indian summer and the Fall

Slovenian cheese & wine at Hisa Franko
Satu on Soca

Soča for a moment
We stole away from the northern summer, as the last of it fared in early September. Slovenia called, as I returned the Gene17 bus to its winter home, and hazy days in the Soča Valley. It’s always we love to go to Franko for wonderful food, these day sit’s lunches only as the little one needs to be in bed early enough. During Satu’s post-pregancy recovery, there has been little chance of paddling, as I have been at work, and sadly only after the baby arrived did we realise just how much paddling we used to do together, “GRAND PARENTS”. The Soča is wonderful, I love it, a steep sided valley, lush in nature, cool under the cover of the trees or on the river, great for out of the door paddling, biking, hiking & running, plus during the winter, Kanin the local ski hill is not far away too. Plus the local restaurants are excellent too, great slovene dishes, plus a fine influence of Italian food too.

Lisbon Tram
Heading back to the beach house

West coast Europe
We hit Portugal on our honeymoon back in 2007, it’s prefect beaches, easy culture and fine cafe’s make for a great holiday destination. This time we hit Lisbon, starting with a city break style. A windy city with lots of old finery, great buildings reflecting the imperial past, along side modern and sometimes run down structures, much like Italy. There is a crazed use of painted tiles to decorate the facades of buildings, these are often numerous paintings in blue on white background, yet make for detailed stories often biblically themed. Portugal, well much of the north is on granite, and the use of granite cobblestones is common place, still after numerous use in town & city centres, these become highly polished, which can make for interesting walking in summer sandals!!

We opted not to hire a car, and went for the public transport options to travel to the beach, and then up to Porto. It was easy with the little one, in fact easier than a car, less stress and although slower, some how the pace was prefect for the baby. The first beach we hit was in Ericeira, Satu went to surf school, and I enjoyed long board sessions. Through Satu’s blog, she won several vouchers for apartment accommodation from Wimdu, so we used a few of them, apartments in Lisbon, Ericeira & Porto, a great way to find alternative accommodation to hotels and the alike. From Ericeira, we got the train via Lisbon to Porto, and back down to Aveiro, after a Travel Blogger’s conference, Satu was keen to enjoy. The little one and I, got to enjoy some long walks through Porto, a city on a steep hill with great views. I managed to rediscover Pastéis de nata, a Portuguese custard tart, which are simply delicious and an ideal snack with coffee. After Porto, we went to Aveiro, just south for more beach time, and some beach and boardwalk surfin’. I managed to enjoy sessions in a Watertech Fly kayak on dumping surf, and the little one got told off for eating sand. Her expression is as many are during these times, priceless.

Not allowed to eat sand!

Sjoa & Soča again
Sjoa Kayak Camp in autumn
Autumn working in Soca on leadership courses.
White water coach training on Soca

After KanuMesse in Germany, and home for a few weeks, a bit of autumn walking, biking and went to close down the Sjoa Kayak Camp for the winter. I had a run on a very low Åmot Canyon, which was more like steep creeking on pool drop white water, than the big volume fun run, a totally new river for me at that level. Sjoa is sandwiched between Jotunheimen & Rondane National Parks, which a mountain plateau’s, so the weather is a lot cooler than just south in Lillehammer, where I spend a lot of time these days. The autumn colours were in full effect, and the empty camp looked very lonely, quietened down for the winter blank to come.

After Norway, it was Slovenia again, this time for work, the river leader programmes run on the Soča, are popular, and its a prefect place to push and test paddlers, coaching there is great. A week later I ran a white water coach course, our first there, and the river shaped up again to be excellent for such learning. My time in Slovenia is these days always shorter than the years before, so it’s a little rush in and out situation, still I got to test a Specialized Enduro bike, and enjoyed it, so ordered one for 2013……

Ireland and one year old
Cliffs of Moher
Surfin in Lahinch
Someone's learning to walk

Weddings, yes weddings, I am at that age where all around are enjoying their big weekends, and Ireland is becoming a popular destinations for us to hit for friend’s weddings. We managed to bang a camper-van from a friend and did a little road trip, enjoyed Country Clare and Mayo, Satu enjoyed the surf, which after Portugal must of been a little cooler in the water. The great thing about Ireland, is that it is not far to go before the landscape changes, and there is some great pub or beautiful spot to enjoy. And the people, my fathers descendence are rather friendly and open, which when growing up on the neighbouring island, where a lot of folk are fearfully of anything usual, as the recent politics easily indicates, is quite an odd situation.

Time rolled on, well raced on, and before time, the little one, was one. Above she encounters her first candle on her birthday and hopefully learnt an important lesson to do with flames, and was all about trying to walk. She started to move around from 6 months, but the walking took 6 months more, but now she runs everywhere. Its pure amazement to watch this whole process, and it continues everyday, sheer joy.

A Devonshire autumn
Upper East Lyn's triple drop
Crux 1 on the East Lyn Gorge

During the autumn, I head back to Devon for coaching work, most of it is BCU qualification training and assessments, which are all the rage in the UK for paddlers. They are excellent stand alone courses, yet the entry barriers to get on courses is a little brain numbing at times, where its all about the correct admin, and very little to do with ability, and as such there is often lots of clerical astute people, with no enough river under their boat. Frustrating to watch people leap frog from one assessment to the next training, where for the main part paddlers need experience, and that means the right experience, most of the time, this is can be with solid coaching, and not qualification training. This situation is reflected throughout the whole system, where the qualification you hold is the measure of the paddler you are. The whole system needs a step change, rationalisation and the administrative processes wholesale change. Don’t get me wrong, the wheels in the system work well, its the mechanism of the machine I question. Still on the water, watching paddlers, guiding their learning is what I do, and its great fun and Devon in autumn is always a rewarding home form home to enjoy.

Simon Westgarth's 2012 Movember entry

Nothing more to say….a one off Movember, ever again.


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