River Capsize, Tarn Gorge

Thursday 29 August 2013 Second Canoe trip of the day
After lunch on the high bank of the river, carefully watching the paddlers passing by for any signs of difficulty or imminent death, and seeing lots of children and grannies happily afloat, ready to go down the next Grade 2 section, we decide that it cant be so difficult, we have enjoyed the morning so much, lets go for it and have a bash at it ourselves.

For this we are given a narrower, more pointed boat, and are launched from a height above the water, paddles aloft so that a great wave of river hits me in the face as we enter it. Across the calm weir, there is a single narrow chute we have to aim for, which Jim does expertly and then a very fast descent to the river and another gigantic face full.

Quiet and lively sections alternate, and the river is definitely faster than this morning’s section. Soon there is a rocky channel, something spins us sideways against a rock, we lunge and the rushing water enters the boat and out we come into the torrent which is flowing very fast.

It starts to sweep us sway so we get hold of each other to watch the boat with all our possessions floating off down the river. The current starts to sweep us away, we can’t move, – every time I lift a leg, the current gets hold of it and starts to take it away. The rocks are slimy and feet are slipping,. I bend down to hold with my hands and of course the current slams into my curled up body and threatens to take me.

All this would be fine if I were a swimmer and confident, but I am not. Somehow after many minutes we manage to scrabble to a slightly shallower area and so to the bank. Our boat, one paddle all our possession, money, keys, phones, clothes have gone down the river. As I watch, we can see a girl going to get the boat about 200 yards downriver, and we start making our way to where she is. We push through shrubs and rocks and I have a large bruise on the shin making walking slow and painful. The girl has brought the canoe in with all our possessions still on board in the barrel, and now she is going for the paddle. She is about 16, English, gorgeous with long wavy hair and tells Jim that many people capsize here, so she waits and then gets the boats and goes snorkeling for other things that may have been dropped. We thank her and she goes back to her house nearby, leaving us to wonder what to do next.

We are on a pebble beach, with no phone signal so we sit on the barrel and then go exploring to see where we are. We are near to a holiday village and only about a kilometer downriver from the start. After changing, leaving the boat neat and tidy we walk back up the road to tell the canoe people where their boat is. They are a bit surprised by our accident.

Relieved, we get our bikes and cycle home glad not to have been injured, drowned or lost all our money and keys. It’s a lovely ride and we get off the have to look at isolated houses across the river with a cable car to haul things across. Although it says its not for people it has seats in it. After a quick nap we go out to the Doussiere for a treat outside in the warm night.

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