We last blogged from a campsite in Chalon-Sur-Saône, after having finished the Canal Du Centre and paddling out onto the wavey river Saône that blustery day. It was a great feeling to be done with the many locks for a while but the waves we met on the river reminded us that being back on the upstream was not going to be easy.
The next morning we awoke to the patter of rain which quickly cleared as blue sky poked through. With the previous day in mind we were pleased to find still and cool conditions as we pushed off from the bank and aimed for a good days paddling. There are few times in life where everything falls into place so perfectly, but after an hours paddling we stopped for a drink and found a km sign on the river bank. We had already done 7km. On a river so still that lilly pads grew along the edges we were flying along and were moving far quicker than we imagined. Still used for commercial navigation, the Saône had weirs and locks which slowed the current nicely for us, but were spread far enough apart that we weren't lifting the boat every ten minutes.
Next thing we knew we were nearing where we'd expected to camp after a difficult upstream day. Instead it was lunch time and we congratulated ourselves with a tart and chocolate meringue, eaten in the sun, before paddling off to make more distance. With weather conditions still ideal for canoeing we were both in good spirits when we hit the only lock of the day. We stopped to look at the map and decide how best to tackle the corrugated iron cliffs. But it was that day, that smooth, perfect day, and looking up from the map a boat appeared, a friendly German man leaning over the edge to offer us a lift. We bobbed into the lock and held the side of his boat as the doors creaked shut and the water level rose.
That night we set up the tent in a campsite we had expected to sleep at the night after. Two days progress in a day and a clear evening, life was good. We went and found 'Restaurant La Marine' and had a glass of wine on the front deck.
In the morning we woke knowing that after the day before something awful was bound to happen. You can't have a day that good without karma coming back to get you, that's just not the way life works. The sky was dark and the clouds were moody and we could see the rain was coming. By 7:30 the tent was packed away to keep it dry and the rain fell hard as we hid in the washroom and munched our cereal. But by the time we were leaving the washroom the rain was clearing, the sun was trying to get out and the tent was still packed away, dry as a bone. We quickly made our way to a lock, hiked the canoe up the steep banks and popped it into the water, with me paddling like crazy to get out the other end before the gates closed.
Getting around this monster lock reflected as much our own confidence as the fortunes we were having. We bowl up to a 40ft high lock and wonder how we're going to get round it, we never shake our heads and we rarely complain, we just get out and find a way. We wedge the tips of sandals in a tiny crack on the concrete slope and balance ourselves as we unload the gear, we hoist the canoe above our heads as we clamber over a fence, we lift the boat up a cliff and see-saw it on the ridge with one person above and another below, however we do it, we get round locks. The only head shaking comes after, when we look back down on what we've done and realise... we're fucking awesome.
This lock I speak of just so happened to take us onto a diversionary channel which cut 10km off the river and yet again we found ourselves having lunch in a spot we thought would be the evening. St Jean De Losne was the town and we had a wander before making sandwiches on the port front and chatted to the boatmen. An Englishman, who was the first of many that day to warn us to stay away from the Rhine, and an Aussie, who took a photo and told us she'd look us up on the 'web'. Perhaps she's reading... G'day!
Then suddenly that was it. A perfect paddling river, we'd covered the Saône so quickly it was ending for us and we were back to a lock and the entrance to the Rhone Au Rhin Canal which heads to Germany. The river of dreams, short lived but very much remembered, we love the Saône.
So here I sit in Dôle, a day later and a few kilometres and locks along the canal. Of interest was the high-tech industrial zone we passed through with alarms that sounded for any boat that 'lingers', lots of CCTV cameras and a pipe line across the water that automatically cooled itself by wurring and firing high powered water jets everywhere. We zipped underneath during a 15 second break in the cooling regime as the jets shot out again behind us, pounding the water.
The week began on tough canal and we end back on a new one, but between them were a few days of fine fortunes on a river made for canoeing. It was quiet, beautiful and we paddled for hours without having to tow or get out. Maybe that bit of karma is still out there waiting, but today we got to Dole before midday and it is our rest day tomorrow. So we're going to go find another spot that has some wine and tomorrow we might just get some rest.