Paddling the Thames: Day 2

Carswell Marsh to Abbingdon

Gmaps route: 28.47 miles

Morning of Day Two, in sight of the riverWe woke up to a world soaked in dew, it hadn’t rained, but everything so wet it might as well have. As we decrinkled ourselves little did we know what was ahead of us on what would turn out to be our longest day of paddling.

We had our two oranges to eat for breakfast and that’s all. They were super juicy though. In the morning, spirits were still high, but as the day rolled on, the paddling did get significantly harder. Remember those gliding sentinels and clouds of damselflies, in our exhaustion and hunger induced delirium, we discussed the merits about the possibility of physically harnessing the flying and swimming biota around us, having a menagerie armada of a chariot, pulling us through the water that at times felt as thick as molasses.

Hot Air Balloons floating aboveWe were treated to some wonderful sights today. Including a couple of hot air balloons crossing our path. I had too wonder as we were looking up and taking photos of the balloons if the balloon people were looking down on and photographing us, the lone canoers on the Thames.

We discovered that some of our assumptions we had about this trip were wildly wrong. Assumption #1: The river has a current. We seriously thought we would have much more help from the current of this river. River! HA! Portions of which, we swear, had a barely perceptible current, it’s just one really long narrow winding lake! In the faster portions, Mark estimated the water was flowing at about one mile per hour. And this is with the river high and in theory moving fast!

Assumption #2: That we could reasonably paddle three miles per hour. No, at best we think we were hitting two and half miles per hour. When talking about distances on the scale of 80-100 miles, the difference between two miles per hour and three miles per hour is a colossal amount of time and energy.

No, that's not a happy DebAssumption #3: That there would be canoe friendly pubs we could paddle up to with welcoming energy providing meals. Did I mention the flooding? The kitchen too damaged to be open for food? Even two pubs, directly across the river from eachother, both boasting signs saying food served all day, both closed for repairs (note my grimace in the photo to the left upon discovering they were both closed). Or the pubs whose kitchens are only open 12-2 and then 7-10pm? And we arrive at said pub shortly after or before kitchen hours?

I’m sure there were further assumptions we had misconceived and discussed, but they currently slip my mind.

Ruins on the riversideWe were operating on the assumption that the guide that said we had 100 miles to cover was the correct mileage (and it was) so we really needed to cover more miles and pressed on well after dark. There were ruins gleaming in the sunset as we paddled on. With a nearly full moon, we had plenty of light to work with. I turned to Mark and remarked, “we are paddling the Thames by moonlight” I know it sounds strange to state the obvious while you are doing the obvious thing, but it was amazing and beautiful and still, with just the sound of our paddles pushing us through the water under the silvery light.

Deb in a lockLock workers leave the locks at 7pm, after which the boaters take charge for their own passage. These are complicated systems, Mark can discuss these in better detail than I could. But to suffice it to say, after 7pm, it was simpler to portage our boat (i.e. empty it’s contents and carry it and contents to the other side of the lock). We were coming up onto one more lock, “Just one more lock,” Mark said, “then we’ll find someplace for the night, the next town is just a half mile after this lock” My spirits were pretty low. I was tired, hungry and rapidly getting a bit cranky.

We weakly paddled into Abbingdon at 10:30 at night hoping to find a room at an inn on the water. I was seriously prepared to cry if Mark came out saying they had no rooms. My psyche was in such a fragile state I nearly shed a tear on hearing that we had a room! Oh, the decadent luxury of a bed and a shower and fast food in town, since all other restaurants kitchens had already closed for the night. And the hotel’s kitchen was closed due to repairs from the flood.

Until 1:00am… I woke up to shouting outside… then the fire alarm went off. Was this for real? Soon, pounding at the door, we needed to get out. It was a false alarm, the arguing had been with one of the workers and the hotel manager. We sat outside for an hour, the entire time the alarm screaming in the background. This is what we get for *not* camping out in the quiet solitude of our tent. We did meet and chat with a fellow American ex-pat and his son until we got the okay to go back in. We again sacked out quickly and too soon our continental breakfast knock on the door rudely awakened us.