On Sunday (9th June) we went out for a lovely meal with Alan and Sheila at Auberge de la Croisade in Cruzy, about 30 minute drive from the boat. It turned out to be the very nice restaurant we had moored near to at Pont de Seriege. The occasion was a little bon voyage et a bientot because we planned to head towards Carcassonne on Wednesday and they were heading up to their boat in Pont de Vaux the following Sunday.
We just had the small matter of fitting the new Brush Set into the bowthruster, which Alan had kindly said he would help with.
Monday morning Frank removed the bolts holding the bulkhead cover to the area that the bowthruster resided and, on cue, Alan arrived to supervise and assist on the task that Frank had assured me would take “a couple of hours”. As it turned out, poor Alan didn’t leave until 6pm (elbow-deep in muck!) but we had a fully serviced, re-wired and, perhaps more importantly, working bowthruster!
It was both difficult and a relief to leave Homps; difficult because we were close to friends and the GP who’d looked after Frank and administered the appropriate medication to assist with his high blood pressure, but also a relief because we were ready to move on. We came on this adventure to travel and staying anywhere too long is testing. That said, we have some brilliant memories of Homps, the parties, new friends, and a wonderful day out on the scooter that took us up to the medieval town of Minerve, a Cathar stronghold and interesting geographical set up.
When you cross the bridge to the old town of Minerve, it doesn’t take long to notice that the bridge seemingly crosses a river to one side, but not the other. It is only when you look closer that you realise that the river appears from underground just below the bridge. When we last visited this town, many years ago, the river was running and we didn’t venture much further than the bridge. This time, however, the river was dry and we could see a couple walking along the riverbed below us. So, of course, we took the track down to investigate where the water comes from when in flood.
The answer came in the form of a cavernous natural drain that delivers a torrent of dangerous flood water in certain conditions but today stood empty and waiting for us tourists to explore and discover its wonder. Apparently, as the story goes, in 1210 during the Albigensian Crusade, whilst under siege by Simon de Montfort, the townspeople, including the indigenous Cathars, used this natural tunnel to smuggle food and essentials, and transfer messages with their comrades containing crucial information regarding their enemy’s intentions. Sadly, it was in vain and the Cathars fell to the invaders here as they did in many places along this route.
Having walked through the cave and emerged through the light at the other end we discovered that far from being pioneers and the first to ever do this (we knew this, of course) we found that many, many visitors had created their own little version of a cairn – literally thousands of them – and so we had no choice but to add to their number.
As we left Homps we received an email from Fran, my lovely step-mum, wishing us a happy anniversary and we wondered, not for the first time, where the last 26 years had gone – and just how many times we had travelled from somewhere to wherever by boat on the date of our anniversary, 12th June.
On this day, we had intended to only go a short distance and spend at least 3 days to travel the 40 kms to Carcassonne. Unfortunately, the canal in this section is shallow, without good mooring points and festooned with locks at every turn. It took longer than we’d expected, in the sense of time spent travelling the short distance, but we did it with just one overnight stop at Trebes. Our anniversary night. Having walked the dogs we stopped at a bar in the main harbour and when I said that I not only liked the wine but also the glasses Frank went and ordered two more drinks and two glasses to go. And there was me thinking he’d forgotten to get me a pressie!
And so it was that on Thursday we arrived in Carcassonne and faced the dreaded Pont Marengo! Along with the bridge at Capestang, which is famed for its shape and challenge to us poor boaters, Marengo is noted for being the lowest bridge on the canal. And so, as we approached in a good strong breeze, there was more than a little trepidation amongst the crew of Thirza as we made our way under the bridge and into the lock. Phew, we made it with out incident! A bumper boat followed us in and as the lock keeper closed the gates behind us the harbour crew came to tell us that the berth reserved for us and awaiting our arrival was on the other side of the gates that were now closed behind us. “You’ll have to leave the lock and turn around then take the lock back down to pontoon C – but some asshole has taken your spot and fxxxxd off somewhere” said Isabelle excitably, in her east-coast American accent.
Great. As we entered the basin in Carcassonne and started our turn back towards our stolen berth, the bow thruster decided to pack up again. Not only did we need to get into and through the lock, but we had to negotiate our way back through the Pont Marengo – sans bow thruster! Thankfully, we managed it and we settled ourselves onto C pontoon, but not in our allocated berth, apparently.
The following day, we went to pay up-front for our stay, and attempted to secure the berth for a couple of weeks. Isabelle, who had been full of gusto and excitement the day we arrived, seemed distant and distracted, as though she was looking back at planet Earth wondering what it might be like to live here. We got the gist that we could stay where we were and not to worry about anything too much and that it would all be ok, and life was beautiful, man. Cool!
As it turned out, we found ourselves moored along with Ginesa, a very unique barge with an Aak-style hull owned by Nigel and Maggie and Amethyst, an English narrowboat inhabited by Jenny, from Braintree, Essex, and Alan (or Higgins, as he is more oft know), from Dublin, Ireland. An Irishman and an Essex Girl……..whatever next!!!!! Probably unsurprisingly, we took to Alan and Jenny instantly and have enjoyed a drop or two of the crater with them since.
Today, Sunday 15th June, we walked up to the Citadel, which included walking along the Aude where the boys enjoyed a drink and a paddle, and, after a bit of retail therapy, we had a very nice lunch in one of the many restaurants in the medieval town.