I'm sitting on a beach in the sun, 3 days in. Just as planned.
On Tuesday (2nd July) we left from the Eastern edge of Nantes, waved off by my parents and the Ashley family, over on holiday nearby. We hardly departed at high speed but we were in good spirits and after a slower start it picked up as the tide turned and helped us out. The wind picked up and it was a little rough but we were confident on the water. At 5 we took a longer break. I read a book by some trees while Nathan went for a run. I don't know why?! My book was decent though.
By 7pm we'd done 13 or 14 miles (gps watch died at the end) and set up camp on an island. A second after the tent was up it started raining. We cooked in rain coats and ate in the tent. Wrote a couple of postcards, read more book, alternative blogged, then went to bed.
It rained all night and was spitting a little in the morning. We packed up and moved on a mile to the village of Ancenis. In Ancenis we spoke French. In Ancenis we aced French. A handy conversation in the tourist office got us to fill up our water tank and directions to the post box. The post box saw more French with a guy impressed by our paddling 'en amont' and then we had a coffee and juice before heading back to Dora.
Dora took us to another village where we chatted to a couple of people and tested the toilet facilities. Then we hit the first patch of trouble. A quick bit of water where we realised we were going backwards and resorted to towing for 100meters or so. Then more paddling, then another short tow, and then away. We managed to paddle another few miles, saw a massive beaver (whey) and made the decision to pass the next town before we made camp. But, then we came to a big concrete pipe which came way out into the river before disappearing into the depths and back up the bank on the otherside. Bottom line is it created a bottle neck in the river and an absolute torrent that couldn't be canoed. We tried towing for a bit but couldn't pull it through the gap either. Eventually we had to get the gear out and over the piping and then haul the canoe over too. 200m more down the river we met exactly the same obstacle and exactly the same power in the river.
The second bit of piping was a blessing in disguise; fed up and climbing up the bank we spotted a campsite nearby. Decision made. More French with another friendly stranger and Alfie the dog and a space in the campsite. We dried the wet outer layer of the tent and made dinner on a picnic table before a warm shower, kick of the football and bed with another 14miles under the belt.
Now we're at today. Day 3. Nathan went for a run first thing and we made the most of a campsite: cleaning all the pots and another shower. Then we covered a quick 3miles despite the strong river. After a coffee in Montjean we made the decision to leave the main river and marked bouys to take a route through islands and sand banks hoping to avoid the river flow as much as possible. It was a great decision. Though we had to pull the canoe on a few shallow sandy sections the area was quieter and we just found ourselves covering the miles, by lunch we'd done 8. More after lunch with a couple of little rapid sections to pull through. By 16miles we called it a day but spent a full extra mile looking for a decent camp spot which we found, here, on a beach opposite the village of le pointe. We're a bit obvious but no one seems bothered. The sun came out for dinner, the beach is lovely and, to repeat, we just did a record breaking 17miles upstream. Can't really believe it, you want to see this river, but we did 17.