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)