I finally managed to go punting at Oxford on my third trip! I had read about it a lot, I had seen people do it but I never dared to try it myself. You are supposed to do it on your own and I did not feel brave enough. When I went through websites this is what I would find-
‘Chauffeur’ punters are available on request, with a minimum 2 weeks notice.
Punt Boats at Cherwell Boat House, Oxford
So what do you do when you go punting? You take one of these boats and try to steer it with a very long pole. It is possible because the river bed is quite shallow and the pole hits the ground quite easily. There were six of us in the boat. I was the only woman. So while all the men went to fetch the equipment I was assigned to look for boat number 69. It was not too difficult to spot it.
Coming Back after a Punting Session
While we were on the river we could spot a lot of people having a good time. There were four girls who looked to be out there for the first time and they always managed to get stuck on the bank of the river and then were rowing themselves out! They also give you a paddle to row out if you get stuck on the side of the river
The Pro– You Never Know what your Professors are Good at!
We were in safe hands as the professor was a pro at punting. I asked him, “How long have you been doing this?” And he replied with a smile, “Far too long!” When one of our conference college tried to punt, he got us stuck on a bank within no time and then managed to turn the boat the other way round! The pro professor had told us at the beginning, “Oxford and Cambridge row from the opposite ends.” So when the boat turned around, we were told by our friend, “Now I am doing the Cambridge style!” We also had to duck many times to avoid the branches as we drifted to a side when one of us was rowing.
The Pro, The Rookie and the Cambridge and Oxford Style Punter (sitting)
I was the last person to try my hand. And one of us refused to try. He was a young academician from Thailand. I was very scared that I would let the pole drop into the river! But I managed to do quite OK. Did not turn the boat around, or stuck it at the bank. But that was more because the professor actively helped me out. And you can see from the picture that I really had a lot of fun trying my hand at punting. I sat down to some clapping from my fellow friends, they must have been really scared when I insisted that I want to try out for sure!
And if I keep academics aside, that is one huge advantage of conference, you get on an organized tour of things that seem to be too difficult to carry out on our own. We did this trip on the Cherwell River which is far away from the center of the city. I was told that most of the tourists do it on the Magdalen River Boathouse.
In the beginning I was asking the professor, “So how do people learn punting?” And pat came the reply, “By falling down in the river!”