My bubble was burst when I was confronted with the river Gyronde. As we arrived at Vallouise, I looked down towards the river, and all I could see was rocks. The water levels were low, so I would have to pick my way carefully, slowing myself down as I went to give myself time to orient my boat around the rocks.
It was going well until I slid off a rock and capsized. What surprises me when I look at the video footage is how gentle my capsize looks. Underneath the water, time slowed down as I encountered my first painful experience of being dragged along a rocky riverbed at full speed. It was too shallow to roll back up, and somehow I had crushed my hand while I was down there. As I came out of the water I felt shocked and confused, and I couldn’t work out what hurt most. There was a dull ache coming from my knees, my hand was bleeding and I couldn’t move my fingers.
As I sat on the side of the river, dipping my hand into icy cold water, I began to sob. It was at that moment that I realized the magnitude of the challenge I had taken on. Once the shock began to wear off, I regained movement in my hand, and then I had to choose: get back on or admit defeat. Reluctantly, I put my boat back in the water and carried on, but I was still feeling raw and tearful after what had just happened, and moments later I found myself pinned up against a rock. I nudged myself forwards to come off the rock, and I found myself bumping along the river bed again.
White water kayaking requires a certain mind-set, and my mind definitely wasn’t in the right place that day. After a third swim I angrily threw my paddle up onto the rocks before climbing out. Thankfully, I was surrounded by a very even-tempered team, who calmed me down, helped me back into my boat, and accompanied me for the last stretch of the river, where it finally began to widen out a little.
I have never been so happy to come off the water. Although my hand and fingernails are still quite bruised, I got off lightly, and I am pleased that this is the worst thing to have happened to me on the trip. Watch the highlights from the day here:
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