8:30am, nothing but a concept to many, and I (Paul) was still waiting outside Euan R’s flat while he searched for a phantom karabiner, when who should text but the fourth person in our party: Mark Mulrain could no longer come. When Euan finally arrived, having given up his search, we discussed this ‘man-down’ problem, and I suggested we invite Ben. Always up for kayaking, even given only moments notice, Ben agreed. This was going to work out after-all, but Euan then remembered his keys were still in the Stevie…so we went there, only to discover it was locked until 10:00am. This was getting us no-where, so we stopped off at Ben’s flat, collected his keys, then finally collected Fraser (who ironically had actually arrived on time), and headed to the shed to pack. This was done at break-neck pace, Ben was collected, a food stop was had, and we were still out of Glasgow before 10am…good job!!
A long banterous journey, with Ben doing everything he could do to ruin the music stored on Frasers iPod, and Euan trying his hardest to gross the car out, saw us arrive at the get on for the North Esk.
And it was here, at the get-on, where the first beating of the trip happened: when it was discovered that Mr Richardson hadn’t packed spraydecks for him or Ben.
It was eventually, after a long arduous debate that would put even Tolkein to shame, decided that Euan and I would run the river first, with Ben and Fraser running down the bank, and then we would swap over, and they’d get on the river at whatever point dwindling daylight would allow.
Thus began our tale of two halves.
Euan and I had a rather uneventful trip down to Rocks of Solitude, where Euan decided that Gregor’s “Hero line” from previous weeks was the way to do it…unfortunately no beating followed this mess-up. My (somewhat less planned) line worked surprisingly well, and we continued our fun, yet simple paddle down to the get-out at the Fish Ladder.
The second half of the tale consisted of me (Fraser - note the change in author) and Ben’s fantastic descent of the river. Nothing of any note occurred until we reached Rocks of Solitude, bar the fact that Paul Walker’s deck is tighter than Scrooge and needs the super human powers of at least 2 people to fit on which materially contributed to our impressive amounts of faff.
First real rapid up and our Steve Fisher style “fully trained safety crew” were in position for a heavily anticipated swim from Ben. Alas it did not occur and therefore it was my turn to navigate this grade 6++ rapid. After fitting the deck that must have been designed to fit round a yoghurt tub, not the cockpit of an H3 (or the Mamba for which it was bought), I embarked on this terrifying run. With huge amounts of style and grace/luck and clumsiness I survived all the drops until being cruelly sucked back in by the bottom hole after a short battle/teasing from the river. Unfortunately for Mr Jenkins I must inform him I did not receive a beating, no matter how much it may have been deserved. After being flushed, a spectacular roll attempt/“quack” and a hero dive from Euan I once again decided to bail, gimpy I know. The worst part of this swim meant having to stretch what was basically a swimming cap over the cockpit of my boat, again.
Fraser on Rocks of Solitude
After experiencing the freezing cold water you would think I would be less likely to want to return to it, yet after watching Ben run the infamous President’s corner I decided to come out the eddy and fall over. That was it, no brace, no reason to fall over. (If you are intrigued to find out more about this ridiculous capsize, Mr Walker has attached below the video he took from his newly acquired iPhone – I can think of better ways to spend the money....) Running this rapid on my head resulted in not much really, apart from a knock on the head...my own stupid fault really.
The Infamous Stupidity....
Finally what could be regarded as the most spectacular event of the trip occurred and caused my final swim, although I shall regard as a “technical”. There has been much speculation as to what occurred here but for once and for all I shall lay the matter to rest. Paddling along I heard the cry of baby, looking up I saw it tumbling through the sky. Doing what any self respecting boater would do I reached out and grabbed the baby, moments before a certain death. In doing so I slightly unbalanced myself and due to other imbalances (such as my helmet being squint etc.) I was unable to overcome this and I fell under once again. I held the baby above the surface of the perishingly cold water and then pulled my deck so I could reunite baby with the adoring mother on the riverbank. This all occurred before Ben turned around to see me swimmingly along, this is the truth. Paul’s reaction to this amazingly heroic story was “What was the baby called?”....pillock. We then floated down to the get out at Fish-ladder falls.
Euan descending the final rapid
Our tale of two halves complete, we decided to reward ourselves for our kayaking efforts by heading to McDonalds on the route home…meaning Fraser (yep, it's Paul writing again) and Ben had been there twice in two days, the fat b****rds.
All-in-all, an excellent day and an excellent river, but next time we should probably take the spraydecks.