We did it!
First I'd like to apologise for the lack of updating through last week, we had a very tight time limit for rest and when I weren't eating I was sleeping. It was definitely one of the toughest things, mentally, I've ever done. Fighting the monotony of paddling through what seems like and unchanging landscape, with no flow helping us and the wind constantly trying to defeat us. But it was all worth it.
Originally, Sunday was going to be the day travelled to Cricklade, chilled out and moved to the Source in Kemble on Monday. But we decided to get the walk from the source to Cricklade, our launch point, out of the way so we can set off on kayaks first thing Monday. We got to the source around 18:00 and it was a bone dry pile of rocks with a stone telling us what it was. We also discovered our first geo-cache, left them a little calling card and took some pictures before we set off. We set off following arrows for the Thames path and at this point you couldn't even begin to see where a river as large and famous as the Thames could even run through!
After a little while a dry river bed began to appear and as we entered a cow field there was a stream. Their are two things about being in Kemble at that point which made me think; 1. That little stream is a river that runs through the heart of our country which is over 100 winding miles away from London. 2. What the hell do they feed these cows, they're huge! Its was around that moment the first one ran at us. I suppose if somebody was watching us from a distance we looked amusing dodging around a group of cows, and it was quite funny. Especially when Kat said That cows bigger than the others. As we all looked around we noticed that wasn't a cow, but a bull! Needless to say it put a little spring in our step. After that we got used to the cows until we came up to one gate and every cow and bull in the field came over and stopped us in our tracks.
After staring at them for five minutes Theo told us all it was all in the mind and hopped over the gate into the field, then all the cows ran away. That was to be the last of the excitement through the walk. The walk was estimated to be 9.5 miles if we kept to the map of the walking route back to Cricklade, but because we decided to follow the Thames Path it took just over 3 hours, which would make it about 12-13 miles. By then we had talked ourselves to getting on the kayaks after we had some food for some night kayaking. It was just past 22:00 when we got on the water for the first time in out trip. The flow was with us and, without paddling were probably going up to 2mph. The night was clear and the Thames, apart from the flow, was still. With head torches on we paddled our way dodging trees, and angry swans for a few hours. We were blessed with shooting stars and a good view if the Milky Way too, that's when you know you are in the middle of nowhere. 01:00 came and we decided we had better get some sleep, so we pitched John and Kats tent while Theo and I donned the poncho and bivvy bags. Which gained some condensation in the night and kept waking me up every time it hit me in the face. We decided for a 06:00 wake up and 07:00 start. Ill be up by then we don't need to set and alarm I said before getting my head down.
Monday 06:49 I woke up, whoops. By the time we packed our kit away, washed and cooked our MRE food it was coming up to 08:00. We were all ready to go and quite excited to get going especially since we had the flow helping us out. So again we started to dodge trees and angry swans. Which, I have to say are bigger than swans we get in Kent. It was during this small stream flow that we developed a fascination for floating tennis balls which we dubbed Wilsons, and spent the entire trip collecting them. After a couple of hours and a huge collective of swans on steroids we hit Lechlade and St Johns Lock, the first of 45 locks. We were a little slow on the portage, it took about 30 mins to get back on the water. But once we did we powered off again to start knocking down the locks. We noticed that the flow we had from before the lock had stopped, which was going to be a pain later on. After 18 miles of paddling from St Johns Lock we stopped off at a pub in Newhaven for dinner, we deserved it. I had an ultimate burger which didn't even touch the sides as I ate it.
Within an hour we were back on the water. We hit Oxford just after sunset, I've never been to Oxford before but now I have an impression that they either cycle everywhere or run since thats all we see, and the occasional dodgy meeting under bridges. We pushed on through the nights and set up camp in a field next to Shifford Lock. We were paddling for 15 hours and I decided to set an alarm this time.