We talked in our last blog about facing the heap of locks between Carcassonne and Castelnaudary, some 23 in total and all with rounded sides and lock keepers who refuse to help unlike the eclusiers up north who will pick up a thrown rope if necessary and drop it over a bollard or similar.
Day one went ok despite having to develop a new system between Rhonda and me to ensure ropes were laid out ready for throwing as she had to get off the boat at a landing stage before each lock and then act as the catcher. She then had to place the ropes around bollards so I could drive against the taut ropes to get us into position and hold firm before the eclusiers would release the huge deluges of water to fill the lock.
After spending a very pleasant evening at Bram with a boatload of Australians we set off in good spirits ready to tackle the remaining 18 locks and all went pretty well until we had to stop and wait while the eclusier at one lock took his lunch break between 12.30 and 1.30pm and as a result we were joined by a hire boat getting into the lock at the same time as us. It was ok until they decided when they got ahead of us between locks to change their mooring side from port to starboard which we had got used to and had set our ropes accordingly. Well from then on it seemed as though every thing that could go wrong went wrong in minor ways but enough to be sapping our energy as temps were in the high 40s out on the concrete aprons where Rhonda would have to stand holding and often straining on a rope so by around 2.30 pm she was quite exhausted and experienced difficulties like jammed or even dropped ropes while I seemed to get into a bit of a bump the wall mode. Thank goodness for decent fenders.
We pushed on to Castelnaudary as all we wanted to do was get to somewhere where we could get a good berth and to shower, eat and relax and catch up on our energy levels plus collect the car from where we had parked it a few days ago. We got a berth right on the quay which is great except the fees are €30.00 a night for our size boat. (They rate us as a hotel boat due to our size). This is a far cry from the €10.00 per night at Carcassonne.
On top of the hefty fee, we were awakened at around 11.00pm by the start of a nightclub’s activities down the road with the usual mindless bass sound thumping so hard the vibrations actually shook the boat. None of the moored boaties (about 30) were at all impressed and even our best efforts to lock out the sound by closing all our double glazed windows was only partially successful and then on top of that at around 1.00am we received two phone calls plus texts from Daphne and Claude our friends (who needs friends like this at this time of the morning, as the saying goes, only joking) who had just returned from staying with us to New Zealand. They must have miscalculated the time difference. Then my brother Russ, decided as he had had a nice lie in, in New Zealand and as it was a cold miserable day he would call for a chat at 1.30 am our time. As much as I love him dearly I could have placed his phone in a very difficult to find position as he said OH well I thought you would be awake at this time.
Another hour to get to sleep but then we awoke to a nice day (not so hot) found the car to be safe and sound so took a drive out into the country to see the “wine trees” (vineyards) as one of the tour guides called them when doing commentary on one of Daphne and Claude’s day trips around Carcassonne.
I know we have commented in other blogs about the size of the areas of vineyards in this country but when you consider we have been barging through France now for almost 18 months, I don’t think we have ever not been able to look out of the boat and not see vineyards for as far as the eye can see. No wonder the French are touchy about statements about wine quality from other countries. They are however pulling out lots of vines and replanting with new varieties plus a smaller type which are easy to harvest using automatic picking machines as the cost of labour is creating problems from a financial point.
The only real changes we see to the views over the vineyards are over the crops of wheat, oats, barley and rye which are now getting ready to be harvested and the golden colours look great and soon the sun flowers will be reaching maturity and opening up which will be an amazing sight for sure. Further north of course the mustard crops will be reaching harvesting state so yellow will be a dominating colour of the landscape.
The other thing that Castelnaudary is famous for is the Cassoulet Dish which essentially is made from very cheap meat cuts stewed slowly and has lots of beans and other vegetables added and is a staple part of the local’s diet.
We then moved “Somewhere” through the canal to above one of the bridges, we decided to stay put here in Castelnaudary along with some other boats. Despite there not being any power to hook into and water that we are able to draw from a drinking fountain into our 5 Litre containers is some 70 meters away, we are right opposite a great swimming pool complex (Piscine) where us oldies are allowed in for €1.70. With the temps now reaching the high 30’s, at least we are able to go and spend some time in the big pool, 50m x 2m deep and an inside pool 25m by 1m deep. Even with my shoulder damage, I have slowly been able to increase my swimming distance capability to where I am feeling pretty good.
Slowly I have been doing some paint touch up from my rubbing on walls etc, so the boat is starting to look pristine again. We will move on from here to face the last lot of climbing locks on our way to Toulouse in the near future as we look forward to having the Bastille Day Celebrations and the Tour de France cyclists will pass within 80mtrs of our boat so we don’t want to miss these amazing spectacles.
With the northern summer holidays about to descend upon us we will be faced with hundreds of holiday boats on the canals manned mostly by first timers so we will have to keep a close watch out and be patient… Yeah right.
Thanks to those of you who responded to our last blog with news snippets from home. It is sure good to hear from you.
Ken, Rhonda and Harry
Kms this season: 820