This month I’m working with Jeep and its #RenegadesWanted campaign to uncover some cool new things to do in London. The campaign is all about unleashing your inner renegade, and to give everyone a little push Jeep is running a competition with bad-ass prizes like cage-diving and a Bear Grylls-style survival weekend. (Well, sort of. I understand nobody is required to sleep inside a maggot-infested stricken sheep or drink their own piss, but it’s still pretty hardcore.) You can enter for free here.
I decided to ease myself into the renegade spirit with a jaunt down Regent’s Canal in a kayak. I’d never been in one before, but I’d always thought it looked like jolly good fun. Also, Mike and I are going to Italy in a few weeks and have plans to do some sea-kayaking, so I thought it’d be good practice.
I booked with London Kayak Tours, which also offers trips around Hampton Court Palace and down the Thames. (I thought I’d leave the latter until I’d at least got the hang of steering…the river is dark and full of terrors, after all. And by ‘terrors’, I mean boats, bridges and the odd whale. It would be bloody typical for my kayak to get capsized by a furious sea-beast with a crap sense of direction.)
My number one priority was not falling into the canal. I’m exactly not what you’d call buoyant; I mean, I can swim – doggy paddle, limbs flailing, snot everywhere – but I don’t like to. And I was especially keen not to have to in the filthy waters of Regent’s Canal. My mental ex-workmate Robin once drunkenly jumped into the one in Hackney on his 22nd birthday and spent the next week in bed with what sounded like typhoid after accidentally ingesting half a dead cat.
But, actually, the boats were surprisingly stable.
Maneuvering them turned out to be an entirely different matter, or at least for me. Everyone seemed to suss it out quite quickly, and there was even a small child who was the floating equivalent of those prodigious toddlers you see whizzing down ski slopes on one leg, doing somersaults, etc. I, on the other hand, floundered at the back like an injured water buffalo destined for the jaws of a hungry crocodile. (In a boat. I was a water buffalo in a boat.)
Eventually I did manage to get the hang of it, but not before I’d turned my kayak into a floating one-woman paddling pool. Top tip: don’t wear jeans.
Regent’s Canal isn’t exactly what you’d call scenic (although, compared to Hackney, there was a pleasing absence of rotting cats), but once you’ve got the hang of the paddle, it’s a great place to people-watch. The route starts at London Zoo (so if you’re lucky you’ll get some giraffe sightings thrown in too, gratis), and U-turns at Camden Market, which is full off what my flatmate James 2 dryly refers to as ‘the rich and varied tapestry of the human experience’.
There’s also plenty of
street canal art if you keep your eyes peeled…
As you can see, I was pretty wet by the time we got back on dry land. (And canal water is not a nice thing to be wet with, so take some sanitiser gel if you can so at least your hands aren’t crawling with disease on the way home.) With patient tutelage from our guides I’d found the knack by the end, so no matter how klutzy or lacking in co-ordination you are, I promise you’ll be fine. If I can do it, anyone can.
London Kayak Tours’ packages start from £15pp, but they do all sorts of special offers throughout the year. It’s a great idea for quirky dates, a unique gift or just a prelude to the pub. I might even see you out on the Thames soon…
London Kayak Tours, Regent’s Canal tour, £74.99 for two.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.