Rachel handed in thesis

Hooray! Rachel’s pinned down all those pesky microbials, caught them with a butterfly net and pressed them with blotting paper into a beautifully bound tome full of learned things, all pretty and HANDED IN!!! So now she’s allowed out at weekends, yay. Good effort! Welcome back to the world!

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Pyranha Fest 2008

 

 

I’ve just got back from an awesome weekend at the Pyranha Fest held at the Tryweryn this weekend. It was the first of hopefully many Pyranha Fests to come. There were loads of coaching sessions put on by Tom Parker and gang from whitewater rescue to river running to freestyle.  I took the opportunity to do one on Boofs and Flares on the Saturday morning.  There were just three of us, me and two other guys for a three hour session with Chris Eastabrook , one of the team Pyranha guys. The session really opened my eyes to how much more there is to river paddling than just your standard paddling techniques, there is a whole lot of new school techniques to learn as well to improve your style and control down rapids and open up new lines that you had not previously thought about. We started practicing our boofs off some small ledge drops on the Tryweryn and quickly moved on to flares on curling waves and off rocks.

 

For those who don’t know a boof is a technique that you can use on drops to propel your boat horizontally off  from the lip of the drop landing flat at its base to stay on top of the water to maximize your control and avoid being worked by the stinky holes and stoppers at the drops base.  A flare is where you ride high on a curling wave keeping your boat on top of the water to maximize your control. The technique is commonly used in combination with a boof to avoid the mess lying at the foot of the curling wave or to get into and eddy if you flare a curling wave coming off a rock. Using these techniques allows you to run much cleaner lines on rapids, making you look much more stylish and ultimately better in the photos!

 

After a bit of practice with the boofs and flares Chris had us combining the two techniques and performing deck grabs to prove how controlled (or not) we were. We then went on to explore all the possible lines down the ski jump rapid (centre-centre, left-centre, left –left, right-left…) using our newly honed techniques to make it look stylish. The right-left line saw me doing most of ski jump upside down. With zero points for style and some new scratches in my helmet I went back up to do that line again and get it right.

After the coaching session and a few mugs of tea I spent the rest of the day perfecting my boofing and flaring on a couple of runs down the upper Tryweryn. There were loads of other paddlers around, some really good, some not so good.  Watching the really good ones you could see how they were using the techniques we had been working on to make every line they took really smooth. Watching the not so good ones causing carnage was quite funny!

Later I met up with Will, Andy, Sue and Ben (Sue’s housemate) and headed off to the Pyranha fest party in Bala. The “Fat Cats” guys showed a film of their most recent  trip to Greenland and the White Water Warriors talked about their trip to China involving a 22 day drive in for one river that they then decided was not worth running! They did run some other stuff that looked pretty good but scary! Then the music started and everyone had a good dance with most people ending up topless and very merry by the time it all came to an end.  A typical paddling party really.

We slept what was left of the night in our classy accommodation, the car-park in Bala and got up the next morning a wee bit worse for wear to head to the Tryweryn for some more paddling and playing in the sun. It was a great weekend and I hope they have another one like it next year.

 

Tour De North

So after finishing up my last job, with no more work in sight I figured the best thing to do would be to go for a bike ride. I even convinced myself that if I could stop at peoples houses I could apply for jobs online and it would be just as effective as staying at home.

So how to plan a bike ride, well look up the addresses of your mates in the North, ignore those who live in bigger cities, pick a nice place to start and join the dots. The nice place to start I chose was Penrith. The night before (Thurs 11th Sept)  I caught the train up to Warrington to have beers with Si & Lloyd, figuring the next morning I could get an early start.

I spent the next morning sitting around in Warrington trying to kill time, as they wouldn’t let me on the train with my bike until 11:15. ASDA do really average breakfasts. Eventually I caught the trian, and left myself 5ish hours to cover the distance I initially planned to do in 8 hours. Day 1, Penrith To Barrow via Conniston, was a picturesque ride definitely best done on a weekday. It includes an assent of Kirkstone pass, which is as steep as anything the alps has to offer. Fortunately its also a lot shorter.

Arrived in Barrow, drank beer with Laura, didn’t apply for any jobs… Saturday and Sunday were filled in with some walking in the Lakes. Very nice, I have no photos, but if I did I suspect Saturdays would look like clouds. Saturday night involved drinking tea and playing cards in a nice pub. It was tops.

Monday, left Barrow and headed to Lancaster via Windermere. Very nice ride scenery wise. I got rained on continously for the 8 hours or so before I arrived at Chez Devling. Tim and I then went off to the pub to meet Mr Kev, drank beer, ordered curry, didn’t apply for any jobs.

Tuesday’s destination was Halifax, catching up with Andy Rahooo in Clitheroe. Again a really nice ride, it was even dry for the morning… Apparently Andy got rained on continously from Liverpool, so he turned up 2 hours later than agreed looking very soggy. Rain continued to follow Andy, and by default me all the way to Halifax. In Halifax we were greeted by Andy’s parents, who fed us spag bol and tea. Feeling warmer and drier we went to the pub, drank beer, and didn’t apply for any jobs.

Next stop, the Bob residence. Not quite as good a ride, a little bit too suburban. The morning was spent heading for the Holme pass (or whatever the hill south of Holme is called). Went over that, and headed for Sheffield(ish). After arriving at Jim Bobs I realised that Jim Bob is not a christened name. Loonsey arrived (on route between her new house in Durham and her Boyfriends new house in London) at some point, we ate spag bol, laughed at childhood photos of Jim Bob, drank tea, wine and beer, and didn’t apply for any jobs.

Thursday, first day of proper sunshine, Lindsey gave me a lift back to her blokes new place in London. I took the bike inside, and made myself a cup of tea.

Thursday arvo, got a phone call… Can I start work on Monday… feeling slightly jammy I said yes.

Random Notes
1) I have a new bike it looks like this

Mine is dirtier

Mine is dirtier

2) My old bike got knicked
3) Lindsey’s bloke’s new London house, is my London house
4) Distance wise every day was between 90 and 100km
5) My new job, where I am writing this, is the same as the previous contract position, but for 3 months. I met my recruitment bloke on Friday, he apparently went to Liverpool Uni, we talked about the wonders of the Raz.

Turkish Delights in June

Turkish Delights in June

Turkey and kayaking weren’t words I had previously put together but when asked if I fancied a two week trip to Turkey to experience my first white water away from the UK I thought it was the perfect chance to get some sun and try to improve my boating. Six months later I found myself touching down in Dalaman airport with my trusty inazone in tow. Team Turkey consisted of myself, Bob (our token open boater), Frankie (Chris Smith), Matt W, Jamie, Miguel, Grandad, Beast, Donna and Nicola. It was at this point that I realised I was going to be easily the weakest, and only girl, paddler and that everyone else had monster sized Pyranha Burns or creek boats, leaving the lingering question of was I out of my depth?

The scenery in Turkey was fantastic, big mountains with deep canyons containing spring or dam release crystal clear waters, all of the rivers were pool drop in nature allowing some breathing space between rapids, giving plenty of time for the lads to put me back in my boat after one of my numerous swims.

Fantastic scenery - gorges of Turkey

Fantastic scenery - gorges of Turkey

The Dalaman river was the start and finish for the trip being run on several days as the rafting company we arranged our trip through was based on it. The lower section was dam fed and graded 3+, although I could have sworn it was harder, it wound its way through a canyon which started by a village called Narli and ended by a Roman bridge. The Dalaman upper section was a grade higher so I left it to the men to paddle as continuous grade 4+ sounded a little bit out of my league; from all accounts it was good fun section to paddle.

The end of the rapid on the Dalaman that claimed most of my swims and where I first tried to roll.

The end of the rapid on the Dalaman that claimed most of my swims and where I first tried to roll.Grandad on the upper Dalaman

We then moved onto my second favourite river of the trip, the Köprülu, at grade 2+ to 3 it was commercially rafted but being large volume there was plenty of space for everyone, unlike the Tryweryn… The river provided plenty of long wave trains which gave me lots of chances to practice my roll on, Chris the opportunity to capsize two girls on a raft while trying to surf a wave and all the lads the chance to ogle Russian girls rafting in thong bikinis.

Miguel on the Köprülu

Miguel on the Köprülu

Beast playing on the Köprülu

Beast playing on the Köprülu

The Manavgat river was the dark horse of the trip, the guidebook was confusing reading and the get in hard to find; even the locals were unsure about which section of the river was which. Knowing that one section of it was up to grade 5 with a must make portage and the whole of it was running through a deep gorge I decided to have another rest day and leave the river for the men. Nearly eight hours later as they arrived back at the get out in the dark I was very glad I gave it a miss. The section started out at low volume, requiring a fair amount of portaging but suddenly lots of springs entered from the canyon walls and the roller coaster ride began. At one point the whole river disappeared below ground but there were still plenty of rapids to keep everyone interested and to a cause a few swims including Matt (his first for a few years).

Chris on the Manavgat

Chris on the Manavgat

Manavgat, so glad I didn’t do it!

Manavgat, so glad I didn’t do it!

The last new river of the trip was the Alara which ran alongside the road and was my favourite river of the trip. Again this river ran into a canyon which at one point narrowed down considerably, causing Miguel to swim when his paddles were ripped from his hand as he blind probed it over a drop into a boily mass of water. According to him, he could see the bottom so reckoned it was good to run, apparently that’s the Portuguese style of boating. Common sense prevailed as the rest of us decided this was probably the drop the, up to this point, rather inaccurate guidebook has recommended portaging! I finally managed to get the hang of boofing drops on the Alara. The same section of the Alara was paddled a couple of times as a section further downstream we were originally planning on doing proved too tough a task for our minibus to get to.

Alara

AlaraThe Alara from the road

Due to the distance between the rivers we also had the chance to sightsee, sunbathe, or swim in the rivers. We also experienced a real Hamam where we were pummeled and scrubbed by semi-naked strangers, ate lots of kebabs and köfte, which are miles better than the ones you have after a few pints in the pub, and drank the local natural yoghurt based drink ‘ayran’, Turkish tea and coffee and just generally experienced the culture; how many times has a British policeman given you a cup of tea when asking for directions? We spent most of the trip outside the usual tourist areas but found that having a local driver really helped and even in the smallest village someone would have a roof, olive field or tree house where we could stay the night for a few lira.

Castle by the Alara river

Castle by the Alara river

Tea with the police

Tea with the police

Although not crammed full with river after river, the trip was still full on, most of the rivers taking up a day to do with long shuttles to the get in. Creek boats proved to be the order of the day as the big volumes suited the rivers and also allowed a decent stash of food and drink to be carried; most of the rivers paddled included a stop for lunch. I loved every minute of it and was pleased with my first attempts at rolling on moving water, my confidence increased massively. I really want to go back next year as have unfinished business with one rapid on the Dalaman that caused a vast proportion of my twelve swims, so anyone up for paddling some new rivers with no problems of too much or too little water in plenty of sunshine?