Scotland in January

I met Dave and friends (Harrison and James) at Gretna services where we ate some delicious crappy service food and I took on board a passenger (James) to accompany me for the journey. The drive went fairly well until well past the Scottish border, Dave texted us to say he was low on diesel but we’d stop at the Green Welly stop to fuel up. Unfortunately we discovered it was closed. After some debate over which petrol stations would still be open we opted to drive to Fort William in my car to collect a Jerry can of diesel to get us going. An hour each way, and driving the last 12 miles from one side of Fort Bill to the other with my car on empty too now was nerve racking, but successful, and we filled up, and drove back through mild snow showers and narrowly avoiding stray deer on the road.

After re-fueling Dave’s car we headed to Onich where we were staying in a mountaineering hut.

The weather was cold, with snow on the ground, leaving little water in the rivers, so we paddled on the Etive and the Allt A’Chaorainn. We also went to find some drops to ‘huck’ or perhaps ‘seal launch’ would be more appropriate! (I gave these a miss due to a sore back and general lack of desire to fall off rocks) It was Harrison’s birthday weekend, so inevitably drinking ensued, at which point being a small light weight girl vs 3 large arm ‘lads’ was a severe disadvantage, resulting in some throwing up on my part!

All in all despite the minor detour on the way up and the horrendous hangover on the way home, an excellent weekend.

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Chile was amazing!

Since the last time I wrote on my blog was before I even left Chile, I feel I should at least sum up what was an absolutely amazing once in a life time trip.

In Chile I met lots of incredible boaters, but I’d like to take the time to mention the other students on the course as they have all individually inspired me in kayaking and other areas of life. MaryKatherine, AlexisGrace, Hunt, Carson, Isaac, Eric and Will. 7 amazing kayakers, wonderful people and (I hope they think the same), life long friends.

Despite being the only Brit, and certainly the only non North American, they included me. Whilst there was much teasing over my weird accent and funny sayings and occasionally even confusion, we formed a small team of supportive and enthusiastic kayakers.

Whilst I met so many amazing people, I cannot honestly say that Chile was always perfect. The kayak school was an incredible learning experience, and I had more time on the water with plenty of people capable of looking after me on anything I could even contemplate paddling. However, the name kayak school would imply there was more to it than just being supervised on the water. Whilst we did morning work outs, intense warm up sessions before paddling and discussed paddling dynamics off the water, there were far more days when the intermediate group was simply led down a river. There were even days when we were left to ‘catch up’ on academic work, whilst the expert group went off on more exciting trips that were not suitable for us. This honestly would be fine if we’d had a second coach and been able to go on an easier trip separate from the harder one, but unfortunately our second coach Nathan had injured his back and was mostly unable to paddle with us. (He did however prove to be a fantastic and enthusiastic video teacher).

Now maybe I’m being unfair, there were certainly afternoons where David would take us on the river and work us hard doing exercises and learning new strokes or stroke combinations to improve our paddling efficiency, and we’d come back too tired to bother with our homework. Mostly though this was not the norm, certainly towards the second half of the trip, the boys left to go to the Gol Gol and Argentina, whilst we stayed in Pucon with Lowri. I have paddled a lot with her as my coach, and she would have been happy to coach us and even did a little despite David refusing to hire her to coach us when our coach Mathias was not only unavailable through the afternoon, but was now in fact in a different country. (After Lorenzo had disappeared far earlier in the semester than had been expected to train for the WWGP and we were temporarily left without a coach at all!)

The last couple of weeks were certainly a let down in comparison to the start of the trip. And whilst I felt like I learnt an awful lot in Chile, I still feel that the potential to have learned an awful lot more was some what wasted by the disorganisation of the kayak school.

In fairness, David has listened to and has been trying to adapt the semester to address these concerns, and the semester that I attended was the first of its kind for university aged students. However the way the semesters have now been arranged, there will be an ‘advanced’ semester and a ‘beginner’ semester. I think this will be a much better system and have high hopes for the improvement year on year of the course! I believe that it will eventually be one of the best gap year/ semester out courses you could possibly dream to go on. I did have a fantastic number of amazing, challenging and difficult but beneficial experiences. It has definitely been a huge step in my paddling and I feel that it gave me the confidence and ability to cope with and enjoy much of the rest of the travelling I did on my gap year. Finally despite the doubts I have about the course, I would still encourage people to go on it, and will be doing my very best to ensure my younger brother Mike goes on the course when he is old enough too.

I really really love Chile!

Fun times in Chile!