Sunset and the sky flows pink and delicate. We arrived early, 4.30ish so first a lazy afternoon and then a walk. Crouched under foliage, squatted on boulders, eating cherries straight from the branch.
Today I paddled alone. It was great, I was part of the flow of kayaks on the river, passing, resting, smiling, chatting. The sun shone on the high banks of pine trees, I pulled my feet from the musty pit opf my kayak body and lolled them either side of the boat, hairy legs to the sun, paddling from the front of my arms. Slowly we all talk to each other, slowly we know each other. There is a couple in a green kayak with the most beautiful paddle motion, an almost imperceptible pause in the change from left dip to right, an elegant twist, always perfectly in time.
I saw M coming from a pirateship cafe, we paddled and chatted then after a while I floated and ate peanut butter, finger-smeared on brown bread. M called me to the side and we picked cherries from a treee overhanging the water.
While we waited for the lock, all arriving one by one, hanging around as giant coal barges passed bym, I talked about walking. That's what's great about being here, everyone has a story. When I say I will walk to the UK from the Ukraine next year, the answer is "Yes? Last year I walked 2800km". We are all adventurers. The Bulgarian national rafting team are here. T starts stories with phrases like "When I had a coffee farm in Malawi". Everyone is special.
We all paddled into the lock together, a fleet of tiny boats, ants in the water, paddle legs dipping and rising. It felt brilliant to be part of this. The fat body of my kayak bobbing and rolling with each push of my arms. I know how to do it now, how to use my shoulders, my sides. First 10km is an achy warmup then the next few hours are a forgetting of muscles, only free flowing movement.
Rain came as we left the lock, I paddled circles around Y as we floated down the final 4km. He had saved me chocolate and I had saved him cherries.