Seven club members ventured to Devon for the annual Dart weekend. Friday night had us sitting in the Prince of Wales pub, Princetown, watching the snow fall and Chris devour a whole farm yard of pigs, chicken eggs and a crop of potatoes as we discussed our plans for Saturday. We decided to run the Loop and then do the River Erme, which was a grade 2/3 or a 3/4 or maybe a 4/5 river. That kind of detail got lost as the river guide was passed around the pub in between rounds of beer.
Saturday. The Loop was running at medium levels and once we’d got away from the maddening crowd we could enjoy the river, having decided that we weren’t going to play on it for too long as we wanted to do the R. Erme. 3 hours later we were at the get in point for the R.Erme. Jill had decided not to paddle the Erme as she had badly bruised her arm earlier on the Loop. The Erme began with a rock garden lots of twists and turns and bumpy scrapy stuff to sort through. The first fall had me out, as did the second and the third; you get the picture. I decided enough was enough and walked out, Andy (blonde beard) who had hurt is shoulder also decided to walk back to the car with me. Unfortunately Jill had both sets of car keys, and our only phone was dying, just enough power to give me Jills phone number which was scribbled onto a £5 note in charcoal – not good. We dragged and pulled our kayaks for a good 20 minutes before reaching Andys’s car. On route I spoke to a couple of walkers who kindly agreed to phone Jill once they had a signal. At the car I knocked on one of the local houses who not only let me use their phone but also gave us tea and mars bars. Embarrassingly, Andy only drinks coffee so the lady made Andy a coffee. Really, really nice couple, they even let us shelter in their shed out of the rain whilst we waited for Jill. If you think that was good a jogger went by and said if you’re still here in 20 minutes I’ll fetch my car and run you to Ivy Bridge. Wow,the people in this part of the world are really helpful and kind. Jill picked us up and we drove to the get out point just in time to see the others arrive, perfect timing. That grade 2/3/4/5 ended up as being a 4/5 with the falls getting bigger and bigger, people disappearing into holes, lots of pinning, a broken paddle, a dented boat and five grinning kayakers. You can take it they enjoyed it, in fact that night in the pub confirmed they really enjoyed it. Kevin’s just got to sort out his left from his right. The book said don’t go right… and later in the pub “yeah, I remember reading something about that”.
Sunday – it was the Loop again, just to see off the weekend and gave me a chance to try out Chris’s boat, a dagger Mamba. The river was running a lot lower. Jill had decided not to paddle as her arm was still very painful.
The washing machine , lovers leap, triple falls all taken in my stride. After initial nervousness in a strange boat, it grew on me and it was so comfortable.
Come Triple falls Chris had had enough. He had shoe horned himself into my Pyranah and cramp was now getting the better of him, plus the fact he was convinced he had holed it! Back in the Pyranah I was able to make a direct comparison between the boats which was really helpful. I like the Mamba. Comfort, buouyancy and not having the fish tail getting sucked back in stoppers was confidence inspiring. On the down side its heavy compared to my Pyranah one zone, a small price to pay.
Thanks to Kevin for organising the trip, and to my fellow paddlers Chris (thanks for the loan of your boat) Andy(black beard), James, Andy(blonde beard) and Jill, who made the trip so enjoyable.