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!!!

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