Marshy feelings from Croatia

Early in the morning I got out of the car, wrapped the camera loop around my neck and imagined that I am now ready for the work. Sun has not yet risen up from behind the mountains around us and early morning feels little bit cool on the skin. An hour or two, and everything will be different anyway.

I thought I came to this trip to photograph and in the beginning I just followed from the side when our men worked. It is frustrating – I would like to be part of the team, to understand how vessel works and get serious about the work, not just watch from the side. My dream comes true much quicker than I thought. I move from behind the camera to the back of the vessel, to work with the plants. Later I get the opportunity to rise the sacks full of plants from the swamp. Heavy work together makes me very, very happy.

When the sun wakes up, temperature rises soon to over 27 degrees. We, the team of the vessel, sigh of happiness: we have the warmth of the sun, great views around us and a great team. New day begins again perfectly, in the middle of the reeds.

Our working place, Jezero Kuti, has been earlier as a lake, but is slowly becoming as a swamp. The brushwood of the common reed rises up on the both sides of our vessel and behind them is dense marshes and finally the mountains. The happy songs of the birds can be heard somewhere behind the plants – they are happy to live on the conservation area. Between the reeds goes channels, which are just suitable for our vessel, although sometimes we have to cut some branches to not get stuck. One of the channels leads to a pond, which water used to be clear – now it is quite full of the twoleaf watermilfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) and the large-flowered waterweed (Egeria densa). Among the plants are living eels and frogs, which are also served as a food in the nearby restaurant.

Our vessel gets finally in the real action, as also we, the crew of it. One sack after another fills with plants and at best we change the sack every 20 meters. Here would be so much work to do, but for us this is by far as a test and we will continue the work later. Locals who live next to the pond are clearly happy that we are here. They offer us coffee and cake and the work is closely followed by. There is no common language for us, but it doesn´t matter –  luckily some words of Russian help a little.

The days are long and work at vessel heavy, but it is so wonderful to get to the real work, from behind the computer. The results of the work can be seen immediately and it gives motivation, among other things. We all smell as swamp, but it is just part of the work. In the last day we clean the official test-area, which client wants to be as free from the plants as possible. There are three of us on board again, so I have time to look around me. Places, which we have already cleaned, look totally different than earlier. During the last hours, turquoise glittering feathers can be seen among the vegetation – my favourite bird the common kingfisher rises on its wings from the shelters of the swamp. I smile happily. It is so great to be on the world again, in the middle of nature, doing something really useful. I wouldn´t rather be anywhere else than here right now.

Katja Vaulio

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