Sunday, 9 December 2018

Perfect December Weather for a Quiet Paddle

   A run of nice warm blue-sky days (still continuing) and a forecast of light winds, if any wind at all on Embalse de Negratin, was too good to miss.  So, on Tuesday morning, at first light, I headed off to paddle the only bit of the reservoir not covered on my previous visits - the few kilometres of shoreline from Playa Nudista towards the dam.  As there is road access at Playa Nudista I chose to launch there, for the first time since starting my paddling on this reservoir.

   On this occasion I took my inflatable kayak, The Halibut.  I'd only used it once before, on just a trial run, and I wanted to see what it was like to paddle over a much longer distance, when fair weather was almost guaranteed - and it was just fine.

At the end of the road to the reservoir are these signs.  They imply "clothes to the left" , "no clothes to the right" - decisions, decisions!  However, being December, and although warm in the sun it was chilly in the shade, the decision was easy!

A remnant of summer passed!  This is termed a beach (playa) but it's not much of one, especially when the water is so low - which also made it a poor place to launch from.  The only parking is up the top, where the trees are, and it took me three trips to walk the kayak, associated gear and all the other 'stuff' down to the waters edge.  By 'stuff' I mean things that solo paddling in a near wilderness area dictates that I should carry.  My 'what if' bag is a comprehensive, and pretty hefty, piece of kit. It was such a relief to finally get afloat and paddling.

It was a beautiful calm morning for a quiet paddle. The reflections on the water were so good that it was sometimes difficult to make out where water finished and land started.

This is the first time I've come across the remains of a building in the reservoir.  The area covered by this one is too small to be a dwelling - maybe it was a store or animal pen.  Before the dam was built this was a very fertile and well cultivated valley.  There must be many buildings down there in the depths.  Those posts sticking up are a reminder of what hazards to watch out for just beneath the surface.  Fortunately the water is generally nice and clear, especially near the shoreline - where, as a lone paddler, I tend to be.

Nearly at my turn-back point.  I started somewhere far way in the distance on the left.

Hazy mist hung around the lower slopes of Jabalcón all the time I was there.

Here, deep in this fjord-like inlet was my turn-back point of this visit.  Everything past this inlet I have seen before.  I'd actually been into this inlet on a previous trip, but I thought, as I might not be back this way again for some time, that I might as well do it all again.  It's one of the biggest inlets of Embalse de Negratin.

There was a gentle headwind as I emerged from that inlet and started paddling back to my starting point.

Sometimes rock outcrops seem to take on life-forms.  Here I can see some sort of creature lying down for a drink at the water's edge.  Or do I just have a weird imagination!?

That breeze started fading away as I got nearer to Playa Nudista.

Nearly there.  The Naturista beach is in that dip just left of centre of the photo and the other beach is along the shore, to the right of centre - and my van is a white speck among the trees there.  Being December, both beaches were deserted - so I thought!  There is a camper-van tucked away among the trees on the headland in the centre.  I only spotted it just before I took this photograph.  I thought I had this area all to myself - you just never know who might be watching!

This rather dilapidated bridge is not far from where I launched.  The track leading to it has been sealed off - for obvious reasons!  The blue pontoon thing is a bathing platform, drifted here from the beach area - another remnant of summer past.

 And so ends a very enjoyable quiet paddle.  The water was again mirror-like when I was ready to leave in the late afternoon.

9 kilometres paddled in 3 hrs. 15 mins. - fueled by Kendal Mint Cake and a bottle of water.  No coffee breaks or lunch stops this trip.

I have now paddled every metre of the shoreline of Embalse de Negratin - every bay, inlet and side shoot has been delved into.  No doubt it will all look very different if the reservoir ever gets back to full capacity.  Might have to do it all over again!

Thursday, 18 October 2018

An Autumn Morning on Embalse de Negratin

   I got back to Embalse de Negratin with my folding kayak yesterday.  The weather has been very changeable recently, but the forecast of light winds and a zero chance of rain looked promising - however, I hadn't expected fog!  As I approached the reservoir at about 8:30 a.m., and could look down into the valley, I saw a bank of dense fog lying over the water.  Fortunately, by the time I reached the bathing and picnicking area (where I launched on my last visit) at the foot of Jabalcón, it didn't look so bad at the waters edge.  By the time I had assembled the kayak, and was ready to go afloat, the early morning fog was dispersing nicely and blue sky was appearing.

Plan for the day was to paddle down that big offshoot of the reservoir, which runs to the north west, opposite  Jabalcon.  One of the two areas of the reservoir I hadn't covered on previous visits.

I'm headed right down there.

Low cloud and some fog was still hanging around in the upper part of this offshoot.

Nearing the top, the water was getting very shallow and it was necessary to be watchful for submerged obstacles.

Must have been some big trees here before the valley was flooded.  Stumps like these were only just below the water surface in some places.

Couldn't get much further than this.  Too shallow and too many obstructions to look out for.  The water level has dropped by about a metre since I was last on Negratin, mid August.  I had expected to get much further up the valley than this.
Might have to make another visit next spring, when winter rains might have topped up the reservoir again.

Turned round and looked back towards Jabalcón.  A haze around the mountain gave the impression that fog might be reforming.  I believe that keen photographers would call this 'an atmospheric shot'.

Herons have built nests in those part-submerged dead trees.

There they are.

I had paddled into this stretch of water following the north shoreline and was paddling out along the south side.  A couple of hours had now passed, it was time for leg stretch and a coffee break - but where to stop?  This shoreline was muddy.

Another of those 'atmospheric shots'.

I finally found what looked like a firm bit of shoreline - but I was wrong!  Stepped out to find, too late, that a shingle surface hid the sticky stuff underneath.  Much cleaning up of kayak later (couldn't avoid carrying it back into the kayak on my sandals) but I had my coffee break regardless.

Blue sky, just a few clouds and not too hot - it was turning out to be a lovely day for a quiet paddle.

Lots more nests as I came back out into the main part of the reservoir.  The herons like these dead trees and there's plenty of dry twigs around.

Heading back to my starting point, at centre picture.  The haze had cleared from Jabalcón by early afternoon. 

Before I got there I came across this sticking out of the water.  From a distance it looked like a sculpture in steel.  It leans towards the shore and, to me, gave the impression of a multi-headed creature that had risen out of the water and was trying to reach the shore on spindly legs.

But it's just the top of an old electricity pylon!  Surprising that this was left standing when the dam was completed and the valley flooded.  I didn't see this the last time I passed this way.  Perhaps the water level was high enough then to cover it.  A hazard to watch out for in the future.

Time on the water was near enough four hours, including the coffee break.  Distance travelled was 11.5 kilometres.  It was a lovely day out.  Only a very small part of Embalse de Negratin now not seen.

The C15 camper van conversion (re. previous blog post) came into its own - could have a bit of a siesta on the sleeping platform before the drive home.  Quite comfy!

Sunday, 7 October 2018

And Now Something Different!

This may well look like an ordinary Citroën C15 van, which it was for the past 14 years, but it's had a quick, cheap, makeover and now it can be (tongue-in-cheek) a one person, plus one folding (or inflatable) kayak, camper van!  For day trips and the occasional overnight stay.

Porta-kitchen and bedding are stowed in the space behind the front seats.  Kayaking stuff has been removed for clarity.

Mmm - sleeping platform wouldn't suit a tall person!  It is extra wide, and by laying diagonally it is just adequate for someone like myself.

Centre panel of sleeping platform lifts out.  Underneath are four shallow storage bays for the curtains and other light items.

Storage boxes on both sides.

Handy, folding stool/table.  A bargain from Ikea.

An awning for that extra bit of shade, or some protection from rain.

O.K.  Not a thing of beauty!  But the fabric, PVC oilcloth table protection material, was an end-of-roll bargain.  No other design was available at the price I paid.  And there's enough left over to make another two or three of these, if the fabric doesn't wear well.

Porta-kitchen - or, Kitchen-in-a-Box.  A little gas stove is suspended inside, inverted, attached to the lid.

Lid flipped over.  'Panniers' were another bargain from Ikea.

That cushion was a bag for diving equipment.  A folded up redundant exercise mat provided the padding.

Incorporated in the edge rail of the awning is a drying line.  I do occasionally get a bit wet when kayaking.

And so to bed.  The mattress is made from pillows that were surplus to requirements and pillowcases that were past their best.  The pillow cases were sewn edge to edge.  A lot of stuff got recycled in this makeover. The black cotton for the curtains came from Ikea.  And that's not a pepper grinder on the sleeping platform - it's a wind-up torch from Ikea.

Ikea helped a lot with this project!

No harm came to the C15 for this project.  No parts were removed, nothing was drilled or welded, and no alterations were made to the vehicle.  The van can be returned to its normal state in not much more than 15 minutes.

It's been a fun project.

Monday, 24 September 2018

A Trio of Little Trips in The Twist

Since my last blog post, 'The Maiden Voyage of The Halibut', I've had a trio of little trips with The Twist.  All were early starts, to beat the heat, launching soon after the sun came up and getting home again by mid morning.  Just short excursions, to shake the dust off the paddles (so to speak), to places I was familiar with from last year's paddling trips.

Wednesday Aug. 22nd.  Garrucha seafront.  Was last here Aug. 23rd. 2017.  Was lucky to find a parking space by the promenade. Very little wind but a bit of a swell from the S.E. Paddled the length of Garrucha seafront (both ways) and then had a little sortie into the harbour and marina.  Always interesting to see what boats are moored at the jetty for visiting craft, and where they come from.  On this day they were French, German and Spanish.  One ship was loading in the harbour and I watched another dock with the help of two tugs.  By the time I got back to the beach, where I had launched, there were quite a few people having an early morning swim - from the sound of the voices they were mainly Spanish.  Evidently Spanish women like a sunhat when bathing - heads with hats were bobbing around all over the place!  Had a swim myself before leaving the beach.  Time on the water 1½ hrs. but that was a bit too long - it was getting uncomfortably warm when I landed and started packing up.

Wednesday Aug. 29th.  Extreme southern end of Mojácar seafront.  Was last here Sept. 22nd. 2017.  Quite a swell form the S.E. and a bit of surf on the beach.  Had to carry the kayak to a calm corner in the shelter of the rock and concrete mole to launch - and returned to the same spot later to land.  Stayed well out in deep water behind the surf line - riding the swells was lovely.  Was on the water for about an hour.  Had a swim afterwards.

Too much surf, here in front of the car park, to launch comfortably.

Developers have ruined these mountainsides.  Little boxes of apartments stacked on top of each other.  Reminded me of the hit song "Little Boxes" from the early 1960s about developments in the USA.    The main road passes at the back of this development so I guess you can only see it like this from out on the sea.

Tuesday Sept. 18th.  Villaricos - the little harbour/marina at the northern end of the seafront.  Was last here Oct. 11th. 2017.  Tried to launch from the patch of sand just outside the harbour entrance (as last time) but waves were breaking rather too heavily on the beach, and not long enough gaps between the big ones, to launch without getting very wet.  'Plan B' was a short walk, and carry the kayak, to a concrete slipway within the harbour - only hazard there, was very slippery seaweed on the underwater surface of it.  Pootled around the harbour a few times with the occasional sortie out of the entrance into deep water - no problems with the bit of swell but an unexpected fresh wind off the land was a slight concern.  A capsize there, or a broken paddle, could have been a problem - next stop could have been North Africa!  Inflatable kayaks are a bit susceptible to wind.

That slipway saved the day.  The harbormaster's office is to the left, and behind those palm trees is a bar and restaurant.

 A view from just outside the harbour entrance.  The tops of those palm trees on the seafront show the direction of the wind.  A stiff offshore wind in a small inflatable kayak is not a welcome thing.


Autumn is here now.  Days and nights are gradually getting cooler.  Thoughts are now turning to getting the folding kayak out again and returning to much longer paddles on Embalse de Negratin.  There are still bits of it I haven't seen.