Monday 1 October 2018

Going backwards; or up the creek without a paddle

There is something magical about canoeing; the gentle plap-plap over the waves, the swirl of the water under the paddles, and the light fizzing around like pop on a hot day. Leaning over to look in to the deep blue-turquoise water is as close to heaven as I can get. So this is why on Thursday after an obligatory trip to Pomena for some cash, I popped in to our local Little Heaven and asked for paddles. The sensible one had gone to get water and put her money in the apartment; mine would have just got saltily damp in the event of an emergency landing. My water would have just got wet.

More of that later.

So we had a vessel each (I don't do sharing), appropriate clothing, everything stowed in the wrong place (me), and were ready for launch. We shoved the first one into the water, then the other...luckily one had a leading rein so we could stop it making a bid for freedom. Being chivalrous, I assisted the careful one to clamber elegantly aboard, and off she went proudly displaying walking boots as figurehead. Astonishingly I got myself settled without mishap.

Although having my rucksack - containing phone and bottle of water - utterly out of reach was annoying.

Off we went, boldly striking out into the blue. There was no longer a gale blowing but the stiff breeze was still making paddling a challenge. My shoulders were pre-emptively groaning in anticipation of the next morning's physical effort. The athletic one was already miles away and heading for open sea; I was happy to let the wind guide me and I gently drifted to the other side of the lake. The goal was to get to Veliki Most and possibly to moor up for a swim.

The Big lake for the most part is more like canoeing on the open sea, though we had already noted that there was unlikely to be a contretemps between us and a high-speed catamaran. My 40-something birthday canoeing trip to Lopud for tea and a bun had obviously stayed in our memories... But this was a far more peaceful experience; paddle, stop, paddle, drift, stop, paddle, ooo swat wasp. I was getting a little thirsty but the bridge was coming into view.

I have wanted to paddle under the perfectly elegant bridge for a while. It marks the change from Big Lake into Solinski Kanal and the direction of water flowing underneath changes depending on the tide. In this case, we shot through without need for a paddle. You emerge into the calmest aquamarine pool of perfection - it is this colour simply because it's sandy underneath and not too deep. The long nosed fish which I have just failed to identify were happy to mill around beneath me.

The highlight of the trip was the flash of copper and deep iridescent blue...a busy kingfisher was taking advantage of the stillness and was catching his lunch. He flitted between the foliage and disappeared into the undergrowth. Stunning and a moment to cherish forever.

The moment of calm turned into something else as suddenly the wasps decided that they wanted to come canoeing too. Whether it was the warmth, lack of wind, or moisture on my skin, there was an increasing annoyance of them. And it got worse. I was following the speedy one to the channel's barrier and there looked to be a sensible spot to pull up and retrieve my water - which as you recall was inaccessible, stowed in the back of my vessel.

Never before have I had such a tussle of wasp v dehydration. I was in a swarm. I grabbed my water bottle, not caring if anything was re-waterproofed and leapt back in to the canoe in a complete cloud of the evil ones. Inevitably I was stung. Shaking, I paddled away as fast as possible, eager to escape back on to the water. It wasn't the most pleasant of experiences but it could have been worse.

We headed back through the channel and under the bridge. We waved to the people above us as they were the lovely couple who would be sharing a taxi to Sobra the following morning. As quickly as they appeared, the wasps ceased to trouble us - they must dislike the wide open deep water. We paddled back towards home, and hysterically disembarked. There was much slipping on the rocks, and a paddle splooshed into the sea. Oh. There was no quick way to retrieve it and it just floated there, taunting us. Out of reach.

We stood there, doubled up laughing, unable to move . Finally I yanked on one of the dry canoes as it was in the way, having forgotten that it was tied to one of ours, safely bobbing about. Dithering, some wise-spark yelled to get my shoes back on. In this way I could negotiate the rocks to retrieve the still-in-the-sea one's figurehead boots. Ah yes. She was getting impatient with my continuing hysterical giggles. We hauled one of the canoes ashore, and fished out the errant paddle. Finally everything was out, and bags were safe and dry.

Unlike my bum. I think at this point it resembled a prune. A salted one, with an extra sprinkling of salt.

We retired to our favourite bar, hot, sweaty, wet and the older man laughed at my mokra guzica... With this hilarity in mind, I had to attend my company's annual meeting. So it was a very swift beer before heading back to make myself respectable and serious. Work over, I rejoined the sunny one, and was more than ready for the goat pekar. Kakve dan je bio!!

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