This may be a long blog post but its been a long few days... I'll try and make it a decent read.
When we left you we were.just before Tours, all ready to hit it for an afternoon of watching the finish of the Tour De France. Thursday dawned and we got on the water pretty early and made for the city. One by one we worked our way through six bridges; a couple paddled, three towed with a bit of rope throwing, and one carried since the rapids underneath were simply impassable. Beyond the final bridge we scoured the banks for somewhere to camp and bumped into some friendly picnicers. They were impressed with our intentios to get to Istanbul, after laughing heartily, and we shared two big glasses of wine with them to toast to the Tour De France. We moved on a bit further and locked the canoe amongst some trees.
After a few kms walk into Tour we found the route and ran another 2kms to the finish where we stood 100m from the line. After being told to get down off a roof we watched in the crowd as the sprinters flashed past and the riders cruises into Tours. We shopped for food we needed and ate dinner in a cheap but good pub with a dessert Nathan would not shut up about.
Buzzing from a fantastic day and the perfect timing of the expedition with a stage of the Tour De France, we set about the long walk back to the canoe. Just after 9:30 we got back to it but, approaching, saw the life jackets out on the ground. Things weren't right and before we even looked in the boat we had the horrible feeling of knowing what had happened. Our belongings were strewn all over the canoe and items were bobbing in the water around it. We tried to stay calm and sorted through our things to see what had been taken and what was ok. Without our tent and nathans sleeping bag, we hauled the canoe up and sat against it. We took turns staying awake in case anyone returned and alternated using the remaining sleeping bag.
Eventually the sun rose and we could assess the situation. The major losses were the tent, a sleeping bag and our solar charger. A further problem came in the shape of me wading into the water to look if anything had sunk around the boat. I badly cut my foot and, worse, my iPhone- usually stored in a waterproof box that had also been stolen - came in the water with me.
Without further ado we left the horror spot and canoed back downstream to Tours. We locked the canoe to a jetty, put everything we owned on our backs and started walking. First we went to the police station. There we were told that with no available policemen because of the tour de France, and with our French not being good enough, we should come back another time. Then to the tourist office, where, taking pitty on us, we were allowed free use of the internet as we searched for someone to translate our detailed description of the night's events for the police.
After eating lunch back by the canoe where we could ensure it was safe, we got a bus out of town, a long way out of town. So far out that we were worried that we had the wrong bus... But eventually we came to a decathlon where we 'popped in' for a quick and expensive replacing session. Lots of gear later and a few hundred euros lighter, we bussed it back to the city centre. Still carrying all that we had left, we headed back to the canoe that had become our primary concern.
As we neared the jetty the canoe's edge was no longer pointing out in sight as it had previously been. Our walk turned in to a stride and then a run and then a sprint. I sprinted down to the jetty, still seeing no canoe. It must've gone.
I rounded the corner and the canoe was there. 17ft long, with a padlock either end, attached to a steel jetty, it was never going anywhere. I shouted to Nathan, jogging behind me, that it was ok, I sat down on the bank, and I cried. A day that had taken it out of me and clearly shaken us both up. I sat there and I crumbled. Nathan got down to me and bumbled through a broken conversation with the jetty owner trying to maintain a little composure. Then we sat for a while and tried to rationalize everything.
Eventually we got back up, got back into the city and printed out a full translation of the events that had taken place and a full list of the items stolen. Here Antoine Levoir was a great friend and of essential assisstance. He had translated what we sent him on Facebook that morning, providing something for the police to work with. We took it to them and, playing on the fact we looked like our worlds had ended and we carried all we owned on our backs, eventually convinced them to register the crime. By 9pm, finally satisfied we'd got all the important things done, we unlocked the canoe and paddled to the public gardens where we set up camp and slept with every item we owned within reach. Nathan still woke up three times to check the canoe.
We woke up to the sun. It was a new day and the river still flowed. We put the canoe in and left Tours behind.