With only having a short summer this year due to my bringing down the iron curtain expedition I really wanted to make the most of it. A weekend paddle boarding and camping with 19 adventurous others on the Thames with Dave Cornthwaite from #sayyesmore as one of Annie's #52in52 challenges sounded like a great idea. We got the train up to Oxford on Friday after work, paddled 13 miles on Saturday and Sunday to finish at Goring near Reading before getting the train back to London. The weather was typically British with glorious sunshine, cloud, pouring rain and even thunder was heard in the distance as we drifted off to sleep on our second night.
It was a novelty paddling through the locks behind the big boats. Everyone we passed wanted to take pictures and chat with this big group of soaked but beaming paddle borders to ask where we had we come from and where were we heading to. We had no idea of the time all weekend, we were lead by the rumbles in our tummies to tell us roughly what time of day it was and when we needed to stop off at the next river side pub.
Throughout the weekend everyone mucked in helping each other out with their equipment and new friends were definitely made. Some people came with friends, others alone but you couldn’t tell as everyone was chatting to each other as we paddled and swam in the river.
We embraced the pouring rain that most would usually run for shelter from. Everyones smiles were the biggest during the 2 hour deluge. It wasn’t cold at the time as the paddling kept up our body temperatures. It was when we stopped that it got really cold so we quickly made camp, changed out of our wet clothes and warmed up with a boozy coffee in the pub.
Dave had the novel idea of making a shelter with the paddle boards to protect those sleeping in bivvy bags from the rain. One of the funniest points of the weekend occurred at 4:30am when I thought said shelter was going to get blown away and woke everyone with screams of “evacuate!” No such dramatic action was actually necessary and the structure kept us safe and dry all night.
There was a particularly awful group rendition of Steve Wrights BBC radio 2”s love songs on Sunday morning that descended into Disney theme tunes and thankfully ended a with a tribute to 90’s boyband five’s “everybody get up” complete with paddle board synchronised dance moves (I believe there is a cringe worthy video somewhere).
The weekend was good preparation for my up coming bringing down the iron curtain expedition. It was useful to chat with everyone about the pros and cons of the gear they were using and practicing the routines of packing and keeping everything as dry as possible.
On the train home I stank of the river, ironically carried my rain soaked clothes in my dry bag and was covered in goose poo (not my own I have to add). As I’m writing this after a hot shower and with the washing machine on I’m chuckling to myself as I recall events and conversations from the weekend just gone.
We paddled the marathon distance of 26 miles over the 2 days but it honestly didn’t feel that far. For everyone the weekend ended too soon. We are already planning the next