Our Barge, Odysseus

Monday, August 10, 2009

To the Top of the Nivernais July 30-August 4

The next afternoon found us about 14 kilometers down the canal near the small village of Asnois. There was a nice tieup with room for just one boat right by a park below the village. We were secure by about 3:30, plenty of time for a stroll thru the village and then back to the boat for an aperitif. We had just finished our glasses of wine about 6:45 when a woman drove up in a car, parked in the park and came walking down to the waters edge.
In her halting English, she told us that three boats were on their way and would be at the park in about 15 minutes. We had seen them before; they are a moveable summer camp for middle schoolers. We had no intentions of being surrounded by a bunch of 11-14 year olds on their summer vacation so we evacuated immediately! Luckily there was a "self-opening" bridge about a kilometer away that had a pair of bollards to tie up on. We spent the night there in blessed silence.
Our next stop was Chitry les Mines, so called because silver and lead were mined here centuries ago.
As we pulled into town we noticed that at the campground across the river they were erecting a stage with a big banner overhead that read "Morvanstock." We asked around but nobody seemed to know what was going on. Nothing happened Friday night but on Saturday we could hear what sounded like sound check (it wasn't that close so not really annoying). By evening the clouds had begun forming and there was some lightning around but we heard the music start and though we'd go over and see what it was all about. Our guess is that some sort of Dutch camping club had taken over the campground for the weekend and this was their entertainment. It was a typical Dutch pop-rock band playing covers of old pop songs in English and the announcements from the stage in Dutch. it seemed all very strange in Burgundy!
We only stayed a few minutes: we'd seen this kind of thing before in Holland and the sky was looking very threatening. We got back to the boat just in time as they sky repeatedly lit up with lightning, the thunder was deafening and the rain she came pouring down. If there was enough mud I suppose Morvanstock would have been just like Woodstock but I don't think they were up to it. We didn't hear any more music.

We were fast approaching the top of the Nivernais Canal which features a flight of 16 locks in two kilometers, three tunnels and then the summit lake. There is a very nice place to tie up near the village of Sardy right at the bottom of the flight so we spent the night there and then set off about 9 am on Tuesday morning for the trip to the top.

The Nivernais is lauded as one of France's most beautiful canals and, at least in this section, we have to agree. When we finally got to the top, where traffic lights control the entrance to the three tunnels (they're one-way) we had been underway since 9 am, it was 2:30 in the afternoon, we had a 1 1/2 hour lunch stop and the gps said the boat had been moving for 1 hour; most of the time was spent either in or waiting for locks but the scenery made it all worthwhile.

Approaching one of the locks. The gates are open but water continues to flow over the back gate.

Everything is manually operated. Here a lock keeper opens a gate.

Around the corner and into the lock.

The lock keepers let us stay tied up in the lock after it had filled as it was time for lunch. We went through all of the locks paired up with the French couple on the boat behind us.

On the way to the tunnels.

After you leave the last lock, the summit tunnels must be passed through. There are three, the first two about 250 meters (700 feet) each and the last about 750 meters (about 1/2 mile) and they are just slightly bigger that the barge. Before you can get to the tunnels, though, you must pass through a little over a kilometer of a massive ditch. As you can see, it might as well be a tunnel, it's just that the roof is green instead of stone.
After you exit the tunnels, you reach the summit lake, the Etang de Vaux, the waters of which are used to feed the side of the canal that descends to the Loire River. There is a dike that separates the canal from the lake and there are plenty of places to tie up.

The view across the lake.

After a night on the bank, it was time to head down toward the Loire River and the final kilometers of the Nivernais.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow, that's all I can say..... I will remember your photos when I see all this for myself. thank you for making my lunch break that much more enjoyable. Oh well time to get back to work!