Allier 2018

Allier 2018; from wings to white water!

Although not my first time to this amazing, beautiful and stunning river, it very much felt like it. As many of you know, I regularly train hard with the marathon group, preferring to race competitively, instead of throwing myself down crazy rapids; and with GCSE results day looming, going on this year’s French trip seemed like a bit of a ludicrous decision………how wrongly I interpreted the situation.
From start to finish, I can honestly say that this year’s trip was firmly the best French trip in recent years. After setting up camp on a (thankfully!) dry day, we rested in hope of regaining some energy lost from a long exhausting drive down to Langeac.
On the Sunday, a nice gentle warm up paddle from Langeac to Lavoute Chilac to get back into the flow of things (excuse the pun). On the Monday, after having loosened up, we tackled the Parades to Langeac; having to face the mighty weir flume – a personal highlight of the section, with some potential laughs as a few swims occur here.
Then on the Tuesday a very, very early start (a tough life getting up at 7:30am) was well worth it for the gorgeous paddle from Chapeauroux to Alleyras – otherwise known as ‘that section with 40 rapids’ – with a few technical bits to keep us on our toes. Although a great paddle, we returned to a half- swamped campsite which may have been a good paddle in itself, but morale was bought up by a quick change to pizza and chips for tea (a wise move by the trip leaders some would argue).
Then came Wednesday……. the grade 3 section (dun…dun…dunnnnnnn). Not only was I paddling this section to prove others I could still ‘probably paddle’, but I wanted to show myself that I was still capable of paddling a technical section of white water. The doubts disappeared quickly as I tackled the section with relative ease, possibly better than I did a couple of years ago (ask the coaches as I believe I’m rather biased, who would have thought?) reassuring me why it’s my favourite section of the river. Thanks to the dynamic duo of Liam and Boothy for taking me down this section, without which I wouldn’t have realised I can still paddle on moving water.
Thursday. Day off for some. Results for others. Anyone on the trip would be able tell you how fear consumed me the night before, anxious about not being at home to open them. Again, my worries were unnecessary as I passed all my subjects, and gleefully celebrated with a drink on the house from the local bar- a regular evening spot for some on the trip.
Then Friday came, the final day of paddling and the penultimate day in France. The dynamic pairing of Gillespie/Fitzgerald teamed up again (open canoe this time!!) to brave the Parades to Langeac section – no problem for Janet obviously as there were no portages for things to go wrong (I’m sorry Janet, I just had to). Open canoeing was different and very much interesting on white water – an experience I have Ian Flanders to thank for, and would definitely recommend to those who haven’t endeavoured before- challenging me in new ways as an already confident paddler.
Saturday was interesting to say the least. The group started with an early morning high rope session beside the river (so we can technically claim that it was still a river trip). I would like to thank the Frenchman who ran the high rope course for putting up with laughing Brits during their briefing for the sole reason that the briefing was in French. Camp was quickly dissembled and we were on our way……to Ikea, for MEATBALLS!
A long drive was ahead of us, and being in the trailing bus, was very confused when the leading bus (being driven by none other than Mr Dave Booth) detoured into the centre of Paris. A quick photo in front of the Eiffel tower for the Instagram (tommy.fitzy, hit me up) as well as negotiations with a French salesman for a laser (he started at €25 and we ended up at £12, so the real question here is, Why am I not in Brussels negotiating our Brexit deal?
Overall it was a fantastic week away with many laughs – but not so many rolls- made even more enjoyable by the company in which I was surrounded for the week.
I would personally like to thank Dave, Liam, Paul, Ian, Corinna (Fizzy to some), Janet & Jack for collectively help run the trip, without who the trip may never have ran. And finally I’d like to thank my Dad (Tony to the rest of you) for working tremendously hard to make this year’s trip possible- whilst committing to his role as treasurer as well as his full time job (plus having children to take care of)- which was enjoyed by all those who were there.

Tommy Fitzgerald

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