River Wye - 20k Canoe Dash - August 2015

Since our 50K canoe epic had to be cut short last summer, I've planned several times to go and complete the course - we only did 35k and there was a 19 to 20 km section from Bycross to Hereford still to do. I was determined to go and finish the job but of course life gets in the way inevitably so it was a full year later that I finally found myself with a half day to spare and a new kayak to test on the water. I was up at 4.30 and planning to be on the water by 8.00 but even that proved tricky with the lanes around Byford such slow going in the car and the Hereford one-way system pretty tortuous! Eventually at around 9am I had dropped off the kayak, driven to Hereford, found a take-out of sorts, stashed the car in a car park a hundred metres from the water, cycled to Bycross (around ten miles on my old mountain bike), locked up the bike and - at last! - launched the kayak on to the smooth waters of the Wye.

First challenge was the not-so-smooth section of the day, Monnington Falls. Similar to Symonds Yat, the channel of the "rapid" was to the left of an island with a slight step at the top, but in summer water levels it was really just a section of swift water with some low waves. The only tricky section was a whirlpool that required some sweep strokes to keep the boat straight, but all in all easier and a lower grade than even the Symonds Yat section so no drama. Good fun all the same.

The rest of the route was set to be flat water punctuated with the odd riffle, but I was up against the clock and due back in Bristol at lunch time - I had to get a move on and paddle hard. This was a typical section of Lower Wye, fields and woodland, little sound other than birdsong, fabulous wildlife. I saw no fewer than 5 kingfishers - flashes of irridescent blue darting out from the bank. Numerous herons too. So many swans and geese, ducks and water fowl, great for knowledgeable birdwatchers and clueless ones like myself too.

With an eye on my watch as I came up to Bridge Sollers I realised it was going to be very hard work to finish by midday after my late start, but I needed upper body exercise (triathlon coming up next month) so I pushed myself hard, getting into a rhythm of relentlessly pulling water and willing the miles to pass. The weather was pleasantly cool, hardly a breath of wind, and the water was low and slow so no help from the current.

Occasionally my arms, after no paddling for a year, just gave up and I had to take a short rest, drifting for a minute on the slow current and enjoying the silence of the river. It would have been easy to drift off into meditation for several minutes and take it slowly but I was keen to make a challenge of it and the three hour target was very much in my mind. Eventually as I came in sight of the bridges of Hereford - paused for a couple of self-timer-selfies and still made it under the ancient bridge with less than three hours on the clock. A lovely trip, just managed to hit my time target, a great workout - my favourite river :)

So that's the conclusion of the Peace-Ecstacy-Sky canoe challenge - just in time as it was for the 50th anniversary of Sri Chinmoy's arrival in the West, the time from which we date the Sri Chinmoy Centre itself - completed just 2 weeks before the 51st anniversary so a bit last minute. Now, maybe next summer I'll go for a solo 52km, or maybe in tandem with Kokila now we have 2 Kiwi Kayaks.

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