Helen and Aimee organised a trip down the river Wye in canoes staying overnight in a tipi. They needed an extra person and I jumped at the chance to accompany them.
The trip was arranged through Tipi Adventure who organise the canoes and the tipis and transfer your baggage from one tipi to the next.
We all arrived within 10 minutes of each other around 10:30 in time for the 11:00 briefing. It took a while to sort our stuff into 2 piles, one to be transported off to the tipi and the other to come in the boat with us. In celebration of the Queen’s jubilee, Helen had brought union jack hats and ties which were distributed. We were taken into a barn and issued our life jackets and paddles and then taken in a minibus down to another site for a brief introduction to the tipis and canoes.
The introduction was very brief indeed and those of us who had never done kind of thing before (i.e. most of us!) were left a little dazed. Apparently the chap doing our briefings was the owner of the company and not used to doing the hands on stuff any more!
This is the tipi we were given our very brief briefing in. The crossed poles at the front hold closed the blue smoke flaps that you will hear a lot about at the end of this post. To let smoke from the fire out, you pick up the poles and walk round to the back of the tent with them.
2 more tipis on this site, in the distance past the 3rd one you can see where our canoes are waiting for us to get going. After about 10 minutes of introduction, much of which involved lugging the boats down to the water, we were in the boats and on our way. By the time Josie and I had our boat in the water (we were last in for some reason) the others were already paddling up and down the river and going round in circles etc.
After just over an hour of paddling, we stopped and left our canoes by the side of the river to go to a pub for lunch.
Lunch was excellent and the staff friendly (once they had established for certain that we weren’t putting wet bums on their fabric cushions). We stayed longer and (some of us) drank more than we probably should have. When we returned to the water, Josie and I used our secret weapon of sobriety (and associated lack of need to stop to go to the toilet) to get ahead of the pack for the first time in the trip so far. However, we were soon passed again, especially once Sharan stopped steering and went back to the front of her canoe to provide the power!
The first joining of the canoes.
Sharan looks well pleased with her idea to make a raft. Mainly because she doesn’t have to paddle!
Back to individual paddling again.
Now we were getting pretty knackered and focussing on our goal of getting to the tipi to have some barbecue and beer so the camera went away and we got down to some serious paddling. Of course there was a lot of mucking about, shooting “rapids” and another quick raft join up (with me in the middle this time!) It took quite a bit longer to make it to the camp site and we were starting to wonder if we had gone too far when Helen in the lead spotted the site. I personally was very relieved at the prospect of getting out of the canoe and having a lie down. We had to drag the boats up quite a steep slope and past the ones that were already there (we were the last to arrive, possibly due to the long dinner). Once the canoes were safely stowed upside down so they didn’t fill up with water in the impending rain, we all went off to inspect our tipi and the facilities on site.
Just as advertised, all our kit had been delivered to the tipi and was waiting for us. We quickly unpacked the food, booze and games. Some people went off for a swim and the rest of us played games. Then Helen started the barbecue and Toni built a good fire outside. Unfortunately it began to rain while Helen was cooking and we ate in the drizzle around the roaring fire outside. Despite all the activity, none of us were very hungry and a lot of the food was not cooked or not eaten. Fortunately we managed to salvage a lot and didn’t have to throw it away.
Poor old corn and sweet potatoes, feeling all left out cos they didn’t get eaten!
Fire! Inside! The! Tent! Quick, grab a bucket..oh wait, it’s supposed to be there.
Since it had become pretty wet outside by now, we packed up the food and came inside to sit around the fire and tell stories and roast marshmallows. The first time I have ever done that inside a tent!
The weather had become pretty foul by now with torrential rain and high winds and it started to rain inside the tipi through the smoke flaps. Closing the flaps led to a lot of smoke inside so we decided to put the fire out (literally, Alice picked it up and carried it outside!) and settle down to bed. Unfortunately the weather continued to worsen and even with the flaps fully closed (and adjusted during the night by several people) it continued to rain inside the tipi. Several people had to move their sleeping position and their belongings during the night to avoid being soaking in the morning and one of the bowler hats from earlier was pressed into service as a bucket to catch the drips which apparently Alice had to get up and empty several times during the night.
Finally the weather died down in the night, I’m not sure when, and by the morning there was just a light drizzle outside. Inside there were some pretty big wet patches but nothing appeared seriously damaged. In the light we could clearly see at least 3 problems that contributed to the internal rain: there were several holes in the tipi fabric, one just above my bed although I didn’t get wet; the drip catcher (a funnel-shaped piece of fabric that sits in the middle of the tipi at the top of the cone and directs rain to the edge and outside – Note the previous link is to a site that describes the drip catcher well and has nothing to do with the actual tipi we stayed in!) had a big hole in the middle where the water poured out and was caught in the hat; the strips of fabric which are supposed to channel water into the drip catcher were hanging down the sides of the catcher and therefore channeled the water into the tipi rather than into the catcher!
After making sure everything survived in reasonable condition, we got the kettle on and made tea and then breakfast and then tea again. This was all done on the provided gas stove as we had used our quota of wood the night before and didn’t fancy paying for more just to make breakfast. It was also done inside to avoid getting wet in the constant drizzle outside. After breakfast we packed up and we met some of the ladies from the tipi next door. Turns out theirs leaked worse than ours and they were all soaked along with all their stuff. They seemed in pretty high spirits though. They also had 3 people in a 2 man canoe so we gave them ours since we didn’t need it anymore.
This is Helen cooking yummy sausage sandwiches for breakfast.
Now all there was left to do is hang out in the tipi waiting for the guys to come in the minibus and take us back to base and our cars. The drive out of the field was interesting as the rain had made the roads very slippery and we often found ourselves sliding sideways across dirt tracks. Made it back to the cars in one piece though and said our goodbyes and headed off. All in all a very enjoyable weekend, would have been perfect if not for the bad weather and defective tipi. Already planning to return to do a longer trip.