August 27 2013
We pack what we think we might need for a trip down the Tarn on a canoe. Everything is in plastic bags. We go to the river and this time the woody caravan under the shade in the sandy riverside is open and a little dog is yapping while the owner has breakfast.
He gets us a canoe, the barrel and the flotation jackets, takes it to the river and leaves us messing about like landlubbers, taking our socks off so they don’t get wet when we push off from the bank. Gentleman Jim kindly offers to do all the wet foot business while I sit on my plastic perch like the Queen of Sheba.
Within three paddle strokes we run aground but push off and get going away down the tranquil river with the current doing half our work. There are more rapids than we expected and we have to choose the best line (not always successfully) so we grind on the rocks a few times. A good run down a fast channel a couple of times left us inexplicably rammed into the bank or pointing upriver leading to comedy moments of blame and accusation. Unfortunately these always seemed to happen when there is an audience; young families peacefully picnicking on the pebbles, or cool youths drinking beer and watching with amusement, gnarled fishermen with long tight lines that did not appreciate us running beneath them out of control, families happily breakfasting at their waterside tents, children building dams.
When we are not heaving and grunting to shift the boat off the rocks or swishing beneath low hanging trees with our faces full of black mayflies, we gaze down through the clear sunlit water at the big fish swimming there, and look up at the tall white gorge walls.
Finally we end up on a white pebble beach, phone the number written on our barrel, and the man comes to get us and drive us back.