Oh Bugger...

Hmmmm, so I have pretty damn quiet on the old blog front recently, ay?

As far as I can tell, there are several reasons for this; one would be the annoying habit that my boss has of cracking his whip every time he sees me near a computer. Another would be an excessive alcohol consumption that it’s probably best I don’t go into. But the main one would be that I’ve been taking a distinct lack of paddling photos recently, being lazy or opting for the video camera instead…

Photo from Andrew Butler

So, I’m guessing you are probably expecting a sweet paddling video about now then?? Errr, unfortunately not….. but you can hear a tale of stupidity that will tug at your heartstrings* (* read as laugh your arse off at me being a top draw twat!)

Photo from Clement Holgate

So, with Easter finally providing some time off work to go gallivanting around the country in search of water, a plan was hatched to head to remoteness of Fiordland, and spend 4 or 5 days boating hard…. or spend 4 or 5 days chilling in the sun, surrounded by some of the worlds most fantastic scenery, moaning that it wasn’t raining! New Zealand… It’s just like Scotland I tell ya.

Having spent a bit too much time surfing recently, we went for a warm up run down a tame section of the Hollyford river, to re-introduce ourselves to our creek boats. It was a bit longer than expected and the site of the grade 4 section at the end came as a relief and sent a bit of excitement through my veins. Jumping out to have a wee scout of the entry rapid, I grabbed my video camera and tripod out of my boat just in case there was anything tasty. There wasn’t really, but a flimsy swing bridge, did provide a nice view of the rapid and so I thought I might as well get a bit of footage…. (can you see where this is going yet?)…. After carefully attaching my rather expensive camera to my cheap and nasty tripod, I set off to find a good view. Once located I started to extend the legs of the tripod….. now the rest is a bit of a blur really, I can remember seeing a blur of something, oh, I don’t know, camera shaped, whizz past my face. And I remember a bang as the same object bounced off a large boulder after narrowly missing the guy doing safety, and the bemused look on his face as the object crashed into the river and disappeared forever. I also seem to remember the world starting to spin and the word “FUCK” echo around the gorge for some time…. ..that happened just after I looked at the bottom half of a tripod that I clutched in my hands.

Quite frankly, it was the Shit without the giggles.

Some lessons have been learnt though!
1)Don’t skimp on the tripod, even if it is going to get buggered in the back of your boat.
2)Never let go of the camera.
3) Shouting expletives and kicking the crap out of a swing bridge precariously perched over a river is not the best way to impress the 9 tourists with you on the bridge.

Photo from Andrew Butler

The Water Goes The Other Way

So, everyone says the water flushes the other way down under, I can tell you thats not true. The rivers still flow downhill, and the surf still pounds in towards the beech.... It's awesome.

I made a rather bold statement about how I was going to paddle lots more than I have been recently when I got to NZ. Its kind of been a slow start, but I'm finally teaching myself what a boat is again, and have hooked up with some like minded locals with the same perverse love of dressing up in rubber and scaring the crap out of ourselves at the weekend.

Sweet Ramp - Blissfest 07

So first came Blissfest, an awesome event held right here in Dunedin. On the Saturday was the big air ramp, I'll admit that I was a bit nervous about this one, as my back is "fragile to say the least." Indeed, 2 people from the 60 odd competitors did require attention from the local bemused ambulance crew, but reports came back that they were fine. Back at the competition, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my new found ability to be able to pull of flawless cross deck grabs into airscrews, had got me into the semi final. My inability to do any other move however, insured that the semi final was as far as I would get.

On the Sunday was the surf competition, the presence of crap surf and a hangover, combined with the fact that I am devoid of any ability to surf, insured that I spent most of my heat cold and upside down. However, with so much great surf on my door step, I'm sure I'll get better, and as I type this I'm trying to rid my mouth of the horrible salt taste from the surf session I had this morning. So watch this space.

The finalists head out for the Surf final - (I wasn't amongst them)

Of course, all this surf stuff is great, but the real paddling is in them there hills, and a drive over to Queenstown last weekend, provided the Shotover river. It was a sweet playboat run, with a few choice surf waves and ended in a nice (but too short) grade 4 gorge. Man, it was great to be back in a boat and It definitely put a smile on my face.

The river is an old gold mining river, and in the fantastic sunshine that greeted us was spectacular. The river was mined by the Chinese back in the day, who tried to divert the river by digging a long tunnel, that can only be described as looking like something from The Lord Of The Rings. Of course, the tunnel didn't actually work as planned for them, but it does provide paddlers with an amusing paddle. Oh and no way of scouting the heinous slide that immediately follows it, part of which is now imbedded in the crumpled nose of my Nomad.... Sh*ts and Giggles all round.

Belated Hello

Ok Ok, I've been slack with this updating thing, so here it goes.

So, I've been in New Zealand for a couple of months now, which seems ridiculous. I've only just settled in. I'm still telling people at parties that I've only just got here, and for those that have never been to Dunedin, there are a hell of a lot of parties! Which could explain why there have no updates, not enough paddling and too many hangovers.

But now that I've got myself a place to stay, sorted at work, a paddling wagon and used to the effects of the New Zealand beer of choice (Speights), I'm looking forward to some sweet New Zealand whitewater.... Good Times.

"Place to stay" - Living it up on the worlds steepest street

"Work" - Pretty, eh?

"Boating Wagon" - No longer to I have to pack my paddling kit carefully

"The effect of the local stuff" - I definitely wasn't trying to steal my favorite lamp post sir. (photo: Nathan Hunt)

Moving To The Shire

Someone said to me the other day... "You don't update your blog do you?"
It was with a heavy heart that I had to admit that I actually updated my blog the last time I went boating, back on the 14th March 2007.

Pathetic eh?
So many hours spent looking out of the library window at the rain...
So many hours spent teaching 1 star skills to kids with asbos...
So many hours spent admiring my new Nomad...

And yet, i didn't pass all of my exams, the kids robbed me on my way home and my nomad hasn't got wet yet!

The Mawddach, a welsh classic

But its all going to change...
As of Saturday, I am moving to Dunedin in New Zealand.
All the hours of study, scraped me enough passes to be able to spend the next year of my life studying chemistry at the University of Otago.
And no excuses this year... watch this space... I'm going boating!

The Tummel

Don't get me wrong though, I'm going to miss the boating scene in the UK.
I recently completed a week long bender incorporating London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Bangor, to see people before I go... and it was bonza!
No more Tea at Pete's eats, no more runs down an empty Etive, no Wet Wet Paddlefest, no Gene 17 weekend, no more leading Tom Laws astray, no more photos of Pat Clissolds dodgy facial expressions and no more waking up and muttering the words, "I am never drinking with Dave Fairweather again."
Strangely, I'm going to miss all of the above!

Pat, appearing to have a crap

Talking of the British boating scene, I've been following the 4 borders expedition with great interest, Looks like a cracking wee adventure, well done guys and gal.

The Cym Llan on the Uniyaker weekend

Peace out, I'm off to live with sheep and go boating....

Birthday Boating

"Right lads, looks like a walk in"
"But I've lost my shoes"
"Aww man, this is a long bloody way"
"Is this the get on?"
"I thought it was the get off?"
"Someone have a look over that ridge...."
"more drops...."
"Damn it!"

"Right, who's up first?"
"Papers, scissors, f**k, that would be me then"
"Did he just land that on his face?"
"Yep, yes he very much did.... your go"
"This looks like a nice slide.."
"Off you go then..."
"Does he know about that..." BANG... "rock?"
"Has anyone seen my shoes?"

"Have you looked at this bit?"
"No, I was going to eddy out there"
"Good Luck"
"Why what happens"
"well its a slide, with a slight drop, it kinda just looks like you go Weeeeeeee, until you hit the kicker and go Aggghhhhhhh Holy mother of pearl... then I can't really see"
"Weeeeeeeeeee, Agggghhhhhh, not backwards no please no...aggghhhhhh TREEEEEE... THUD!"
"That looked wicked"
"I think I've broken my back"
"No seriously, has anyone seen my shoes?"

"Where does all the water go?"

"What water?"

"Does this seem to be getting narrower?"

"I've spotted where the water goes?"

"Into that pipe?"
"Oh bugger, get out get out"

"Tell him not to run it, there is a sharp rock!"
"You tell him, I've broken my back"
"I'm not telling him..."
"Did he just run that?"
"Damn where is my camera?"
"Next to my shoes?"

"I've buggered my back, if you want a lift to Glasgow stop fannying around"
"That was wicked. Probably should have inspected though"

Saving The World, Starting With The Braan

Scary Hermitage Falls

I've been lucky enough to get out paddling a lot recently, including two trips across to the Braan gorge. It really is a great wee paddle, I'll admit I wish it was slightly longer, but you definatly get off the river with a feel good factor that wasn't there at the start.

The Braan is just so different from other Scottish rivers. To get on the river is a mission in itself, and then you have a good trip through a unique steep sided gorge, and the drops get progressively harder as you get to "Splitter". Splitter is the first drop of any real consequence and is enough to get the heart pumping, you then arrive at "Coffin Falls" a drop with a dodgy run in and a hole ready to give you a trashing. You can either portage, or go for it and give the onlooking tourists something to laugh at. I actually ran this drop for the first time the other week, I wouldn't say I paddled with either style or applomb, but I boofeed the towback and avoided a trashing. There's a few more drops after Coffin before you reach (and portage) Hermitage Falls, and head back to the car, and go up to do it all again.

The current situation on the hydroscheme, is that SEPA have recommened it to be rejected, which is great, but the final decision rests with the Scottish Executive.

If you object to this scheme, please write to the Scottish Minister and say so.

Save the Braan and then go and have yourself a cup of tea, content that you have done your bit.

Playing With My Balls

Polo sucks, but still the Art Gallery on the way looked pretty

It was that time of year again, the scottish uni polo championships, where all the scottish uni's scrape together as much polo crap as they can find and descend on Glasgow Unis swimming pool. Really this event is just an excuse for a big night out Glasgow Unis union, or at least that's how I see it....

I'm not the biggest fan of polo, its taken far too seriously for my liking. I guess what I personally love about paddling has nothing to do with 10 lycra clad guys/gals chasing a ball around a swimming pool. However Glasgow generally do put on a good show at SUSF, and we here at Strathclyde keep winning it, so I should really stop complaining. From what I remember from this years competition, I got sent off the pitch for not wearing enough lycra, I got the only card in the competition for being too violent and I got a stinking hangover from partying too hard in Glasgow's union. Big thanks to the guys and girls at Glasgow for putting on a good party.

Is it just me that finds pictures of polo very dull? Here is a picture of my mate Euan instead.

So Lazy

I've been quite lazy recently when its come to updating my blog, I'm blaming exams, and the fact that my laptop blew up. Anyway, this has been quite a good paddling season in Scotland so far, there has been some really wet weekends, although typically the rain pelts down on a Sunday night and so the rivers are swollen during the week when I'm at uni, and everyone else is at work. But if you try hard enough you can often find like minded people that have skipped lectures or called in sick.

Sometimes you can't find a lift, or have classes that just can't be missed, that's when living in walking distance from your local play spot comes in handy. I had forgotten how much I enjoy playboating, I don't get the chance that often in Scotland, and to be honest, I'm not all that good. But I find chilling out next to the wave for the day really relaxing and quite soulful.

I'll admit the Kelvin stinks, its not very healthy to paddle and that I would prefer to be out creeking, but its a giggle all the same, the first wave is a little bit fast and so you are limited to spins and maybe the odd blunt, but you fall on to the second wave which has much more potential.

This is a guy we met on the river, after this session he became very ill, Leptospirosis apparently... now I remember why I haven't paddled the Kelvin in ages.

Fun on the Falloch

When i came to Uni a few years ago, i had a few rivers that i wanted to tick off my list, one of these was the Falloch, however it has eluded me ever since. Back in those days, i was young, keen and foolish. Where as now I'm just old before my time and scared of water that seems to be moving too quickly. Back then i would have hucked off the Falls of Falloch with out too much thought, however since then I have done some serious damage to my back and the falls look somewhat bigger. But the rest of the river has still been playing on my mind, and it was with some delight that I finally got down the lower Falloch.

At the get on I went to look at the falls, without the intention of paddling them..... but then i found myself sizing them up, and for the first time in ages I found myself not thinking "I can do some damage if I get this wrong" but thinking "I can land that properly without doing anything wrong." So I did it, Yeehaa... (Obviously I sent down, some younger, more foolish probes first!)

Now assuming you know what you are doing, the falls themselves are actually pretty easy, Its the "7 dwarfs" and "twist and shout" that deserve some serious respect. all I can say is if you get the chance, give it a go, it is brilliant. 2 of our group swam, I had a comedy moment in the hole at the bottom of Twist and Shout, Dave had a dodgy blind run of "The Black Hole" and then we all went home with smiles on our faces.
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