Day 11. Sunday 24th June. Sun and clouds 22 degrees. Rowed 19 km To Frise pk 43.5 Rowed 122.5 Driven 201.3 miles Cycled 58.5 miles
Day 13. Tuesday 26th June. Sun 26 degrees. Rowed 11.2 km to tunnel at pk 75. Wild camped at tunnel relaunch bridge at pk 81. Rowed 160.2km Driven 261.3 miles Cycled 68.5 miles
Day 15. Thursday 28th June. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 19 Kms to pk 14 Canal de l'Oise a l'Aisne. Lifted out and drove to camping at Monampteuil. Rowed 203 Kms Driven 325 miles
Day 16 Friday 29th June. Sun 33 degrees. In Monampteuil. Rest day. Washing, cooking, cleaning, bunkering and blog.
Oh joy, the punishing current has finally decreased to the extent that I am able to lift the milage more towards our planned target. We are now into an even more beautiful part of this lovely winding river. The water is crystal clear with waving weed easily seen beneath Oggi and a sight of occasional fish in between. The only trouble ( big) is acres of the bloody stuff on the surface making rowing difficult.
Fishermen are also a hazard, some with rods of 20 feet or more reaching half way across the river. Their attitudes range all the way from friendly encouragement to outright offensive aggression. The size of their bellies and the quantity of their equipment seems to be a good indicator, just as our skiing friends will recognise on the slopes! Others though give a cheery wave and offer help whenever if may be needed.
Monday saw us clear the River Somme with a couple of eclusiers waving us on our way into the Canal du Nord. What a difference! From this dream of a river with their excellent organisation and friendly and helpful staff into a commercial canal with regular barges of 120 feet and pusher tugs up to 240 feet. At the first lock I entered with a green light showing, no response from the woman in the control tower, climbed 4 meters up a muddy ladder with line over shoulder, the woman watched and then went to lunch, I got the message. From then on we lifted out before, portaged and put back in after with our permission from VNF to use these locks kept in our pockets.
By Wednesday approaching the last lock a frightening double of 6.5 meter locks with a short rowing gap between, I sprinted for 4 Kms to keep up with a Dutch boat to share his lock. It was very hard work but otherwise I had a couple of kilometres of portage. The body certainly felt it though. Round the corner into Canal Lateral a l'Oise was frustratingly a traditional French bar on the bend with shouts of Bon Courage and a lift of glasses from the patrons. I now encountered 1 km/hr of current and a very strong Easterly head wind. After my previous efforts I am aching everywhere. It is now a forest on both sides with no stopping places. Just as well as I could be easily tempted. I put myself under London Bridge in a Fishmongers Cup Race with Don Bartliff ( Boom Boom, as he was known by his voice ) screaming " we've left the Navy and Marines behind let's get the LFB ( London Fire Brigade)" and just kept pulling in 30 degrees temperature. Finally Sara helped me out of the boat some miles later to portage around the lock to her wild camping spot.
Almost fully recovered the next morning I was away by 8 am to row the 5km to the junction with the Canal de l'Oise a l'Aisne, while Sara went back to the previous lock to negotiate the loan of a Telecommande to open the next 13 automatic locks to come. The two male VNF operatives were initially unhelpful however a VNF lady (herself a skiff rower) argued our case and with Sara's and Sally's charm won the day and we got the Telecommande although it led to over an hours delay. Another 45 minutes was lost due to an arrogant peniche skipper who hogged the lock while he filled his water tanks leading to us losing distance. Boy, was that beer and shower appreciated when we reached the campsite and better still the day off today!
Just a word about the river Somme though. This lovely river has every facility a canoeist could require with special pontoons along the way. For the cyclist there is an excellent paved cycle path. There is history, places of interest and wildlife to satisfy all interests and above all, the staff are just so pleasant and helpful. All this is totally underused and only 30 miles from the Newhaven Dieppe ferry.