Two European kayakers made their way from Vancouver Island, through the Inside Passage and landed in Haines last week offering locals a special, musical treat along with striking tales of the trip thus far. Next stop? Dawson City.
Katharina Guhlmann and Milan Pachlopnik landed in Vancouver at the end of May with a used, collapsible Clipper tandem kayak they bought from eBay, but not much else. I’d say they had a well thought out, detailed plan, but they didn’t really have that either. What they did have was time, gumption and a violin. The pair of longtime friends, Guhlmann from Germany and Pachlopnik from the Czech Republic, have traveled the world together. On this trip they have kayaked from Vancouver, up the BC coast and through the Inside Passage on their way to Dawson City, Yukon. Along the way, they stopped to camp out in the wilds of Canada and Alaska and visited communities to resupply and share Guhlmann’s musical talent.
“We like to be outside and travel the way, like, slow by foot, by canoe, kayak, by bicycle through the nature, through the untouched landscape and as I am a violinist I always wondered how I can bring those things together; my passion for the nature this kind of travel and the art, the playing, so it happened that I just take my violin with me,” Guhlmann said.
Guhlmann has been playing and studying the violin since the age of six. And while she is classically trained, she has found a love for improvising. She plays wherever here wanderlust takes her and with whomever she meets. She says while in the kayak or camped ashore, she hasn’t been playing ‑ no serenading bears and otters for her. But once the duo reaches a town or village, she’s eager to share her craft.
“ And this trip, it came beautifully together that the concerts were possible in the communities, in Wrangell and in Petersburg, two little communities that we passed by, and in Juneau and now here. People were very, very thankful,” she said.
The kayak trip was longtime dream of Pachlopnik’s and has offered both of them the chance to test themselves mentally and physically. And while there have been many challenges, the pair agrees that it’s usually the adversities that become the highlights.
“There’s always something that’s always alive around, there’s no boredom. There are birds around, there are trees around, there’s wind, waves and everything feels very friendly,” he said.
He says the peace and serenity they have found on their journey so far is something that we were all meant to experience in some way or another. He says that the balance of being completely isolated and then dropping into towns filled with people was tough at first, but like the backaches and blisters he learned over the weeks to embrace it all.
“Everything was so overwhelming, but then when we started to get ready to concert, and the concerts happened, it was so wonderful to be with people on the level of sharing something and to see that people like nature the same way, they just have a different approach, of course but that doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter at all. And it’s the same thing, what was the challenge, turned to be the best,” he said.
Ghulmann agrees that when you really stop to listen to the world around you, you become intrinsically intertwined.
“To have these feelings and then you honor, honor these so small things to be overlooked. You honor a tree that’s next to tent because (it’s) a good feeling, it’s protecting,” she said.
Despite lots of rain in Alaska and one three-day stint where they had to hunker down because of gale-force winds, they’ve been happy with the weather and ecstatic with the trip as a whole.
Ghulmann has performed in several Southeast communities and is hoping for shows in Whitehorse and Dawson, too. It doesn’t matter where she plays, either, whether in a church, a bar, on a street corner or at Lookout Park on a Friday morning.