At 7am last Saturday morning, several intrepid Explorers and Leaders left Scout Park. The minibus was laden with canoes, strapped to every possible surface and stacked on top of each other, until the bus resembled little more than a moving pile of canoes. Having arrived at the River Medway put in, we prepared our lunch (think Nutella and barbeque sauce wraps) before beginning our paddle, in a mixed fleet of kayaks and canoes, down the river.
We enjoyed the exhilarating thrill of sliding very slowly down a canoe chute, worked our cores on the locks, and unintentionally visited many trees hanging over the river (damn J-strokes!). We stopped for lunch at midday by a lock, and explored some of the pillboxes we saw so frequently on our travels. We sheltered from the wind to eat our lunch, and tried to get Ben’s shoes into the canoe chute. Ned and Michal risked expulsion from the Unit for stealing the holy snack barrel, and suffered the wrath of Marlon, the snack monster.
We continued our journey, until, having paddled about 20km in 8 hours, we pulled our canoes and kayaks out of the water at a small riverside camping spot. We quickly set up camp, spent far too long deliberating how to put up a tarp, then got on preparing dinner on our trangias. Having eaten, we sat and dried off around an impressive bonfire, trying to find the sweet spot between having warm dry shoes and a puddle of plastic on the floor. We also enjoyed Ned being covered in river water by Ross, as punishment for filling Ross’ barrel with water and putting his shoes in it. (The supreme maturity and experience of our Unit was clearly demonstrated…)
The next day we ate a quick breakfast, packed up camp and got back on the water in new pairs. In an impressive show of nautical prowess, Ben capsized twice in his kayak, and Ned and Michal at least once. We ate lunch ft. impromptu cheese from Marlon, before continuing our paddle. We also took care to develop some key skills; many members of the Unit can now analyse in depth the pros and cons of different boat names. Now that’s something they don’t teach you in school!
At the end of our last 20km day, having greatly improved our steering skills, we pulled up and cleaned our canoes, before loading them back onto the minibus.
It was an extremely enjoyable trip which will prepare us very well for our canoeing DofEs this summer. Thanks to all the leaders, from both WWESU and other Units, as well as those who lent us boats, for making the trip possible!