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I guess one problem with getting stuck into the routine of city life is you don’t get to constantly meet new people from around the world. Well on a casual Tuesday we met more people in a day than James Bond sleeps with in one movie. We woke with smoke coming out of our mouths it was so cold. And a sneaky body snoozing on the beach next to us. The expected Jeff had paddled upstream in the middle of the night to reach us and made it around 2am. How many guys do you meet that would do that?!

We set out early with Jody on a board and Jeff in his kayak. Dave’s body has had enough of swimming. Now he is regularly vomiting while swimming and the cold water is scarily unbearable for him. His whole body is white. And that’s not down to his ginger tone. He’s dealing with cold weather, water and a stomach that can’t hack to do another stroke. But it will. After some logistical change overs between Jody and Jeff, we whipped out the Primus and cooked on the move as we charged towards Hermann.

As we neared our destination, a speed boat with the amazing Gary Leabman from the infamous Spirit Hill B and B, Susan Haley who heads up the Girls With Tops Down breast cancer charity and Jeff Noedel from Country Live News, came to end the day with us.

Behind us the sun was setting with a distinctive line at the end of the clouds. This was lit up orange and reflected in the water. I think it was one of my best sunsets I’ve ever seen. And even though I’m incredibly enthusiastic I think it wins. Hands down.

What a welcome we got in Hermann. Lots of people. And after photos, chats, goodbyes to the cracking Jody and hello hugs with everyone else, we were driven to Gary’s home. I got to ride with Susan in a pink convertible with the Girls With Tops Down boat attached behind. The remnants of the charity parade that had happened the weekend before.

Gary and his wife Marsha welcomed us into their home. After nearly 60 days on the river, this was our first move back into civilisation. We were each given our own, quirkily designed en suite bedrooms. After we washed, we were fed amazing nibbles and wine, before an absolutely delicious dinner with a cracking bunch including Sue’s husband, Jeff, and Mick (who made me laugh hysterically). We actually sat round a table and felt like we were back in real life. What a night of beautiful food, wine, company and curtains open for the morning in preparation for the view.

After a slightly broken (as emails buzz in my brain when we are back in reality?) but amazingly comfortable sleep, we woke up to bubbling oatmeal and pumpkin cupcakes, all with the Missouri river in the background.

Tummies filled, hugs had, we were back on the water with an extra team mate… Gary came out in his canoe. It’s such a treat to have extra people join the team. Especially when they are people like Gary that have taken us under their wing. We covered some good miles, even with a brief stop to say goodbye to Gary. And we kept going, into the dark. Now, every day we see spectacular sandbars. Beautiful, long, wide, stretching sandbars. And every time we are ready to camp, they disappear. Every time. And this day was so exception. Finally in the shadows of the dark, we found a spot, and luckily it wasn’t a hallucination it was indeed a sandbar. Well a bar. As the sand was actually sand coloured rocks. But it was perfect, even though we couldn’t see it, and we took up our regular spot with a campfire and tents.

It’s very odd to think that next Wednesday, I will be back in the office, running around for press week at the magazine. Very odd. But this Wednesday I was snuggled up on a sandbar getting bullied by Ben and Dave, munching on supper on a rock covered sandbar and sleeping on a giant boobie. And there is nowhere I would rather be.

By Em Bell

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