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Thread: Retirement Paddling in France (Day 1)

  1. #1
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    Default Retirement Paddling in France (Day 1)

    When MarkL heard I was retiring, he asked “when are you coming to France?”

    We’d been talking about me going to paddle again with him for a while, but finding the time was a problem. Those days were over.
    I mentioned to my fellow retirees that I would like to celebrate my retirement with a trip to France, and they jumped at it.

    We had all been looking at Mark’s website Canoe Massiff Central to get ideas, and the favourite trip seemed to be the River Tarn. So after a few discussions with him we went for a more bespoke option than the standard 5 day trip. Nothing was a problem to him; his motto seemed to be “Keep it simple, it doesn’t need to be complicated”.

    That was it. We were going for a week in France, all equipment including Canoes and paddling gear and Tents and camping gear would be waiting for us when we arrived. Mark would also look after the food too, so all we had to do was turn up. Simple.

    Our old buddy Mal Grey was going to be there too, so things were looking good.

    Our first paddle was to be a short one, in keeping with the voyager idea that its better to iron out any problems on a short trip and make changes if need be. So we got Pfd’s, paddles and safety gear allocated to each person at camp, then Mark shuttled the gear up to La Malene. Mal would be our guide, leaving Mark and Louise to do some chores around the camp until we returned. The get out was to be at the camp site.

    Here we are at the get in.




    We got on the water quickly, but unknown to us, one of the local officials had approached Mark to tell him that the river was closed to all commercial canoe hire due to unusually high levels for the time of year. Mark explained that we were all experienced paddlers, and when the chap watched us ferry gliding in the flow, he agreed that we were safe to carry on.

    There are a lot of commercial hire companies that rent out cheap plastic sit on top craft to all comers in the area. But they regulate them when the river is in flood. This meant we virtually had the river to ourselves.

    Looking downstream.




    No sooner had we negotiated the first bridge, than we spotted something red floating towards us from upstream. It was an upturned canoe!
    We looked for swimmers but couldn’t see any. So we took action to retrieve it from the flow. I ferried across to grab the painter, and Hugo moved in to do an x-rescue. Almost immediately another canoe with two occupants came chasing down the river.




    Tim and Pete had been lowering Tim’s canoe down a weir above the town when it got pulled away from them. They then had to get Pete’s boat down to give chase. Lucky we were there as there was quite a flow on the river, they’d have had a job to catch up. But it gave us the chance to meet and exchange information about paddling in France as they’ve done a fair bit. Jokes about salvage rights etc were made as we waited for their mate Graham to catch up in his canoe.




    They were finishing at Malene so we bade them farewell.


    That got us off to a good start. Nothing like a rescue to get the blood flowing.
    The canoes Mark had for us were all Nova Craft SP3 except for Hugo’s which was Mark’s own Royalex Prospector as it was set up to Hugo’s Specific requirements from an old knee injury. The rest of us were paddling Brand new boats which was daunting at first. But once we got a few scratches on them, we settled down. We all spent a bit of time catching eddies and familiarising ourselves with our new steeds.



    Now we could concentrate on the scenery which is spectacular.



    Just behind Nick is a tree growing in an overhang.



    Mal is usually behind the lens, but I managed to get a few photos of him without a camera at his face.




    Andy.




    Nick.






    There weren't any hire companies operating, but we didn't have the river completely to ourselves.



    And these guys seemed to operate in all weathers and levels, using poles and motors to get down the rapids.



    We stopped for lunch and did a quick check to see how far we'd gone.





    Up above the cliffs we saw Vultures circling. One came down for a closer look. Hopefully it was our sarnies he was looking at and not us.



    Second Lunch required a different beach, this one under an overhang.





    The water was really clear and it was amazing to see fish swimming just under our canoes, completely unfazed by our presence.



    Did I mention the scenery?



    Before long we were back at the campsite where Louise had a snack prepared for us. It got the "Mal Grey" treatment before we all dug in.




    Here he is without the camera........



    Andy and Nick.



    MarkL and Nick. As you can see our camp was right beside the river,





    Under the tarp.




    Then came the serious task of preparing our dinner. The chef Mark, ably assisted by his sous chef Mal.



    Bearing in mind that Mark likes to keep things simple, he managed to produce some amazing food for us. We had sticky ribs for a starter, followed by home made burgers and pork steak with mixed salad and new potatoes.

    The main course.





    For some time, not a word was spoken.

    Then we retired to the viewing gallery for Port and Cigars.



    Not bad for our first day I'd say.
    Last edited by Big Al.; 15th-June-2018 at 08:26 PM.
    Big Al.

    Only when the last tree has died
    and the last river been poisoned
    and the last fish been caught
    will we realise we cannot eat money.
    ~Cree Indian Proverb

  2. #2
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    Seems like so long ago, that first day!

    A wake up call right at the start, as we were all groggily lurking in eddies and warming up muscles, then suddenly frantically paddling all over the place in a fast flow trying to help without getting in each others way.

    As will become clearer in other blogs, the levels were pretty high for this time of year. The gauge is at Montbrun, at the top of the "normal" more scenic sections. Previously I've paddled on 0.3 ish (Scrape), 0.5 ish ("normal") and 0.75 (which I'd thought of as highish, but wasn't!). The week before we arrived, it was 2.8. By the time we first paddled, it was down to 1.45, and continued to fall a little more most days, with the odd blip after some of the impressive rain. I built my own gauge on the beach, the Greyscale, lines of levels to the checked obsessively each morning and evening.

    The gorge is spectacular at any level. I was worried that the "easy" sections would have been washed out and all the little fun riffles gone. Not the case, they became bigger and more fun. The eddies were, even on the easy days, strange, unpredictable, boily and to be treated with caution, even on the grade 1 bits that this first day was about. Even this easy day was to be treated with a little respect. There was still plenty of time for gazing upwards at the towering cliffs too, of course.

    Later in the week, we found some much bigger bouncy stuff...

  3. #3
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    Great blog of a great trip, thanks Al for the inspiration and arranging of this trip.
    Thanks to Mark for great organisation and magical camp food, thanks to Louise for keeping it all tidy.
    Thanks to Mal for guiding and musical accomplement.
    Thanks to the lads for great company and paddling excellence.

    Here's my video record of the first day


  4. #4
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    Crow is offline こんにちは。私はカラスと私はスコットラ ンドの出身で す。
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    Looks like a grand time!

    Mark and Louise always give a warm welcome.

    But you should get the people in the photies to smile a bit more.

    Here comes the future and you can't run from it
    If you've got a blacklist I want to be on it


    Crow Trip Log

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    Nice one , looking forward to the next instalment
    Cheers
    Tim


    Paddles a Prospector

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crow View Post
    But you should get the people in the photies to smile a bit more.
    You are right. I've just looked at the rest of the photos........no smiles. Don't think I'll bother posting any more.
    Big Al.

    Only when the last tree has died
    and the last river been poisoned
    and the last fish been caught
    will we realise we cannot eat money.
    ~Cree Indian Proverb

  7. #7
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    They'd been listening to my singing. Why would they be smiling?

  8. #8
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    There’s 40 shillings on the drum ......
    MarkL
    www.canoemassifcentral.com
    Open Canoe hire/outfitting in the Massif Central
    ”We will make your trip work”



  9. #9
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    What a week! Thanks to all involved, it was a brilliant trip. Can’t recommend it highly enough as a beautiful open boat river. Boats and gear and support from our hosts MarkL and Louise and Mal made it a very easy week for us travelling from Northern Ireland.
    "Thus we lead a life of pleasure
    Thus we while the hours away"

    from Thoreau, Voyager's Song

  10. #10
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    We are so going back....

  11. #11
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    Hi Al

    Happy retirement.....you won't know what to do with your self.Then there's i don't know how i found time to do anything while i was working.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by slavetothepaddle View Post
    Hi Al

    Happy retirement.....you won't know what to do with your self.Then there's i don't know how i found time to do anything while i was working.
    I've found that already. I've started to realise that work was just an inconvenience necessitated by a lack of money. But I'm much happier now that I've less money and more free time. Should have done it years ago.
    Big Al.

    Only when the last tree has died
    and the last river been poisoned
    and the last fish been caught
    will we realise we cannot eat money.
    ~Cree Indian Proverb

  13. #13
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    Looks great. Just need to wait 17 years before I can retire and go
    John

  14. #14
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    The day 1, (and day 4) route from La Malene to the campsite, on Paddle Points: http://www.paddlepoints.net/PaddlePo...?PP=3785&r=129

  15. #15
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    A fine shot of a Griffon Vulture (info for aspirant birder watchers)
    http://www.davidwperry.blogspot.co.uk/

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