Our Journeys End: The Final Days of Raft Life

Last week saw our crew of piratas hit a weir we could not cross, and our journey came to its end. Time on our visas was ticking away, our crew numbers were fewer, and physical and mental exhaustion began to take its toll – so we could feel that the end was near. In fact the end was weir..

ImageSince Helena’s last update when she left us in Gelsa, we rowed on to La Zaida. This was a huge day, we traveled over 10km and crossed three weirs. For the first time, darkness fell while we were still on the river  just as we were docking up.

The next pueblo (village) we hit was Cinco Olivas. We paddled to a spot just before the village, here a large weir beside an old water mill stopped us. We decided to sleep on it, move the rafts over the weir the next day and walk to the other side of town to set up camp.

Cinco Olivas is very small, there are only 2 businesses present, plus a van that visits some mornings to sell fresh bread. The old bar is now home to a doctors office and the local piscina (swimming pool), like other towns we’ve been to, is the place to be.

Here we found a freedom campers oasis, an embarcadero with running water, several  picnic tables, and nice smooth cement. Some pirates had had enough camping on spikey ground and took the oppotunity to pitch their tents on the cement to enjoy a flat surface to sleep on, even if it’s a bit hard and cold! Cinco Olivas has an out of date information board that informs us that its population is 115 people, though the locals tell us these days the population is more like 70 or 80.


Camp was set up and our performance crew were straight on the road to nearby town, Alborge, where they performed a fire spectacular at the town’s fiesta – right before the fireworks.

We settled in to be in Cinco Olivas for a few days as we had a couple of performances to do – one in Alborge on our first night, and another at the local pool in Cinco Olivas a couple of nights later.

Well rested, we returned to where our rafts are tied up to shift them over the weir by the old water mill. We lowered the rafts down the only navigable spot on the weir; a fast flowing old sluice gate complete with three small waterfalls! Rolf took great enjoyment in getting to ride down the weir in one of the rafts.


On August 13th we performed our show at the Cinco Olivas swimming pool. We didn’t know that a weir would soon stand in our way and that this would in fact be our last show of the trip. It was a great show to go out on. In a town with a population of 70 or 80 people, a crowd of almost 60 people at out show was an impressive feat. The town seemed like a ghost town when we first arrived and when we left it had become a thriving town full of life – the locals had caught pirate fever. As we had seen in the other towns before Cinco Olivas, todos personas = muy amable. All the people were so very kind and we were showered with donations of food and money from the people of Alborge and Cinco. We never asked for this, expected or needed it; but we sure were grateful. Included in the donations were the biggest onions I have seen in my life.  Our show in Cinco fell on my (Feather’s) birthday and the locals showered me in gifts of traditional food and drink. The plate of pigs intestines (surprisingly yummy!) and shots of traditional Basque cider brought tears to my eyes as much as the overwhelming kindness of the rest of the Junk Raft crew and the village people did. Little kids were crying too, screaming that they didn’t want to go home and that they wanted to come with the pirates.

There’s no main highway there, no people passing through and it isn’t a holiday destination for tourists. For many of the people in these towns they’ve never seen anything like this motley crew of pirates or the show we put on. It means a lot to be able to expose the kids to alternative lifestyles and new forms of entertainment; and it means so much more to be so warmly welcomed in to such tight knit communities.

We moved on from Cinco Olivas and over the course of a couple of days we rowed to Sastago, crossing our most extreme weir yet. To do this involved clearing a path at a section of the weir using just our pocket knives, a series of ropes, carabiners, anchors and strength! It was slightly hair raising at times but seriously fun and a memorable moment in our journey!


When we arrived in Sastago we were faced with yet another a weir, however this one was over 1km long with no point at which we could cross. And so our pirate journey came to an end. In the words of Capitana Mondo “Looks like wier 9 won the battle and is nigh impossible to pass. After navigating the Ebro for one month it appears our junk raft river travels are over….for now.

We have had a blast, met some amazing people, performed, loved, cried, fought, laughed, hugged, swam, banged, bruised, sang, danced, rode rapids, paddled, paddled, paddled, ate and hopefully changed some mindsets long the way.

Thank you so much for all your support and love. We will keep you posted on project strike and future endeavours under the Junk Raft Network. “

La Vida Pirata es La Vida Mejor.

It’s been an honour to be part of this crew, thanks for having me on board!

xx Feather

Raft Life



this is weir(d)

This will be my last post as the “official blogger” for the JRA. Yesterday I packed my bags and Rory and I hitched from Gelsa to Barcelona where my new adventure starts. However, the amazing Armada crew is still on the Rio and steadily making way towards their destination.

It has been a fantastic month and I enjoyed the time I spent on the water and with the crew immensely. It feels strange to be clean and fresh and working from a “real table”…

In my last post I would like to pay homage to my homies and all the incredible moments I experienced with them.

Crazy personalities from all over the globe, all with a passion and a vision that has inspired people all along our way. I am proud to say I served on your crew and I will tell the stories of the JRA for many years to come. I wish you good luck on the river ahead and wish I could cruise further down stream with you, but Europe calls and I have to answer.

On my last day on the Rio we had to negotiate a weir, Louw (my super brother) and the team did a fantastic job and we made it look easy carrying and rigging three home made junk rafts over a pretty big weir. On Saturday while we were hitching they had to go over FOUR weirs, and although I have not yet heard from them I am sure it went well (no news is good news right?)


Imageso this is Helena signing out as online captain.

Go well my dirty 21st century hippie friends. I LOVE AND RESPECT YOU FOR EVER!

Big in Spain

We are (in)famous. Nice article in the El Periodico de Aragon on Sunday.

click here to read it (in Spanish).Image

We are very happy they contacted our friends in El Burgo and it is nice to hear their kind words (about the 21st century pirates…). 

We are also delighted to report that the generosity and support has indeed followed us around… 

Smooth sailing

It feels to us at the moment like the towns along the Ebro are competing to see who can spoil and support us the most.

We have only been outside Quinto de Ebro for about 15 hours and already we have had visitors with beer, chips, beet, mint, eggs, pastries, cake, apple pie, coffee, bread and lots of love.

Yesterday we set off from Fuentes where we performed and walked away with boxes of meet, cheese, bread, fruit, cola and yes, BEER.

We are regrouping in our lovely camp site outside Quito waiting for some new and old crew members to join us, planning our next performance (in Quinto tomorrow night) and attempting to eat everything we have been donated.

As burners we are all accustomed to hospitality and being treated well while travelling but the generosity of the Spaniards we have met has truly blown us all away.

(internet connection too dodgy to upload pictures at the moment, please try again later…)




Muchos Gracias El Burgo

We had the most amazing blessed time in El Burgo de Ebro.

It is hard to describe our gratitude to a town that showed us soooo much hospitality and support.

From free sandwiches and beers at the social center (where we met Suzanna who became our local hero and nr1 fan all in one) to the numerous locals who showed up at our camping site with fruit, veg, beer and more as well as the Sport Center that helped us put on a performance and borrowed us their sound, projection and lighting equipment (and allowed us to take numerous showers)… we just have no words.

Oh, and on Thursday when we needed to navigate the weir the local council sent a truck, two workers and the local representative to come help us move the rafts and take on the next few miles.




We are on the river!

Feel it, it is here!IMG_0795

After three days of rafting and finding our pirate legs we are currently camped outside of the first town on our journey, El Burgo de Ebro.IMG_0881


IMG_0937The locals have been amazingly receptive and the Deputy Mayor came to visit and showed us where we can (legally) camp next to a lake and in real shade (trees, such luxury!). Here we have settled in and are regrouping and re-organising ourselves.

While a few pirates went off to EJC (European Juggling Convention in France) some of us pack food boxes for our days on the river away from the van and others are sorting out Mohamed (tires, again and the side door lock, luckily Rascal is an amateur locksmith) and another few headed down river to scout the weir and journey ahead.

We have been invited to perform (in exchange for dinner) at the local social center, to take free showers at the sports center and to go for horse rides. People have popped in to our camp site to bring us local produce like onions, cherries, cheese and other fun home grown things…IMG_0950

IMG_0969Being on the Ebro is everything we have dreamed of in the last few months.

Watching the full moon rise through the trees on the opposite bank while sharing food with new friends; our first lunch/siesta stop under a bridge, napping on the rafts and testing the poo canoes; mixing cocktails (from ingredients donated by our friends after Nowhere) on the fish boat while we drift down stream in the last sunshine of the day; seeing the vast amounts of pollution and knowing we are trying to make a difference somehow; seeing the smiles on the faces of local (kids) who see our rafts and realise that we are “real life pirates”; meeting the local police and seeing their confused approval and so many more beautiful moments.IMG_0974




P1160867I am trying not to mention the hundreds of mosquito bites; the heat of the sun when there is no shade on the rafts; the group dynamics and the dehydration that causes tension, cause, well, you don’t need to know that it is tough sometimes.

We’re just going with the flow.