Yes. Yes it is stupid to go on a kayaking trip in late November with nothing to keep you either warm or dry. As wonderful as club wetsuits are, they’re not fantastic if there’s a massive rip on the backside. So mistake number one was really just agreeing to go at all.
Bearing in mind the outcome of the trip, I would call the first day a success. We arrived at around 2am and did the sensible thing and went to bed. This still didn’t leave me with a lot of sleep, since I decided that the words ‘morning mission’ were enticing enough to wake up at 6.30 and go do something with five people who actually knew what they were doing. ‘Something’ entailed getting cold while getting changed and then remaining cold while paddling and becoming colder than cold while waiting for the shuttle. The river Kent was objectively fun, but had me terrified approximately twice. First I went down part of a rapid backwards…again (See trip gone good), but this time managed to survive. Then I listened carefully to the words ‘go down the left’ and promptly went down the middle.
Reasons along the lines of being parked in and not finding a lift left us shivering for 45 minutes, during which I was becoming more and more enticed by the idea of giving up and getting changed the second the bus arrived. When it did decide to grace us with its presence, I decided to man up and tough it out until later, but then the clumsy tall one broke the back window and I happily entered the land of dry clothing.
The next river of the day, the Crake, had exactly one advantage: it ended at the hut. It was described as boring and covered it trees, so I opted to do some of the dishes, write my German coursework and then make a nest out of chairs and everyone’s sleeping bags. There was a feature towards the end that I may have been interested in running, but then I went out to look at it and opted for sleep. Good choice. Obviously I missed everything, but I heard tales of wonderful trees and people getting stuck in them.
That evening seemed to be considerably less sensible, as we played a few casual drinking games, ate dinner and played with the glass from the minibus window. It turned out to be more sensible than the previous, as phrases such as ‘it’s getting late’ were being thrown around before 10pm.
My wakeup call consisted of an odd silhouette whispering the now hated words of ‘morning mission’. For the first time since we left, I was warm and comfortable, so that was a firm no. I’d heard some good stories about the Leven and Backbarrow Bridge, so I probably should have done it, but I decided to do the club run instead. Massive mistake number 2. There was no club run. There was another hard run, which began with the two most experienced paddlers running an extreme rapid on a trib, getting stuck on rocks and all that joy.
The three lesser experienced of us joined in at the actual river (NB: only 5 out of 12 people ran this one at all – that says it all). This one was called the Lune and it decided to terrify me.
Unnecessary back story explaining why I was probably terrified: at the pool session three weeks prior, I perfected my roll and paddled around gleaming with joy. Two weeks prior I decided to try rolling on my bad side, hence breaking down the movements into constituent parts and ruining the motor memory that my good roll relied on. The pool session before the trip, I managed to just about get back to a comfortable roll, but I still had the nagging thought that I wouldn’t be able to get up if I needed to.
Back to the Lune. It was objectively not that bad, the waves weren’t that big and the eddies were almost existent. Nonetheless, I tensed up and was not comfortable for a moment. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I followed the tall clumsy one, who didn’t realise I was following him, into holes and went in twice. I failed to roll, almost failed to get T-rescued, failed to breathe and frankly just failed at life. I also almost went down the single grade 4 rapid (constriction) upside down, so by take out, I was ready for a lovely bus ride home. And then it hit the fan.
The bus thought that take out was a bridge down and by the time we got them to us, I was so cold I opted to stand in a nearby port-a-loo. But we can deal with a little extra standing around. Then my shoes mysteriously obtained water, hence refusing to warm my feet. But we can maybe deal with only being mostly warm. Then I got travel sick. We can’t deal with throwing up in the bus. Displaying my love for beans on the steps by the door would have been good enough, but the feeling of relief that tends to come after travel sickness didn’t really happen and I continued to feel icky, even while on the front row and asleep. I honestly don’t know how to describe anything after that other that with the words ‘chunder dragon’. Lovely.
In the end, we decided that the cause of my joyous experience was a combination of not eating or drinking since breakfast, really stressing on the last river, being cold, maybe swallowing some river water or eating with dirty cutlery/hands/-minded company or a knock on the head and all with a layer of travel on top. I was luckily taken care of by the people around me and everyone was lovely, but I am not entering a cold river until I re-learn how to actually roll and buy a dry suit. Lesson learned.
Update: two days later, two more people joined me in the chunder dragon realm. Hmm…