I’ll start with an apology. The Midi blog did not complete the Midi. So here is an addendum.
After three days in Toulouse we were ready to cut loose, nice city though it is – see the brief Toulouse bloggette.
We made navigation plans, got the sextant ready, took readings from the stars, and slipped away downstream, to start a journey with more mini-adventures than planned!
The one and a half kilometres to the first lock, Bayard, was interesting, passing through areas of the city we had not walked. Stewart began to concentrate as the lock entrance loomed, beyond a narrow bridge. I was getting ready to disembark to press buttons – demanding work!
We were both shaken therefore by a loud rattling noise on the wheelhouse roof and I quickly emerged to watch the remains of a pole suspended over the canal – the one we had to turn to operate the lock!
Stu put the brakes on and persuaded Calliope to go astern enough for me to catch and twist the pole. Phew.
Then onwards, under a bridge, past some moored boats, and into the lock.
Bayard is right next to the train station, and is deep for the Midi – 6.2m – so we attracted quite a lot of attention. Our roping skills were in order and we began the descent.
The gates opened onto a narrow concrete pergola which must look beautiful when the wisteria is out.
Carrying on smoothly into a wriggly bit we rounded a bend to see a large passenger barge, Baladine, bearing down on us. Bags of room, no problems.
Two locks to go – Minimes and Bearnais. All prepared to twist a pole I was surprised to see the next lock gates open as we approached over an aquaduct / spillway. That’s when we met Henri, a VNF man (with a grey beard, slicked back hair and Wendy band) who was to be our saviour several times that day. Roping once more was as planned and the lock sprang into action – automatically.
Henri had a message for us. I listened carefully. It was obviously important. Eventually, with my hesitant questions, I understood that we could not go much further. The police had closed the canal after the next lock for the day and were searching for a body! OK. We will stop after the next lock for the night.
The gates had closed behind us but then …. nothing!
‘Boardez-vous’ said Henri, or the proper French equivalent. Apparently I was caught on camera from the operations office downstream and they would not let the water out of the lock until I was on the barge; another new lesson.
One last lock on the Midi and a beautiful stretch along to the end.
It was by then getting close to lunch time and as we emerged under the final bridge of the Midi we found ourselves in a huge basin – Port de L’Embourche – with plenty of mooring for lunch and possibly overnight.
The Port is fascinating, with a lovely curved brick section that includes the bridges into Canal de Brienne (connection to River Garonne), Canal du Midi and Canal de Garonne reading right to left in the photo above – and these days totally surrounded by motorways, slip roads and dual carriageways. Not good.
We picked our spot, tied up and enjoyed a meal in the sunshine. Stu suggested I cycle ahead and look for other moorings before the closure – somewhere out of the city for the night. He went for a quiet siesta and I was about to go when the second hooter of the day sounded nearby.
Whoops – we were on the mooring of the Toulouse canal-sweeping bateau and he wanted to stop for his lunch too. The siesta was cut short and a cycle ride abandoned as we cast off to begin a slow turn round in the basin and find an alternative mooring…….
At the same time Henri appeared, at the mouth of the Canal de Garonne, and with much waving and shouting let us know that the canal was now open – we could proceed! Hooray; back to plan A. Off onto the next canal, and next blog chapter. Hooray indeed.
Stu aimed through the ‘bouche’ of the Canal de Garonne, and it was truly goodbye to the Midi and on with our journey, and eventful day. Yet to come, and in the next blog, were two ‘en panne’ (not working) locks and more visits from Henri!