Sunday, August 19, 2012

Amazing Old Harry...and a pretty special bacon sarnie too

We had the most amazing kayak today.

Starting early off Sandbanks beach (not a great start because the most expensive parking ticket EVER - at over £10!!) we set off along in front of the entrance to Poole Harbour on a misty and murky morning. Neither The Needles nor the much-closer Bournemouth were visible in the morning mist which made for a spooky view out to see.

Our plan was to explore Old Harry's Rocks, which we had heard were a fantastic place to kayak, and we also needed to go out into open water so as to get a feel for what we might experience in The Channel, in less than two weeks time.

We paddled first along past Studland along the half-moon bay with the rocks at its outermost point. We did get a little diverted, however. At one point we got a little close to the shore and caught a strong whiff of cooking bacon. It was more than we can bear, and we pulled alongside the shore to investigate. Indeed, there was a small cafe called Middle Beach and we landed the kayaks, pulled them up onto the beach (the tide was coming in) and strolled up to the establishment in question.

And we had probably the best bacon sarnies I think I've ever had. And a cuppa too. Remember before you judge that it was by this time only 7.45am, so it was breakfast time.

As the mist started to clear and Old Harry and the arched rock formations came into view, we set off again. Paddling under the arches and around the rock stacks, was just an incredible and surreal experience. The rock formations were pretty special and there is a video embedded below which Jon took with his new on-board camera, so you can see for yourself.

Old Harry himself was a bit like paddling around a Jenga. A matching stack (Harry's wife) fell done a while back, and at some point Harry will suffer the same fate. But for now, I'm really grateful that we are able to see it at such close quarters, something which the walkers on the top of the cliffs, viewing the National Trust-protected site from above, couldn't possibly get the same appreciation for. One of the great things about kayaking is undoubtedly the alternative view you get of the world, something you cannot get from the shoreline or a footpath.

After we'd finished exploring the caves too, we set off alongside the white cliffs and headed towards and beyong Swanage, before heading out to see. The swell was much more noticable in the open water, large but wide waves moving us up and down, and on occasions rendering us invisible to each other as the swell passed between us.

This was a complete contrast to the earlier calm conditions (as seen in the video) but it wasn't massively hard work. The difficult bit was keeping in a straight line, something I personally seem to struggle with.

We went back past Old Harry and towards the balloon at Bournemouth before heading back directly towards the beach at Sandbanks. The conditions had become slightly choppier and we were washed up onto the busy and crowded beach a little unceremoniously. After just over 20 miles we aches a little and carrying the kayaks back to the cars was a real effort. But we felt a little better after a bottle of water and a KitKat, followed a little later by a pint of cider in the pub.

What a day, what a kayak....and thanks to the early start it was still only 3.30pm. I can imagine we'll be revisiting Harry and his friends again before long. In the meantime it was our second 20 miles trip and probably the last long kayak we'll do before The Channel in less than two weeks time....

Ready to go! Sandbanks beach before 7am

Old Harry's Rocks in the distance, safely from a cafe with great bacon sarnies

One of the arches at Old Harry's Rocks

The amazing Old Harry himself

Jon takes a look break two miles off Swanage. Swanage later lost its blue flag as a result

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