Microadventure #4: Packing It All In
31st May 2015
You can pack a lot into a rucksack and a weekend if you put your mind to it. Our microadventures so far had all come in well under the 24 hour mark and had not left the boundaries of Yorkshire. But with a four day pass from my family duties and an arrangement to meet some old friends for a long weekend in Norfolk it looked like this microadventure could finally tip out of the nano zone.
Adrian, Dave, Gav and I have known each other since the days BC (before children) when we would fill our abundant free time with campaigning activities for Leeds Friends of the Earth. We were a pretty resourceful bunch, coming up with eye-catching media stunts to draw attention to saving the planet, and have the photos of us dressed up in various silly costumes to prove it. 20 years later and we’re spread to the four winds and have almost forgotten what free time is but keep our friendship alive in our once a year weekend reunion of fun and activity that rarely passes without incident. So far we have been narrow boating in Skipton, tobogganing in Munich, cycling in Herefordshire and surfing in Wales. Seeking further adventure we had opted for a canoeing and wild camping weekend in Norfolk.
The Bure is a quiet waterway west of the Norfolk Broads, too narrow at the top end for navigable craft. It’s reed filled channel is bordered by fields full of cows, with flint churches and cute red brick cottages peeping from behind the trees. Despite it being a sunny Saturday afternoon we barely saw another soul and did not encounter any other boats on the water, so spent the first day with just ourselves and the wildlife for company. A goose and gander out with their young goslings were alarmed to see a couple of canoes head get towards them and squawked a panicked alarm call to their young charges. The goslings dived under the boats and we held our breath until they popped out the other side and struggled to swim back upstream to their flapping parents. Mayflies struggled on the water surface, snapped up by the occasional rising fish. Herons flew noiselessly overhead and vocal cuckoos made their presence known in the woods. The pace slowed right down and we soon lulled into a gentle rhythm of paddling and admiring the quintessential English scene gliding by to either side. Long lazy lunches, awkward portages around sluices and weirs and a capsize incident (they said it couldn’t happen on the Bure but we managed it!), meant we were well into the evenings when we reached camp.
Knowing what to pack when you’ve to carry everything for sleeping, eating and keeping warm and dry takes some resourceful thinking. Gav had brought a Kelly Kettle, a self contained device for boiling water using small sticks as fuel. He was keen to test out its set of attachments which enabled us to cook porridge, scramble eggs and toast bread for breakfast. More substantial meals were eaten in the excellent local pubs. After all, resourcefulness is about making the best use of what is available and why survive on camp food when you can enjoy tucking into locally sourced crab and samphire and a pint of Suffolk’s finest?
After two full days canoeing our third night was in a woodland miles from shop or pub. At forest school we acquire all sorts of woodland skills like fire lighting and shelter building – lots of fun but not ones you need every day when we’ve got matches and ovens and houses. But out in the woods those skills became relevant and necessary. With a cracking fire going Adrian set about making a lentil and coconut curry but lamented that that his plastic spork was no good for stirring the dish over the campfire. With a supply of wood on hand and a knife in my rucksack I offered to make a spatula and set to work whittling something quickly before the curry stuck to bottom of the pan. OK, so you might argue that if you can pack a knife, you can pack a wooden spoon, but there was something satisfying about being able to fashion what we needed from the resources at hand. The only rain of the weekend came in the early hours of our last morning, dripping on our bivvy bags and in huge puddles on the tarp shelter. Collecting it in pans before it gushed down the back of our necks, provided us with water to wash up from last night’s delicious tea.
Packing up to go I realised I had used every item in my rucksack; bivvy bag, spare clothes, lightweight cooking equipment, pocket knife and cash for eating and drinking out all proved useful. But good company, ingenuity and a a sense of humour were the essential resources to pack for a microadventure to remember.