Sunday, 15 August 2010

Messing About In Boats

A flash of lightning rents the sky followed seconds later by a crash of booming rolling thunder as walls of superheated air slam together in the heavens. The rain is torrential making the surface of the river come alive with ten thousand dancing sprites. Sitting in the canoes as our little caravan paddles down the river we curse our luck that we have driven 800 miles and found the very same rain we had hoped to leave in the UK. Still I love the primeval nature of a thunderstorm; the way it displays the forces of nature so vividly and makes me feel more connected to a landscape when I'm sat in the middle of it
"I think they go this way up"

Today is our fist day on the river, getting used to our canoes and vainly struggling to paddle them in a straight line. The plan is to spend six days paddling along the Dordogne between Argentat and Vitrac, a distance of 110km camping each night and enjoying to local cheese, wine, and plenty of banter. Like all good plans we jump straight in at the deep end with day one as the biggest day; 27km to cover before we reach landfall in Beaulieu.

Thousands of Dancing Sprites

The rivers meanders it's was through green woodlands interspersed with fields of rape and grass. The paddling itself is nothing technical, mostly flat water with the occasional small rapids to negotiate which add a bit of spice the journey and a bit of water to the interior of the canoe. You could probably sit a kayak on top of some of the bigger features and I kind of regret not bringing mine along although paddling these distances in my white water boat would have been very tiring.

Once the rain slows the water is brilliantly clear and we spot fish darting about trying to keep within the shadow of the canoe. The river begins to steam in the humidity and Swallows appear from the trees darting and skimming just above the water buzzing the boat like aeroplanes as they feed on the insects that hover just above the surface. Brilliant cobalt blue dragon flies hover along side us on incredibly delicate gossamer thin wings. Rafting up together it's incredibly tranquil and relaxing just drifting along with the current feet trailing in the water.


save the drama till the end of the day when paddling into Beaulieu we have to negotiate a small canoe slide just before the pull out. When Gina and Chris come down the shoot they get caught by the stopper at the base this spins them through 90 degrees into the bank and then bounces them out into mid stream. Unfortunately before they can get the canoe straightened the current takes it into the support for a bridge over the river causing the boat to flip over and capsize.

I attempt to spring into rescue mode by completely failing to paddle upstream against the current and nearly capsize my own boat which I now realise is dangerously full of rain water. Fortunately the others are much more organised in effecting a rescue getting the guys and their boat to the shore and helping get it drained.

Once at the campsite we then realise we have made a serious mistake, our luggage hasn't yet arrived and were sat in wet clothes having not thought to take a spare set with up on the boats (because it's hot in the south of France in summer, No?). Copious amounts of tea, and strongly alcoholic coffee go some way to improving the situation although we are very happy when about an hour later our kit arrives and we can jump in the shower and warm ourselves up properly.
Overkill; Four season mountain tent for summer in the south of France

One Day down, cant wait till tomorrow!

We travelled with Copeyre who supplied the boats, dry containers and ran the luggage between campsites. Also included in the price are tents and mattresses. Cost was 87 euros pp and was a bargain!

1 comment:

  1. Excellente!!! Was great fun, when should we expect the other days reports!? I saw the pictures on Picasa at Jims, but I dont have the link myself. Great pictures of me and Gina "arguing" after I accidently threw a frizbee at her head! Very sneaky getting those pictures!!!