This post was written by my #microadventure partner in crime, Niall Quinn. To learn more about our series of mini challenges click here.
I’m currently in the process of moving house, starting back at school, starting a diploma/masters, settling my 20 month old into a crèche, minding a pregnant wife, and looking after the family farm as my Dad is laid up with an injury (*all these tasks may contain slight exaggeration and are very much my point of view). So when Inspirepod himself, Dave, called me and asked if I wanted to go tubing, of course I said YES.
Tubing is one of the activities recommended in Alastair Humphreys book – Microadventures. The basic premise is you lie in or on a round inflatable tube, on a river, and let the river take you downstream. Dave got all the equipment and decided on Dublin’s river Liffey, from one side of Lucan to the other, as our location.
It was a typically busy Monday. I left school harassed and hurried after not getting all my work done. Then I had to drive to Clontarf to pick up my brothers laptop. Then I had to collect my daughter from her grandparents house in Malahide. Then back in the car and home to Phibsborough in crappy wet, dreary Monday traffic. I made it home and whacked on the dinner and did my best to feed Connie and myself and try not to burn what was left for my wife as she made her way home.
The tubing gang was meeting at 6.15 near the Phoenix Park. I watched the clock anxiously waiting for my shift change. She eventually arrived home at 2 minutes after 6. I jumped in the car and headed for the park. I took my usual traffic beating shortcuts and sped up the Oxmantown road to our meeting point arriving at 6.14. No sign of anyone, just a text from Dave “3 mins”. 12 minutes later he arrived on his own. “Just me and you brother”, Dave exalted, “Let’s do it.“
Back in the cars and away we sped, nipping through the Phoenix park and out the Conyngham road passing through Chapelizod on our way to the Strawberry Beds. The sky was dark and ominous. There was a weather warning announced for that day and part of me had been watching the phone waiting for a relieving cancellation text but it never came and so here I was hurtling towards a dark September sky with a man whose sanity I have questioned at the best of times.
We had to leave a car downstream so that we had transport when/if we exited the river. About two kilometres outside Lucan we abandoned my car for this purpose. We also decided to get into our wetsuits here as we’d need clothes on our return. As we dressed, Dave noticed a sign across the road on the abandoned building – SHACKLETONS. Dave thought this appropriate, I wasn’t so sure.
Grabbing the gear and into Dave’s car, on we sped to Lucan, checking out the weir wall that we would have to negotiate. “That must be 10 feet”, I exclaimed. Dave didn’t like the look of it either. But we did notice a sort of milder tiered way down that satisfied us that postponement wasn’t an option. We found our launching spot and parked up. To Dave’s credit the equipment was all spot on and the inflatables did just that in jig time. Our rushing and racing had brought us to the edge of the river. All that was left was a jump.
“What followed was bliss…“
Pressing the tube to his arse and falling backwards, a splash and Dave was in. I joined him with much less grace but plenty of laughter. What followed was bliss. All the stress of the day, the running and racing, seemed to evaporate from me as I lay back on this tube and floated down river. It was really, really, really great and I would highly recommend it.
Alastair Humphreys main point in Microadventures is that the world of adventure is on your doorstep, you don’t have to travel very far to find it. And how right he is! It’s sinful to think how often I pass by this river without ever realising its potential as an inner-city oasis. I was feeling instantly relaxed and energised. Talk about an energy shot for the soul. As we floated down river we chatted and laughed as well as just lying there in silence.
“Two middle aged idiots … floating down a river.”
There’s something special about your view of the world from the river. Dave was thinking Terence Malik, I was thinking Heart of Darkness but there’s something in it. You feel detached from the world of people and busyness and part of the more natural world. Something that struck me was the noise of man on the river. You could hear the distant rumbling of cars and traffic and I thought to myself – the apocalypse – it’s already here – we are it.
As we floated on toward Lucan village you could hear the sound of the approaching weir wall. I bailed out to the right and took the soft way down. Dave went for the weir. To be fair it wasn’t quite 10 foot but it was a daunting fall all the same and he negotiated it majestically with cackles of laughter from us both. We must have been quite the sight to the wildlife on the river, not to mention any evening walkers or exercisers. Two middle aged idiots in ill-fitting wetsuits floating down a river on bright yellow inflatable tubes.
It was quite a dark night and dusk descended quickly, not long after 8 o’clock. We were heading out of the town and it was getting much more peaceful. The rapids were great fun but I must admit my favourite tubing moments were the peaceful ones, when I barely moved at all and almost felt part of the river.
Roughly 2 hours later we started looking for our exit spot. Using a distant road light as a guide we figured out we were just about at Shackletons. As we approached we heard (we could barely see at this stage) the sound of more water crashing. Another weir? A gentle waterfall? Dave carefully paddled up for a look. A sheer drop of 15 feet he reckoned. Not a good way to end the night, helmet or no helmet.
We paddled back up river looking for a suitable docking point. It was proving difficult at this part of the river but eventually we made it out and onto the Strawberry Beds road, carrying our paddles and still inflated bright yellow tubes. Quite the sight for any drivers passing. When we got back to the car I reclaimed my key from where I hid it in the wall. Checked the phone. Message from wife – ‘Get bread and milk on your way home.’
Read about the time myself, Niall, and Jessie took a dip in the sea under a full moon here.