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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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