The area where we parked yesterday was underwater after the river rose about another foot. What we didn’t realise is that fire ants nests float and when they brush against your leg they invade. Having just secured the spray skirt they attacked around the ankles.
As that little problem was unfolding Kyle from the US Army Corps of Engineers who control the structures came to tell me that it was too dangerous to paddle there. He was concerned about me being sucked into the dam gates and wanted me to start downstream in the river. That wasn’t smart, so I said I was going anyway. He requested I stay inside the willow trees for a few hundred metres which I did.
He reckons they let 200cfs (500ML/day) into the Atchafalaya system and that is about 1/3 of the Mississippi flow. I reckon that must be when the river is not flowing like it is now because there is certainly more than 1500ML/day coming down at present. The head difference is significant so they run a hydro power station at one of the offtakes.
He also said to cross the river because the draw into the hydro power station was severe. I noted to be careful and set off knowing that crossing the river in 20m visibility would not be on.
Fire ants aside, the first two miles was fine. Just when you think you’ve got them all another bite comes a bit higher up your leg. Not nice at all. Paddling had easy bits and tough bits.
After a couple of miles a fallen tree seemed to indicate something different in the river. Its base was towards me with fast flowing current streaming around it. The only thing to do in this situation is to get a run up from behind the tree and burst into the flow. Power on, swishing into the maelstrom the kayak was thrust 20m off the bank. I sat stationary paddling with all my strength. Bit by bit we inched forwards enough to creep back towards the bank. The current roared, the whirlpools had me doing a merry dance on the rudder pedals but I beat it. After five minutes I had won. Victory was fleeting though. I was now in a stronger current being swept into the hydro station river. There was no other option but to get to the bank, fast.
Visibility was about 10m. What to do? The only sensible thing to do was put the nose onto the bank, ease the back into the flow and allow the kayak to spin around. It was possible to paddle with one blade hitting the rocky bank and the other just inside the racing current. In a few minutes, which was about 20m, I was back to the fallen tree where I stopped paddling and watched the GPS. The flow that I had paddled against was 6.2mph (10km/hr). That is about the limit of a heavy, plastic sea kayak. The flow into the hydro power station river was greater than that.
With my tail between my legs and a little dejected I headed back to where I had started. Tomorrow the front wheel goes back on, the harness comes out and I walk to the RV site, hopefully doing the 34 miles or so in two days.
Lots of thinking to do about how this trip will go and how we cope. Standby for news.
Klaas: What a horrible day so far. Up at five, the usual routine, teeth, pills, ablutions, coffee, make Steve’s lunch. Away by 6.30 and drive 36 miles, unload kayak, forced to walk through floodwater’s and get soaking wet.Step on fire ants nest, the flood waters have driven them out of there nests and they are all over the roadway and climb on board. Feet, into socks, up legs and certain private parts you only tell your mother about. Drive back 36 miles, arrive outside caravan, phone rings, Steve has aborted due to total white out and very dangerous conditions.Drive back 36 miles. Pick up Steve and Kayak, drive back 36 miles, clean shoes of mud ,put in oven to dry. How was your day ?
Lynne. A very dull and foggy day in natchez/vidalia. Steve was unable to continue his kayaking as far too dangerous. He will probably walk some of the way tomorrow and I may walk some of the way with him, if he is agreeable. Klaas might pick me up after an hour perhaps.. we’ll see how the day is. Shopping later on. A lovely deer ran in front of the car this morning, he was missing a hind leg, so perhaps hit by a car. I did feel sorry for him hobbling along but doing ok by the looks. We have our flying kangaroo flag tied to our van, looks good. I have given a few koalas away, little ones that you attach. They are proving very popular. Well, tomorrow is another day….cheers till then