Avignon to Lyon – 5 days ascending the Rhône
August 15th to 20th
Feeling confident about diminishing wind and current speeds, and not too much in the way of Meteo alarms we set off from Avignon. There is always a little bit of apprehension about the Rhône for us. There are not that many places to moor, the Mistral wind can appear from nowhere, and a couple of thunderstorms in the catchment area can suddenly change the flow against us. So we are always cautious.
Just round the corner was our first lock of the trip – Avignon. As we approached each lock we made the obligatory VHF radio or phone call to say we were on our way and wanted to ‘ascend’ – “je veux montant s’il vous plait.”
We discovered just how much wind was still blowing when we exited the lock to a 60 degree windsock!
But all was well and we made good time upstream, passing by the old tower opposite Roquemaure where we had moored two years ago on our way south.
Onwards and upwards, through the 8.6m Caderousse lock, a baby compared to what was ahead, although it has to be said that I look a bit worried! Actually I was just squinting into the selfie camera!
11kms on was our hoped for base for the night – the delightful Saint-Etienne-Des-Sorts, another of our downstream stop overs. Tension was reduced as we rounded the bend and saw that the pontoon was free!
Before long, not only were we moored up, but also our friend Rheinhard from Avignon who was single-handedly cruising upstream. He moored alongside, came to supper, and enjoyed the glow of the evening sun on the village and the cliff on rive gauche.
Next day, almost in tandem, we and Rheinhard set off for the massive Bollène lock – 22.5m – the big and beautiful one!
The scenery changed to a far more vertiginous look, and I added to my collection of ‘old towers and castles of the Rhône valley’.
We went up past Montelimar (of nougat fame) to look for a mooring for the night. We decided to try the little marina at Cruas, having been told that they would accommodate a 20m barge if we asked nicely, which I did in my best French.
It was a bit interesting to get in with a lively flow and breeze, but once in we were made very welcome and had a very safe and pleasant berth for the night.
Next morning the wind had definitely dropped, as certified by the steam coming out of the local nuclear power station cooling towers confirming a Beaufort scale 0 !
We had the Logistic-Neuf lock just round the bend – a mere 11m, and which has suitably wine-stained coloured edges.
Then on up the river another 50+kms looking for somewhere for the night. We asked at Valence if they had room for us, but sadly no, so on to Tournon where we moored up on a nice new pontoon.
Tournon is an interesting little town; we managed a quick look round, a visit to the wine cave (€2.50 a litre for very nice rosé in an empty plastic water bottle), and a back street pizza (with a very nice jug of rosé).
Next day, Saturday, was to be our last full day and night on the Rhône, and a full day it was of over 50kms and 2 locks that took us up past some beautiful scenery, vineyards and towns, ending up at Ampuis.
Ampuis was everything we had hoped for from a Rhône mooring – superb views, great swimming, blue skies. I was happy crew!
We were moored just below the lock at Tournons, and on quite a busy commercial route, as proven by the wonderful working peniches powerfully passing by (most of them unbothered by the implications of a Plymsoll line . . . ).
And as we enjoyed the Tournon rosé on the back deck the Captain was a contented man, watching the sun go down over a peaceful river – our last evening on Le Rhône.
We awoke to another glorious day, passing by the sparkling brown roof of the Ampuis chateau, and cruising on to the first lock of the day, and waiting for a giant, gigantic, commercial barge to emerge. (Two 80 metre gas barges pushed by a shove tug – you can just make it out to the left of our mast.) I love to see the waterways still in use for transport – so much cleaner and more efficient and smoother than road transport.
As we moved north towards Lyon I started what might be a new series – ‘views from the galley window’ – not sure if I will manage to keep it up!
Then at last we reached our final écluse of the Rhône – Pierre Bénite – on the outskirts of Lyon. Made it – in good time, and with new friends and new tales to tell.
So there we were in the port at Lyon (actually on the Saône not the Rhône) in amongst the bright lights, shops, bars, restaurants and nightlife! Whoa, this is different! We gave ourselves a day off for rest and recuperation, stocking up on vittles, a walk round town and a beer on the quay before we began to think about our next chapter: the river trip up the Saône.