Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Kayakey Kid - watch out Div 2 polo!

If I steal his helmet...

..and his boat, he'll have to let me paddle.

The Kayakey Kid gets a bit impatient waiting for his Grandad to play his games, so watch out Div 2, he'd be in beside you given half a chance.
Good edge
Not sure if he's playing by the rules here!

Now Grandad's stealing my boat

Look Grandad, I can show off as well as you!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Tay Descent

Up at Dunkeld
After last years Tay Descent, which we never managed to paddle - work got in the way, Ken and I decided we'd give this years a bash. We've done the stretch from Loch Tay down to Thistlebrig a few years back and remembering how some of the sections were a bit long, flat and slow we decided to try it in our sea kayaks. I've never paddled a sea boat on the river before and was definately not taking my Avocet down through Campsie. One Friday evening, a few weeks before the big day, we took a Carolina and a Mystic (a very old, but still very good boat) up for a trial go. There had been a lot of rain previously and the river was running fairly full. I'm used to paddling this section in a small river boat where you can turn and spin quite easily, but a sea boat in the fast flow was a bit strange. After going over the weir successfully, I'd decided I was quite happy to do the descent with the Carolinas.
The evening before the descent, we popped up to Perth to register, collect our goody bag, including a Tunnocks caramel wafer, yummy, and listened to Ray Goodwins canoeing talk.

The put in
Me still upright
Ken stayed upright anyway
Next morning I was up bright, early and full of the cold, but hey ho, I'd be fine with a bit of fresh air. We were starting off up at Dunkeld with masses of other paddlers. We set off fine having a wee chat with anyone who we were passing or was passing us. We or should I say I was doing fine until Campsie. We were guided to the 4th chute, which is where I decided a wee cool down swim would do my nasal passages the world of good!. I went over and literaly fell out of my boat. I was worried in case I was the only / first person to swim. When I turned round just about everyone behind me was doing the same. It did make me feel a bit better. Back in the boat, we bobbed down the next bumpy bit. We then were at the weir. There was an aluminium canoe getting lined up in front of us to go over. All you could hear was a big grating noise as they took the wrong line. Next thing they were upside down and out of the boat. Ken managed to rescue one guy and get him to the side. The safety bloke got the other one a good bit further down. The boat was busy going round Hellhole corner. The only bits that were visible were the tips of the bow and stern. The poor safety girl at the bottom of Hellhole was only in a tiny river boat and couldn't cope with this beast. Ken chased it down, before eventually jumping in, dragging it to the side away down by Stanley Mills. This did slow our time down even more than my wee swim, but we weren't doing it for the time. We then bobbed down Thistlebrig, the river was quite high so there wasn't much to it that day. After that it was flat the rest of the way, but the wind had really picked up, straight into our faces of course. I was glad when we got to the finish line. I reckon I would have done better if I was fighting fit and not also carrying three weeks of excess holiday tum! I also don't know if we really benefitted from using the sea boats as opposed to river boats. I probably wouldn't have had my swim and the sea boats were actually quite heavy in the end. We all live and learn. I still enjoyed the day, the paddle and the natter with other paddlers and especially the soup and sandwiches at the end.
The welcome finish
Back in dry clothes, cosy and warm

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Holiday at last

Why is it that holidays always seem to take an age to come round, they are then over and done with in a flash.
We're not long back from our summer holidays in America. After our flight down to Heathrow, we then had a 10.5 hour flight out to San Francisco. An interesting taxi journey to our hotel was via some of the hilliest streets I've seen. We managed to do the usual touristy things.

Need good brakes here

We went over to Alcatraz, which I admit I didn't think I would enjoy - an old prison on a lump of stone. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day there, from the audio tour, seeing the gardens being reinstated the way they used to be using old photos for reference to seeing my first humming bird. We walked the Golden Gate bridge and watched the dolphins playing in the waters below it and of course we had to try out the Ghirardelli ice cream.


Sea Dragon

After 3 nights in San Francisco, we headed down to Monteray for a couple of nights. First day there we were watching more dolphins and sea otters playing close inshore as we headed to the aquarium. The size of the tanks and the size of the fish, from massive to miniscule, were amazing to see.
Next day we set off for Elkhorn Slough, a nature reserve on a river estuary. We had hired kayaks here for the day. The weather was hot and the water was flat calm, so nothing too energetic. Off we set past the gangplank covered in large, noisy and dare I say, smelly sealions, but as we don't have them at home, it was still great to see them. Next we passed a raft of sea otters, bobbing along in the sunshine. The sea otters are considerably larger than our own otters, but just as playful
By the end of our paddle, we had covered about 13.5 miles, enough to warrant another ice cream!

Half Dome
Merced River
Nevada Falls

Wee people on top of Nevada Falls
Vernal Falls

In the roots of a giant Sequoia tree
 Our next stop was in Yosemite. This place really is quite breathtaking, everything is HUGE, except for the lovely wee chipmunks. We also saw our first bears here. Being October, there weren't many waterfalls flowing, but Vernal falls(317ft) still had water, so off we went for a walk up the side of that, then decided to carry on to Nevada falls(594ft). That had built up an appetite, but no ice cream so a coffee and large muffin had to do instead.

Tioga Road
Death Valley 6 miles wide
Our only rain clouds
Badwater -282ft
Anyone we spoke to would say Yosemite or Grand Canyon - you'll love it, but when we mentioned Death Valley there was always silence.We set off the next day going over the Tioga Pass, me driving at 9941ft, with Ken looking a bit nervous, peering over the edge. The road was closed that night for 48hours due to snow (this is our summer hols!). We eventually made it to Death Valley where they call it a land of extremes - so true. There is snow on the mountains and salt lakes in the bottom at -282ft. The wind was strong but really warm, still folks went out wrapped up like it was winter - I'd have cooked! This was where we got our only rain on the whole holiday, about 4 sploshes. The colours of the rocks and in the canyons were really pretty. Those folks we spoke to who stayed silent on the mention of Death Valley had obviously never been, it is quite a spectacular place.

No paddling today, too windy & dry water
Golden Canyon
Still going on extremes, from Death Valley to Las Vegas. Las Vegas was something else. Bright lights, noise and money, money, money. Quite sad to walk through the casino (everywhere is through a casino, even Bass Pro shop) first thing in the morning and see people sitting at the puggies with a complete look of despair on their faces. The hotel we were in had a fantastic wave pool for body surfing, could have done with taking the wee kayaks for a shot.

That's what I call a wine rack!
29th floor

Our next journey was via the Hoover Dam down to the Grand Canyon. We stopped off for tea at the Roadkill Cafe on Route 66 where their motto is "You kill it, we grill it". It was dark by the time we arrived in Tusayan and the silhouttes showed there were no mountains around, everywhere was flat as a pancake, so where was this Grand Canyon. Next morning we found it. All the canyons we'd seen so far, we'd be at the bottom. You arrive at the top of this one and it was yet another breathtaking view. Even being there it was hard getting to grips with the scale of it. What looked like a tiny stretch of rapid on the Colorada was almost a mile long with 3meter waves through it. Next morning getting up to 26F/-3.5C (chilly) we made our way over to the helipad for a fly over the canyon. Terrific fun flying over the trees, when suddenly the ground opens up and we swoop down, leaving your stomach in your mouth.
Hoover dam
On top of the Grand Canyon

Small speck below the rapid are rafts and kayaks

Us in the helicopter

Looking up the Colorado

Sounds like a few rivers I've been on
We now have to start heading for Los Angeles, stopping for a night at Lake Havasu to break up the journey. It's another lovely place and I wish we had more time there.
Lake Havasu
 Next day was a long journey with us taking turns with the driving. We headed over the Mojave desert with it's giant pincushion cacti and counted the trucks on the giant trains, 4 engines and 130 double decker containers. Scotrail should possibly bring this in for the commute from Fife to Edinburgh. Ken had obviously worked the driving plan well. My turn to take over was on the outskirts of Los Angeles. As we came over the top of a hill, all we could see was cars, trucks and smog. Los Angeles is no small city and it took some time to get to the hotel in the middle of rush hour! By the time we'd arrived the calouses on my hands were worse than any I'd got from paddling! We had a great time at Universal studios the next day.

A wee candy floss!


The following day was our last full day which we spent at the beach watching more dolphins and Ken going for a paddle (no boat, just wading) with a baby shark swimming past his ankles. Baby shark means there must have been a mummy and daddy shark, probably not so little!
Next morning we were on the plane back to rainy Edinburgh. As I said, why does a three week holiday go in so fast.