(starring Les, Sarah, Simon, Lois, Craig, Nick, Ian, Mandy and Vicks)
It’s safe to say I was a little nervous as we put in just after the “chipper”, having never paddled the Tryweryn before and knowing it was out of my comfort zone. I was also a bit wired after a 7am start and a few strong coffees – was I trembling from nerves or caffeine…
However, the first short section to the start of the “Graveyard” (a name to instill fear in the heart) went without a hitch, and most of us walked back up to do it again, finding our river feet so to speak. Gathering in an eddy just before the Graveyard, we were introduced to two more hazards of the day – firstly the flesh-eating monster midges of mid-Wales lurking near every eddy and secondly the large rafts careering down the river ready to crush an unsuspecting kayaker (Sarah was caught between two rafts later on but managed to keep her cool!) The Tryweryn was so busy it was like the M62 in rush hour. Well, only one way to go…
It’s safe to say the Graveyard lived up to its reputation, but it was all a bit of a blur; the wise words “keep paddling” echoing in my head, I managed to make the eddy where Les was taking pictures and turned to see our first swim of the day – Vicks serenely gliding down the flow, feet up and relaxed. Vicks swam three more times, losing a shoe in the process and giving Les some practice for the forthcoming Alps trip. She blamed her final capsize on Les, claiming he was hiding the rock she came a cropper on; a fate also shared by Mandy soon after. Speaking of Mandy…
She was hot on the heels of Vicks in the Swim League and has the dubious award of the most spectacular swim of the day – getting thoroughly bashed in an unfriendly stopper which whipped her paddle away. Luckily it turned up further downstream.
We stopped for a quick lunch at the main Centre, where a bird had decided to build its nest in a wall-mounted ash tray! Amazing close-up views of the tiny chicks looking nearly as hungry as me. By this point I was pretty exhausted (no Mary Poppins paddling on this river) and a bit chilly due to the first of my two swims. This particular capsize was shared by Mandy, Vicks and Ian and was captured in glorious technicolour by Craig, who couldn’t quite believe his eyes at the total carnage caused by a quirky bend of the river. Luckily there was a friendly eddy which most of us were washed into. My energy levels dipping, it was inevitable I would immerse myself once again and sure enough it happened straight after lunch. Sarah threw me a great line and Les and Nick caught my boat further down – thanks! Due to Ian’s lovely lending of an extra warm top to go under my drysuit I at least wasn’t cold now, just a bit battered.
The river gradually decreases in difficulty further down and becomes quite pretty and overgrown. Bala Mill Falls is the final challenge at the end; a Grade 4 drop which me, Mandy and Sarah opted to portage, taking the leat around it (a narrow canal through overgrown banks which is deeper than you think, as Sarah found out when exiting her boat! Possible rubber duck nomination there). We set up safety and photography at the bottom of the Falls but it wasn’t needed. Craig used up at least two lives, bouncing off a rock at the top and spinning around before somehow managing to stay upright.
We dodged the slalom paddlers at the bottom and reached the get-out, completely exhausted (or was that just me) and exhilarated. A final rubber duck nomination goes to Ian, who realised he’d left his shoes in his car which wasn’t at the get-out. At least he had his keys this time! Without doubt the Tryweryn is the hardest and most exciting river trip I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to go back.
Thanks to Les for organising, Simon and Craig for transporting me and Ian for the extra clothing.