Kayaking on the Dordogne, France
At times I wonder if I’m doing more floating than paddling. That’s not really the point of kayaking. But, then again, it’s not that often that I have the opportunity to kayak with scenery like this.
I’m on the Dordogne River in the south of France – a waterway of about 500 kilometres that reaches the sea near Bordeaux.
The name alone evokes a romantic notion of French rustic charm with grand castles and lush nature.
While this region is popular with tourists, most stay on the land. But the river provides a natural and special way to explore.
I’m spending two days kayaking along the Dordogne – from the town of Meyronne to Groléjac. It’s almost 40 kilometres in total which seems like a good stretch of the river, even if it’s less than ten per cent.
There are no rapids, no whitewater challenges. Although the flow is quite fast in places, there are also stretches where I need to paddle consistently to avoid coming to a complete stop.
These are not the bits where I float. The points where I place the paddle across my lap and sit back are when there are straight stretches and a decent current.
Sometimes there are high limestone cliffs on one side of me; other times I can spot a majestic chateau high above the trees; there are a few places where a bridge crossing the river creates a perfect scene; and at other times it’s just the birds and the trees that catch my attention.
I’m pretty sure I spot a squirrel swimming between the banks at one point.
I’m not sure I would have thought to have done this if it had just been up to me.
Where would I have organized a kayak? What would I do with my bags? How would I have known the best stretch to paddle down?
Perhaps I would have found answers for those questions if I had looked hard enough but luckily everything is being taken care of for me. These two days of kayaking are part of a week-long trip I am doing with Headwater Holidays here in this region of France.
It’s an independent trip in the sense that I start each day when I want, use the map to navigate my course, and go at the pace I want.
What the organisers do is give me the equipment, provide me with instructions for the best route, arrange my hotels, transport my bags to the next one each day, and pick me up at the end.
A duck swims by with a trail of fluffy ducklings following behind her. As I paddle near to them, they seem to get confused and are clearly wondering whether they should turn around to get away from me.
I try to shout out that I’m no threat and I’m only going this way because it’s the shortest route around the bend in the river.
This only agitates them more so I stick the oar in the water and change direction, to go the long way. You have to respect the river in situations like this.
I feel like the river respects me in return. The flow of the water carries me carefully for the most part and, even in the parts that are slightly faster or bumpy, I keep my balance.
After the first hour on the water, I have become comfortable and unpack my camera and phone from the dry bag that I had put inside a waterproof barrel for extra protection.
Part of floating, rather than paddling, is so I can take photos and even put a few of them up on social media while I’m still on the river. (And I hope you’re enjoying some of these shots in this blog post!)
To my mind, this isn’t laziness. It’s about enjoying the day as a healthy combination of exercise and relaxation.
When I do a long stretch of intense paddling for 30 minutes, I can feel the burn in my arms. But when I sit back and look at the cliffs and the approaching bridges, I appreciate my location more than the activity which has brought me here.
Along the way, I pass dozens of campsites. There are elderly couples sitting on fold-up chairs in front of their large tents; children are playing in the water by the riverbank; a solitary man is standing slightly upstream with his legs submerged, fishing.
These people are all appreciating the river in their own way and I’m pleased for them.
While I am glad I am travelling along the waterway and seeing the changing scenery, at least these campers are connected to this flowing artery of the region. They know, that’s why they have come.
For accommodation, I suggest Chateau de Monrecour in Saint Vincent de Cosse.