Saturday, April 11, 2015

Castets en Dorthe, France: Canal Journey, Part 2

One of the many lock stations on the canal.
After two days of hotel bliss and city comforts in Toulouse, we merged back onto the canal route located just across the street from where we were staying.  The trail was busy with bike commuters and pedestrians on their way to work.  We headed north and soon transitioned from urban to industrial.  We passed factories and a few homeless camps, paralleling the train line with the hum of the freeway in the distance.  It was not long until we were again cruising along the canal, virtually alone, with the rural landscape peeking between the trees that endlessly line the canal shore.
Four modes of transport, all in a line -- rail, road, bike trail, canal.

Serene cycling...
This section of trail after Toulouse is known as the Canal latéral à la Garonne portion of the Canal du Deux Mers because it follows the Garonne river, a significant waterway that eventually leads to the city of Bordeaux and then to the Atlantic Ocean.  This portion of the route had more intersections with roads that required us to frequently climb short, steep pitches to get to the level of the overpass and then roll as sharply down the other side.  And most remarkable of all were the places where the canal actually had its own aqueduct that carried the water over the Garonne and its tributaries 7 times along the route. The two most significant are the Agen aqueduct, 600 metres long with 23 arches and the Cacor Aqueduct at Moissac over the River Tarn, 356 metres long with 13 arches. Completed around 1856, they do their job splendidly and don’t appear to leak, a feat of engineering.
Water over water -- the Cacor Aqueduct at Moissac

Nuclear plant near Valence d'Agen

...and more serene cycling...

Mustard plants, as a crop.  They are weeds at home.
We cycled two more days along the canal.  We had to venture off the trail in search of groceries one afternoon, and leaving that safety and serenity was like leaving the womb.  Negotiating traffic circles and sharing the road with cars and all the other realities of a big scary world.  We followed signs back to the canal and the campground we planned to stay at, and once again, we were early and it was not open.  But there was running water and mature hedges and a lone travel trailer that would conceal us from the road.  So we hunkered down and encountered no one after sunset.
Crossing the Garonne in search of provisions.

Our little hideout for a night.

Mossy bridge, one of many. get the idea.

Another typical lock station.  The blue sign shows the names and distances to the next locks to the east and west.
The Canal du Deux Mers officially ends in the town Castets en Dorthe, but it is possible to connect various bike routes to the city of Bordeaux.  We chose to exit at this location, and after 12 kilometers, were back on a bike “rail trail” that proceeded southwest through the forest to the coast where, we were told,  there are shifting sands.  We managed to cross most of southern France, 375 km (225 miles), on dedicated bike trail.  And not even considering the route is flat and scenic and historic, just this fact makes it one of the world’s greatest rides.
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Ann said...

What a wonderful route!! It looks lovely going along that canal. Wish we had that here.

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