Aber Kayakers Bala Trip

Warning: Contains partial nudity!

What a weekend to pick for a paddling trip to North Wales. Wall to wall sunshine, temperatures in the mid to high 20’s and a good group of people to share it with. Camping at it’s finest!

I’d had a chest infection for a couple of weeks so had been coughing like mad. I had however just got over the aching muscles, headaches and all the other symptoms. So I decided to considered myself fit to go. Next decision was what to do whilst there. I could take the canoe or SUP and play on the lakes. However, there was also an opportunity to have my fist go on whitewater in a river kayak. The latter sounded the more daunting option, but it’s also good to push myself and learn new things so that’s what I decided upon.

The plan was to spend Saturday in a kayak seeing how I got on in some fairly tame whitewater on the Dee at Llangollen. Sunday would be a trip to some more lively whitewater on the Tryweryn. I think it was kind of assumed I wouldn’t be quite up to that after just a single day in such a boat. I therefore also took our homemade canoe so that I kept my options open and could go canoeing on the Sunday. Our canoe doesn’t get much use really so it would be good to get it wet.


I didn’t paddle with the club on Thursday evening as I was still feeling a little under the weather. I therefore simply turned up at the harbour to collect a suitable kayak and some paddles for the weekend. That gave me the rest of Thursday evening to load up the camper and pack what I needed. The beauty of the campervan is that most things are kept in there anyway and it is always stocked with food and supplies. It didn’t take too long therefore to tie the boats to the new roofrack and pack some clothes and paddling kit.

Loaded and Ready to Go
Loaded and Ready to Go

I was ready to go straight from work on Friday. It was only about an hours drive to a large campsite (Ty Isaf) just outside of Bala. There I set up camp. Setting up camp isn’t really that involved for me, it is just one simple action – parking! Some of the others were already there and others were arriving in dribs and drabs. I help Pete set up his tent, chatted to everyone and just chilled in the sunshine.

Dinner that night was at the Bryntirion Inn which was a short drive past Palé Hall. Anna and I stayed at the very posh Palé Hall a few months ago. Bryntirion Inn wasn’t quite up to those standards, but the food was good.

Back at the campsite it was off to bed. I didn’t sleep much thanks to coughing all night. I also felt as though my coughing might be keeping the others awake too so I tried to suppress it as best I could. I therefore got up at about 3:30am anyway. The following night it was even worse and I felt so bad about the noise I was making that I got out of bed at around 1:30am and headed off for a walk so that I could cough, cough cough as much as was necessary our of earshot of the campsite!

Paddling on the Dee

We had a relaxed start on Saturday, leaving the campsite around 9:30am and heading to the Dee in Llangollen. Half the group headed to Bala with Canoes and SUPs. I’m not 100% sure what they did, but they had a glorious day paddling around the entire lake in the sunshine. They even managed to rescue a flamingo!

In Llangollen we split into a couple of groups. I was of course in the ‘whitewater introduction’ group along with Chloe, Mike and Tomasz. I was the only complete beginner. Chloe seemed fairly experienced really but hadn’t been on whitewater for a while thanks to lockdowns etc. Mike was in a similar boat (pun not intended) and Tomasz had done some before but not for a while and also had the benefit of youth on his side! I on the other hand was a complete beginner but have of course paddled surf ski for a few years now – I didn’t however have the benefit of youth on any side.

After the usual briefing and explanation of my ‘health issues’ it was onto the water for a gentle introduction. The group was led by Andy (Steve’s Son!) and supported by Ollie, Phil and Jason. Not a bad ratio that, 1 to 1 tuition! I don’t learn that well by being told to do certain things and then doing them. I tend to either over think things or not really try hard enough to make it obvious that I’m doing them. Instead I learn better by just throwing myself into things and working them out! It might not be the most efficient way but it usually works for me.

Having a few pointers and knowing what the aim was to start with worked well though and we then worked our way down through a few features on the river. This involved a few small drops and some faster moving water. We all did OK and before long it was time to stop for lunch.

The afternoon was more of the same really. We re-paddled the same stretch of water and then spent some time on the bottom wave playing in the moving water. We were joined by the other group here who had been off paddling more of the river.

Myself, Mike and Tomasz were also instructed to have a little swim so that we could do a rescue practice. If you know me I don’t take much persuasion to get in the water so off I went over the little drop and managed to bruise my bum in the process. Who knew, but blood thinners, anti-platelet forming drugs and anti-clotting agents don’t mix too well with bony buttocks, moving water and gert big rocks!

Bruised Buttock - Sorry!!!
Bruised Buttock – Sorry!!!

Back at the campsite it was BBQ time, and time to sit chilling around the campfire and toasting marshmallows.

Paddling on the Tryweryn

It was decided that I was up to paddling on the Tryweryn on the Sunday, so despite having the canoe on the roof that’s what I decided to do. The other ‘students’ who had been with us on Saturday weren’t joining in though as they had decided to canoe / SUP instead. The sun-soaked waters of the lakes did look inviting but the exhilaration and skills development of the rivers sounded like the better option for me. That meant I was the only novice on the river and joined up with Andy and Ollie once again and this time also Pete and Callum. Once at the car park I headed slightly downstream to my get in point while the others went upstream to do the upper part of the river. Callum who is a little less experienced than the others also joined me just below chapel falls.

Once the others had negotiated the Upper Tryweryn they met us on the banks so we jumped into our kayaks and joined them on the river.

Things had definitely stepped up a notch or two from the previous day. Not only were the drops probably a bit bigger but the rapids were longer, faster and had more twists and turns. I was a little tentative to start with having never done this before, but soon got into the flow if things and actually started to get on quite well. Once I’d relaxed a little and started working things out for myself I felt quite in control and able to do what I wanted. We stopped briefly in various eddies to keep an eye on each other but it was more of a continuous trip down the river than the stop start skills session of the previous day. It was all good fun and the perfect weather for it too. A little too hot if anything but a few handfuls of river water over my face and head sorted that out.

I did also manage to go for a swim at one point too. Obviously this was entirely down to my lack of skill but even so I’m blaming Ollie for it! I’d just paddled down a fast, bumpy rapid and was punching out into an Eddy where Ollie and Callum were waiting. As I did so Ollie shouted out and pointed at a rock trying to warn me of its presence. I obvisouly looked to where he was pointing which was directly at the rock. As you probably know you generally end up going wherever you look so this meant that I was on a one way trip to the rock. The rock wasn’t too pleased so tipped me out of my boat. I went for a little swim, Ollie and Andy had to head off to retrieve my boat and I had a little scramble downstream to find them. Getting tipped out and the subsequent swim was fine. The scramble along the slippery rocks to return to my boat did add to my collection of colourful bruises though.

Back in the boat we continued on our way down the river negotiating the various rapids with relative ease. Callum and I took the Leat around the Grade 4 section at the bottom. And that was it.

Just a short shuttle with the others back to the centre and then time to drive home through a sun-soaked Wales.

As I passed lake Bala it was absolutely heaving with people on SUPs and other craft. That didn’t look like too much fun to me, but further from the main car park it was quiet. The SUPpers and Canoeists had a change of scenery today anyway and had headed to the much more tranquil (and hopefully not radioactive) Trawsfynydd. It once again from the photos looked as though they had a glorious day.

2 Responses

  1. Avatar forComment Author Mum says:

    Ouch what a silly Billy.
    Glad you enjoyed it though x

  2. Avatar forComment Author Mum x says:

    Ouch what a silly Billy.
    Glad you enjoyed it though x
    Partial nudity accepted

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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