DP in the Alps: Part 1

Part 1: Concepts, Definitions and the Journey to the Campsite

I went white water kayaking in the French Alps with the canoe club. Seeing as I’d never paddled any white water before (at all), I wasn’t sure exactly how much time I’d spend kayaking and how much time I’d spend sitting around waiting for the others to finish kayaking on rivers too difficult for me, but I went all the same. This is what happened.

I hadn’t seen 7:30am in a very long time, but that’s when I got up. I’d packed the night before, but I was well aware that I needed to pack a few more things in the morning, like my toothbrush. After a fair amount of faffing, including washing up and making my room look tidy (to a student’s standard), I left the house at 9:30 to meet some of the other kayakers at Gail’s house just down the road. Once everyone had arrived, we put our bags in the front garden, which quickly became full.

The vehicle arrived with a trailer. Once everything was loaded, we drove to the boathouse to meet the others and load the boats and kit.

Whenever I mention the ‘vehicle’, it is a 9-seater minibus hired from the student’s union. We had 2 of them for the trip and a couple of graduates’ cars so everyone could fit.

Once everything was packed properly, we walked over to a Chinese restaurant to get lunch. Importantly, this was the time we were given our trip t-shirts. Everyone was paired up and given a nickname. These nicknames were mostly children’s characters such as Bill and Ben, Mr Happy and Mr Grumpy, Pebbles and Bambam etc. I was Tom and Kelvin was Jerry. The pairs were drinking partners, meaning they had to match each other drink for drink, including penalties.

After the food, we walked back to the boathouse and hit the road for Dover. Everyone had to bring a CD for the journey to keep us entertained. The challenge was not to have the same tracks as anyone else, with the penalty of consuming a couple of digits of alcoholic beverage per matching track. There were a fair few clashes, but none of mine matched anyone else’s! The penalties which we were threatened with weren’t enforced in the end. We got to Dover early and had to wait 2 hours for our ferry.

Hanging about with the engine off but the music and fans on…

When it was time to move, one of the vehicles’ battery had run dry. We tried push starting it (Izi ‘helped’ by pushing the trailer with us), but to no avail. Luckily the P&O staff came quickly with the jump leads. Josh tried reattaching the trailer but as we pulled away we discovered the trailer was attached only by the breakaway chain. Josh was hence awarded the dunce top.

The dunce top is a pink girls’ tank top with DUNCE and IDIOT (for the French) written in marker. It is passed on to the next person who does something stupid. It looks really silly.

On the ferry, Luke gave Lars a massage.

Out of the ferry now (00:15 French time), we eventually reached the F1 motel, where there were 2 rooms to share between the whole group. Each room had space for 3 people on the beds and 4 more on the floor. The remaining students (myself included) decided to sleep in the vehicles.

After less than 4 hours asleep, I learned that I had definitely made the right choice to sleep in the vehicle. Joe described the motel room as an “orchestra of snores”, with Jon apparently being the loudest. We stopped at a service station for a heavily overpriced breakfast. Several service stations later, I needed sleep badly and my hayfever was taking effect. Lying on the concrete, I asked Jon how much longer we had to travel, to which the answer was “about 4 hours”. The noise that came out of my mouth was comparable to Homer Simpson when Marge is out of pork chops.

That day saw us being on the road for 14 hours in total, but we eventually arrived at the campsite. It was just getting dark, so we put up the tents right away and pizza was ordered for the group for dinner. We went to bed pretty soon after eating.

Waiting for pizza.

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