After another great weekend looking after Max as he canoed on the Wye on the Welsh/English border, I have been asked to write this report. If you would prefer pictures rather than words then have a look here. To introduce myself I am Genie, Max’s dog. We got to the campsite on Friday at Ross-on-Wye nice and early so that Max could cook up a storm of Chilli for everyone. People drifted in over the next few hours, with Christelle arriving last, having visited, I think she said, Scotland en route, declaring that her phone had run out of battery so she got a bit lost.
We then had a conflab to see who had forgotten what and to check that everyone had forgotten something different so that we could all swap the things that we had two of. Nothing major, just sleeping bags, tents, that sort of thing.
We woke up ridiculously early next morning to the sound of Neil playing back a recording of birds to wake the birds up in order to wake us up. It worked for most people except Vanessa who had spent the night rearranging her tent so that she could have a sleep-in. Car shuttling took place to Belbin’s campsite, in the back of beyond, but nearish Symonds Yat. Having found the place, but not the instructions on where to park, Cathé decided to go and hunt for bears back up the forest road, while the other cars went and found the get-in – which was some way away in the huge, but beautiful campsite. Sara drove everyone back to base, having picked up Cathé, sans bears, with four conflicting sets of instructions for directions being given at the same time. Stopping off to buy sarnies she confidently set off again having failed to replace her petrol cap or buy petrol (hats off to the nice man in the car behind).
The Ross canoeing club has the easiest get in in the world, which suits me as I can’t be doing with wet paws in the morning. You can see me supervising the get-on in this picture and thanks to my efforts by 10.00am we were off.
The flow was good, so we could have drifted down without doing anything, but I instructed Max and Vanessa to put some effort in. I got the impression that Christelle and Sara were a bit clueless, but were getting some decent instruction from Adie and Nick respectively. No idea what Pirates Neil and Robbo were up to, but unlikely to be good and Cathé at this point was by herself in order to leave space in her canoe for any bears that she saw on the way. Wales is a place of mystery – we spotted lots of sheep who looked like cows and cows who looked like sheep as well as swimmerys of swans of up to twelve at a time. I laid back and enjoyed myself as we zoomed along. There was a little wave that we played on and some other bits of bubbly water to bump around on. Just enough to make me prick my ears up, but not so much as to make me think I would need my life jacket (a rather smart red and black jobby). At some point someone decided that we were going to get to Symonds Yat too early so we rafted up for half and hour and drifted. After this we set off again. Robbo decided to make some friends from the many hired canoes out on the river.
We then carried on as we were nearly at our destination. We were nearly at our destination for the next few hours and during the course of that I spotted some kingfishers darting across in front of us and three Unicorns in a canoe who Robbo, of course, rescued and befriended in his own unique way. Being nearly at our destination, we had some lunch up on the bank near a pub, from where we put bets on as to who might fall in of the several crafts that we pulling up.
There was some swapping around in boats as Cathé had done a fine job of canoeing by herself for miles but eventually needed an extra Robbo engine at the front. Finally we arrived at Symonds Yat. This became a little exciting for me as I had to wake up to go over the Grade 2 rapids. All went well apart from 2 paddles splitting, one just on the approach by Sara and Nick. Robbo and Cathé decided that they preferred swimming, while everyone else showed them how to do it properly. They have so much to learn. I heard Cathé instructing Robbo as to how to tell the difference between a rock, a tree and the water. He really does need to get to know the basics if he is to avoid breaking his paddle in the future.
After some more playing it was a short drift on back and then return to camp where I had an exciting game of frisbee with some new friends. I don’t understand why it never lands, but I try regardless to get it. We all went to the pub, except that Sara went to a different pub, but having found no one to play with there, came to the right one. Robbo threw my best ball away, which I had just found on the footpath, and neither he nor I could find it, but everyone seemed to enjoy watching him peer under bushes looking for it.
Next day we were woken early again to the sound of Christelle cooking an armies worth of lamb kebabs and bacon for everyone, except herself. She even provided ketchup. Having piled up all the meat neatly on a table, we left to go canoeing. We drove up to Hoarwithy, and then went on a gentle paddle downstream. Robbo was quite sad, because apart from one small rowing boat, there were no new friends on the river. I notice that Adie glues his arm to the right side of the canoe and Christelle to the left. It was smooth as glass, except when it wasn’t, beautiful and tranquil. More swans, herons, geese, ducklings. They all look like potential tasty snacks to me, but I resist. I am, if I say it myself, a remarkably well behaved dog. There was a bit of canoe swapping, a few mini bits of bubbly water, but mostly just a quiet pootle down with lunch on the riverbank.
While Christelle took folks back up stream to get the cars, I snoozed – my frisbee friends having already gone. After that it was the sad bit with all the tents being taken down, except Vanessa who decided she liked being in an empty field. We all left happy having had the most wonderful fun, friendship and laughter filled weekend. Christelle and Sara had had an amazing introduction to canoeing with expert tuition provided and are being called to go over to the dark side. Pirate Neil, who had helped me organise the event, congratulated me on keeping everyone safe happy and knackered. I am hoping Max will need looking after again soon.