How to dissappear completely – part 1


Two years ago we did this trip. Canoe from Portadown to Coleraine. 4 days on the river and the Lough. Outdoors, doing manly things.

Two years ago I’d just arrived back from my little escapist adventure to NZ. Two years ago I looked at my life and kept repeating to myself that I was the luckiest man alive. That no one alive had the opportunities and options and experiences that I had. All of which undeserved.

Two years ago we did this trip with Da and he’s declined to make the repeat trip with us. Some lame excuse about being dead and all that.

Two years ago and now everything is changed. So it goes.

Nice start eh? It gets better honest.


Spent all day yesterday packing and repacking trying to think of all the things we might need, trying to see if everything we need might fit into the two canoes. Being hopeful that simon’s somewhat damaged canoe might be up for the job.


Credit to Liz for our new addition of braces – old man braces from Matalan – that keep the spray decks high enough to stop the water leaking in.

My spraydeck is made by perception – a respectable name in canoe circles. According to the lapel the model is ‘gaybo’ which is I suppose not so respectable in many circles. Mine is ‘gaybo’. Simy’s isn’t. Read into that what you will.

The other useful addition is 3G (or more likely GPRS) and facebook which enables me to post lovely photos while the rest of you are skiving in work on facebook or reading blogs.

Hence why I’m lying in the tent at 2345 writing this while the waves lap at the shore of the island.

Anyhow. By the time we’d eaten the requisite poached egg and bacon and remembered the stuff that Simon had forgotten we were on the water shortly after lunch.

There’s nothing that exciting on the upper Bann between Portadown and Lough Neagh. It’s nice from Banbridge to Portadown as previously noted. And it’s lovely on the lower Bann. But this bit is mainly flood plains and cows staring at you. Simy loves cows. I don’t.

It was windy. Wind is hardly the canoeist’s friend. It just means you have to paddle twice as hard for less progress. It was a northerly wind. Kind of unfortunate seeing as we were paddling basically due north. Apart from the brief bit when due to the nature of meanders we were paddling south at one point.

The tough bit was getting out to Coney. There was a fair ould swell on the Lough with the wind casting up waves the full length of Lough Neagh. We were stuck paddling across them and it left us feeling more than a little nervous and twitchy if we were truthfully honest.

We’re into this canoeing for the scenery not the adrenaline. Waves aren’t really our thing.

But we made it. A tad damp from the splash but we made it.

Set up camp and sat round a picnic table while Peter (the warden who lives on the island and a bit of an all round legend) greeted us with beer and good conversation. The man has such good stories I could listen to him all day.


BBQ and some time at the camp fire and look at the time it’s dark and we’re shattered and it’s off to bed for the Neill boys.

I haven’t even had a second to read more Churchill or try and sew my sandals back together.

Unless the lough rises 4 feet by morning or we’re killed by swine flu then we’ll still be here and I can tackle those really pressing issues then.


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July 2009
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