Thursday, 4 October 2018

Reflections and Conclusions

Reflections and Conclusions

Since we married 34 years ago we have had many adventures but, we think it is fair to say, that this expedition has probably proved to be the most challenging. The rowing part was hard, very hard at times, but for that I had spent months training and generally was up to the task. I did however have increasing leg problems making lifting and walking painfully difficult and relied heavily on Sara on land.
It was equally challenging for Sara too. Not only did she have to do the obvious of keeping the 'old man' fed and watered, but she also had an host of other obligations. 

Over much of the route road access to the water is not easy. I still wonder how she made most of the rendezvous on time to provide essential help, often having to search for a cart track or sometimes even across a field. Her most difficult job by far though was to find a safe and shaded place, near enough to the river for us to pull Oggi out to spend the night. When I saw some of the steep banks and overgrown paths she had driven down I gulped.

Although we had researched and explored extensively last year, due to various circumstances we had to make up much of the route and method as we went along. An huge factor was the weather. As in England, France experienced it's hottest summer ever. It was bad enough to row in 40 degrees plus temperatures with a full summer sun beating down from a cloudless sky but, without shade Geanie our VW camper was uninhabitable and not getting much below 30 degrees at night. Along with a multitude of mossies and other nasty biters sleep was not easy.

For the full period of the trip there was nil precipitation which although it is nice not to get a soaking, it caused a mass of other problems. No rain equals no current down the Saone and Rhone to provide the normal 2 to 3 km/hr push south. No rain equals low river levels exposing rocks, barriers and mud/ shingle banks, channelling what is there into narrow white water gullies. Even more problem is the way water has been dragged away from the shore line. Often dense vegetation has grown and access to any of the few lift out places is not now possible. Although we bought the relevant charts for the Rhône, no information for the old river on which I was obliged to row was included.

But we made it! The kilometres we missed due to the problems of Lyon I made up with a delightful row on the picturesque River Somme on a lovely sunny day. The ''why am I doing this'' and "never again" syndrome we experience during most of our adventures started to melt away and be replaced with the satisfaction of achievement. Despite the fight I had against the current generated by the spring rains during my first days of the row, today the waters had resumed their usual tranquil self, the birds are singing and Sara breathed a big sign of relief.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Mission Accomplished!!

Mission Accomplished!!!!

Villeneuve Les Avignon 
6th September  2018.

Day 78 to Day 81 Sunday 2nd September. Mistral winds 45km/hr  gusting 75km/hr. No rowing.

Day 82. Monday 3rd September.Sun 25 degrees, 25km/hr northerly wind. Rowed 37km to wildcamp at pk279 Petit Rhône confluence. Now rowed 1079.5km. Driven 1567.9 miles.

Day 83. Tuesday 4th September. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 31.5km to pk 310.5 Le Paty. Now rowed 1111kms. Driven 1606.7 miles.

Day 84. Wednesday 5th September. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 35km to St Marie de la Mer.... The Mediterranean!!! Then drove back to Villeneuve Les Avignon to camp. Rowed 1146 kms and Driven 1670 miles.

Total of 1146kms in 52 Days Rowing

Yippee, yippee!!!! Mission accomplished but definitely not easy. I was right, the Rhône hadn't finished with me yet. She started off by throwing four days of Mistral wind at us with gusts up to 75km/hr forcing us to stay put.

We had by now moved to a very nice campsite in Villeneuve Les Avignon immediately on the opposite side of the river to the dump we had first pitched up on. Ramps or other launch sites are few and far between so it meant towing Oggi over 2kms down river to the nearest. 
Whilst searching for a launch site in the fields and lanes adjacent to the river we came across a straying stallion to me but a frightened pony about shoulder height which Sara handled to a place of safety. I was very impressed.

By Monday the wind had dropped to a maximum 20km/hr, dropping to 10 but with a forecast of deteriorating weather after this 3 day window. We were up and ready to go by 7am only to find the gates of the camping did not open until 8am. Security in these parts is essential as we later found.

Choppy pull to Barrage de Vallabregues and found the ramp to lift out. From there it was a long drag of Oggi to the road, across the barrage and after another 500 meters a steep slope into tumbling water which needed a restraining rope. Once in, the rowing was not too bad though a sharp eye for random rocks was essential.

The big problem though was the rocky barrage weir with a 2 meter drop at the bottom prior to rejoining the navigational channel. Sara had searched and found a way out but not a way back in. Finally, in some desperation, we roped her down 50 feet of stony slope during which Sara fell, hurting her leg and shoulder and damaging the camera, then through the vegetation across more rocks and splashed into the water.

From there on Oggi rowed well but access to the river by road for Sara was all but impossible and as M Barnier keeps worrying, ''the clock is ticking''. After 37kms we rendezvous just short of the entrance to the Petit Rhône. A massive, amiable fisherman helped me and Oggi ashore and Sara led me to a now totally dusty white campervan for a well earned beer whilst we swatted clouds of biting mossies. How she finds these places baffles me!

Early on Tuesday I rowed into the Petit Rhône on a gorgeous morning with the water glassy calm. The banks are mainly unbroken jungle with lively bird life, but again with minimal land access. I made a brief pre arranged meet with Sara to grab lunch then kept plodding away into a slowly increasing head wind.

The good news is no more barrages but the seriously bad news is where to stop for the night. Sara searched well ahead and established that after a closed canoe school ramp at pk 310.5 there was no landing place for another 17km. After having rowed 31.5 km with the head wind quite strong now we decided to stop even though we had hoped to push on a bit further.

She returned to help me but due to chains across the access had to leave the camper parked at the roadside. We intended to leave Oggi hidden by the slip but when Sara returned the few hundred yards with some of the gear she found villains had pushed the side window in. Strangely, we know not why, although the tablet, camera and even the coin purse were laying around we were relieved to find nothing stolen.

As such, we put Oggi on her wheels and towed her to a nearby Camper stop again getting attacked by vicious biting insects all the way. We also managed to jury rig the window so it looks intact from the outside.

Our last day today Wednesday. I really think the mighty Rhone had respected my efforts, held up her hands and said OK. The final 35kms was rowed on calm water with even a modicum of assisting current and I made good time to reach the sea by 3pm.

Many thanks go to the Tiki III passenger cruiser crew who, in the absence of anywhere else had given Sara the use of their parking and slipway facilities. As I approached their paddle ship Tiki with 100 or more passengers cheering and ship hooting, I rowed out through the breakwater in to the Mediterranean.

I had done it! Yippee!!!!

(Ferry booked for Wednesday, now all I have to do is to row the Kms missed bypassing Lyon, which will be done on the Somme on the way home)

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Dangers of navigating the Rhône river

Day 72. Friday 24th August. Sun 28 degrees. Rowed 29kms to pk119.5 Charmes Sur Rhône. Now Rowed 922km Driven 1379 miles.

Day 73. Saturday 25th August. Cloudy!! 25 degrees. Rowed 25km to Cruas ok 144.5. Now rowed 947km and Driven 1397 miles.

Day 74. Sunday 26th August. Sun 25 degrees, mistral gusting 65km/hr. Rowed 7km to Barrage de Rochemaure and wildcamp. Will launch into white water... Need calm! Now rowed 954kms. Driven 1414.3 miles.

Day 75. Monday 27th August. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 28.5kms to pk180 Bourg st Andeol. Now rowed 982.5kms and driven 1434.9 miles.

Day 76. Tuesday 28th August. Sun 33 degrees. Rowed 33km to Caderousse Barrage wildcamp. Now rowed 1015.5km and driven 1463.4 miles.

Day 77. Wednesday 29th August. Sun 34 degrees. Cloudy and light showers pm. Rowed 27km to Avignon.pk240. Now rowed 1042.5km  and driven 1492.5 miles.

Day 78. Thursday 30th August. Sun 28 degrees. 50km/hr mistral. In Avignon.

Dangers of navigating the Rhone river

Only 100kms to go now and I will be able to boast of being the first recorded person to have rowed, unassisted by the authorities north to south across France. Probably also to be the first recorded person to have rowed the route of the original Rhone River, scrambling over the massive barrages and portaging to the water beyond rather than the easy, shorter route along the constructed navigational canals and through the locks from which I was prohibited  by the VNF and CNR.

No doubt about it, the river has done and is doing it's best to stop me making this claim. At present she is throwing a 50km/hr mistral wind at us which is far too dangerous to row in. As such it is keeping us confined to a campsite in Avignon. In truth my body is crying out for a day of recovery and Sara needs a clear up and do day after several non stop days of providing necessary support in many diverse ways.

To get here I have had to face rapids, calms, shallows and huge problems hacking our way through dense vegetation to get Oggi in and out. Sara has been tested to the limit searching out a safe, shaded overnight stop accessible enough to drag Oggi to under the blazing sun and more than 30 degree temperatures, but somehow she achieved it.

The Nautiraid Coracle has proved herself to be amazing. Three times she has been totally thrown on her side in white water and been swiftly corrected by her inflatable beam bouancy without which it would certainly have been a life threatening capsize. She has collided numerous times with rocks in tumbling water, clawed around whirlpools, bounced and scraped over river stone whilst I just hang on, roped to her in case I was thrown out in the rough and tumble.

On one occasion I tried to pull myself clear of a huge whirlpool spinning like a tumble drier where the 200 metre wide river shoaled to a mere 20 metres due to a build up of large river stone. I lost the battle and was spat out into the white water tumble of a narrow rocky gully. I thought this must be the adrenaline high Sara and her crazy skiing mates talk about when they launch into a couloir, knowing that if they don't make the dangerous dogleg 10 yards ahead "Oh dear"!

I had to make 5 of these dogleg turns and then bounced 200 metres through rocky shallows in white choppy water jabbing this way and that to avoid the big rocks and grounded tree trunks faster than Nigel Farrage could down a yard of ale. In other years there would probably be sufficient water to float across these shoals, but this year is exceptional.

I could go on about similar situations such as shooting the old bridge at Pont St Esprit, the barrage which provided an impassable blockage where by sheer chance I interrupted a fully armed team of the French Army engaged in energetic war games who willingly helped me carry the boat up a steep bank, the hairy launches and recoverys, or the plod, splash, plod in dead still water of wider deeper stretches past numerous castles and defences dating from Roman times onwards, but then I would have nothing left to put in the book.

At present the weather forecast predicts the wind to drop to about 20 km/hr tomorrow so I hope to jump a bit further before big winds come back on Saturday. I need lighter winds for the final stretch through the Carmargue when I turn into the narrow, shallow, winding Petit Rhône river at Arles. Then it will be into the Mediterranean and around to the east to the small port of St Marie de la Mer.

So, if all goes well, I need 4 more decent days of rowing before I write the epilogue. However I am sure the river Rhone will not have given up on me yet so no predicted ETA. I hope that when I come rowing in to the beach from the sea in my little rowing boat the Customs/Police don't mistake me for an illegal coming in from Africa and arrest me. I am sure our friend Guillaume from Nautiraid will sort it out for us as he has in other ways before!

Thanks Guillaume and please pass on these thanks to Veronique Flambard, Nautiraid's charming boss for producing such an unbelievably robust craft which still remains barely marked despite the punishment it has taken.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Into the Rhône river bypassing Lyon.

Day 49 to Day 65 .... R and R in the mountains. Day 65 drove to pk61 wild camp at Drace lock.

Day 66 Sat 18th August. Sun and breezy 26 degrees. Rowed 23 Kms to wild camp at pk 38 1km  south of Villefranche-sur-Saone. Now Rowed 795kms and Driven 1241.7 miles

Day 67 Sun 19th August. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 21kms to pk 17 Saone Couzon lock and Drove to camping at St Genie Laval. Now rowed 816km Driven 1257 miles

Day 68 Monday 20th August. Sun 33 degrees. Drove to pk 15 Rhone to launch in old river. Rowed 27.5km to pk42.5 wild camp. Now Rowed 843.5km Driven 1315.8 miles.

Day 69. Tuesday 21st August. Sun 33 degrees. Rowed 18.5km to wildcamp at pk 60.5 Peyraud barrage. Now Rowed 862km Driven 1331.5 miles.

Day 70. Wednesday 22nd August. Sun 33 degrees. Rowed 14.5km to St Vallier pk75. Now Rowed 877.5. Driven 1341.5 miles.

Day 71. Thursday 23rd August. Sun and clouds 30 degrees. Rowed15.5km to Tournon sur Rhone. Now Rowed 893kms and Driven 1358.8 miles.

Into the Rhône river, bypassing Lyon.

As we approached Lyon we still had no further information or answers from VNF or CNR and although we seriously studied our charts and books one final time no magic solution appeared.

Decision made, we lift out, do the distance later and if the purists consider that disqualifies me from a record, so what, that never was my objective anyway. 

Certainly we earned a medal for the route Sara directed me over the hills around hairpin bends on lanes little wider than the van! What fantastic views though and how surprised we were to find that the town which we had mainly considered industrial is surrounded by attractive green spaces and most tasteful properties. Against that though it is worse than a Grand National course with speed bumps every few yards.

The following day we launched into the old Rhone on the lower side of Lyon and I enjoyed some rare current until reaching the main river. From then on strong winds gusting from all directions around the surrounding humpy hills made rowing a straight course very difficult. What with the motorway on one side and a railway on the other it was not the choicest of days. The lift out at Vaugris lock was also not easy and Oggi required roping up a steep slippery overgrown ramp under the blazing sun. 

When I was stopped by lock workers halfway to the down river slip with Oggi on her wheels, I had to be a dumb old Englishman, and said "je n'comprends pas" and walked on. They didn't shoot me! The descent slip was twice the height of the previous one so rope control was essential. Unfortunately, due to the exceedingly low level of the river the bottom deteriorated into gooey muddy rock and very shallow. We eventually got Oggi afloat but not before we both slipped and had smelly mud baths.

On Tuesday I made an early start and scooted along at more than 5kmh to the split of the navigation channel at pk40 while Sara went out to seek necessary fodder. A big sign directed kayaks to a slip. Reluctantly I obeyed as per my VNF instructions but had to clear a skip load of driftwood to reach a dilapidated overgrown way out of the river. I heaved Oggi up about 20feet  of bracken and broken concrete and then obtained the services of a couple of passing cyclists to lug her over the mound at the top.

I towed her about a km along the cycle path to a kayak center to await Sara. Some confusion arose as to the route to the old Rhone way below, bypassing the weir and turbine gates due to the total lack of signage. Dragging a boat around in the mid 30s under a blazing hot sun is not much fun and I think both of us were thinking "why on earth are we here!".

My spirits were revived back on the river which flows through a wild protected nature reserve for about 11kms where no motorised craft are allowed. Sara went on and explored ahead and called me with good and bad news. The good news was that she had found a nice shady spot but the bad news was that there was a very dangerous double drop weir not shown on the chart at pk61. Then my starboard rowlock mount broke again!!!! Never mind, we will finish today's row tomorrow after a rest and when I have done the necessary repairs.

Today is another day. Apart from being held up for half an hour at the launch ramp when a local fisherman beat us to it with his trailer boat, it was mostly a very pleasant enjoyable row in light winds. Payback time to the fisherman came though when he backed into the water having forgotten to release the boat's strops and buried the stern.

I fair flew along on a glassy river with at least 1kmh of favourable current. Today's near disaster whilst I was rowing close to port marker pole very near to the shore to give a peniche the rest of the river to safely overtake. Unexpectedly he turned straight at me when only about 100 metres off. I turned and rowed at full Henley regatta rate towards the centre of the river to escape. I had aclear view in to the wheelhouse and saw nobody there. Clearly from this and the subsequent route he took around the outside of the wide bend he was on autopilot and probably relying totally on GPS neglecting any safety lookout. Well done 'Fidelity' how long before you kill someone!

The profit from yesterday's problems is that I only had to row 14.5kms to the campsite and have a lazy afternoon.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Decision time rowing through Lyon

Decision time rowing through Lyon

Decision time - what do we do about Lyon. There are VNF regulations, CNR regulations, Police regulations and certainly an heap more, they love their regulations in this part of the world. Throughout the confluence, the approach, the lock and the departure channel non-motorised craft are prohibited as a norm. During our negotiations with the VNF we were given a firm list of 'don'ts'. Although in many previous circumstances we knew that we were probably skating on thin ice, I rowed through in a state of blissful ignorance, misunderstanding of French and an attitude of if it is not on the 'don'ts' list then I can 'do' and so far I had bluffed my way through. Lyon is however very different as it is closely monitored by all 3 services. 

Although we have advised them of our intentions several times by email, sending copies here, there and everywhere (as per their original instructions) asking for permissions and guidance we have, as usual, received nil response. From previous experience we doubt that would impress any minor jobs worth who wants his piece of paper.

The lock itself is on an island with power stations at each end and bordered by a motorway and flyovers leaving Sara no access to assist. Although not clear, it appears that the 10km exit canal is CNR property which could classify it as a 'dont'. If so, from our maps and charts there appears no other option than to portage some 7km to a safe entry into the old river which would certainly test my gammy leg to destruction.

An alternative which from signage appears to be a kayac route commences with a violent Weir into the original river and has several white water rocky sections along it's length. I am sure that it is great fun for paddlers facing forward but definitely not recommended for a rower going backwards.

Of course, the newly introduced Crit-aire certificate to reduce pollution in many French cities provides an additional complication. We do not yet have one so Sara would have to drive to the moon and back to get around Lyon. From what we hear, another 6 months police pounding will go a long way to paying off France's Nation Debt so it is better not to take the risk.

With all the previous in mind and having gained a firm impression that any deviation from the rules could easily jeapodise the whole venture, we are very reluctantly slowly coming to the conclusion that perhaps plans should be adapted accordingly. The major prize for us is to reach the Mediterranean and dip our toes in salty water, any further delays will make us later in the season lower down so if it is better to put Lyon on hold for a bit and do the last 300kms or so first then so be it.

I still have another 2 days of rowing to complete the River Saone to Lyon so there is always the outside possibility of receiving the necessary guidance and permissions but we will definitely not hold our breath. Meanwhile we will drive back to Drace lock, where we lifted out, tomorrow and wild camp ready for an early start for the row to Villefranche-sur-Saone on Saturday. On Sunday I will row to Couzon lock, which at 17km north of Lyon unfortunately is the closest practical slip to lift out and stow Oggi.

At present my good leg is still in a bad way but if it survives the row and locks to Lyon and then the demands of the Rhône locks (with Sara's assistance) we may possible attempt the Lyon section on the way home if the route has been clarified by then. It is more likely though that the distance not rowed due to this enforced deviation will be added to the 12km we owe to the charted distance due to VNF prohibition of my passage through various tunnels.

We already had it in mind to pause on the River Somme on our way home to catch up these missing kilometers. Providing we remain in good working condition to enjoy it this most pleasant of rivers would provide a satisfying conclusion to a very testing and memorable experience for us.

If we are not --- Well there is a very good restaurant and campsite in Long, overlooking the river and I still owe Sara both a birthday and a 34th wedding anniversary dinner!!!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Wise decision to R and R, we avoided the storms and flooding in Southern France

Wise decision to R and R, we avoided the storms and flooding in Southern France.

Day 60. Sunday 12th August Sun 28 degrees Still R and R in mountains

Somebody must be watching over us! I expect you have heard of the severe storms, flooding, devastated campsites and gushing streams of Southern France. Had we continued the row we could well have been in some of the worst affected areas. Any doubts we had about taking the break were washed away as we watched the torrents hosing down and lightening striking surrounding mountain tops from our lounge windows.

Now our main concerns are the effect it may or may not have on the Rhone river particularly with the potential dangers and complications of the Rhône/ Saone confluence where the waters descending from Lake Leman pour into the free flowing River Saone.

Two kilometres after the confluence is the major commercial port of Edouard Herriot. Apart from the many coasting ships and barges a fleet of 4400 tonnes craft run a regular daily service between Marseille and Lyon carrying all manner of cargos. Particularly though, agreement has been reached with all the major supermarkets and other suppliers to use this service, each load replacing 220 20 tonne lorrys on the roads. Lessons to be learnt?

One kilometre below this is the Pierre Benite lock which, as with all the Rhône locks, we are prohibited from using under oars. Local signage is very confusing and books and charts leave us in considerable doubt. We have sent emails to the VNF and CNR requesting directions, but unless they change their ways it is unlikely that we will receive any response. Further research is therefore necessary and when we know a definite date of arrival we will attempt to make verbal contact and consider our limited options.

At present we are considering what that date might be. The meteo now tells us that foul weather is expected for Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday is a bank holiday with Fêtes and festivals going on everywhere. Enquiries reveal that campsites are probably fully booked until the next weekend. So watch this space.

For us though the break has been very good.The cooler weather, magnificent alpine scenery, beautiful green of trees and meadows and above all meeting up with good friends was just what we needed. It was a lovely holiday for Sally too to have a good run in the countryside and a rest from the limitations of a small campervan. 

Unfortunately, although I have replaced a few pounds and everything else fitness wise is good both of us it has done nothing for the serious problems I have in my one good leg.

Sara has been brilliant helping me in any way she can. I should be able to manage the rowing part of the project. Indeed, knowing that the leg had problems had influenced my choice of rowing as being one of the few seated challenges I could think of! The locks of the Rhône however will involve a lot of climbing, lifting and portaging which will provide an extreme test for me and now for Sara as well.

As they say " there is no fool like an old fool" so just shut up Chris and get on with it.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Preparation of boat and body for traversing Lyon and rowing the Rhone

Preparation of boat and body for traversing Lyon and rowing the Rhone.

Day 46. Sunday 29th July. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 18 Kms to Chatenoy en Bresse ramp at pk 148.5. Now Rowed 669 Kms and Driven 801.4 Kms

Day 47. Monday 30th July. Sun 32 degrees. Rowed 30 Kms to pk 118.5 seawards side of Ormes lock. Now Rowed 699 Kms and Driven 838.5 miles. Cycled 212 miles.

Day 48. Tuesday 31st July. Sun 34 degrees. Rowed 29 Kms to pk 90  Asnieres Sur Saone. Now Rowed 728 Kms and Driven 874.8 miles

Day 49. Wednesday 1st August. Sun and clouds 36 degrees. Rowed 30 km to Port De Thoissey. Now Rowed 761 Kms and Driven 894.9 miles ( + drive to Alps)

Unfortunately the threat of thunderstorms did not come to fruition but we did get a bit of cloud and a blessed one day temperature drop to 30 degrees. Certainly I revelled in the following day off by doing next to nothing.

On Sunday though it was back into the upper 30s but as I launched at 7am a thick mist was swirling about. My parting words to Sara were '' I'll row directly across the river to my channel on the starboard side". I safely found the red marker pile but as I swung to it 200 tons of peniche (barge) steered straight at me out of the fog, way out of his own channel. I woke up in a hurry!

The fog cleared as the sun rose but I quickly learned that on a hot Sunday on a tourist river at the height of holiday season is not the best place to be in a tiny rowing boat. Speed boats, water skiers, novice coxswains in newly hired cabin cruisers, children in uncontrolled cheap plastic dinghys and fishermen, fishermen, fishermen.

Fishermen by the dozen everywhere, on shore and afloat, which I classified into floating fishermen or fat fishermen. All the floating fishermen are it seems oblivious to the rules of navigation, anchoring in the channel or creeping up in their aluminium boats with silent electric motors. On the whole these are the younger, more sophisticated of the two but are all dressed uniformly in the camouflage fatigues of the military wing of the ''Saone homeguard'' and armed with short aggressive looking rods. There are a few older specimens of the breed but they are invariably slumped over their rods in the shallows in a gnome like position devoid of movement and had probably died several years ago and nobody has noticed yet. 

The fat fishermen are altogether more dedicated to their military calling, not only wearing similar fatigues to the floaters but also living in heavy duty camouflage tents ( often with flags flying) driving camouflaged vehicles and for the most part boasting the same body shape and hair cut as the pride of football hooligans anywhere. They line up a minimum of 3 longer sparkling rods at a time on a frame like so many rocket launchers pointed at the enemy doing the same on the other side of the river. There are hundreds of these squads in every clearing along each bank and often they holler advice at me which perhaps could have been useful if I were able to decipher it?

I have never actually seen anyone catch anything but I suppose, from the number of floating decomposing dead ones with their heads half ripped off it must happen sometimes. Suffice to say that although I have not seen it myself, something dramatic must happen around midday between the two sides. By afternoon there appears to be heaps of bodies lying around some still with their throwing grenades in their hands..... Or are they bottles?

After Mondays 30 km row to Ormes lock rocking back and forth on the rowing thwart for almost 8 hours without the breaks of handling Oggi through the multiple locks of the canal system, my right leg from pelvis to foot was hurting badly and completely seized up with very painful cramps lifting her up the 20 or so steps to get ashore. Top marks to Sara who looked after both me and the boat until I was able to stand, lift her on her wheels and pull her 1.5 Kms to the well shaded wild camp Sara had prepared.

Partially recovered after a nights sleep on Tuesday I pulled another 29 Kms through Tournus and then past several old walled villages which looked spectacular from the river making me regret not carrying a camera.
Not now having had any precipitation for a couple of months and severe water restrictions having been implemented all over France, together with temperatures approaching 40 degrees and the sun blazing down all day rowing is hard and any current is dead. It is surprising how much it lifted the spirit when many people on moored boats came out and loudly cheered me through Tournus. Thanks!

Rowing through Macon on Wednesday morning it finally entered my dulled and aged brain that with the nearing big challenge of Lyon and the potential dangers of the mighty Rhone river I needed to be in better physical shape than I am at present.
My right leg is hurting badly restricting the length of my stroke. The left one is okay but with no feeling below the knee from the ski accident 9 years ago (see "about my challenge"). It therefore causes me to favour that side resulting in my bum, which has now lost any benefit from any cushioning fat, to become bruised and sore. Above that level everything works and is in fine fettle. I've also nearly worn out the sleeve collars of my oars and having stretched 6 of the 8 rowlocks I carry I could do with replacements before future hazards. 

With all that in mind and perhaps enhanced by a very strong cross wind constantly trying to blow me off course I rang Sara. She endorsed my decision to recover with some proper R and R in our hidey hole in the French Alps. We decided I would complete the 30 odd Kms we had planned to Drace lock, lift out there and drive to Bourg st Maurice.

From way off we could see impressive towering cumulus over the mountains. When we drove through Albertville it was still showing 36 degrees but as we started the final stretch up the mountain temperatures fell rapidly. The storm broke as we reached home. Thunder, lightning, running rivers of rain and 26 degrees greeted our arrival..... Bliss!

Our scales showed that my 12 stone 2 lbs that I left home with had fallen to 10 stone 10 lbs. In the mirror I am seeing bits of skeleton I haven't seen for years and my skin is too big for me. Sara is in superb condition having reverted to the shape and weight of her early teenage years! Best of all though the metro is predicting a break in the Canicule (heatwave), reverting to normal average temperatures for the time of the year. By then I will be fully recharged and capable of leaving our mountain Basecamp to make the final descent through Lyon and down the Rhone river to the Mediterranean and a huge celebration!!!

Sally is enjoying the break too!!!