We returned today, Monday, from six days of barging aboard our friend Adrian’s Dutch barge, GEESJE, pronounced approximately Hrrray-Shuh (very rough, deep down in your throat). We traveled south on the Petite Saone river from the town of Corre and back again. What a relaxing way to travel. Each day for lunch we would berth at a picnic area or find a “wild mooring” where we tied our barge to a tree or to a stake hammered into the bank. At dinner time we would berth in a small town or at a wild mooring, wine and dine, sleep, then continue on the next morning. We passed through small, historic towns, flowers everywhere, pastures with dairy cows and horses. Trees heavy with apples. Forests, great blue herons all along the canals and flying overhead, kingfishers zipping like a blue streak, across the canal in front of us, one night two snakes swam across the canal and also a sizeable South American rodent, called a Coypu, a farmed species escaped into France and very happy living in the canals.
Every few kilometers we negotiated a lock to lift the barge upstream or lower her downstream. This entails signaling the automatic lock that we are coming by twisting a rubber hose that is suspended over the canal within easy reach. The lights on the lock shine red if we are asked to wait, or green if it is OK to enter the lock when the gates open. The lock design is referred to as “mitre locks”. This design was invented by the Chinese 500 years before Leonardo da VInci re-invented them in Europe. The design is simple and clever. Once the barge enters the lock, we raise a metal pole to indicate that our barge is in the lock. Then the gates behind us close, and the water flows into the lock to raise the barge if we are heading upstream, or flows out of the lock if we are heading downstream. We became pretty handy with these procedures. Steve drove the barge a lot to give Adrian a break, and I drove the barge some — but not for the locking procedures. Handling the heavy, flat-bottomed barge in tight quarters is much more difficult than ADAGIO with her twin engines.
We provisioned the barge at little village outdoor markets and/or a “supermarche'” or a “hypermarche'”. We disembarked at some of the small towns to explore the thirteenth through eighteenth century, buildings, castles, churches, gardens, shops, and of course the occasional boulangerie/patisserie for a fresh baguette to serve with our lunch. Many of the canals are lined with rows of trees, often horse chestnut trees. Other trees hold large balls of bright green mistletoe. One night, at a wild mooring, we watched as a water snake swam across the canal in front of our barge, head out of the water to see where it was going. Swans came for a handout of yesterday’s baguette. The nearly full moon formed a golden path towards the barge. We sat on deck for hours, enjoying the forest tree reflections in the water, followed by pink clouds at sunset. It was truly magical.