Monday, September 19, 2011

Otters and Broken Locks 16th Sept 2011

The "wild mooring" spot on the Lot which was our last campsite
 Leisurely breakfast, psyching ourselves for the big trip back to Cahors. Weather clouding over, a little cooler. I looked downstream at the bank and saw something moving. Luke and I kept still and it came ever closer - a river mammal, fishing, diving down and then popping back up, shaking the water from its head. Our boat was moored near a low hanging tree and I think this gave us cover because the animal - we think it was a river otter - came right up to the boat, under the tree branches. Unfortunately it spotted me when I moved at the wrong moment and it made a getaway, we saw it halfway across the river, taking a breath and then it was gone. Very cool.
It looked a bit like this

After that we realised how much we were enjoying the river silence and didn't want to turn on the boat. We cast off and tried to drift for a while  but it was really hard to actually get anywhere. Then another boat arrived going upsteam, the moment was gone and we set off.

We did five locks in all. Had help from the ladies (one of whom looks like a man) at the first one. Stopped for bread at Arcambal - wood fired but burnt and dry. Rode to find the brewery, discovered it was closed (of course). Downstream again. Moored at our original green mooring for lunch. While looking at the bank, pointing out what looked like otter holes to Luke, we both saw the snake at the same time. A little green and brown one, about 30cm long, it sidled along the tree roots and swam off along the bank, looking very sneaky. So, wildlife day today. We also saw three kingfishers and a rat.

The eastern side of Cahors
Got to the eastern side of Cahors, moored and went into the old city to buy milk at the supermarket, rode our bikes around looking at it again. Didn't last long in the heat and returned to the boat. Off we went to the next lock - the mechanised one, Cody Lock. I decided I wanted to be the one to operate the key so Luke waited with the boat and I walked to the lock, turned the key and watched it begin to empty.

Meanwhile, the tourist boat Fenelon had arrived and was lining up happily to take our spot in the freshly  emptied lock. The rules of the river say that leisure boats have to give way to the tourist boats so I was cursing a little bit.

So Luke had said I turn the key and push the button to make it go. I'd turned the key, wasn't sure about the button, especially because it had that "emergency" look to it and said "Arrete Cycle" which I couldn't remember what it meant. When the doors were due to open but didn't, I figured it was time to press the button.

Uh oh.

The automated lock at Cahors that I did not break, I was not there, you can't prove anything
The doors had only just started to open and bam, they stopped. The tourist boat got closer... closer... nothing was working. I looked confused and held up my hands at them. The guy in charge managed to scramble onto the lock just as the barge boat started to go sideways towards the weir. I turned my key a few more times... nothing. The lady on the microphone made lots of inane comments. Still nothing. The bloke came over, turned his key... nothing. He said "shit" and looked angry at me.

When it became apparent that things were broken, I decided to bail out of the situation and went back to Luke. We then decided to go back upstream until the situtation was fixed. I felt a little guilty... but also secretly pleased since the tour boat had been stealing our open lock in the first place.

It took about 15 minutes but they managed to get the thing working again, perhaps because they called the lock guy and he reset it.

After the Fenolon had gone down and another cruise boat come back up, Luke and I made our way in. The lock guy was still there and he looked at me for a long time, searchingly. I just looked back. We carried on happily. I didn't do it. It was like this when we got here.... Luke did the key this time.

Thus, after an hour, we made it throught the "quick" lock.

After that we hightailed it for the mooring, doing the last Valentre lock with the happy help of a tourist who wanted to know how it all worked. Lots of spectators on the bridge again. Luke also saw a rat running up the dock stairs.

We got back to St Mary and reversed in with some difficulty. There were heaps of people dropping off their boats and heading home, rather strange for a Friday, we thought.

After a calming drink and a shower we rode towards town for dinner, skirting past the major gypsy camp that seemed to have sprung up in an empty field. They had a lot of dogs, many of which were not tied up and all of which decided to chase and bark at me. I now know I'm no good at kicking snarling dogs while cycling.

We wanted Vietnamese for dinner but, like everything else in the last week, it was closed. So we rode into the old town and found an interesting tourist restaurant in a very old building. Very tasty too and quite cheap. I had duck confit rolled in pastry with potatoes that tasted like bbqed chippies, very nice, then panacotta with fig compote. Fab.

Back to the boat, time for bed and a cleanup tomorrow.

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