Sunday, 4 January 2015

Les Alpes Part 6 - Day 14, 15 and 16

Day 14 (Friday 11th July)
It’s the last day of the holiday, so everyone is a bit down. Thankfully, the weather seems determined to cheer us all up, so we leave for the Gyronde in brilliant sunshine. The Gyronde is an interesting river, as it starts at grade 6, drops to 5, 4+, 4 then 3 at the footbridge, then 2, then it’s a 1/2 float to L’Argentierre slalom course on the Durance. If you don’t like what you see, you can just walk further downstream.
All through the time we’ve been here, the river has been running quite high due to some sort of confusion of hydro schemes that also meant the Durance gorge had no water in it. Today, however, it is at a perfect level and the whole group is getting on.

The Gyronde put in.

After running a shuttle to the slalom site and finding a convenient tree to hide my car under, we head down to the river. The first path down looks a lot more like a cliff than it does a path, so I opt to follow Rory and Raffa a little further down to a slightly less vertical slide to the river. Walking with creekboats is wildly overrated, so we decline to walk up the river any further. Also, there is a nice eddy right where we are. Those who had gone down the cliff put in join us and off we go straight into the maelstrom.

Rory in the put in eddy.

Amy and Raffa. You can see the river getting steeper upstream!

The water is as blue as the sky and full of frothing white. I shoot down the first drop and blast through a big hole. Somehow I end up in a micro eddy in the middle of the river and remember to breathe. Chris is leading my group, so when I see him peel out of an eddy above I follow on behind and we eddy hop the rest of the grade 4 to the bridge. The rest of the group is waiting there for us. We relax, bouncing down nice grade 3, changing up the lead in each large eddy we find.

The difficulty drops again and soon we come to the weir, at this level an easy boof on the left. The river from here is grade 1/2 and we float along in the sunshine.

A quick party surf on a small wave in the middle of town and we’re here, back where we started. We catch some eddies on the way down the slalom course, surf some diagonals.

The final eddy comes too quickly and we’re done, out on the bank, watching the others bounce down.

In an echo of our first day, we eat lunch on the grass by the cars, man-wiches all round.

Photo by Jon Wyles.

This bug fell out of the tree onto Andre!

Some people are keen for more paddling and head to the Guisane for a second run. Others paddle back to camp down the Durance. I drive my car back while the masters of the BBQ visit the supermarché to buy large quantities of meat.
Back at the campsite, the deep blue Lac is inviting, so some of us go swimming. It’s colder than it looks, but actually nice and refreshing. We swim across and back and some of the more adventurous do some rope swinging. Eventually we wander back to camp and potter about tidying and packing. I empty my car and find most of the world’s plastic bottles. The BBQ is roaring – too hot to get near!

Photo by Jon Wyles

I cook all my leftover stuff for dinner while the others have burgers and sausages and chicken bits if you’re not Rory. At the supermarché I had bought a giant melon, so I slice it into lots of bits and pass them round.
Then it’s packing time and tidying time and making sure everything is in the right car time. I don’t think the Austria-bound guys would appreciate it if we took their tents away!

Day 15
We wake up to rain. It matches our mood fairly well, especially as it’s way too early. Sad to see us all go, the Austria guys have woken up too, and help me stuff my very wet tent into its teeny wee carry bag. Off we go in the rain. Rain rain rain. The supermarket in Briançon is shut. Dave and I, desperate for morning coffee, are distinctly unimpressed.
The pass over the Alps towards Grenoble would probably be really spectacular if we weren’t in the clouds. A loooooong drive down and we find a supermarket. Coffee!
We change drivers at Grenoble and as Dave starts us off on the long motorway north I have a nice sleep. Not quite awake, we manage to fail spectacularly at one of the toll gates and get a bit lost around Lyon. Our next driver change occurs at the busiest service station ever.
At Calais we find a fuel station and top up before returning to the land of expensive diesel. Then we get really lost in Calais in a saga that shall be termed the case of the Missing McDonalds That Wasn’t Worth it When We Actually Found It. We arrive at the ferry terminal five minutes too late to catch the early ferry.
Point worth noting: Calais ferry terminal is really boring.

I make it driving from Dover to Ascot at stupid o’clock through sheer force of will and the promise of sleep on a comfy sofa.

Day 16
Jon brings me coffee. I kind of want to hug him. The drive back to St Andrews is a blur of service stations and pointedly remembering to drive on the left. I only slip up once, and that’s in the back roads of Ascot with no other cars in sight. The passengers are very quick to let me know about it!

Back in St Andrews we dump boats in the shed and passengers at their various houses. I drive home and collapse on the sofa, so glad I booked an extra holiday tomorrow!

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