Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Canterbury Punting Company

A couple of years back a few friends and I went on a haunted punting tour around the waterways of Canterbury. Our host, Miguel, was full of stories told in the manner of a gentleman from the 1930s and we had a wonderful evening.
With Halloween upon us we decided to return to this unique evening of entertainment and so we booked once more. Being told via email that our boat could take 12 people, we found 11 people ready to tour the darkened rivers of Canterbury.
So this evening we travelled down to Canterbury ready for our pre-booked 8 o'clock tour. On the journey I received a text asking if we knew our way there. "Very nice" I thought, that attention to detail. I quickly replied saying that we were on our way and asked if they had a toilet (I knew a few of us would need it before being surrounded by water for an hour) to which they replied "yes".
When we arrived at 7.50pm we found a small folk group playing music in the Punting Company's small shop and a worried looking girl opened the door. She quickly exclaimed that we were late and a gentleman with her gruffly said we were supposed to be there for 7.15. I explained that the tour was booked for eight and there was a general feeling of unease and I admit we all felt a little unwelcome.
When a few of us asked to use the toilet we were told, "just one!" by the girl. We were finally each allowed to use the toilet but told to keep quiet so as not to disturb the band. Things turned a little more polite when we showed them the email with the booked time but the discomfort had settled in.
After all of this I was close to just asking for a refund but as we had all travelled for 45 minutes, I didn't want to waste the evening.
After a little more grumbling about the fact that they would now have to use two boats as apparently 11 was too many we climbed aboard feeling somewhat embarrassed, and were very relieved to find our previous host Miguel climbing aboard one of the boats.
As we travelled down the moonlight river Miguel (whom I was lucky enough to have as host of my boat) explained that he would get a little way in before telling us the ghost stories.
Five minutes later Miguel, using a long pole to propel his punting boat along the river, began his tales and the previous discomfort slipped away.
We heard stories of WW2 soldiers meeting scarfaced apparitions, accused witches meeting their ends in the dark swirling waters beneath us and the hideous Jenny Greenteeth luring victims down into the water to meet their ends.
At the halfway point Miguel's pole became stuck in the mud and we drifted along helpless and laughing until he pulled himself back with branches to retrieve it, making jokes the entire time.
We made a u-turn a little way out of the lights of the city and slowly made our way back and at this point Miguel asked us if we had any personal stories of ghostly incidents.
The only one that came to mind was a day in which I thought I had seen an old friend who had died a week previous among a group of people. Thinking I had been mistaken on that day, I  had returned to my caricature pitch only to feel a tap on the shoulder. It was his wife.
When we returned the awkwardness of earlier was all gone and we walked away thanking them for a lovely evening.
If you're after an amazing evening I would highly recommend the Canterbury Punting Tours.
I would however add a note of caution with a few pieces of advice:

1. Make sure several times that you have confirmed the times and amount of people.
2. Ask for Miguel and accept no substitutes.

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