Guess who swam! Due to my refreshing and totally purposeful dunk I have the dubious honour of trip report and dashing rubber duck. He’s sat enjoying my bathroom windowsill until the next person swims. This may be a wee bit sparse of details as I was too busy making sure of the river, my boat and not falling in twice; if anyone wants to fill in the blanks that would be cracking. As this is a family friendly forum, please allow for text adaptations from actual events.
Attendees; Fearless river leader lumped on Andrew B. Len, Paul, Andy D, Joan, John P, Me.
Any consensus on the river level and I’ll edit to add, I heard three different numbers. Higher Than Last Time By Quite A Bit.
We met in a splishy splashy Callander at the reasonable hour of 10.30, as a reassuring start the river level was high enough to flood the far away car park. Everyone kitted up and went to sort cars at the getout, leaving Joan and I with ducks and swans wishing I’d brought the frozen peas. Think we were on the river about 11.30ish, had a nice dry start from the sky despite the clouds. John got up at the crack of dawn to meet us then zoomed off again to somewhere far at the end, some dedicated paddler insanity for a few hours on the river.
My only other river experience was also the Teith but at a much lower level where rocks were the biggest issue. I remember wishing at the time there was a wee bit more water so we could float over them and not have to hug the rock. Oh Binky, you eedjit.
Bit of a warm up paddle in the flat start and we headed off to the first bridge. A wee bit ferry gliding back and forth for everyone who wasn’t busy going oh wow this is high and bumpy and bumpy and high and why did I ever decide getting in a moulded piece of plastic against a ragey river WITH ONLY A STICK TO SAVE ME was a good idea.
I don’t remember much in between this and ‘oh dear this feels a bit too tippy, my giddy aunt I’m in the water, oh crikey it’s cold, oh goodness me someone’s shouting at me to swim’. Figuring it was good advice, I swam. Got to the bank, held on, poor Andrew got his introduction to me by preventing a sink backwards into the river while John sat looking back with a Concerned Face. Maybe that was wishful waterlogged thinking and it was more of an ‘I traveled down here for this?!’. I still don’t know who rescued my boat and paddle or brought it up the bank but thank you! Felt the paddle brush past my hand with a faint ‘oh dear’ under the water but the boat didn’t even register. No wonder people lose their kit.
Got back in, got together with all the good souls who’d shoved me up the bank, bought up my kit or otherwise been very patient and we cracked on down the river. As before I don’t have much to compare it to but you could have told me I was on a completely different river and I’d have believed you. Any landmark I’d remembered was sunk, a bunch of the eddies were gone, it was a heck of a lot faster. There were definitely certain showoffs doing rollypollys in the water and generally making the whole thing look disgustingly effortless. We bopped on down, practicing in and out of eddies. Joan kicked serious butt at these, can’t say I’m in a position to comment on skill but she was certainly gliding in like a graceful purple swan to my eyes.
Stopped for lunch, Len brought out the famous Jelly Babies while Paul the Duracell Bunny bounced about in the water with an everlasting set of batteries. Is there a charger inside that boat or was it the joy of getting rid of the rubber duck? Of course as we got back in Andy and Andrew voted to carry/slide me into the water…anyone want to guess which end was dropped?
Back on the water to what must universally be the best bit. Fits and starts of choppy bumpy water, bit of effort to keep upright but mostly up and down over the waves feeling the wind, getting splashed in the face, that wee dip in your stomach only interrupted by someone shouting ‘paddle paddle paddle!’ followed by ‘you’re paddling like a man again!’. Being bad at slowing down I’m not sure what people were up to behind me, I was just grateful for Andrew and Len’s nice bright boats in front. When we came to the fork we bumped off to the right to another fun rollercoater stretch, avoiding the choppy water under the trees before turning out into the quiet river for a group pic. Then we were off again to the Torry, though we missed out on the treat of Andy’s caterwalling about the Torry quine. Completely unrecognisable as the pile of rocks we’d floated beside and plugged our ears was well and truly sunk.
Of course I sat back a wee bit and watched where everyone else went as the best route to go. Our first intrepid explorers zoomed away down the left hand side and set themselves in different eddies. Then Joan, complete madman, was away and off. Scooted away to the right, all I could hear was ‘LEFT, LEFT’ but no, this woman with a plan was off. Someone beside me announced ah no, she must be alright, there hasn’t been a drop…famous last words. BOOFT and there it was, over an invisible edge and the impressive staying-in-the-boat moment of the day.
Credit to Paul who hoisted me up from the getout like a sack of soggy spuds. I’ll lay off the cake for the future. Thank you to everyone who put up with wee panicky moments, stopped me from drowning, gave me a boat to follow, shouted instructions over a noisy river, dealt with my busted hip and as always, answered multiple beginner questions. Thanks Andy and Joan for taking me a boat, paddle and helmet and Len for dealing with a very chatty person in the car first thing in the morning. Brilliant day out.
Bonus, I didn’t spend half the trip swearing at my boat for spinning in circles. I swore at it for tipping from side to side instead.
A serious note to any other newbies who are a wee bit worried at the thought of a river trip, cause I know I’ve spoken to a couple. Landing in the river was a big fear of mine. I’m never going to be the world’s strongest swimmer and the moving water was a real concern. Definitely cacking it that I’d not make it to the bank and would float off downriver to be tangled upside down in a tree or end up in the Forth. Convinced I’d be stuck in the boat despite getting out fine many times in the pool. But in the event all I remember is feeling the boat tip too far and knowing I was going out, my hand was on the spray deck before I was properly over. Don’t think I’d even got a substantial grip on the bank before there was a hold on my buoyancy aid and I knew I was alright. Scary, definitely takes your breath away but nowhere near as bad as I’d thought.
The guys are all shouting instructions to help out when your brain is rebooting from the sudden cold dunk and were great at making me feel safe without a big fuss. I really, really do not like being away from my metal legs because it makes me fully dependent on whichever poor sod is nearby. Lack of control is scary and in a moving river, you have very little control. I’d never met Andrew before this trip, ended up wheezing on the bank while he was holding onto the back of my BA with most of me still in the water. Still never felt in any danger from the river. The guys are great, they know their stuff, you will be fine. Honestly if someone with semi-functioning legs and organs can fall in, not drown and feel better for the rest of the trip you should be absolutely golden, so come on the next one!