I open my eyes, sit up, bump my head on the ceiling and fall back down again. Oh the joys of going home for Christmas. Mum still has a bunk-bed in my room and in a whisky fuelled moment after a fun Christmas day with family I decided to scramble up the child-sized ladder and sleep on the top bunk – a huge misjudgement on my part obviously.
After the head-bumping-whisky head throb subsided I got out of bed and put my jeans on, the top button at the verge of popping off. It’s become a tradition for me to do a turkey-burning post Christmas adventure starting on the 27th
of December and taking me through to the New Year. I’ve cycled to the Alps, walked 115 miles to London for cheaper than the train and cycled to a New Years Party in Cornwall. This years adventure was going to be kayaking the Thames.
Most years I do the adventure on my own but this year I was going to be joined by a few friends which would be a nice change.
So after recovering from the world's second worst post-Christmas hangover I packed up all my kayak kit and headed down to Lechlade to start our little paddle.
There’s never a real plan for these adventures. I usually have a week off and like to make the most of it. This meant I needed to be done by the 2nd
January. That’s as much as I planned. I often think if you plan too much then the adventure starts to control you. If you don’t plan too much then you let the adventure unfold naturally. I love that flexibility.
We all set off from Lechlade and day 1 was a short 6 mile kayak to a riverside pub where we managed to convince the landlord to let us camp in the beer garden. It was a cold night with the temperature dropping to -4 causing everything to freeze. No such thing as bad weather though, just wrong clothing, and as it turns out, wrong sleeping bags too!
The next few days the Thames was a meandering snake working its way through Gloucestershire and into Oxfordshire. The weather, although freezing which resulted in icicles forming on my beard giving me official adventurer status, it was at least sunny. We barely saw another person and felt like real explorers.
It was the morning of day 3 when the temperature dropped to -6. The Thames completely froze up. It was incredible. We tried our best to kayak through some of it. Captain Scott would have been proud of our efforts, carving a safe passage through the ice for any other kayakers following behind us – although I fear that was a very unlikely scenario. We battled through the ice for as far as we could before we had to finally give up and portage around ‘Thamesartica’. It was frozen so thick we even managed to bounce Wilson (the football we found) along it. WIIIILLLLLSSSSOOOOONNNNNN!!!!!!!!! (Sadly we lost Wilson that day)
The Thames is an incredible river. The wild scenery, the wildly ridiculous properties, and most of all, the beautiful boats that are moored up along her wild banks fuelled my wild imagination. As you probably know I live on a 1932 WW2 boat so spent most of the time with overflowing boat envy at some of the 100 year old rustic barges, glowing at dusk, smoke bellowing from their chimneys. Living on a boat is a simple life and I love it.
New years eve was spent in my friend’s narrow boat in Marlow before we crossed under the M25 and eventually by the 2nd
we had made it to Teddington Lock and the end of our little adventure. Many of my adventures are all about the destination, either being the first, the fastest or doing the longest journey. I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way but every now and then it’s nice to concentrate on the journey itself and not care about the destination at all. Doing a winter adventure with my mates without a care in the world was the best way to see out the old and see in the new year. Start as you wish to go on. Bring on 2015!