Ardeche paddling 1990

Wine for the Areche kayak rally 1990

When first drunk in 1990 I recall it tasted awful. Had it matured (like us) with age?

At a recent canoe club meal Kevin arrived with an old bottle of red wine which he’d found in his ‘wine cellar’. I suspect this a way of saying it had been sitting in the back of a cupboard for a long, long time.

A closer look revealed it was dated 1990 and was presented to everyone who paddled the Ardeche rally at Easter 1990. I must have drunk mine.

Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s we made a point of heading down every Easter to kayak the Ardeche and neighbouring rivers such as the Allier and Chassezac of which were great rivers to paddle at around class 3-4.

It wasn’t always warm and sunny even in the South of France at Easter. On one trip we awoke to find a large snowfall which made paddling a non starter. Instead we headed off for a hill side to try a spot of “canoging”. This involved using the kayak to slide down the hill side. Great fun until you got carried away and forgot to notice the barn at the bottom of a slope. Pete W did a great job of steering into the entrance rather than hitting the side of the barn. There is probably a bit of video lying about somewhere showing the moment of impact.

At that time the Ardeche rally was a popular event but very few British paddler visited the area. The first year our paddlers dashed off down river thinking it was a race. It turned out that the way to win the rally was to be closest to your estimated time of arrival. Next year we read the entry details more carefully.

Ardche paddling group photo 2012

Derek,Kevin,Pete,Nicky and Jerry from the 1990 Ardeche kayak trip

On another trip down the Allier it was COLD. Tony lost a paddle glove and after an hour just had to dash on down river to keep warm. The French rafting company on the water had a different approach. Their crews stood about jumping up and down in their shortie wetsuits. Perhaps they were a lot younger or made of stronger stuff than us, but their blue legs suggested they were en route to hypothermia. Obviously outdoor activities in France in those days was seen as “character building”.

Jenny took a few swims and started getting very cold even with a dry-suit on. Luckily for her the rafting group had a minibus as support so she ended up spending the morning with a bunch of young Frenchmen in the back of the minibus picking up the increasingly cold rafters.

The bottle had a lot of memories attached to it, not least the thought that at the time we were given it the contents had tasted awful….

The tricky decision was whether to open this bottle of memories. It was agreed…open it!

Like a lot of memories it had improved (a bit) with age.