I reckon all of us are romantic at heart, the only thing is that things don't always turn out the way you imagined them.
We rested in Strasbourg at the beginning of the week and there wasn't much resting. However, all in all we gained a lot. We received three days company, ganter and home-cooked food. We received some home comforts and new seats for Dora. The seats didn't make a smooth transition into the canoe, but they seem pretty good to me. No-one saw as much of Strasbourg as intended but we all saw her breath-takingly illuminated cathedral and quaint inner city. Thank you Marcus, Cathy, Linda and Martha for joining the canoeing the continent team for your holiday.
So onto the first day of this week. Having people to look out for on the bank was a nice change. The time we lost pruning our moustaches for the camera was far outweighed by the extra effort put in for that same camera. Unfortunately the headwind that came and went all day made our progress harder. Nonetheless, we were soon at the penultimate lock we meet on the Rhine.
It was a bitch. We followed the canoe diversion sign only to be lead down a blocked waterway. Plan B entailed climbing up three steep banks, crossing a motorway with the canoe on our shoulders and finally descending a rocky cliff. It wasn't exactly how I'd imagined the canoe diversion, but we had got round the lock and accompanying weir all the same.
About 20km later the second weir was much easier. A quick descent onto a parallel river and we were good. From there it was a hectic 4km dodging around rocks and boats in the twilight. We got out of the canoe to be greeted by a campsite, dinner and our final night with the support team and their consistent supply of beer. So we celebrated day 50 with our greatest ever daily distance and someone other than Dora to talk to - just as imagined.
The last 4km of day 50 saw us enter new territory. There are no more locks on the Rhine for us, instead we are now confronted by navigable channel winding around rocky groynes. So with the wind in our faces and the waves everywhere else, we made quick but nervous progress on the morning of day 51. It was made slightly more nervous by the ominous presence of the river authorities. A police boat, then a port authority boat and finally a white van on the opposite bank all slowed down and took a closer look as we tried to concentrate on the river. However, we were making good progress on the quick water. At the time Jimmy said it would be perfect if there was no wind and I chipped in that having less groynes would be nice.
By 12 o'clock the wind had died. The river had widened and there were no groynes. By the end of the afternoon we'd been averaging 10km an hour and had got a friendly wave from a port authority boat. Capping the day off with a canoe club to store the canoe, a walk around Speyer's one thousand year old cathedral and a cool drink in a cafe meant that day 51 turned out exactly as imagined.
Unfortunately this meant that we had high expectations for day 52. Fortunately it didn't disappoint. Learning a total of four German words before breakfast paid off as we managed to fill up on drinking water from the canoe club. From there we flew downstream to Mannheim at out new rapid pace. Then Mannheim obliged our imaginations with a university cafe and another cathedral that demanded silence just by the way it looked. It was very busy on the water today and at times we were dodging tankers, cruise liners, ferries, container ships, kayakers and speed boats as well as all of their waves. But when you're a bit more confident there's actually something fun about bouncing through big waves and cruising past gigantic oil refineries.
As I sit here on a deserted Rhineland beach reminiscing about three consecutive days of pb distances, watching ducks and container ships compete for my attention while eating home-made banana cake... I'd like to point out that I didn't imagine being this tired or being bitten by mosquitos. Ah well, could be worse.