We set off from Oxford at 5.00am on Saturday morning, breaking free of the bubble at approximately 5.17am, after uncharacteristically minimal faff .The motorways were blissfully clear…except for one lorry who’s driver had decided that he’d gone in a straight line for long enough, and that swinging wildly across the middle lane and hard shoulder for twenty miles so that no one behind could overtake was a much better plan.
We arrived at Plas y Brenin, the outdoor sports Mecca of the UK just in time for the morning lectures to arrive. They had decided to get the boring stuff out of the way first. The first was on The Law, and our rights and responsibilities as club and committee members. This contained lots of useful information about legal minefields that can seem baffling, though arguably more useful was the tea and coffee break at the end of the lecture. The next was on transport, including lots of gory photos of people with golf ball sized eyes, etc, etc.
We could sign up for different afternoon sessions. The girls teamed up to do some work on personal paddling stuff, while the boys went off to do some bigger white water stuff. With a ratio of two people to one coach, the few hours we had on the water really made a difference. We picked up a lot of new ‘technical’ and ‘tactical’ tips, as well as ideas for coaching novices and leading river trips. On return, we each went off to sessions on Equipment, Personal Gear, Rolling, Trip Planning, etc…
We succeeded in piling four boats on top of the Berlingo without a step ladder or considerable height (again with little faff), and headed to the bar to eat. We sat sharing stories about the club with George, an Old Git who was working at the seminar. We downed our many pints (of water) and went to watch a lecture on some cool paddling trips, hearing about drunken elephants, crocodiles, gnarly white water, some lucky escapes, and lots of beer. Thomas beasted it the kayaking erg machine, with 12 seconds for a 50 m sprint.
Super tired, we headed to the mountain hut where we were staying, up a bumpy grass track. Suddenly, energy appeared as tiredness progressed to the next level (and energy drinks and alcohol appeared). We found an epic jenga set, made out of plastic bricks. After playing a few rounds of jenga, none of which lasted long because Ben decided that taking the bottom brick out every time was a good tactic, we realized that the bricks had other uses. The next few hours consisted largely of seeing how far we could flip them into the kitchen using a toasting fork / how many we could catch in a saucepan.
Sunday came around, and we packed up quickly, ate bacon sandwiches, and put on our paddling kit for the day. All was going to plan. We drove down the track, out onto the road, when, lo and behold, (standard trip) disaster/faff struck. Helen’s car (AJ) started to make some interesting metallic/scraping/ banging noises. It had probably made the noises yesterday, we just didn’t hear them with the music on so loud (Apple bottom jeans jeans), so it was probably fine. We kept driving. However, the metallic/ scraping/ banging noises continued, so we thought we should probably have a look, pull a rock/ grassy tuft out of the way. It turned out to be an absolutely flat front tyre. This was not good.
Thomas, Ben, and Hannah went off to paddle, in the Berlingo, while Helen and Anja stayed to wait for the flat tyre man to come. We sat in the rain on a drybag, contemplating life, designing stash, and looking at the aweomse rainbow over the field, which made the whole situating generally more enjoyable. Spare tyre on, we headed into Bets-y-Coed to look around the outdoor shops to make the most of a paddling free day. Driving home at 50mph with the spare tyre took hours, and we tried to ignore the sight of kayakers on EVERY ROAD, EVERY RIVER, and EVERY LAYBY we passed. We also refined our eddy hopping skills as we maneuvered our way down the A5’s many (many) laybys. But it was a good team bonding experience, and AJ survived to tell the tale.
Despite the inevitable faff/ calamity/ sub-optimal situation, it was a good weekend, in the stunning autumn North Wales landscape, with some paddling thrown in, and we have gained, we are sure, a much more safety conscious mentality towards paddling…