With friends and family visiting, and the weather being fabulous, we decided to try our hands at canoeing. My friends from Japan had canoed down the Orb river several times before, but in all the time I’ve been here I’d never managed to go. Now was the time to do it, and so one sunny morning we set off for a drive to Roquebrun where the adventure starts. We’d settled for the 10km run, as I felt that for my nephews and myself a 15km ride would be too much for a first experience. Departures for that particular run are at 11am and 2pm and we had to be at the base half an hour before the start. The number of people was impressive, but so was the efficiency with which everything was dealt with. First queue up to pay and fill in the contract. Then join the queue for the equipment. A drum for each boat which allows you to take things with you and keep them dry. Then helmets for the smaller children, life-vests for everyone and finally the paddles. Now that we have everything we go to where the bus departs to take us to Vieussan, where we’ll get on the river. After a 15 minute ride, we arrive at Vieussan and get a briefing explaining the basic manoeuvres and rules. And off everyone rushes to get a boat – there are plenty and so we decide to let the crowds go first, and take it easy. My friends’ experience came in handy on this trip: the drums come in three sizes and make great back rests, the larger the better. And of course the boat needs to have a space at the back and straps so that the drum can be secured there. All the drums have names written on them, and you have to remember what yours is called, in case it gets washed over board. You can then pick it up again at the next rapids or in Roquebrun. My drum was named caillou – French for stone 🙂 . I’d bought straps for my glasses and sunglasses and tied them securely to the glasses, as well as behind my head to make sure they could not come off. A good move as it turned out!Our instructor told us that we had to get under the low bridge in Vieussan before noon, as the hydro-electric station further up the valley would be releasing some water, meaning that we would have to carry the boats rather than slide under it if we were too late. So we set off and I was amazed at how easy it felt. Under the low bridge, lying down and hoping for the best, under the large bridge in Vieussan, which seemed enormous from down below, and across some small rapids – OK so far. Then came the Rapide de la Tortue and that’s where things got a little hairy – I managed to flip the boat over!! Nothing drastic though, a little scrape on the shin, a stubbed toe and bit of water in one ear. Amazingly I managed to hold on to my paddle and my friends were of course waiting below the rapids and caught the boat. And my glasses stayed on!! My nephew also dealt with it really well and came out better than me without any bruises. After all that excitement we stopped and had a little rest, a drink and a snack, and then carried on. The scenery from the river is beautiful, and I saw many things which are not visible and accessible from the road. Along the way we saw an otter jumping over the rocks, and further on a horse was by the waters edge. I did have my old camera with me, but since it’s not waterproof it only came out when we were taking a break. We did stop a few more times; there’s no time limit as to when the boat has to be back, so a dip here, a rest there make no difference. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the water fights we had between the boats – what a laugh!!The last stretch of water is wide, slow and beautiful and the children just got out and swam almost all the way back to the base while the adults just drifted. The water was warm and everyone had a wonderful time. Back at the base we handed in all our gear and before going home we all had a drink and an ice cream at the snack bar – total bliss!One of the most important things on the trip was sun-screen. My nephews are very fair and burn very easily, but with regular applications neither had any burns. So all in all a fantastic day out, and one that I’ll be repeating again before too long!