It didn’t start well. A communication breakdown meant that Nichola came to the house to collect me and I was waiting for her at the office! Still, the traffic was kind and we made it to the the quayside to see Sam’s wagon and trailer parked up and waiting for us.
We chose our weapons of choice; two red kayaks, and with much ado about very little, Nichola was being pushed backwards in to the canal and I was trying ungraciously to get in without getting too wet early doors. Wanting to get away from prying eyes (really no one was interested in us!) fairly quickly, we paddled for a few minutes before checking where the support crew was. Alan was spending the morning with us on his bike alongside the canal; moral supporter, videographer and cameraman. While stopped, we took the opportunity to take the obligatory selfie!
It was grey after a week of glorious sunshine, but that was OK. It wasn’t too hot to paddle, but wearing shorts was perhaps a mistake at this point. My technique was somewhat lacking and water was running off the paddle and over my bare legs. I rolled my eyes at the first shiver of goose pimples!
We made it under the low bridge and on to Double Locks pub without incident. The pontoon rose out of the water like The Shard. I started to worry that we weren’t going to make a graceful exit from boat onto pontoon.
Nichola went first and I couldn’t believe when I approached and she was already out and grabbing the front of my boat to hold it steady while I exited on hands and knees, trying not to knock the paddle into the water! Thankfully, it was only coffee time and there were only a handful of people at Double Locks.
If asked, we would say that we were more than capable of portaging the boats along the pontoon and around the lock without incident or mishap but perhaps the lack of sinewy, passing gentlemen was why we portaged the boats ourselves.
The pub was really welcoming – but we had only paddled for about 40 minutes! Strong hot coffee and some cake was the order of the day. I was hungry already and had done nothing to deserve such a treat. As an added bonus, these microadventures were to be about getting fitter and losing a little weight into the bargain. Fat chance when I reward my elevenses hunger pangs with cake!
As we ate and waited for Alan to catch up with us, we watched sleek-looking sea kayaks pull alongside our portaged boats and two people of a certain age nimbly jump from the craft and walk them around. We admired the technique and went back to munching cake while our boats sat forlornly waiting for us.
By this stage, the sky was brightening and all of Exeter’s mothers and some rather expensive carbon fibre bikers were arriving for morning coffee. Quickly the conservatory filled with noise and bustle and we both knew it was time to head back to the more tranquil water before too much of an audience assembled to watch us get in our boats. With Alan’s help steadying the boats we stayed dry once more.
With sunnies on our faces rather than in the dry bags, we were off once more.
We paddled towards the noise and the smell of Countess Wear and under the swing and bascule bridges over the canal. The noise of the M5 motorway got louder and louder and we wondered if those in the inside lane were looking down on us and wishing they too weren’t scurrying to an appointment but rather paddling on the water. I hoped they weren’t looking too much and stayed on the road – we didn’t need unexpected company! We got to see a view of the bridge that we wouldn’t have expected and it was rather beautiful.
We could see Topsham to our left and it was beautiful, but not as pretty as The Old Lock Keeper’s cottage.
The last, long, straight drag down to Turf Locks into a head wind was starting to get a little tedious. Lunch and a pint in the sun was calling and we were ready to stop. We just couldn’t see the hotel until it emerged from behind the moored boats. To distract us from aching muscles we talked – a lot!
I had taken some video of our trip on my phone that I bravely had inserted into the top of my buoyancy aid. Having run the boat aground on the slipway and slip-slided my way out of the boat, I wanted to take a photo of the end of the trail marker. I reached for the phone to find that it wasn’t there! I just knew it was in the water and I hadn’t heard it splash. Luckily, there is was, sitting on the grass at the end of the slip way. How my heart jumped!
And here it is, the photo of the end of the trail!
We found shelter from the wind. The advance(d) party had an order of crisps and cider already on the table. And, despite the initial drippage, I didn’t need to change into my spare dry pants!
I scoffed the most amazing toastie that I have tasted in a long time. That might have been because I earned it! I did have the major shakes in my arms and if I could have drank my pint with a straw, I would have! Lifting it to my face was hard ! As I sat there, I contemplated that the morning’s work was only a small drop in the ocean for the some sixty-odd kms I would be doing in May and I couldn’t think of a single riverside pub or cafe on the route….
And, the now obligatory little movie of our adventure!