Saturday, September 25, 2010


September 2010

As sad as it seems, there is a definite showing of leaf fall along the canals as the trees which have been so deprived of rain for the past 10 weeks are slowly turning their leaves brown and are falling in greater quantities each day.
While the temps have been as high as in the high 30’s to the mid 40’s for weeks, I guess this has taken its toll on the greenery and as soon as we get a cold snap there will be heavy carpets of leaves everywhere indicating summer has gone by.

Never mind, we are still sweating it out at the moment and as we have now left Moissac after a great weeks layover, we are heading further north west for a few weeks towards Bordeaux to see how far we can travel before turning back to winter over back in Moissac.

Rhonda's Comments: Hope Harry doesn't get any ideas!!!!!!
As this canal runs alongside the rivers of firstly the Tarne and then the Garonne, we are amazed at the amount of water which flows by. Even the canal has moving water at about 1 km per hour so it is a lot cleaner than the Canal du Midi. We are lucky to be able to view these accompanying waterways from many areas on our canal. Much of this flow is used by an atomic electro power plant situated nearby where we have berthed up for a couple of nights. It was here where we first came to visit Valance D’Agen and to call upon Cheryl and Bob from Auckland who were enjoying their stopover here on “Whio” back in May 2008 as a part of their canal adventures at that time. It must have been something about this area too as Bob complained about the huge amounts of leaves which needed to be cleared off the decks each morning and it is exactly what we have found too, however, as we are entering Autumn. The leaves falling contain a brown glue type substance which sticks to the boat like nothing we have come across before and after leaving it unattended for one day it has taken two days to be able to move some of it, but certainly not all. It is dreadful, and leaves a horrible brown residue on the paint and even using the most potent brew of cleaners I can mix, my efforts have only been partially successful so if you have any advice you can offer or if you have come across this problem, I would sure be grateful. According to Alan on “Nordland” who has been using these waters for many years, says it has never seemed to be this bad before. All advice will sure be welcomed.

Rhonda's Comments: These tomatoes ended up as "Relish".

We have enjoyed staying here at Valence D'Agen as it is a pretty town with very large markets on Saturdays and Tuesdays which seem to offer so much of the region’s produce ranging from meat and vegetables to all the wonderful fruits of the area. We have gorged on the sweetest nectarines, apples and apricots plus kiwi fruit I have ever eaten plus some of the home cooked breads are so tasty too. As this is right on the edge of the famous prune production areas as well, you can imagine how many plum trees are in the area. I believe every one must have clean innards as the fruit is set in so many ways from fresh to preserved to iced to any way you can imagine this fruit can be set for consumption. I have never tasted anything like it.

Talking about eating new and different foods, in the past few weeks I have also eaten gizzards, magret of canard (duck) and goats cheese all of which I found to be very nice. It just goes to prove that as usual, I like so many people, have been put off the idea of eating a number of foods due to disliking the idea of doing so rather than trying it.

We are lucky with the weather over the past few days as it has cooled a little, down to the mid 30's which is quite bearable and with the clear blue skies and light breezes that waft through Rhonda is not complaining too much but as we know winter will soon be on us and I will be complaining instead.
Yesterday I hitched a ride with Alan and Margaret on “Nordland” who we have met up with frequently over the past few weeks and who were heading back to Moissac where we had left our car. It was great to be able to sit back as a passenger and do nothing but enjoy the scenery for the 4 hour trip including a stop for a nice canal side lunch and listen to Alan giving his news and advice on the area due to his many visits to this territory and then to gather the car and come back to “Somewhere” to find Rhonda and Harry fine and relaxed too.

Rhonda's Comments: "Starry, starry night".

Today we motored up to Agen for a drive to see what the boat trip will incur and get a feel for the big city before we head off in the boat tomorrow for a two day cruise to get to there next week. The road trip only took an hour but as stated we will have to spend 2 days going by canal.
We have regularly commented on the huge number of cyclists we see on the canal paths and cycle ways every day. From fit young folk to seniors to kids riding all types of bikes from sports to tandems to lying back versions to three wheelers many towing trailers loaded with tents and camping equipment strapped down on them. Facilities are really good along the way with camping areas and ablution blocks made available for free or minimal charges. This sport is sure growing and becoming even more popular. The other day a fellow stopped with his mate and proudly showed off his Silver Fern tattoo on his bicep and told Rhonda that he had it done when he was staying in New Zealand a few years ago for a period and worked picking fruit etc. He said how much he loved the country and all of its beauty and freedom. When asked where he and his mate had come from this holiday he said that they had cycled from Berlin and were heading towards Bordeaux and then would cycle back again. What an effort but he seemed to feel it was a normal holiday activity. How do you feel????

We spent most of the next day pottering along to the mini port of Boe which is attached to the township of Bon Encontre all just some 7 kms from Agen. As we had been told this was a nice place to moor up we were disappointed to find that the jetties only suited much smaller boats than ours but we found a concrete abutment nearby which suited us to tie to and after running out 70 meters of power cable we were able to top up and run fans and ovens and so on. Water was another problem as the nearest tap was almost 100 meters away but after taking the scooter back to Valence-D’Agen to get our car again we stopped off and bought another 50meters of hose as we have often found where we could do with the extra so we returned to the boat and were able to top off the tanks and shower until our hearts delight and Rhonda did a couple of loads of washing. One may wonder why we bothered going to this extra cost etc but where we are moored is just so quiet and lovely so Harry has a new park to explore and this morning came back from his walk with another couple of dogs in tow so he has lots of fun and we have the car and the scooter parked just 15 meters away from the boat which is great and as the fee is only €2.50 per day we will stay for a few days I think.

During our stay we had a small type hotel boat come in to stay so we moved “Somewhere” along to allow them room to offload their 4 passengers and to wait for more to arrive. “Saint Louis” with owners Barbara and Alisdair originally from the west coast of Scotland where they operated accommodation type ventures before buying “Saint Louis” and setting her up as a boutique hotel boat. As Alisdair is a qualified Captain and Barbara is an excellent chef and the staff who are terrific being Kelly from New Zealand and Harry from England look after their passengers to a very high standard and a couple of New Yorkers took the time to come and to chat to us singing the highest praises of this little ship and her company. The next passenger group were Aussies and Swedes so the chat at dinner time etc must be varied and interesting. We were invited to view the boat and loved what we saw so no wonder they have little or no trouble in keeping a list of guests booking for a weeks canal travel all of the season.

Rhonda's Comments: We had a wonderful evening onboad "St Louis" with Barbara, Kelly from Auckland and Harry (not our Harry, a human Harry).

This day we also waited to collect our friends from Auckland Lois and David, who had arrived the previous evening in Agen and we drove them to the boat for a day of relaxing as they had had a very busy schedule up until then. The next day we barged for the day towards Bordeaux and stayed at a couple of towns with nice ports and shopping or tasty type restaurants and enjoyed some great food and I have to admit to eating Kangaroo for the very first time at one of them so am getting quite adventurous in my culinary tastes.

Being able to do side trips in the car gave us a real look over some outlying towns and showed Lois and Dave what a varied country this is. On Friday we decided to go out into the country to visit some other towns and sights and saw two great areas. One was the ancient city of Pujols on the Lot-et-Garonne. This city was first built in the year 1000 but inhabited since prehistoric times. The earliest recorded inhabitants were half Celtic, half Iberian but it was the Romans who made the most impact by turning this promontory into a fortified camp or beginnings of a castle. The ongoing history is just unbelievable which is worth a study of on its own. The rebuilt town is delightful to see and to visit as it is full of restaurants, antique shops and art galleries and is rated one of the prettiest towns in all of France.

We moved on from Pujols to Saint-Sylvestre-sur-Lot which was the first place we had visited back in 2008 when we were looking to buy a barge named “Affleur d’o”. We had always wanted to return to the local town called Penne-D’Agenais which again is built on top of some peaks giving stunning views over the valleys and river Lot below. To wander through the town which is fully inhabited and retains so much of its history is wonderful with its narrow streets and while I have recorded that I am churched out so did not visit the Notre Dame de Peyragude which is beautifully presented and maintained and of course dominates the town, I did view it from below and was really impressed. Rhonda, Lois and Dave were so impressed with the standard which had been retained hence it is still well attended and visited by religious pilgrims from all around the world.

The drive through the country area was most interesting as the fields are either ready to harvest in the case of corn and sunflower or the orchards are being stripped of their fruit mainly by mechanical pickers as the tees are trained to grow in the espalier style so human pickers are getting quite rare. It is fascinating to see the trees being shaken as the tractors drive along and the fruit falling onto wide canvas slides which allows the fruit to gently tumble down to conveyors that load the very large crates. I can fully realise now how so many tonnes of Prunes are processed and in one town there is even a Museum Of Prunes.
Rhonda's Comments: Crepes, but look at all that cream Dave, I'll swap you.

Today, Monday 20th September we dropped Dave and Lois to the bus station in Marmande so they could travel on to Bordeaux for a few days before returning to New Zealand. That is the end of visitors for this year as far as we know and they were just great to have onboard and we have been so lucky to have had them share so many wonderful sights and experiences with us as was the case with firstly Kerry and Liz and then Daphne and Claude. Due to these folks input, our canal travel has had a whole new dimension added to our adventures and we sure hope that they found it to be the same. We will feel a bit empty for a week or two but we do have a lot planned to do over the next few months and as long as the car keeps going properly we will see a whole lot more of this great country and meet so many more wonderful French folk and hopefully Spanish and Portuguese as well.

This, in fact, was the last day of our adventure to follow the canals westward as it appeared as though the rest of the canal was not of so much interest to us and we were advised not to take “Somewhere” out onto the Garonne for the last stretch to Bordeaux, so we will turn around now and head back towards Moissac for our winter over period. We still have a lot of side trips to do meantime, and have decided that rather than unload the scooter at ports further along the canal and then ride back to then drive the car to the port where “Somewhere” is berthed, Rhonda will drive the car while I drive the boat single handed as the canal is real easy and almost free of other craft now that summer has officially ended. This will be a bit of a challenge as I will have to turn her around in the canal and then negotiate being in line to pull the Tirettes (control cables which hang down over the canal) which set the locks emptying before one can enter and then slide the boat into the lock, run forward to get a bow rope tied and thrown off to Rhonda who will be waiting then get back to the wheelhouse and stop the boat before we crash into the gates. Figers crossed.
The weather is still amazing and apart from one nights rain followed by a drizzly day when Lois and David were aboard, the days have been delightful with cooler mornings but followed by bright sunny windless days . Great BBQ weather for sure.

Rhonda’s Comment: Ken’s Soap Box

Can I draw to your attention our concern about the huge amounts of plastic which is being dumped every day into the canals, rivers and waterways of our planet. While we used to notice some quantities of this amazing but dangerous product while in New Zealand and later in England, we have been horrified by the amounts dumped into the French waterway systems. It seems as though it is socially accepted as you will see groups of people of any age get up after consuming drinks and other foods which are packaged in plastic containers, bags etc and ignore the fact that there can be rubbish bins within a few meters of where they are and just allow the rubbish to blow around and so often into the canals and waterways where it always emigrates to our seas and onwards to one of the great floating islands of rubbish, mainly plastic, in the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans.

Just as a note of interest, we are amazed that while people allow this to happen, when you go to a McDonald’s the patrons seem to believe it is obligatory to clear all their rubbish from where they are eating and carefully deposit in the bins provided. When you consider that there is an estimated 100 million tonnes of this stuff floating around as a part of these floating plastic and rubbish built islands killing so many thousands of our fishes, bird life and even animal life in the cruellest ways possible by strangulation or starvation. Can you assist by removing any plastic around your boat to proper bins.

This is the end of the reading.

As we have ended our north westerly travel, I will close now wishing all our readers a great autumn.

Locks so far this season: 162
Kms so far this season: 1049