French Adventures: The little paddle down the river that went wrong.

Dordogne River in Périgord

Dordogne River in Périgord

I don’t regard myself as a ‘outdoorsy person’, but from time to time I like to explore nature, go camping, trek and play ‘try’  different sports. That said I am a very good skier. That will be a story for another day.

When I first met Bas (my far-more-outdoorsy-partner) we went on holiday to France. OK, I must point out that we’d been together for less than 3 months and so I was agreeing to all wonderful ideas of adventures and exploration of the outdoor world. France was lovely.  So, here we were in France in the Dordogne. A stunning region that I’d never heard of before.

We stayed with some of Bas’ friends in a their converted farm. The house and outbuildings were amazing – There was even an outdoor swimming  pool. Holiday heaven! In the surrounding areas there were lots of quaint little towns and villages. We’d hired a car and went out daily exploring castles, ruins and French country roads. The weather was perfect! It really was fab!

Prior to our “canoe adventure” I thought:

  • It would be simple,
  • Paddling would be easy,
  • The river would be calm,
  • The French would be understanding.

We were proved very wrong!

We rented a canoe and specifically explained that we didn’t want to do a whole afternoon trip – but just some paddling about to ‘have-a-go’ and see if we liked it. Our French wasn’t good. Her English was not great either and Dutch and German wasn’t going to get us anywhere (Bas spoke both). After lots of hand gestures and swapping of money we had a canoe and life jackets. Good one!

Whilst happily paddling along the river, chatting away and taking in the scenery, we  were having a lovely time! It was very relaxing. My first canoe trip – I felt like an expert. OK, the initial paddling had taken some getting used to. Synchronisation is more tricky than you’d first think. After about 50 minutes we saw a guy in a canoe anchored in the middle of the river. He was taking photographs of canoeists passing by. We smiled – looking like professionals (of course) and then we moored? docked? (I really don’t know the canoeing words) to a shallow bank where we discovered a little wooden hut. Inside the hut, fitted with internet, a computer and a friendly lady, we purchased the photo that had just been taken. The wonders of modern technology. It was great to have a photo of us both in the canoe.

Here we are. Canoe experts!

Next came the big shock. We got into the canoe and planned on returning the way we had come. The water seemed calm. We’d given ourselves more than enough time to get back to our starting point. The current however was not gentle at all. While paddling against the current at full speed we kept our eyes on a tree on the river bank. It stayed put. We were paddling as hard as we could and going nowhere.

No matter how hard or how fast we tried to paddle there was absolutely no way we could make it back upstream. Ooops!

We had no choice but to go further down the river and find a place to stop. We found a road, some shops and civilisation. We got out of the canoe, pulled it ashore and thought of a plan. Bas called the friends that we were staying with. We had no way of contacting the canoe company (we didn’t have their number and we didn’t speak French). Our friends arranged with the canoe company to have someone come and pick us up. The whole story had been relayed. Oh the shame!

At this point I was laughing hysterically. I thought it was just the funniest thing. Bas however, had not given up smoking by this stage and was currently having sense-of-humour-failure!

A Frenchman arrived in a minibus. He didn’t look impressed. He was even less impressed when he realised that he was to take us and the canoe back. His mood just fuelled my giggled. So, here we sat – Bas and I on the front seat of the minibus. One angry French driver. One giggling Jamie (me) and one Bas poking me in the rips trying to get me to stop.

I love that day!

It’s one of my best memories ever!

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3 thoughts on “French Adventures: The little paddle down the river that went wrong.

  1. Oh my gosh, that actually sounds wonderful to me! It makes me miss those discovery days when I was stationed abroad. As for canoeing….I’m just about the worst ever!
    I love reading about your adventures. Love your blog!

  2. Pingback: Jumping off a mountain. Simples. « One Life

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