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Canoe trip down the Dordogne - Souillac to Beynac

2nd half brilliant weather!

remember above map we are travelling along the river

Sunday 22nd Sept 13 (day 22)

Our only objective today was to find a shop that sold camping gaz as we were on our last cartridge and did not want to move on without a backup.

Woke up to a brilliant sunny day that stayed that way the whole day. I kid you not - not a cloud in the sky. The only white we could see above we caused by jet streams criss crossing way above. Perfect day for drying all our washing that Lyn put through the machine last night. This was all outside hanging from the portable clothes line, trees and railings.

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We had a leisurely breakfast of poached egg on fried bread (no toaster) and then headed out to the shops to find gaz. As it was Sunday the shops close at 12.30, but we only had about 1 km to walk to a big department store. With a sigh of relief they had our gaz and we purchased 2 cylinders to be on the safe side.

We walked back slowly enjoying the sunshine. Again I have to say it, there was not a cloud in the brilliant blue sky. Such a change from previous day - lovely.

We lazed the day away, Lyn checking on the drying situation of all our belongings and me catching up on loading photos and blogs. Lovely relaxing day.

At about 5.30pm we decided to go out for a bit of a walk around town - it was still brilliant sunshine and I have to say it again - not a cloud in the sky to distract from the perfect blue.

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An hour later back in our 'tithome' that is what they call this cabin we are in, we had some duck pate with a glass of chilled wine, then went and had a hot shower before dinner. Lyn found another hole in the air bed, that is why it when down after my half arsed repair job, and put on another patch, so it should fair well when we need to sleep on it again tomorrow night.

But tonight we have another night in a soft warm bed with a hard roof overhead. Lyn turned on the heater in her little room and now the whole place is toasty warm. It has been a nice little break in between but I'm keen to continue down the river and fingers crossed this weather stays with us for a few days more.

Monday 23rd Sept 13 (day 23)

We set an alarm to wake up at 8am as we had to be out of our 'tithome' by 10am. Taking the opportunity we needed the time to have a cooked breakfast and pack up our gear again. Everything had been removed from its wet bag so it could be washed, dried, aired or all of the above. Also we had to leave the cabin tidy and clean as we had to pay a 360 euro deposit for contents and cleaning at check in. On checkout they did not even check, and we got our deposit back no problem.

At 8am the weather is hard to predict for the day, the sky is grey and there was a bit of fog around being close to the river. However by the time we were pushing the canoe into the water at 10am the sky was brilliantly clear and my favourite shade of blue. As you can imagine we were happy - shorts and t-shirts today!

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The river was calm and mirror like and the current enough that we did very little paddling, taking advantage of the rivers natural movement just drifting along. We only traveled about 12 km and this took us about 4 hours. We even managed a few stops on the way to take photos of distant castles. Paddling to the river side and getting in and out of the canoe, we now consider ourselves masters of the canoe!!!

But I brag too soon because of course there was a campground on either side of the river at Carlux, the place we wanted to stop for the night. Of course we chose the side where the camp was closed, so we had to paddle directly across the current about 50 metres to get to the other side. This may sound easy and probably is for 'masters of the canoe'.

The water is only knee deep but this just means the current is stronger and after a gallant attempt we were loosing and I could see we were going to end up down stream and past the campground altogether. This was not a good thing. Only option was to step out of the canoe and physically pull it ashore. Which is exactly what I did. Like I said it was only about knee deep and there was no way we were going to get there by arm power alone.

This camp ground was open and is beautifully situated right on the river side. We passed this camp when we were cycling last week and I commented on how nice it looked. So I am glad the first one on the other side was closed.

We had lunch, then set up the tent. Still a beautiful day we walked the 1 km into a small village of St Julien de Lampon. Not much there, a few shops, a small square and a pub. So we sat in the small square, ordered a beer from the pub and watched the comings and goings into the few shops.

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Hot shower that was not the kind where you continually need to press the button to keep the water flow going. This is the norm in all the camp grounds so a free flowing hot shower was nice.

Tonights camp dinner was paella in a can (which tasted a lot better than it sounds). Quite a good meal actually and was complemented by half a carafe of Rose which Lyn went and purchased for 4 euro ($6) from the onsite cafe. Remember we are camping so food in a can is a must for when we stop at places where no fresh food is available.

We were wrapped up in bed by 9.30pm.

Tuesday 24th Sept 13 (day 24)

We had a very cold night last night. And the bloody air bed went down again so Lyn had an extra uncomfortable broken sleep also. We think maybe the patch we have used is too old as the glue does not seem to be drying and is staying tacky. Will have to try repair with bike tyre patch, but they are back at the hotel which means one more night of it going down and it's my turn tonight, err. Airbed is the last thing you want going down on you(haha) I can assure you!

Up at about 9ish, breakfast and then a leisurely pack up. The sky is blue and clear again so we can expect another beautiful day, which did eventuate.

Today we departed at 11.15. Again we did not do a great deal of paddling, mainly just drifting and steering. Just before 1pm we floated into Grolejac (this was the starting point where we collected the canoe) for directions of where exactly they were to pick us up tomorrow. While there we walked up to the supermarket we had visited earlier on in the week to get some bread for lunch. Of course the supermarket was closed 3 hours for lunch, but luckily there was a bakery where we could get a baguette.

Back on the river we floated a little down stream for about an hour before stopping on a small stoney beach for some lunch. It was beautiful.

We encountered a few more other canoes on the river today, even more than the weekend. We even had a quick chat with a couple from Sydney who just paddling a quick 5km afternoon trip.

The campground I had chosen for tonight was of course invisible from the river, but we now have a keen eye of what to look for and with a quick turn around and a little frantic upstream paddling we managed to get the canoe to shore. Only to discover it had closed for the season anyway. It was still early so onward downstream we continued. The next one we spied also took a bit of frantic paddling to get to the shore. This one was open, however it was a 5 star camp ground and wanted to charge us 22 euro for one night. This was too much - although they did have a heated swimming pool - and when I looked at the site they had allocated us it was a dirt/muddy bit of ground that was obviously kept for scabby river travellers. As we had not yet paid we floated on away. Bugger them!

Next one also closed but across the river we spied another so now used to frantic paddling we made it across barely missing some dutch idiot swimming in the river who could not recognize that we had no control of our vessel. Serves him right that we almost decapitated him. I find the Dutch we have encountered holidaying in France are the most unfriendly people so far. Anyway this camp ground was open and lovely and only 14 euros and is now home for the night.

I write this just before we start to cook dinner, which is veal couscous (another wondrous meal from a can) and have sent Lyn up to the bar to see if she can get any takeaway wine.

Another perfect day - weather wise and travel wise and the English neighbours have just offered us a glass of wine! Cheers! Very lucky they gave us 2 very full glasses of classy cask wine, love those Poms.

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Wednesday 25th Sept 13 (day 25)

Last night Lyn came back empty handed, cheapest wine on sale was 11euro and we have no idea what it was like so out of our price range. Lucky for us our UK neighbours had many litres of cask wine that they were more than willing to share with us in exchange for giving us shit about the current Australian rugby and cricket teams. Hey copping a bit of sports shit was worth the wine!

Waking up this morning after we had encountered a not so freezing night - although uncomfortable for me as I was on the flat bed. 8am there was still a heavy mist, which hung around until 10.30ish. I was up early as I wanted to do a short hike up to Domme a village on a nearby table mountain.

After a quick coffee and some bread and vegemite I made the walk up to the 150 m high village. The hike up the bush path only took me 30 minutes, Lyn stayed behind at the camp to start to pack up. It was lovely at the top but the view was zero. It was like being above the clouds the mist was still so thick across the valley. I ended up staying there for over an hour before the view of the river and surrounding countryside came into view. However the climb and the wait was worth it as the views were amazing.

Back at camp Lyn had almost everything packed ready to go, so after quick coffee we loaded the canoe for the last time and pushed off. It was just before midday.

We did not have far to go again today, so were able to take it very easy. This stretch of the river is obviously the most popular as we encountered more canoes and kayaks in the first hour than we have in last 7 days. Lots more to see on the riverbanks besides just trees. Villages and castles everywhere for the eyes to feast on. This was nice but we were grateful for our quiet solitude days we'd had just us and the river and the only noise being nature.

But these different features also made for an exciting day for us to see things as well. Nice busy day to end our canoe adventure. We stopped at the touristy town of La Roque Gageac in search of bread but the only bakery was closed until 4th Oct so we had to do with leftover baguette from a previous meal again. It was not really a problem as we stopped on a stoney beach opposite the town and watched the busy river traffic go past until it was time for us to join them.

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Back on the river for our last couple of hours there were more castles and impressive chateaus to be seen. Weather was fantastic again today and what a brilliant conclusion to our experience on the water. woo hoo!

We made our pick up destination dead on time, arriving only minutes before our pick up van. We were driven back to Grolejac in less than 30 minutes, the same distance that had taken us the last 2 days to cover.

We agreed it was a great experience and the first few days of rotten weather only made the remainder of the trip even more enjoyable.

We are in the Du Pont hotel again tonight, our bikes and luggage still in the garage where we had left them a week ago.

Tomorrow a new adventure starts as we are back on Sofia & Fonsi.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 05:35 Archived in France Tagged dordogne Comments (3)

Canoe trip down the Dordogne - Argentat to Souillac

day one we got drenched and we didn't even fall in the river

Note: regarding above map we are travelling along the river!

Wednesday 18th Sept 13 (day 18)

Today was our first day canoeing on the River Dordogne - what a bloody disaster! Not at all what I had envisioned for this trip I had been dreaming about for a few years.

The day started off alright but just got worse and worse and even worse, until we were almost at breaking point.

We'd had a wonderful comfortable nights sleep in the hotel after a very enjoyable dinner. Up at 8, I walked to the shop for a baguette for breakfast. When paying the bill I was able to convey to the French owners that we would be back in one week and would it be possible to leave our bikes and some baggage in the shed where they locked up our bikes overnight. This was ok for them and a relief for us.

We managed to be only about 10 minutes late our rendezvous with the canoe hire place. It was just up the lane and we carried all our camping, cooking, change of clothes and personal stuff in a total of 5 wet bags. All organised. We met a young Malaysian guy named Tony who was also kayaking the same route as us but in 5 days we are doing 7. We noticed on the trailer that there was one kayak and one canoe so presumed we were in the canoe not 2 kayaks. This was ok, probably a better solution with all our gear.

The drive from Grolejac to Argentant took about 1 1/2 hours and of course the overcast weather we had again woken up to did not improve. Ironically as soon as the van stopped at our starting point the rain started to fall. Not a good omen for the remainder of the day.
So the water vessels were unloaded from the trailer we were given a hardly legible photocopied mud map of the river and bit farewell - we were on our own.

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Dragging the heavy canoe down to the waters edge I felt a little disappointed that the weather was against us, but this is one thing I cannot control and as it was only light rain we loaded up our bags and jumped in. It was 12 noon and we had 20km to paddle to our first nights stop. The river flows at 5 km per hour so we kind of thought it would take us approximately 4 hours. Tony decided to wait for an hour or so to see if the rain might stop - he was obviously thinking of Asian rainfall where it only falls for an hour than clears. Not so in France. It rains all day.

The rain continued to fall, with the only change being when it absolutely poured down.

About 2 hours in Tony caught us up and asked how much further, we had no bloody idea. He looked completely exhausted and paddled erratically away from us. We yelled at him to reserve us a cabin at the campsite - a reservation we would never take up.

The river was mostly calm which meant easy paddling along with the current. We did encounter a few 'rapids' just where the water fell over rocks and although not big they were a little heart racing and a bit exciting. However the splash up did just add to our already total drenching. Thank goodness there was no wind otherwise we would have frozen. At one point we got caught in a giant whirlpool in a bend of the river and did a couple of 360's before managing to paddle out of it. And the rain continued to fall.

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What a bloody miserable start to the trip - but wait it got worse. At about 3.30 we were teased by the sun suddenly appearing and the rain disappearing. Overhead we had blue sky and we rejoiced. Happiness overcome our gloom as the sun started to dry our drenched clothing and we knew we must be close to home for the night.

As quick as the sun appeared it vanished and was replaced by more rain. It was like a freaky interval. But it got worse.

An hour later still paddling in the pouring rain we realised we must have missed our first stop. Yes I know you must be thinking how on earth could we have missed it but we did. I understood the guy saying that the camping stop was after we go under the bridge but it was obviously before the bridge and we missed it. And the rain continued to pour down.

Wet, miserable and we'd had it but had to carry on until we found a camping ground to stop at. The river here does not exactly run through towns so camping ground was our only option. It was getting late now and starting to get dark, and the rain continued to fall and every now and then really piss down.

At about 6 we came across a camping that was deserted but we didn't care if it was open or not. This was going to be our stop for the night. It had a dry shelter were we stripped off all our clothes and hung them in the vain hope that they will dry by morning (we only have 2 sets of clothing with us).

Luckily due to the fact we had eaten in the restaurant last night we had supplies for dinner. We dried off, put on dry clothes, made a cup of tea to warm up, cooked and ate dinner (without cutlery as this did not end up in any of the bags we packed) put up the tent and hopefully will have a semi comfortable night.

Just to top off a perfected fucked day, the air bed Lyn was sleeping on sprung a leak. They say what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger - well we must be stronger than Hercules! I think after the last week of gruelling bicycle rides and shitty weather canoeing Lyn may be planning her own itineraries in future.

I pray that we will have better weather tomorrow.

Thursday 19th Sept 13 (day 19)

The tent was full of low moral when we woke. A quick look outside revealed a grey cloudy sky overhead. It had not rained very much overnight but the morning sky almost gave us a promise of dampness later in the day.

We both stayed in bed as neither had the least bit of will power to get up and face the new day. We would not survive another day like yesterday - it was not possible.

Listening to the local church bells chime 8, then the half hour, then 9 and the half hour, then 10 we knew we could delay no longer and decided to make a start. Of course none of our clothes had dried so after a quick breakfast of stale baguette (saved from yesterday) and some butter and vegemite and a hot cup of tea we packed up. Lucky the tent was dry but the wet clothes were put into a wet bag and everything was loaded into the canoe.

It was 11.30 by the time we pulled away from the shoreline, giving a silent thank you to the camp site that rescued us last night.

Wow it was midday and still no rain. Woo hoo soon it was 2pm and still no rain, it fact we made it until now when I am typing this at 8.30pm and still no rain.

We ended up almost having an enjoyable day, well ok I will go ahead and say enjoyable. Fair enough we are in clothing that will almost walk away by themselves but we are only in our own company so all is good.

The scenery changed a little today from just greenery on both sides of the river to high cliffs where the river had many years ago eaten into the landscape. Even spied a few castles on the way. Hard to catch a town from the rivers edge as no buildings are close to the river due to flooding we think. It is very hard to navigate exactly where we are.

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Around 4.30pm we found a basic campground at a place called Gluges. Very tiny village, not even a shop to buy supplies, which we are out of. Lucky there is a cheap restaurant close where we ate a hearty dinner of confit of duck (never get sick of this) huge serve of french fries and salad. Splashed out and washed it down with a 1/2 caraf of Bergerac Rose! Much needed meal after a little lunch of left over breakfast baguette which was leftover from yesterdays breakfast. Just as we were about to start dinner who walks in but Tony the Malaysian guy we met yesterday. He is staying in same camp and we had dinner together comparing notes about our days journey on the river.

Had a short walk in the little village which only attraction was an old stone church which turned out to be the church were Edith Piaf was baptised.

I'm on the flat bed tonight, we plan on a short paddle tomorrow to get to next town where hopefully we can get washing done and make repairs to bed.

Thank you for no rain today it was much appreciated and same for tomorrow please with a not so cold night tonight thrown in.

Friday 20th Sept 13 (day 20)

During my uncomfortable sleep I was woken by the dreaded sound of raindrops falling on the tent roof. I have no idea what time it was but it was still dark so I rolled over and went back to sleep hoping that if I ignored it, the rain would go away. No such luck, the next time I woke was when the church bells rang the 8 o'clock morning call - still raining. Again roll over go to sleep and ignore it and perhaps it will go away. Again no such luck! We really had little choice but to wait it out a little. The rain was not heavy but enough to get us drenched if we left the sanctity of our little nylon heaven that was protecting us at the moment. We had no food and no where to buy any so just waited.

Close to midday it finally eased and we took the opportunity to get up and pack up and get out on the water. All we could do was have a quick cup of tea and it was almost 1pm when we did our first stroke on the water. This seems like a wasted day but there was no point getting out in the rain. Turns out we made the right decision as it remained dry for the rest of the day and we had not planned on going far today so did not need the whole day to paddle to arrive at our destination.

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The river was calm and mirror like. Nice gentle paddling for us, it was lovely really. Just an hour later we arrived at the campground where we wanted to spend the night. Of course it was unmanned as they all are between 12 and 4 so we pulled the canoe in and went to explore the little village as we still needed to buy food. The place was called Creysse and there was no shop of any description there, so really we had to go on further down the river to find a shop. First we had a nice stroll around the old village, beautiful, but you wonder what the people do in these places. They all seem to have an expensive hotel and restaurant but that is all. The ones that live there have to travel miles just to buy milk and bread. Before leaving I did ask a person who looked like they lived there where the closest market was, and she very kindly showed me the next town marked on our river mud map had a market.

Happy we trot back to our canoe as the next stop was only 2km down stream and we started dreaming of pork chops for dinner. It was just 3.30pm so we still had lots of time.
Within the hour we were pulling into the bank at Saint Sozy where there was an open campground and the man told me there was a supermarket just up the street. And he was right, we walked up and got pork chops which Lyn is cooking now while I type this.
We also stocked up on enough meals for the next few days in case we do not find another shop in a hurry. Our only worry now is getting low on camping gaz, but will go in search of that tomorrow.

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Unfortunately, no clothes dryer here at the camp so unable to dry clothes so we are still in the same stinky ones - but at least we got food and did not get wet. Our other clothes are now hand washed and hanging out to dry (thanks Lyn) with a bit of luck the night will be dry and we can wear them tomorrow. Hahahaha I make a joke.
I patched up the leak in the bed this afternoon also - again fingers crossed that works and the air stays in it - Lyn's turn again on the flat bed.

Hey we might smell (actually we smell atrocious!) but we are dry and soon to be fed - I can smell the pork so will sign off!

Saturday 21st Sept 13 (day 21)

I heard the rain fall gently on our tent last night so that means the clothes are wet again which means we are in the same ones for another day! It did not rain a great deal overnight but enough to wet the clothes.

We crawled out of the tent relatively early as it was dry out and we had food for breakfast - a good reason to get up. So by 9 we were out and about - big change from the last few days.

After packing up the tent and getting our gear together we went for another walk into town to get a couple of more supplies and the sun was out and warming us already. We did not have a long way to travel today so it was ok for us to take our time. First push off for the day was about midday.

Wow unreal blue sky and warm sunshine, what a glorious day. This is what I was hoping our trip would be like. We had a wonderful day, gliding along the mirror pond like river. Most enjoyable! Being a Saturday we shared the river with a few day trippers today but not for long as they were either in a hurry to get to the end destination and we just spent most of our time drifting along with the natural flow of the river. Yes this is what this trip was supposed to be like - today we wore just t-shirts - no jackets or raincoats. Heaven.

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Our plan was to have just a short paddle today as at the rate we were travelling (even with all the bad weather) we were ahead of schedule. We needed to slow down and take it all in a bit more - which was now possible with the sun out and we being able to enjoy the river.

The first choice of campground at Pinsac was actually closed. That is the biggest problem with travelling off season, a lot of camps are already closed down for winter. So we stopped there anyway and had our lunch and Lyn hung out the clothes to try and catch some rays for them to dry. We were in desperate need for these clothes to dry so we could put on a clean set. To kill a bit of time I went for a walk out onto the main road and discovered this was a road we had cycled on when we rode to Rocamadour. Cool.

It was still early in the afternoon so we headed back out on the water in search of the next camp ground to stop for the night. This one was so well hidden that we did not even see it. It has been a surprise to us that nothing is visible from the river and none of the camp grounds even have signs to say where they are. Navigation really is all guess work.

So around 4.30 we ended up stopping at Soulliac. This is also a town we rode our bikes through last week. And here was a lovely big flash camp ground that was open. I left Lyn riverside with our canoe while I went to investigate. This camp offered onsite cabins and although the weather had been beautiful all day I did not care we were going for a cabin at almost any cost. We wanted to sleep in a dry, warm, soft (the repair on the air bed yesterday did not work) bed. We wanted to have a hot shower, wash our clothes in a washing machine and be able to put on clean ones. This was all possible here at this campsite. Only one catch, the cabins were minimum 2 nights stay, if we stayed only one we would still have to pay for 2. Not a problem, we had a spare day up our sleeve so I booked us in for 2 nights. Heaven.

First up we made a quick trip to the nearest supermarket to buy fresh food, nothing from a tin tonight as we had a real kitchen to cook in. And as we had a fridge there was wine to be bought. Heaven!

After shopping we had a hot shower, and sat around (in knickers and T-shirts) eating duck pate, local cheese and sipping cooled wine, while the machine washed all of our remaining clothes. Then as Lyn hung them on the line (we are hoping for another sunny day tomorrow) I cooked fresh fish and potatoes which we had for dinner with a glass of chilled cider. Ok this luxury is costing more than a tent site for the night but we think we deserved it after the last 3 nights in the tent.

Oh what a wonderful day today on the Dordogne River!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 08:34 Archived in France Tagged river saint dordogne argentat gluges sozy souillac Comments (9)

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