10th August: A perfect paddle

We both agreed that today’s paddle was our best ever. It even beats the sea paddles when I’ve seen seals and caves, I think! We thought we’d missed the opportunity because when I woke and looked at the clock it was 9.48 and we’d agreed to leave at 10.00. John got dressed and dashed to see Dan. Luckily they were running late too, and so were the others who were joining the trip.

Once again, I was very nervous about paddling. It should have been easier because I’d already done the first half of the trip earlier in the holiday, but somehow knowing what was to come made me apprehensive. However, with some tips from Rod who’d joined us, and with Dan watching to make sure I was ok, I soon settled down and started enjoying myself.

I got out and dragged my boat around the Rabioux rapid, the hardest part of the trip, and was glad I’d wimped out when I found John had had a swim, even though he’d negotiated it successfully last time. We’d previously got out here but we were doing a longer trip today.

After this point the waves got bigger and there were a couple of long rapids where I felt as though I was battling to keep my boat going where I wanted it to. I started to worry that this section was going to be difficult all the way, with few sections to relax and recover. We pulled into an eddy but I ended up stuck on top of a rock and was panicking about being washed off backwards into the waves. John tried to help get me get to somewhere I felt safe but ended up knocking me off the rock and causing a meltdown! He suggested to Dan that we stopped for a bite to eat, but really meant a stop for me to calm down!

The break did help. Dan was surprised when I said I was quite tense through the big rapids, because I looked relaxed and appeared to be dealing with them well. It was good to hear that, and I felt much better when we got back on the river. Luckily, although there were still plenty of rapids, they either weren’t as big or weren’t as long and, apart from the odd expletive, I coped well, with some guidance from Dan. In fact, I was amazed to realise that I was really very relaxed on the smaller rapids, which was quite a change from the previous paddle.

As we neared the get out point, there was one last surprise. As we turned a corner and went under a bridge, there was another big rapid. As we approached, Dan remembered what it was like but didn’t tell me, knowing I’d just worry, and I sat up, paddled hard and bounced through it. No problem! I was very surprised to have paddled nearly 20k on the most difficult river I’ve done so far, with no swims. What a great paddle through stunning scenery, under a bright blue sky. A big thank you to Dan. This holiday and this paddle wouldn’t have happened without him asking us along and watching out for us.

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