The Usk 2005

So Steveo, how good was the Usk trip? I was drunk, don’t usk me!

Boom boom.

Now that I’ve got the first line out of the way I can start the trip report proper. After much debate as to which river would be best to take our lovely new people down, the Usk was chosen. Bonus – some motor way driving in the minibus!

It all began, as all good trips do, at the Boathard sometime after Countdown has finished. Yes, I did have to miss Deal/No Deal, but Noel Edmonds is getting on my wick anyway. It’s not like the banker is really on the phone is it, it’s just him improvising a rubbish conversation. Anyway, I digress. All things were packed, and people were on the bus. The lovely drivers for this trip were myself and Jackie. Unfortunately for most people on the bus, the age old law of “I’m driving, so I get final say on the music” came in to play. Which is why for the first half of the journey everyone on the bus was subjected to the Charlotte Church album at very loud volumes. At the food stop most people were happy to admit to any crimes they had or hadn’t committed, and some were willing to walk the leg from Bristol to Cwmdu.

After much coaxing, and less controversial music later, we arrived in the idyllic town village/hamlet house/pub combo that is Cwmdu. To the Farmers Arms, and half the pub is ours. Much beer later and back to the hut. Not sure why, but a few people hit the sack early, namely George, Tim and Tom. Those still awake find it highly amusing to see how much damage can be caused with a burnt cork to the aforementioned – answer = lots!

Saturday morning is a bright an early start, with everyone eager to get on the water. The level is reasonable, and everyone enjoys a paddle. Some enjoy it so much, they decide to continue paddling past the get out. The leader of the following group informs the observers on the bridge that a somewhat dangerous weir is ahead. Some Baywatch running along the bank reveals everyone is safe, albeit with one Fresher sat on a rock in the middle of the river for a while. Someone should point out eddies are found behind rocks, not on them. A notable swim is Thom. Not sure why, but I’m sure the reason will become clear at some point (Steveo, it was my second only river ever—Thom (Thom you paddled the hard bit fine then fell in on flat water – Chris)). What with the trip being so popular, two runs were needed. I volunteered to ferry people about in the minibus and take part in the second run. The hardened crew of people left with me were given the task of making sandwiches for the soon to be hungry paddlers getting off the river. Plates and plates of beautiful sandwiches were made, and presented in a simply delightful manner. Unfortunately, we didn’t think the logistics through completely and left the sandwiches in the hut. Much to the distaste of everyone doing both runs, who weren’t returning to the hut. Ah. A quick sandwich run by Thom and everyone is much happier, and the faff is calmed. Some loudish Half Man Half Biscuit from the minibus helped to raise spirits.

In a mould-breaking tea, many sausages were fried and a trip to a not so local chip shop meant that everyone enjoyed an alternative club feast. Followed by one of the most creative puddings I’ve ever had the honour of; Bananas with grated chocolate (white or milk!) and various sauces, administered by Hugh and Thom in a variety of manners, including some, all or none of the following – creative, arty, thoughtful, generous, dangerous, messy. Sometimes people even got the sauces they asked for. Sometimes.

Evening falls and it’s back to the Farmers Arms. A fine evening of beer, wine and a little bit of Tequila ensued. After some alleged Dart Banditers received a stern lecture on the wrongs off breaking access agreements and it’s back to the hut for more drinking fun. But no! Only seconds from the door of the Farmers Arms and we’re in the middle of a full scale midnight rally! What excitement! Cries of “oooh”, “aaahh”, “was that a Nova?!” and “I really think he needs to work on his lane management” were not uncommon. Thom even joined in for the small stretch between the pub and the hut, wheelspinning and attempting to take out the crowd in the hut car park.

After the good cars have gone, and everyone got bored watching Grannys carefully accelerating their Skodas past, it’s inside for some Ring of Fire. It’s around now I have to admit to going to bed somewhat early. All I know, is that the next morning people were eager to show me pictures of Stevie Shaw covered in cork, Jack with a giant shaving foam penis drawn on his chest and pictures of possibly the best game ever – Bucking Burto (information to be found elsewhere in this fine publication!).

Sunday, and the hardcore paddlers are greeted with a treat, the Usk is in Spate! It is indeed big, fast and chocolatey. Alas, those of us not so confident with our paddling decide it’s not ideal for us. Instead, we head off to practice some skills in the canal and eat more cheese and ham rolls. Rock on!

By all accounts the Usk in spate was decidedly more exciting than the canal. However, those who did paddle the Usk missed out on a certain mischievous minibus driver repeatedly inching across a car park whenever Mike Bunton tried to get on. Still makes me giggle. Hehe.

A fine bus journey home, and another fine trip enjoyed by many.

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