Thursday, 4 October 2018
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.
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