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Pain au chocolat

Why go on a kayaking trip to the Pyranees? For the pain au chocolat of course! Just kidding, well, kind of.

The Pyranees is the mountain range that borders France and Spain, with the small country of Andorra sandwiched in between. The highest peak is about 11,000 feet, and it is full of great whitewater. The best time to go is in the spring, at the peak of the spring snowmelt.  

This year, my husband Daniel and I chose the Pyranees as the destination of our kayaking adventure. Every overseas kayaking trip is an “adventure” of sorts. There are many variables to juggle and it’s impossible to plan for everything. Even after multiple trips (I’ve now kayaked in 15 different countries across 5 continents), you still never know what you’ll get. The best advice is to be flexible and expect the unexpected.


Every trip there is something that goes wrong. This trip, the problem was high water. The Pyranees had an unusually high snowpack and we had rain our entire trip, which made the high water even higher. This was disappointing. The rivers that had led us to choose the Pyranees as our destination were unrunnable. 

At one point on our trip, we were overlooking a gorge at the Cauteret in France, scouting a class IV section. The river was swollen and had what appeared to be big class V rapids going one into the next without eddies. We had to skip it. Unfortunately, that was the trend of the trip. We would get to a river, find it high, and move on. 

There are multiple different ways to deal with challenges and disappointment while on a kayaking trip. You can either let the problem ruin your trip, or you can make the most of it, and move on. We chose the latter.

We found two different ways to deal with our high water problem. Some of the rivers we found had class III sections below. The class III sections, even with high water, were still easily navigable and were full of big, fun waves. This still allowed us to kayak, but unfortunately, these easier river sections tended to not be part of the beautiful canyons we were hoping for. The other method we found was to search the guidebooks and websites for obscure creeks and tributaries that do not usually have water. This worked in our favor several times as we found these rarely running creeks with plenty of water.  

Overall, we still had an excellent trip. We still drove through the canyons with unrunnable high water sections to enjoy the scenery and were able to kayak other sections. This also left more time to explore the little towns and find the bakeries with the best pain au chocolat! Every town had their own variety of pastries to sample. 

So, on your next international kayaking adventure, expect the unexpected. Plan for the best but don’t be disappointed by roadblocks along the way. Then, take a step back and work through the problem to find a solution. If you prepare and are flexible enough to go with the flow, your adventure will still be fun and successful no matter the circumstances. And remember; don’t forget to sample the pain au chocolat! Diane Brasuell (Gaydos)