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A paddle in the river.

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Introduction

A paddle in the river Admittedly I was not expecting a stroll along picturesque canyon scenery when the activity of gorge walking was announced, despite the region's hilly nature, but neither had the prospect of preparing for full blown assault down a river in its upper course occurred to me. Snowdonia is abundant with water of all descriptions, from the mists that drift across the mountain tops, to the waterfalls and rivers that forge their way towards the coast. It is safe to declare that not one part of this activity included walking; wading, staggering, stumbling, even plummeting maybe, but definitely not walking. From the moment the coach set off from base camp, and parked on a dusty cobbled road, I was awaiting the activity with anticipation. Then, to my shock, following the inquisitive cries from surrounding pupils, the instructor bluntly likened the activity to a, 'dip in a pond'. A wetsuit has always been an item of clothing designed for reassurance. Whether it be surfing in the Pacific, or even paddling off the coast of Scotland, a wetsuit is made to protect you from bitter waters. Strangely however, the suits flung on a trailer which we were told to wriggle ourselves into left me feeling helplessly exposed. The fluorescent orange shoulder patches were in tatters, and the zips on your back jammed and in some cases were non-existent. ...read more.

Middle

Not even a grimace. I was towards the back of the line, so I could witness the sudden gasps of shock as pupils ahead waded cautiously in. Reluctantly, I succumbed to the crunching jaws of the river, ready to devour me down through to its lower course. I remember seeing these nature programs, portraying rivers similar to these as tranquil and innocent, but when submerged in its sediment-clouded waters, being buffeted along, you felt completely at its mercy. For the first couple of minutes, the icy cold water attacked your body like a vicious plague. It took time for the effect of the ragged wet suit to kick in, and even when it did, I had soon found a new nemesis: midges. From now on, every pause in the activity was to be greeted by a swarm of fluttering midges. They are random yet decisively frustrating in their movements, circling our heads, some of the more daring ones making quick dashes for neck and shoulders. We waded along in a group, using any rock as a temporary support. In some places the pace was slow, but in others we were swept downstream by more powerful currents. Just as I was becoming accustomed to the nature of the river and the activity, the instructor declared that we would stop shortly, and tackle one of the course's several 'challenges'. ...read more.

Conclusion

Heights were never my strong point, as I had found out on the top of Cader, when Mr Cook persuaded us to peer down at the vast Corrie Lake below. The thought struck me that I would not be able to complete the activity if I failed to commit myself to the bubbling pit of white oblivion. Being towards the front of the queue, I shuffled nearer to the edge. Several small pebbles became dislodged and disintegrated in the fiery cauldron. I raised my numb arm and wiped a bead of sweat from my brow, before loosening my collar. Suddenly my life jacket became a worthless chunk of yellow padding. A cheerful Mr Allen below, perching on a boulder, did little to boost my confidence. Hell's demons were playing cunning tricks on my mind: Is the plunge pool deeper enough? Are you certain you will not scrape your back on the side of the rock face? I was superman, as I teetered nervously off the edge and plunged down. All I could see was a blur of rich green leaves, jagged rocks, and finally Mr Allen's freckled face before I was consumed by the effervescent potion. As I plodded slowly back to the coach I had time to reflect. There was no doubt that the activity has been unusual and exhilarating and, after one sniff, I could safely say it had been a, "dip in the pond". ...read more.

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