Hell Tunnels and Hangovers

The boot of the car was already full when Lynds picked Alice up...that meant the back seat was then filled! Did we really need all this for a weekend in Anglesey, well no since we were actually off to Reading. Simon, having possibly decided Rach, Alice and Lynds would probably drown (or be put off sea kayaking for life), sent a very brief email about what was now in store! Had they known a rotten hang over, abominable reeds, a man in waders and real tunnels of doom were awaiting...they may have decided to stick with giant waves!!

On arriving at the hut, Simon, Alice and lynds were greeted by Rach...who was occupying her time with frog hunting and chatting up scouts! We loaded Simon's 'Mary Poppins-esk' car with ALL our bags and food! We were shown how to load the sea kayaks on the car and all 'helped' tie them on! Simon convinced Rach and Alice that to check they were tied on securely enough, you had to be able to lift the car by the kayaks!! I'll say no more ;-)

It didn't take long before we were pulling up outside Kieran's house. After literally two minutes of dumping our stuff on Kieran's living room floor, the wine and beer started flowing and our paddle to a pub was replaced with: please see pictures below!!!

Hangover Hell Day

Oh we were not the prettiest of sights! Flashbacks to scoffing down an Indian/chips, Alice interrogating the poor guy serving us about if he missed his family back in Pakistan and getting his poorly eye looked at and Kieran making sure we hadn't lost his hats!! It took a while to get us all going (apart from Kieran who could probably take on the Energizer Bunny, win - and then jog somewhere for the fun of it!!!!) after a hearty full English breakie we were pretty much ready for our first paddle of the weekend! Kieran had completed the shuttle by the time we had eaten so all we had to do was find somewhere to launch! What better place than a church! So with bells chiming, Kieran was on the water before anyone realised and Lynds was first to perform a very slow seal launch (screeching at Simon not to push her too fast or backwards!!) onto an off shoot of the River Loddon.

Once we were all on the water it wasn't long (about 30seconds) before we hit our first weir. Then it was into the wilderness! Oh nature, how lovely you are to look at but please get out of my hair and off my spray deck! Under, through and around branches, into, reversing out of again and mowing down reeds...not to mention Rach and Alice being shouted at by a mad man in waders, a JCB digger trying to eat Rach, and Lynds just crashing in to branches/reeds/kayaks. Simon and Kieran stayed very composed, kept their patience with us and helped (most of the time) get us through the foliage! A machete would have been a great help though...especially when Alice got majorly stuck in some reeds! At one point she considered getting out and trying to walk over/through them somehow....however eventually, after shouts of encouragement from the rest of us (about 20 minutes and a few giggles later) she managed to escape. Kieran told us we could stop in at the nearby pub which was 15 minutes away before continuing on to our shuttle point (that was about another 2 hours paddle) - so an hour or so later we made it to the 'nearby' pub - l should add that this was largely due to the amount of time we spent trying to get through the fallen trees/reeds etc..We were extremely happy to make it to the pub and couldn't wait to dig into some food and a well earned glass of wine! Lynds recognised the pub and since her parents live 5 minutes from it, called in Daddy dearest for a lift to pick up the shuttle car (that saved another 2 hours paddling and a spot of jogging for Kieran). The three ladies were shattered after the day's paddle and were slightly concerned Kieran was going to drag them out partying again - thankfully we got pizza in and made a feeble effort at drinking.

The Holybrook Hell Tunnels

A traumatic experience -we woke up feeling refreshed and eager for another days paddle (this is an exaggeration)...after another hearty breakfast we were off to our launch point. This time we got on at the Thames and had a very nice paddle gawping at the very posh houses lining the riverbank. Lynds was extremely jealous when Rach pointed out a helicopter in the garden of one of them! Alice was full steam ahead and led the way, Lynds discovered how wonderful the skeg is and Rach happily tootled along dodging Swans...we left Simon and Kieran behind (for once) but knew we didn't have to worry about them, especially since we could clearly hear Kieran yammering away.

We eventually came to a lock and actually got to go through it! This was quite exciting for Lynds, mainly because it meant she didn't have to get out of the kayak. Once we were out of the lock we headed for the Holybrook Stream that goes directly underneath the Oracle/Holybrook shopping centre and car park. This was certainly (as Jen would put it) 'Urban Kayaking'! It started off fine, there was quite a current to contend with but the water wasn't very deep so there were a few times some of us (all of us except Simon who refused to be beaten) had to get out and drag the Kayaks along. It was at times quite a battle with the current and if you lost your grip (the paddles became more like punt poles) you were soon floating off backwards! Rach managed to discreetly bash herself in the face with her paddle, Kieran took a chunk out of his, Lynds managed to capsize in shallow water (you had to limbo through the tunnel and literally had your face almost touching the ceiling of it - the only way to fit was to practically lie down in the kayak and use your hands to guide you through - balance isn't Lynds' strong point), Alice could be heard telling Simon to wait up (especially since he had the only head torch and it was dark in most of the tunnels), Simon was having fun climbing up a manhole and trying to get a passerby's attention (its lucky we weren't in trouble because no one paid any attention to a paddle waving about in the middle of a street) and Kieran spent most of his time taking photos of our flustered faces and giving us pushes to get through some of the beaching/floating backwards times! Eventually we came to the end (not before having to crawl with the kayaks under the last low tunnel, pass by bats and very big spiders *shudders*).

All we then had to do was get over a rather large pipe that was in the water (cue paddling fast, getting stuck, paddling fast at it again, getting stuck and being heaved over it by Simon and Kieran). Oh but the adventure wasn't over there, this is Isis Canoe Club after all, we are starting to learn to expect the unexpected - a downpour - of hail stones and then thunder! Simon and Kieran were under some fallen/overgrown trees trying to get through, Alice and Rach were under the previous fallen/overgrown trees we had just gotten through, which left Lynds in the middle under no fallen trees or cover. Luckily it didn't last too long and we had soon gotten through all the trees and came out the other side to find a drop/weir (!?) There was very little water running down it so Lynds decided to slide down on her bum, followed by Rach and Alice. Simon decided it was more fun to stay in the Kayak and went down sideways! A short paddle, a small weir and we were finished!! That left getting dry/changed in front of the rather nice Loch Fyne restaurant and any passersby whilst Kieran collected the car. Whilst packing the kayaks onto the car we shared a glass of wine, a bucket of chicken, mini cheese rolls and some Haribo! We finished the weekend off with an 'all you can eat' Indian!

It was great weekend - a big thank you to Simon and Kieran for driving, organising, hosting and not leaving us to get stuck in reeds/branches/tunnels.

- Lynds

Photos by Lynds.