when he saw us unpacking the folded Anfibio Delta MX from a 30-liter backpack and assembling 2 canoe paddles from individual parts of Anfibio Vertex Multi. A few minutes of catching an air with a special bag connected to a pontoon, a few deeper breaths at the end and we have already had a small 2-person pontoon - the best (and the cheapest) means of transport in Venice.

Launching our trip was undoubtedly hindered by slimy stairs – we really didn't want to fall into the azure waters of the Venetian canals.

We began to paddle along the outer walls of the Arsenal, making the first maneuver of swimming past the motorboat - successfully completed! Motorboat slowed especially before us, so as not to create too large waves, and the Venetian returning home to eat pranzo nodded friendly to us.

The weather was not good for us and the canals in the Arsenal together with the side canals in San Marco district were not particularly representative. So we decided to start at the store, buy pranzo and go, of course with the Anfibio Delta MX on our shoulders and with paddles in our hands, through thousands of disguised people crowded in the narrow streets of Venice. Anfibio Delta MX is just around 1,7kg, so it was easy to transport it. Unfortunately, in reality, the masquerades were not too much, only sometimes on our way we met noblemen, court ladies, old Jedi knights or men dressed in pajamas as pink panthers.

After I went out Stach fastly assembled Anfibio Vertex into the one normal cayak paddle and parked our vehicle behind the motorboat.

We re-embarked in the former Jewish ghetto. The movement there was much bigger. We were passing by Venetians in motorboats, ships transporting goods to shops, police and water ambulances. As again it was not, at least on the channels, a representative part of the city, we didn't pass the gondolas with tourists very much. The people themselves were very polite, they let us in, they were helping and informing us when we could get rapidly through the wider canals in order not to be pierced by the sharp prows of other vessels.

We avoided the Grand Canal like fire, unless huge vaporetto, water trams, or speeding water taxis didn't cut us off, or rather say crushed us, we would probably be flooded by waves created by the above-mentioned units.

We skipped the night light show because of the faces of stressed policemen, trying to stop tens of thousands of people, including hundreds of masqueraders, from getting to the spectacle. The bridges were surrounded by banners so that no one could get down on their edge and fight with the Narcissus sword (selfie-stick), pushing his predecessors straight into the embrace of Venetian abyss.

The Carnival Parade 
But the next morning, slightly stressed, but supported by the loud applause of gondoliers and disguises, who at the sight of pumping Anfibio surrounded us, jumping happily in their gondolas, we bravely crossed the entire Canal Grande. Through the high waves, avoiding motor boats and sharp prows of the gondola we have paddled all the way to the "barca rossa" for registration. The ship was moored on the other side of the canal. When we opened our eyes, it turned out that we are standing in the middle of the gondola queue, among the schocked and laughing people.

Unfortunately, at the very beginning of the parade, the Venetian police told us to paddle away from the Grand Canal. And just like the hobbits, there and back again, we paddled back to the San Marco district, escorted by the police all the way. However, the police had to wait a while before we moved meekly our packraft under the whip of power, because Stanisław was already starting to disassemble my canoe paddle, in my hands the bag was untwisted, already in Stanisławs hands instead of two paddles there was one Anfibio paddle, and I switched on the Chinese webcam with my trembling hands.

The rest of the day, however, seemed great. The sun came out, and ours, already practiced by crossing waves and passing by gondolas, rowing skills were enough to spend some time in the representative, social galleries of San Marco. Along our way, renaissance churches, renewed and painted entrance to restaurants and the embassy of Thailand. From time to time we had some special, let's say VIPs, viewpoints for the parade.

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