Sunday 9th September 2012:
Betwixt all the full-on River Gambia Expedition pre-planning we also have to squeeze in some time on the water, with our ‘811 16.5′ Ally Canoe’ (one of two that we need – we are still working on the funding to get the 2nd ‘An Exchange’). However, this also happens to be the fun part too – something we really do enjoy. Which is rather a good thing, considering we may well be paddling for over 1000km when we get down to West Africa!
We got up early yesterday, packed up sandwiches, fruit and a flask of coffee, strapped our 16.5′ canoe onto the top of the truck, and set off for the Wey Navigation – our main practice playground (when we’re not hanging out with the Surrey Canoe Club gang, or it’s trainers, on the River Thames). We headed for Pyrford Lock to get the Ally into the water – opposite one of our favourite watering holes on the Wey, The Anchor.
As we paddled along, we had one of those wonderful, serendipitous, moments when we spotted the name of the above long boat. Although the spelling is different (and surely has a totally different meaning), there is a word in the West African Mandinka language, ‘Kaira dorong’ – meaning ‘I am in peace/peace be with you’ – and this is the what we both thought, instantly, in seeing the word, painted on the side of the boat. It then got us musing over what we should call our canoes. Perhaps one of them should be ‘Kaira dorong’…
There was a fair amount of traffic on the Wey yesterday – the weather was glorious so how could there fail to be – but, most of the time, we still felt as if we had the river blissfully to ourselves.
We had to portage the canoe through a number of locks, en route – including one where we had to dodge the traffic, across a very busy main road, with the 16.5′ canoe propped on our shoulders!
However, we came to one lock just as a long boat was waiting to pass through. So, instead of portaging, this time we went through with the long boat – hanging onto the the side of it as the water level dropped. Our first lock (see ‘Wobbly Productions’ footage following)
According to our GPS (thanks to Fujifilm for the XP GPS Digital Camera), we’ve made 9km’s – paddling from Pyrford Lock and its time for a coffee break and to catch up with whats going on in the rest of the world. A lazy hour, lounging in the sunshine, reading the Sunday papers, before heading back towards where we set off a few hours earlier.
And we were joined by a curious little, four-legged, miniature something or other (more interested in our sandwiches then us, if the truth be known). If we cut a puppy-dog head-sized hole in the side of our Overboard Waist Pack, we’d could make a fortune back home in Greenwich Village, NYC – selling these as doggy carrying bags!
Time to head home and get in a little product placement whilst we are at it. Big thanks to Overboard – ‘the leaders in waterproof bags and cases’ for their very generous support for the River Gambia Expedition. We are now totally stocked up on waterproof bags for the journey.
A grand day was had…indeed. Cheers!
To find out how you can support the River Gambia Expedition and get one of Jason Florio’s limited edition fine art prints in ‘An Exchange’, click on the image below: