Euro trip 2018

Here’s my little Euro road trip from early summer 2018:


  • 19 days
  • 7 countries (France, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy, Slovenia)
  • 4300 km driven.
  • 17 border crossings or customs areas.
  • 5 days of kayaking.
  • 1 night slept in car.
  • 1 night slept in hotel.
  • 3 nights slept on a floor.
  • 5 nights spent under canvas.
  • €154 in tolls (approx), including Swiss and Austrian vignettes
  • About 6 fills of diesel or so.

The idea behind the trip was simple enough. That I would drive over to Slovenia with the 3 kayaks of myself, Dave, and John; with any camping gear as necessary for the stay, while I got to visit a few of my people en route.

The journey down to the ferry was uneventful. I had attempted to travel lighter than usual, while still having enough to camp and paddle in relative comfort, as well as living out of bags for the duration of the trip. I managed to get a clear view out of the back window, which turned out to be most useful for autoroute and autobahn driving! On the ferry over, we had a basic cabin – turned out to be the last one available when I booked. I got a little shock when I heard the Captain giving us an arrival time in Roscoff, as I had thought I had booked to Cherbourg. After a quick sanity check and double-check, I realised that yes I had indeed booked to Roscoff, but had booked the return via Cherbourg. The slow sprint across France was warm, pretty, and relatively uneventful as French road trips go, getting to the last unserviced Aire before Mulhouse by midnight, for a slightly uncomfortable sleep in the car for that night – and a promise to use a hotel to sleep in on the way back instead of the car – especially as there were no cheaper cabins left available on the boat on the way back so reserved seats were the order of the return ferry trip.

I dropped Lily off at her brother’s in Zurich, as well as getting to meet him for the first time in over a decade. Meeting the kittehs there as well was good! After a night there, I transferred to the nearby town where my Aunt and family live at their home near Zurich. It was good to spend some time there, as it was my first time seeing them at home in Switzerland. I got a bit of a shock at the prices of things out there, but it was an incentive to see about Swiss employment! After a visit to the Rheinfalls with the aunt and family I got back on the road to Slovenia. En route across Germany I got a quick cup of tea with Flo’s wife Vita and clarified some arrangements for my future visit there again later in the trip. So I continued my trip down to Bovec.

In Bovec, I spent two nights with Dan and gang in the little AirB’n’B studio apartment above the bar beside the little Mercator, getting the Koritnica paddled on the next day. I then transplanted to Kamp Toni for the imminent arrival of the two lads from home, who were flying to Venice and driving up the Soča river valley.

We spent 4 days of paddling the gems of the Soča river getting Serpenica 1 and 2 done a few times as well as a great run on the Koritnica, but the levels were dropping all of the time and it was a pity that the Bunker run was too low to do properly. We also got a a lovely little sightseeing trip to the Soča source and up to the top of the Vršič pass.

After the lads left to fly from Milan, I had another two nights of chilling with the Dan group again. I then drove to Flo’s place for two nights of visiting, after Flo’s recent return from his transalp cycling 400km from Austria to the Adriatic. There was an interesting and amusing trip to Ikea and a building of a shoe cabinet (kudos to the Ikea engineers for improving their furniture assembly to be almost tool-less) for the stairwell. The local church fete was pretty cool as well!

Then came a very long day of driving, from near Munich at 06.30, via an hour for food in Zurich at 09.30, and making it to our Ibis hotel in Le Mans for 19.00 before the thunderstorms hit. There were temperatures of 35.5C seen en route, and we were thankful for the aircon in the Q7. It’s not often that one can drive a full tank of fuel of that size from top to bottom with relatively normal driving..

The next day was a visit to Mont St Michel, a personal favourite of mine. Always good to see the Abbeye, though past the start of July there are definitely more and more people visiting, and it does feel a little cramped when rubbing shoulders all of the time on the narrow streets.

The ferry was late leaving, for whatever reason Irish Ferries didn’t start loading cars until after the sailing time, and we were 80 minutes late casting off, but yet arrived on time in Rosslare the next morning. Tip for those that are using reserved seats, bring a Thermarest and a light sleeping bag and you may be able to use the floor space if there are not too many people in the reserved seating area. At least the aircon works to keep that area feeling fresh..

A lovely trip, much needed relaxation, huge distances driven in comfort, some fun memories, some fond memories, and a desire to do it all again next year!

Alps trip, quick notes

Alps 2017. An interesting 3 weeks, 2 of which were “interesting” in the Chinese Curse meaning of the word.. Photos to be added at another point.

Personal goals and observations from my time away.

  • Climbed Col d’Izoard on the road bike, from Briancon. 2 days after the Col opened for the summer. Highlight of my trip. About 3hr to climb to the top. Many stops, but achieved the goal.
  • Longest distance I’ve personally driven in any 24hr to date: 1144km from leaving Alberto’s campsite 08.30 Sunday to Cote de Nacre shopping centre in Caen on the Monday morning.
  • Longest distance driven solo in one journey, 13hr 764km from ferry to Jugy, and 1112 in 24hr from the ferry to the Briancon campsite including the overnight in the Aire.
  • Hiking up towards the Le Col de Freissinières, above Dormillouse in the Bayaisse valley, was an epic place to be. Hiked from the carpark at 1440m to 2070m. Ended up in complete solitude in the higher valley, no real signs of humanity around. Fabulous.
  • The personal decompression and getting away from it all was so necessary, it wasn’t funny. It was really needed!
  • The new tent worked out to be fantastic, a lovely place to live in relative comfort, thankful for the large porch and the NeoAir Dream mattress. Was still nice to get a bed and a shower on the ferry, but I’ll happily live under those conditions again.
  • The Q7 is surprisingly fuel efficient for what it is. 10.2l/100 from the ferry to the French campsite, including a very spirited drive up through the Romanche Gorges. Maybe about 5.5 tanks of fuel total for the European trip, at the local speed limits for most of it anyway.

As for my review of the ULKC-relevant part of the trip, I’ll complete that at another stage, as it will definitely be a far from glowing review, as it was mostly ill-organised and proven dangerous to the beginners..

Next year, the plans for this time of the year will likely be a little different. I’ll be expecting there to be differing conditions put on the club on how to run a foreign trip after this year’s stupidities in the planning and execution. I know what the ideal would be and I don’t know if the relevant people will want to listen to that.

Overall, I’m glad I went on the 3 weeks away. Definitely some interesting lessons learned from the trip.

Zet Director

So, the other pre-Trip purchase this month was a new and shiny Zet Director, ordered from I-Canoe in Dublin. It’s a big behemoth of a boat, all the better to keep my heavy ass afloat in the Alps. 360l of volume, about 20kg or so of weight, and it’s quite comfortable to sit in. Shakedown paddle will probably be Saturday on the Castleconnell, where I’ll try not to scratch the arse out of it on the ~6 to 8 cumec of water that the ESB are letting down this season. At least I know the boat is easy to roll, it’ll be a lot of fun testing it out on the rivers, getting the outfitting just right for me though the first sitting suggests that it’ll be a nice fit expecially with the size of my thighs.

Many thanks to Colm in I-Canoe, and to Jack in ULKC for helping me add my bits to the ULKC summer order.

Alps part 1

ULKC had the annual summer trip this year, and I was a part of it as a safety boater. The trip was scheduled from May 20th through June 8th or so. The first week involved training and skills improvement in Val Sesia, Italy (the steep creeking mecca of southern Europe. Week two was the Soča river valley in Slovenia with the lesser-experienced members of our club. Week three was a return to Val Sesia for the application of the training and expertise gained on the Soča to the rivers in the Sesia valley.

Week one was epic enough, with my first runs on the lower Sermenza (up to the gorge), a return to the Egua, a wonderful evening at the Sorba Slides and a fairly high-volume run on the raft-run. It’s a pity though that I didn’t get an opportunity to get the Home Run in. I planned on building up my confidence after a few years out of paddling at this level, and it was really good to push the personal boundaries again. Alberto’s campsite in Campertogno has been upgraded with a decent toiletblock, and much improved facilities for campers. The site was crowded and busy but we got a space where we could all pitch up and cook under tarp

Week two was in the Soča region, picking up the rest of our less-experienced paddlers in Bergamo (miles from Milan) and the 4th vehicle in the ULKC trip fleet. The Black Panther was a 9-seater auto 135bhp automatic Vito and my responsibility for the rest of the trip. Getting closer to the Slovenian border the theme for the Slovenian portion of the trip was set by our driving into the darkest stormcloud I’ve seen in years with decent proper fork lightning and rain hard enough to obliterate road markings. The campsite in Camp Lazar was beautiful and very well appointed. We were directed to the field near the entrance with a large wooden farm building and a pair of portaloos – all perfect for what we needed. Apart from the rain. It was just like home, except with colder greener water! Great paddling poor morale with a lot of cold damp people. and the beginnings of the sickness. We elected to cut short our stay and we left Slovenia late on the Friday night instead of travelling all day Sunday – gaining an extra day’s paddling as a result.

The return to Italy meant sunshine, warmer weather, and slightly lower levels. I got the Landwasser waterfall ticked off my list, but I took an interesting swim in the channel above the top drop on the Egua. There were a few lovely runs on the raft run at varying levels – it’s really a good run for the intermediate paddler, and it can be worked fairly hard by the advanced paddler to gain a little more sharpness before moving on to the steeper stuff.

This trip has been one of the best trips I’ve been on with the Kayak club, and it’s been fantastic to meet a few new people, to get to know others a lot better, and to move my personal paddling up a notch from the rustiness that I had over the past few years!

Photos from the trip are here – look at the Alps 2013 sets.

Youtube vid here:

Whooo! Paddling progress!

Today included a trip to Gower, for the first real test of the Jed on a working Curragower main wave. Well it’s great.. Made the ferry on a few times, got half-decent surfs, nailed my first flatspins in a long time on that wave. Does wonders for the confidence that does.

Video to follow of my favourite 2-minute run on the wave.

Kayak Intervarsities, UL 2013

The weekend just past was a busy one. The University of Limerick Kayak Club hosted the 2013 Intervarsities, with 15 colleges from all around Ireland attending.

I was involved in the building of the whitewater course on the Falls of Doonass on the Castleconnell section of the Shannon, an area that is known to kayakers as the S-Bend. 4 gates were set up, with an upstream slalom pole, two buoys at the rock halfway down to get around and a touch banner at the Castle wall, with a sprint to the end. A lovely course that everyone could attempt, but only the good could hit all the gates.

My run, resulted in a bit of an embarrassing swim, but only the pride was hurt. The others on the team did so well that we ended up with a 3rd place in that event.

So overall the UL teams did well, with a 3rd in whitewater, a 2nd in the Long Distance, and a first place in the freestyle, WE WON!!!