Archive for July 17th, 2007

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Part 4

Day 4

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Fried food is not the ideal sporting and fitness nutrition. It is tasty though. We began the day with a ‘full ulster’ (which bears no resemblance to a full monty), and left our cosy lodge behind in glorious sunshine.

This part of the upper bann begins to get a little more populated. The odd farmhouse appears on the hill sweeping down to the river. Cows stare balnkly at us. That’s all cows do it seems. It’s no wonder they’re so far down the food chain.

We see an otter. First of all we see a stick, then the stick moves and turns out to be an otter doing the backstroke. The otter makes our day. It dives under the water and reappears right beside us before scarpering away.

Near ski supreme (the outdoor pursuits centre) we meet banana boats and water skiers, throwing up a big wake all round them. We wave nervously and try not to tip the boat

Our last obstacles are the floodgates at the cutts, just outside Coleraine. From a mile away we can see the red flashing lights indicating the gates are open and the flow is too dangerous to get through. By this stage we’re past the last jetty and have to do a (only very slightly) panicked turn and paddle upstream to the car park we just passed.

Dad runs down to the lock and chats to the lock keeper about the feasibility or running it. He told us lots of horror stories about people being sucked in and drowning and how they never found the bodies. Well no, I made that up. But he put us off. For the record we think we could have ran it.

So we had to ‘portage’ the gear round the weir. This involved getting wee Liz (the original pudge) to drive up. We put the canoe on the roof and drove the mile past it and put the canoes back in the water.

To finish the trip we put all three of us in the Canadian, with minimal gear and paddled through Coleraine. We had a good reception. Well there were no youths throwing bucky bottles at us, so I consider that a good reception.

We stop at Coleraine Marina, having managed 70 miles of paddling in 4 days. My girly, hospital hands are blistered and sun burnt. Simon’s even girlier programmer hands are blistered despite his 3 quid gloves. The gloves have a hole on the back of the wrist, leaving him with a 3cm diameter burnt patch on the back of his white hands. This looks like ‘the all seeing eye’ and I imagine will be hard to explain when he goes back to work.

When I was in NZ I always told people that NI had very little going for it on objective terms. It was wet, we all hate each other, you can’t get a decent cup of coffee. But that I loved it simply cause it was home. But now I stand corrected. In 4 days I’ve seen NI from a point of view I’d never seen it from before, that it can be more beautiful than I had perhaps expected.

I imagine, like most things, that it was always this way, I just never bothered to notice. So I’ll take my “my country is better than your country” attitude and place it in the ever increasing box of unpleasant character traits that I’m slowly beginning to fill.

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