On Thursday 5th September we left Le Pouzin and headed to Valence. The wind remained strong from the north, but the Mistral had passed. Arriving in the harbour it was quickly apparent that in such a wind and with no bow thruster the short narrow berths on the visitor pontoon were not an option for us and we turned Thirza around and allowed the wind to bring us smoothly onto the fuel jetty.
Once we were in safe and sound the dogs got a much-needed leg-stretch and we paid our dues at the Capitainerie. The wind continued through the night and if anything had strengthened by morning. I was a little apprehensive, but we moved on and actually had a nice cruise up to Tournon but when we got there a small launch boat was taking up half the hammerhead pontoon with the resident trip-boat taking up the other half. We temporarily moored on the berth reserved for passenger boats and waited for the lunch hour to come to an end in the hope the owner of the small boat would turn up. Just after 2pm our patience was rewarded and we were soon securely fastened to the visitor pontoon. I called the number displayed to ask about where we should go to pay. “I’ll come to you tomorrow” was the reply. We got the combination number for the gate and headed across the square for a bite to eat.
Tournon is a great place to stop with lots of shops and restaurants. Later that evening we made our way across the river to Tain l’Hermitage by way of the suspension footbridge, the concept and construction of which is attributed to Marc Seguin and was built to carry trading merchants across the river. Of course, we had to sample a few glasses of the local wines and headed to one of our favourite little bars of the trip, Le Bateau Ivre, or The Drunken Boat. Stocked full of local Hermitage wines and served by polite and knowledgeable sommeliers it is a nice experience to sit outside at up-turned wine casks-cum-tables, drink wine and watch the world go by.
We stayed 2 nights in Tournon and never saw a soul from the Capitainerie so were very happy to have had a safe, comfortable berth with water and electricity for free!
On Sunday we moved on to Andancette, opposite Andance with the memorial crosses placed high on a hill to remember 3 sisters who threw themselves off having waited in vain for their fiancés to return to them. It is a nice little place nestled in the valley with steep hills either side of the river.
We had planned to stop here on the way down in April, but the pontoon was in poor repair with bits of metal sticking out. We decided to take a look to see if anything had been improved – it hadn’t. The difference for us this time is that we are now in possession of Alan’s plank that we can use to fender against the broken pontoon.
The pontoon is placed right next to a small park area giving the boys some much needed freedom and we had a good game of petanque that reached “best out of three” status.
The following morning I was treated to a wonderful visit from 2 Kingfishers who landed on the pontoon right next to the boat. They didn’t stay long but it was a wonderful thing to see and I always feel blessed when I have a rare moment of up-close wildlife. I suspect I wouldn’t feel like that if it was with a wild boar!
Monday 9th we made our way to Les Roches Condrieu knowing we would stay at least a couple of days. When it was clear the Port Captain was open to a bit of negotiation, we got our first 3 nights for the price of two and, having decided to stay here while I scooted back to the UK for a couple of days, we got the next 10 nights for the price of 1 week!
We had a nice berth on the visitor pontoon and there are still plenty of people making their way up and down the Rhone so every day we had new neighbours including Brits, Swiss, Dutch, Swedish and Canadians. The people working for the Capitainerie here are really friendly and they are obviously proud of their jobs as the place is clean and tidy, with the grounds and flowers kept beautifully. One day one of the guys came over in the harbour launch and gave us a handful of freshly picked figs. They were gorgeous!
We had got the scooter off and went up into the hills above Condrieu to look down on the Rhone. It is spectacular up there with deep, lush forests and terraced vineyards sweeping down to the shores of the river.
The weather has returned to scorchio but without the intensity we experienced in the south. It has given us the opportunity to spend some time messing about in the dinghy and take the boys to one of the beaches on the side of the Rhone. They are great little places – only accessible by boat and ever changing as the barges and hotel boats sweep past and their wash causes the water to recede and then rush back giving the boys some waves to play in.
Brody just loves to swim. He wanders off on his own swimming towards things we can’t see from the shore and biting at the water around him. We often wonder what is going on in his head, but he certainly gets a lot of enjoyment from it.
I headed back to the UK for a meeting towards the end of our second week in Condrieu and I returned on Friday 20th September. First thing Saturday morning we continued our journey and although we hadn’t planned to go so far, we completed the full 40kms and final 2 Rhone locks to Lyon. Thankfully the harbour wall in the entrance of the marina was free and we were able to stay there the night.
We seemed to have stumbled upon a kayak and Stand Up Paddle (SUP) fair, but it was late in the day and they were just closing up for the night. We found a lovely restaurant to have a meal (Intermezzo) and then had an early night.
Sunday morning we left Lyon just after 9am. It was a beautiful morning with the promise of another warm day ahead of us. An hour or so into the journey we were passed by half a dozen small inflatable dinghies and jet ski’s and when they got closer we could see it was a rescue outfit of some description. Not the pompiers or the police but perhaps an inland equivalent of the coast guard.
A short time after they passed a police boat flew up river past us and we started to wonder if something had happened. The police boat soon came back and over to us. They told us there was to be a race on the river and we had 30 minutes before the river would be closed. For how long, who knew! We said we were heading for Trevoux and they gave us the thumbs up saying we should make that no problem.
10 minutes later, a large powerful bright orange RIB came over to us saying “you have to stop, the river is closed”. We protested that the Police had said we were ok until about 11am and he nodded sympathetically but said, “No, you have to stop now – I have 2000 boats in the water around that bend – you cannot come any further”. Just as he said it I looked back and saw a large commercial barge coming into view. “What about him then?” I asked, knowing that the commercials would not stop for anything. He looked, his shoulders slumped in defeat and he said, “Go slowly I will escort you through”. That’s more like it!
And so with him ahead blaring his horn, which sounded very much like a large ships horn, he cleared a path between 2000 kayaks, paddle boards, canoes and dinghies. They were having a huge regatta for small craft and we slowly made our way through the middle of it all in a convoy lead by the rescue boat, followed by us, with a large commercial barge bringing up the rear. It was great fun!
As soon as we were past the small craft we let the barge pass us and he headed straight into the first lock of the Soane with it’s gate open waiting for us both to enter. We tucked in behind him (actually 6 boats our size could have got in behind him) and up we went.
We arrived in Trevoux at about 1:30pm and there was a perfect space on the end of the pontoon for us to slide into. And relax!