Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Canoeing on the Dordogne

"Cloudy with a high of 73 degrees and some rain," said the forecast.  All seven of us decided this was the day to get out on the river in two canoes and one kayak.  We headed downstream with a good current from Carsac where the bus had left us to drift or paddle 25 kilometers to St Vincent De Cosse (Les Milandes).  Now how long do you guess that the trip took us?  We stopped about three times...once to eat the food we took with us, once to get some drinks, once to look for lost sunglasses and glance at photos we could purchase as souvenirs.

 The scenery was bucolic: pastures, fields of corn or tobacco, soaring vertical cliffs full of niches, caves, and the occasional carved door where someone may have lived once upon a time, chateaus perched precariously on an eroded limestone outcropping, farmhouses tucked into the green forest, rows of perfectly planted trees, groves of walnut trees, small clusters of buildings situated high on the distant hills affording defensive positions in olden times, the rare bird or duck, and at least five arched stone bridges.

We found that we weren't drifters; we paddled most of the way.  There was the threat of splashed water, but more often we tried to out maneuver each other to be the leader of our pack.  Austin was the most agile in his kayak, but he also had to paddle the entire 25 kms by himself.  We are definitely a bit stiff in unexpected places today, but it was a wonderful experience.

Oh, including stops, the whole trip took us about five hours.

No liability waivers or safety briefings typical in America, just a bon voyage and off we went. The wide lazy Dordogne echoed with the songs of French, German and English tourists sharing the river. The river banks were scattered with family farms, cliff faces with ancient cave dwellings, castles growing out of the rocks high above the river, small villages packed with tourists, snack shops, and families having picnics.

Just as our trip ended, it started to rain. We waited for the bus under the oak and poplar trees on the edge of a small farm. Austin and Kylie kept busy running through the corn field, and we all smelled the tobacco flowers which really don't smell at all.  Next we had a slow crawl home on the impossibly narrow roads, and then the local pizzeria provided dinner. We ate way too much and then ordered ice creams and crepes with nuttella, banana and whipping cream. The waiter brought us an extra crepe, but I couldn't send it back because there was already a misunderstanding regarding me complaining that the food was taking too long, but really I was just ordering water.  French is a bit rusty.  The evening ended with a family game of charades and me working late. Tomorrow we head toward the sun.


  1. Paying money for an activity without signing a paper acknowledging that what you are about to do could lead to serious injury, dismemberment or even death. I think that sounds vaguely familiar from some time in my life long ago. Odd that I lived through that.

  2. Guess what all the kids tried to do in their canoes!