Here is a man, who kayaks not for the glory days, or because of some new gimmick. When you meet Horst Hattinger, you can see the fire in his eyes, the way he talks about life, about adventure, is his way of riding the lightning. English is not his first language, not that this matters – the themes cross language, cross the boundaries of borders. I have tided his written English just a little,but have kept the essence alive. Enjoy.
It seems to me that kayaking is all about exploring not just the river but the area, tell the readers more about your last 2 Tsarap Chu trips?
In the year 2008 I was walking from Lamayuru to Darsha alone,…..I wanted to kayak in the Himalaya, but first I had the project to walk. I kayak since the year 1986, so it is a great passion, it is part of my life, so it is part of my life to be over the gorges in the mountains up there. I was really surprised that one day near Purney I saw down on the river a tent and kayak next by,….from that time I was sure I will be back here in kayak; not only paddling the rafting sections,…
2011 I was again there,..most of the time trekking and getting involved with the local culture, I was again sure that one day I will paddle there and I scouted the Yunnan river,….the river up of Sarchu that goes to Tsarap,…..
I always have the ideas what to do, and then I am just ready when the time is to bring that idea to life,….I am patient, because I have learned that there is no chance in my life to escape; when I once have the idea that I want to do something I will do it. Life tells me when.
In 2016 I wanted to paddle the Seal River in Manitoba,….solo,..I had the idea, then the impulse and then things start making its way in seconds……I was living at that time in a small hut in the northern Alps and in that time Martin my neighbour came to visit me. When he was 12 years old he always watched me rodeo kayaking and one day I asked him “do you wanna kayak”,..”Yes” he said and in the afternoon he was there,…since that time (he is now 20) we are kayaking together and got real friends. “Can I come with you to Canada” he said that evening. “Yes I said” in many other cases I would have said “No”. We talked and checked that there will be one problem; the financial part, cause it is expensive; renting, fly in and out,….so I said: “then Manitoba another time go to Ladakh and paddle Zanskar” Perfect” he said. That was in June 2016 and in the middle of July we where already in Ladakh, I was strict, we did great acclimatisation, and we paddled last year a wonderful trip from the highest place you can get on the river,…the Yunnan,..
Kayaking for me is not only the action, the racing, the sport,…it is like riding a horse, it is traveling and I learned in 6 times Ladakh, that time is on our side there:-) no time to run to hurry; so we got famous cause we where 11 days on a river what some other guys run in 6 and two even in one:-))))
The journey was amazing, we spent time in Phuktal, with locals,..[…],….to learn from the people. An yes it is hard to go slowly; to take your time; cause the whitewater is amazing beautiful; so sometimes we had to force ourselves to go slow, to paddle short days and experience the river also from outside; a river is a place where people live,…even at the Tsarap where people before they where moved to Sarchu cause of water problems,…in Ladakh the field must get water and they had no chance there to bring the water from the river to the villages.
I am really one of the last real oldschoolers,…I don´t use mobilephone on a river, no GPS, f*** this every day getting boring kayaker talks about water levels and river APPs,…Yes I use email and the web, but same as my father used the phone to call his friends for a kayak trip, to communicate if there is no personal chance,..but not to make my trip safe,…..I am safe if I am in the right moment at the right place, when my life brings me to that place, not cause anybody else wants me to go there,..it is only me, that decides; go on the river, get out of the river and go home,….that is it,……
The idea to paddle the whole Tsarap and Zanskar solo in 2017 was born when I was kayaking in Malabar; on the way up to Leh I fixed that idea to a plan; so exactly it took me about 2 weeks from the idea to the realization,…sometimes the time between idea and realization is 20 years; sometimes it is 2 minutes,….I came up, got in shape for altitude, took a bus and started.
For sure I had doubts coming up, but that is brain, mind stuff,…if I/one made the decision to do it I do it,….and if I have to finish I also know it in a moment. In that case I was sure, go on water and get out of the water a few days later. And I know that you are really lonely up there,…really lonely.
What drives you to paddle the way you do?
Kayaking is not a philosophy,…it is a way to live philosophy. In my way my own philosophy. I´m not a kayaker, I´m just a human that uses that piece of plastic,…happy that Hans -we got real good friends – is making Spade kayaks, that are old school way of thinking, cause they don´t fit in the disposable society, not breaking all the time.
With that piece of plastic I go on a journey,…a journey trough landscapes, cultures, a mental journey; and yes it feels fucking good to work your body out, cause we are born to be tired in the evening, not overloaded tired with mind and psycho stuff, but to feel the muscles, yes and then there is still a little bit of -in my case male – search for adventure, adrenalin, proof of man´s stroke.
When I close the spraydeck it is still the same passion I had when i was 6 years old,…and itdoes´t matter if there is a lot of water, low water, if there is a fat action run to do or if it is just the flat Danube. The energy of a river is always there and it can´t be killed even by a dam,…cause the river is stronger but he has time,….:-) but for sure I feel the “fun a river has with himself when he is running free”, in compare to the “sad smelly dam rivers”. What I know for sure is that the river will work on HIS way,…even human try to tame them, make them unwild,…they live on and will do what they have to do…
Do you find peace and solitude a good thing on the river?
To be on a river is always some sort of solitude thing; not if you paddle with a group of “river App messed up Germans” — hahahaha sorry, not personal; and again one thing it is not the bad river map,..it is good idea, but if that thing comes in a “leading” position in my life, for sure I will better take a satellite phone on the river:-) Most of the people are not wise enough to use this as help, they are slaves, it comes reality; yes and it is, but for me the campfire is still more important then the photo of it.
One mistake about me I wrote before; I´m not old school,…I´m present old school. So I don´t cry after laminated kayaks, nor I say everything was better years ago,…cause I say what I am and check what Iintegrate into my reality.
Being alone is as important as being in accompaniment. Life yes always to options,..man and woman, warm and cold, alone and not alone:-). The river is a chance to get away from all the human mental stuff, from all they rays, the Wlan, the mobilephone connections,…to paddle a river away from all that human influences is bringing you a little bit back to what you really are; that´s for sure not a kayaker; though I´m one of the craziest kayaker and hardly anyone in Austria spends as much time like I spend and river and in mountains.
The river is flowing, the blood is flowing the thoughts are flowing,…and I feel human, honest, free from society pressure,..even if it is only for minutes and then something problematic is coming back to my mind, some worry about future,….the river has no worries about the future, the mountain neither, even the dear…and i don´t talk about others, i feel like a man, i feel like i know what i really want, hardly any compromises,…and i definitly prefer sitting in my kayak then in a mac donalds, but i really love to sit in a honest inn after kayaking; trying to get honest food; homemade by an old lady with love and passion; with the same passion i have for the kayaking, the climbing or my trombone.
In any case better alone then with stressed up guys; and if it happens; no problem; I will be back alone, or with a good friend, and my friends have a little idea of what i talk; some if them are still working on it to get it; but that´s fine.
The lonely kayaking on the tsarap is even special for me,….3 days until phuktal i was totally alone,; no one, no connection, not even a chance; yes even my mind had ideas of – “that s shit”. But i know what is happening if you are really alone; your mind creates the problems, the doubts. As long you know that that will happen – no problem – I smile about myself,….close the spraydeck and paddle.
After 3 days i arrived phuktal and i was really happy to see people,…like the hunter coming home in old ages after a long lonely hunting….and it was nice to realize what changes if you paddle alone but a road next by, villages. Cause after Phuktal there is civilization by the river; even the whitewater is wild.
Yes and one thing I want to tell; when i talk about a good kayaker, it is a whole thing; he can paddle alone or in a group, he can lead or just be part of a gang on the river. And even if the new-oldschooler is in a group with a mass of new-newschooler he can (most of the time) enjoy and be what he is, not what they pretend to be:-) And i don´t point with my finger on others, I know exactly my weaknesses.
You are based in Europe – what is the kayak scene like when you grew up? How did you learn?
I grew up kayaking and living outdoor sports like ski touring, hiking or climbing in a time, when there was definitely no internet, no mobilphone and I know that those guys who where in that things at that time, where there on the rivers, they did what they had to do.
I was 6 years old when i got my first self-made laminated kayak from the best friend of my father: Cliff.
He and my father brought me the first time on a floating river; an amazing day I remember, not only cause both of them where swimming and me not.
I never ever heard one sentence about how to do it. I just followed them. They loved the sport and cliff is still kayaking a few times a year with great passion. My father stopped, but he still gets big eyes listening my stories; so he is still into it and will be till he dies.
In that time a kayaker who was able to roll was elite; kayaking was combined with campfire, with the outdoor living spirit, with the beer in the inn home; as a kid I often fall asleep on a campfire listening to the stories of the guys, who where telling the stories of the day on the river. They went to a river, and had not really ideas about the water level; A journey to the verdon was like a journey now for me to the Tsarap; so much things you can´t tell before you definitely are there.
The kayakers around my father where not really good in the way we would call it good today, but they have seen and experienced more then we would think today. Old school: calling a few friends, going to the river and see whats gonna happen; and never forget to talk about it after on a campfire or in an inn, a bar wherever. Kayaktalks, I can´t describe, I would say more rooted, more easy, more out of control but nevertheless safe.
By the way they were never talking about kayaking, they where talking about “Schifferl fahren”; what means “little ship driving”
Yes and I´m not proud cause of the fact, that I experienced most of the development of the kayaking; from the laminated kayaks, to the first 4m plastic ones, to the boats of today, but in some ways it makes me sometimes a little arrogant – especially if some super wise experts – getting on my nerves; with there “material – water level complaining – this kayak is good and that is worth nothing – Talks”. Then I think about the big smile Cliff had in his old Prijon Canyon; a Kayak everybody would name today as an ugly useless piece of plastic.
I think I paddled already 10 years when I first time heared words like “boof”, “waterfall”, or cartwheel; cool but it was just something that was added to the passion; I did not find passion cause of this new techniques, words, movements,….and i´m really happy that there are freestyle kayaks, sorry I prefer rodeo kayaks, cause I prefer good old rodeo then freestyle.
And one thing I know; I prefer paddling the ottawah waves with the rock star, but I would have also fun in an old 4 m boat…..To be on the river itself is the big thing; the rest is in fact incidental. But for sure I would grab a ace of spade if I can choose.
How do you plan a trip?
An idea – the time to make it real —- as little time as possible to get on the river, in the hiking shoes or pack my donkey (I was a few years ago crossing Kyrgistan with a woman and 2 donkeys and 1 : 200 000 paper maps from the russian military). I would say trips people plan for sometimes years I organize in 3 weeks.
Cause i have the years, the routine and I don´t allow my mind to create troubles. I have ideas – as I wrote – for sometimes years. But I hardly ever think about them; cause i know time will be there to do it; and then i have to be fresh and aware.
Yes I also use the new media if I really have an advantage, but I don´t check the weather when I “plan” my weekend. I just pack my kayak stuff into the car:-) I book my flights and then i turn it off.
On the road i talk to people and ask; but most of all i listen to what i have to do.
No finishes products on the river, on the peak, no time if not needed, no GPS but maps, no Mobilphone;….Yes i know people get angry if i say i don´t bring it on the river; and I think in a mixed up group it can make sense and probably in times, when i don´t feel myself:-) I don´t want to abuse it for back up,…but of course mistakes can happen and so for me – no — for others or when I can`t concentrate cause the others are so overloaded and i´m not fit enough to keep going and listening to my inner voice.
And i´m aware of the fact that you can die out there, as you can die driving your car to the thing out there….
What about the Balkan tour you were on that?
I got to know Rok last year and he inspired me, or better he brought an old fire to fire again. In his car I found 20 of paper maps, new – old school; he is an amazing guy. With the years I covered some idealism; cause I realized that a big part of the kayak scene sees kayaking as a sport, not as a whole thing.
I was paddling with him a few days and i was not really part of the balkan tour; but on the other hand i´m sure i did my job there; It was amazing to paddle with him; really the way I like to be out, no complaining about flat water, about low water, about food,….being out there and live it….
I got really good friends there in that region and it is part of my assignment to support the telling of truth. Hydroelectric is a big lie; these big dam projects are nothing but mafia actions in a green cloth,…..i tell people, i wrote also mails, yes i use my voice to tell the truth and it takes energy,…..but it´s fine and i can´t hide … especially after I realized, that there are still guys like me on water
Big thx to Rok for being a friend and human – kayaker…..he knows like I know that being in a kayak itself is a big gift by the universe….
I´m not against new media, not against getting connected trough the www, not against water level apps; not against using GPS if really needed; it´s fine to use the www for advertising a kayak school, to share stories like that; i love electronic music and all these things are nice little tools, features, games,…but nothing more.
For sure it makes sense to check the avalanche report before making a ski tour; but still it is more important to know how to behave out there. And first of all i trust myself out there….
If i see people getting angry cause there is no WiWire in Leh, it just makes me surprised. If i hear kayakers being angry on the river cause the water level is not the way they wonna have it, i think it is respectless against all people suffering, starving on this planet.
To be able to kayak is at itself a big gift of life; and for sure there are days when things go wrong, a swim, a broken kayak, a bad day at work,…but most of the time i keep in mind, that it is great to be on water, on mountain; and for heaven´s sake i´m not a big fan of this “everything is positive thinking”. If i got an opinion, MY opinion, there are things i can´t support.
In the book Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East – Baird T. Spalding writes about his travels to Tibet and North India in the late 1800s. He cites one great Master from the Himalaya explaining, that human are born “perfect” and that in future people especially in the west would unlearn to communicate properly; and therefore they will have “machines”:-) I was really smiling to read that. Especially after more then 10 month traveling in ladakh, learning from the people there.
And yes one more time; not the new media is bad; people are to weak to use it rightly and i don´t point on others. I just know it and can also catch myself…..
The “perfect” kayaker is at the right time on the right river, like the surfer knows when the best wave ist there; the good jazzer plays the right tone at the right moment and the wise shepherd knows when it is time to bring his sheeps home; without asking someone or something else; And we are ALL human and it´s fucking normal to make mistakes; but i for myself try to be myself and not a slave of anybody or anything else as often as possible; yes and there is also collective thinking and movement in the Kayak scene:-) not only among the soccer players:-) the longer you are doing it the more movements you experience; and those who are kayaking without real passion suddenly disappear; some stop kayaking hard whitewater but their eyes are still shining when they just talk about or walk by the river:-)
Interviewer: Daz Clarkson-King