Thurs 22 Sept - 0845, tunnel, many boats, empty Mantoche, pingpong, sunset
We were up early and away by 0845h, because we wanted to get back to Mantoche today. Our first task was to pass through the tunnel to the south of Port de Savoyeux, in order to get back onto the River Saone.
While I concentrated on steering a straight line through the tunnel, Rita went out to the side deck to record our progress. I stitched together several segments of the trip through the tunnel in the video below.
Once we reached the river, it was a fairly relaxing trip. with just a few canalised sections. There were a surprising number of boats moving about, given how quiet it has been all year, and we got delayed at a couple of locks, but overall the cruising was very peaceful, as exemplified by this extended family of swans just watching us pass by.
The only "excitement" for the trip came about in one of the locks we shared with a hire boat. As sometimes happens in a lock, we encountered a "piddling wall" where various fountains appear in random places on the wall as the boat descends. From previous experience, we have learned to make sure the side windows on the barge are closed when descending in locks, to prevent water being sprayed inside the boat. However, the hire boat behind us in the lock obviously didn't know this trick. As we both descended, they realised what was about to happen through their open windows. But the two guys holding the ropes at front and back couldn't decide where to abandon their rope and go close the windows, or just hope that the fountain missed the windows. They waited as long as they could, and then one dropped his rope and made a mad dash inside. Everyone has to learn the hard (wet) way the first time this happens to them!
We arrived back in Mantoche in the early afternoon to a very unusual sight - a totally empty port. This just confirmed the wisdom of getting here in the middle of the day, because over the course of the afternoon, the port gradually filled.
The weather was beautiful, with a perfectly blue sky in all directions. Rita and I decided to try playing ping-pong on one of the picnic tables, but the gap between the planks on top was so wide that most shots were going off in random directions; good training for your reflexes, but we spent most of our time picking up the ball from out of the grass. So instead we went for a walk around the town of Mantoche. First we found the bridge over the old abandoned railway line, and then we looked over the fence of a very unusual parkland gite complex, where most of the buildings looked like they came out of fairyland.
During the afternoon, two things caught my attention. Firstly, a young girl from the village came down to the grassy area near the mooring with her horse. I think she wanted to take the horse for a walk, but the horse was very intent on just staying and eating the grass. She tried pulling on the reins of the horse, but that just seemed to make him dig his heels in even more. After half an hour, she just gave up and let the horse do whatever he wanted. So Rita grabbed a carrot out of the cupboard and went over to her to demonstrate how sometimes you need to use the carrot rather than the stick. After a few minutes, the horse was walking away from the grassy area, following the girl with the carrot.
The second incident occurred as a hire boat was approaching the quai to moor in front of us. As you often do in such situations, I went out to offer to take a rope from them to help them tie up. But the lady holding the rope on the boat kept delaying as I asked her several times to throw me the rope. As the boat got close to the quai, she jumped off the boat onto the stone quai holding the rope. She stumbled and very nearly crashed into the concrete wall at the back of the quai. More by good luck than good management, she regained her balance and pulled the boat into the quai. At this point, I decided to withdraw my offer of support. Some people are so stubborn that they will only learn their lessons the hard way.
As the day came to an end, we enjoyed our last Mantoche sunset for the year, as we had our apero drinks and then dinner.