A long standing dream, to paddle the tidal Thames. Left the London rowing club slipway at Putney (free parking!) on the ebb tide. The beach littered with thousands of years of human occupation. A few ancient rivers emptying into the Thames. Common gulls, kittiwakes, herons, pigeons and rats digesting human detritus and turning it into compost. The silence broken by a helicopter landing at Chelsea South bank heliport. As Westminster approached the crescendo of ambulance and police cars rose. Sat outside the Tate gallery while an artist made a mess of himself and the windows of the cafe. Tide had turned, wind freshened with really strong gusts under the bridge arches. Met some fast cruisers. The combination of wind against tide and their wash created some exciting conditions. I have never been wolf whistled and cheered on by a group on a pleasure cruiser before as the kayak crashed over their wake. 2 hours to get there, hour and a quarter to paddle back. The boat steamed along under 1 man power.
Reading the food wish list of a hungry paddler I remembered an experiment with food on a 5 day wilderness Duke of Edinburgh Expedition down the Spanish River. The young people were warned about the black flies and mosquitoes. We agreed to try a different approach to dried packaged food with the following aims:
Change the odour of our sweat by making it distasteful to insects.
Keep sugar intake lower and fruit and vegetable intake higher. Energy gel drinks were unheard of at that time. The athletes I talk to often say that they upset their digestion. If you take good food and extract the structure of the fibre you are left with hard to digest sugars that hit the stomach. Brazilian researchers have recently found that the by-products of extracting energy gels have a good nutritional value.
Take supplements that acted as anti-inflammatories lowering histamine levels in reaction to bites.
We ate half a grapefruit a day each including the pips. The pips have anti fungal properties. We rubbed the inner skin of the grapefruit all over our exposed skin and used an aloe vera and coconut based suntan cream. Grapefruit contains hylauronic acid used in high quality skin cleansers. Citrus fruit pith is better for cleansing the skin than dirty water. In addition, eating at least one clove of garlic a day helped to change our sweat.
They helped themselves to a food barrel of brown basmatti rice, proper vegetables like peppers and broccoli and hard fruits, frozen bean stew, chicken, bacon and hard cheeses. Once they explored the contents of the barrel the packaged food remained in their dry bags. The outfitters cooked several meals with meat in that seemed to last days if they took care not to handle the food before using it.
They took mint and other herbs like rosemary and oregano. We found some herbs by foraging.
Vitamins were cheaper in Toronto than here so we bought vitamin E, vitamin C and MSM. Everyone was free to take one tablet of vitamin E (400 i.u.) one tablet of vitamin C (1 gm) and one MSM (1 gm). There was no pressure on them so I don’t know how much they took.
They picked blueberries that are very high in vitamin C and anthocyanins.
We ate chicken the first day, bacon then beans the second and third days. We smoked the peppers and other vegetables and using ashes and sand to clean the pots. We ate broccoli florets first then kept the stalks to the 4th or 5th day, peeling them after cooking. I kept a mixture of flour, yeast, a little salt in containers and added water and oil to make fresh pizza dough later in the trip.
The other group paddling the same river lived on freeze dried packet foods and suffered terribly in comparison to our group. One leader who turned down the vitamin C had to go to hospital when she finished their trip.