From the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne to the River Saone!
Day 39. Sunday 22nd July. Sun and clouds 28 degrees. Rowed 20.5 Kms(+ 3kms!) 10 locks to wild camp at pk212.5. Now Rowed 552.5 Kms. Driven 714 miles. Cycled 196 miles.
Day 40. Monday 23rd July. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 14 Kms to Pontailler Sur Saone pk 251.5 Saone. Now Rowed 566kms. Driven 724.7 miles. Cycled 203 miles
Day 41. Tuesday 24th July. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 27 Kms to wild camp at pk 224.5. Now Rowed 593kms. Driven 762 miles. Cycled 196 miles.
Day 42. Wednesday 25th July. Sun 33 degrees. Rowed 37 Kms to pk 187.5 Seurre. Now Rowed 630 Kms. Driven 778.6 miles. Cycled 196 miles.
Day 43. Thursday 26th July. Sun 36 degrees. Rowed 21 Kms to Verdun sur le Doubs. Now Rowed 651 kms. Driven 790.1 miles. Cycled 204 miles.
Day 44. Friday 27th July. in Verdun sur le Doubs. Sun 37 degrees
It really is a very satisfying feeling to have completed the whole of the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne and to have entered the Saone river for the next and very different stage of the journey. The last couple of days went very smoothly but not entirely without incident. How daft is it that at one stage, I think possibly whilst phoning, Oggi must have swung through 180 degrees without me noticing and I rowed the complete lock distance only to arrive back at the lock that I had left half an hour before! This canal really must be put down as one of the highlights of the route to the Mediterranean. The scenery is stunning and varied and different one side of the tunnel to the other. Most of the time, it is more river than canal winding it's way through the hills and forests, passing the quaintest picture book farms, villages and Chateaux. If you are a cyclist there is an excellent paved cycle track along the whole length apart from the tunnel in the middle. Certainly the Dutch have discovered it but we barely saw any cycling Brits on this enjoyable easy flat ride South.
At the end of the canal where it meets the Saone river there are two locks after which the cut is high sided and impossible to drag Oggi ashore. Having started early I arrived there at 10.30 but had still not received any response to the email requesting permission to pass through the first Petit Saone lock. Sara was installing the van on the campsite at Pontailler Sur Saone, having phoned the VNF office in Gray earlier. As with all the VNF staff we have met she received a polite and friendly response and a promise to be rung back when he had found and read my email. An hour later she still hadn't been, so I put Oggi on her wheels and lugged her 1.8 Kms meeting Sara and Sally along the way. On arriving at the lock the eclusier told us he had been told permission had been granted an hour ago!! Never mind, I expect the exercise did me good!
Enjoyable though it was, let me stress though that this canal is definitely not for the inexperienced rower. Winds can be gusty crossing the aqueducts and un expected cross currents can easily catch one out. Special permission must be granted for transit by any non motorised craft and it is necessary to notify the control daily on start stop and general movements. I urge anyone who has ambition to follow my route to follow the proper procedure which are there for good reason. You will however find all the canal workers helpful and efficient and we were particularly impressed by the bright and enthusiastic students VNF had taken on for the summer season who would brighten anyone's day.
The upper reaches of the Saone river are known as the Petit Saone until it reaches Seurre. It is wide and winds at a gentle pace through woods and pastures on a generally flat terrain so the current is rarely strong. Unfortunately for me though the absence of rain this summer means no current at all so every stroke has to be pulled. With the temperature in the 30s and the sun blazing down from a clear blue sky it is certainly very wearing for both Sara and me and definitely not comfortable for poor, panting Sally.
We are therefore up very early so as to be on the river in sufficient time to be able to lift out by early afternoon and hide in the shade somewhere. Nevertheless with the sparsity of locks to hold me up I made my best day Wednesday at a very sweaty 37 Kms. The muscles are really feeling the punishment though and so is the bum and thighs so just a shorter run of 21kms to Verdun Sur le Doubs on Thursday morning and a day of R and R today. Oh how much I enjoyed a proper shower after several nights of wild camping!
Thunder storms are forecast tonight and tomorrow so I may possibly enjoy the luxury of a second days rest.