Canoeing along the Aveyron

Canoe Party Summer 2013
Every year a canoeing party heads to St Antonin for the 11km trip down the Aveyron, through the limestone gorges, to Cazals. We've been so many times my mum keeps a bag in the cellar of shoes suitable for the journey after many were lost overboard in the early days. A great debate is held the day before as we establish the experienced canoeists from the beginners and pair them up accordingly. Andrew and I are on the experienced list and have yet to canoe together, though having seen the heated discussions in canoes between married couples and family members it's probably best in order to maintain marital harmony!

We canoe with a company called Variation. Lifejackets, paddles, and a tub for your belongings are handed out when you arrive, and then there's a quick explanation of how to canoe and instructions about the route. You would have thought that after years of canoeing along the same route we would know what we were doing, but once in the water we failed at the first hurdle as we were all unsure as to whether to go down the waterfall on the left, down the chute on the right, or just to the left of the chute. We hoped the family alongside us might know which way to go, but in the end we were all directed by a man in the café overlooking the river (we must have looked desperate!) and then we were away. With recent rainfall the river level was quite high. In past years we've had trouble getting stuck on rocks in shallow water and have had to get out the canoe to push it back into deeper water. This year we had very little out of canoe experiences. The first half of our journey is always about chips. We left at 1pm and none of us had had lunch so we eagerly awaited the sight of the 'big rock that people jump off' as this is where we always stop at the café opposite for chips. On seeing the rock we parked our canoes on the bank, ordered 3 large plates of chips, a few beers, and sat near the smouldering fire for lunch.

The second half of the journey is all about the race! At this point part of me looks at the families having picnics along the bank, dads and their boys fishing, and I think about how nice it would be to do a slow canoe, take in the scenery and even stop to sunbathe. The other part of me wants to be the first to the finish line. This year my canoe came third. The canoes that took first and second place seemed to race ahead with very little effort. One was manned by teenage brothers (surely their canoe was lighter which was to their advantage?!) the other had Andrew (he has muscle power and knows what he's doing!) As always I was glad to see the end as my hands were starting to blister and my back was aching. But I'm looking forward to doing it all again next year when we're hoping to take Reuben as he'll be old enough. Or perhaps being here full time we'll go earlier and get some practise in before next summer! 

Becky x

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