Buzet-sur Baise – -Nérac
9 Locks 30 km
Buzet is a sleepy village, nonetheless offers all the the necessary services, including a large hire base. There is very handy SPAR just a few meters from the bridge, with baker, butcher and other shops only a short stroll up the main road.
While the Canal maintains his generally south eastern course to finally meet the Mediterranean, we do a sharp turn to port, to enter the double lock that connects the canal with the navigable Baise.
At the bottom of the locks one can turn either left or right. Turning downstream leads to the Garonne and the lower Lot. Though this would have been our preferred route, there is not enough water in the Garonne in order to maintain the crossing. Still we want to get at least a sneak peak.
Levels permitting St-Léger lock would allow access to the Garonne. The boat sitting in the lock is the push tug, that would help you coming back against the strong current.
To reach the confluence with the Lot five kilometres downstream, a channel has been blasted into the rocky riverbed. Still the passage is difficult and very much subject to the water levels in the Garonne.
The mouth of the lock.
The Garonne channel.
This route being blocked for now, we turn around. Cruising upstream we pass the Buzet lock with the ruins of the old paper mill.
Leaving Buzet finally behind, the scene for the Baise is immediately set. Both banks of the deep river bed are hemmed in by dense vegetation and mayor trees. The boater is completely isolated from the outside world, but although from any views of the surrounding county side. The sediment transported by the river gives it a turquois shine. Otherwise the water is clear and clean and ideal for a swim.
The navigation is straight forward without too many difficulties other than some submerged trees. Only the locks themselves need good attention. They are operated by a smart card handed over by the lockie at the Buzet double lock. All you need doing is to set out a crew at the landing stages in front of each lock. If the lock gates are open you can drive straight in. If not, the crew inserts the card into a reader and the lock is reversed automatically. Going up, the currents in the locks are quiet fierce and the lock bollards are often in awkward positions. So it is important to secure the boat well and for the crew to stay close to the emergency stop switch. Just in case.
Moorings are far and few between. And with one or two exemptions near the main towns and villages along the river. Bank mooring is only possible, if you are prepared to tie to a tree and hope for the best, as gaining access to dry land is almost impossible. Waiting jetties at the locks are even shorter than our little Beaver, so using them for mooring is decidedly uncool. Also the river was absolutely benign during our visit, the water levels can fluctuate extremely fast at times of rain. This rain might even happen far away upstream, so keep an eye on the weather report and a bit of slack in the ropes.
Soon the aqueduct taking the Canal the Garonne over the Baise comes into sight.
The first village going upstream is Vianne. It is a prime example of a bastide, a fortified “new” town build between 1284 and 1287. At the time Aquitaine was still part of the English monarchy and the bastides were seen as an economic way of securing this part of the world against the French. Vianne sports a square layout with a big market square at the centre. Its surrounded by 1,2 km of walls, four square towers und a few round towers. The village itself spots some nice alleys with ancient houses.
Vianne seen from the lock.
From the generous visitor moorings we stroll into town to take a light (only three courses) lunch at Les Marronnieres under shady trees at the square.
To get some post lunch exercise, we explore the village. The whole setting is very laid back. Although I do not know what cheered up this guy found inside the church. But the Force seems to be strong in him.
Back to the boat and up the river again. Half an hour later we pass the village of Lavardac, but the mooring adjacent to a tarmaced parking lot and a main road, devoid of an shade, poses no particular attraction.
Thus we press on to Nérac. And the right decision that is.
First we are greeted by Maurice, the friendly harbour master, artist and Jack of all culture in Nérac.
He fills us in to what has do be done and seen while we are around. At the same time a couple with there two dogs join the conversation. It turns out them being Barbara and David, from D.C. and Perth respectively. We invite them on board for a glass of red, as meanwhile it clearly has got drinking time. Barbara and David tell us about there lives, how they met after their partners had died and how they bought a house in Petit Nérac, on the right hand side of the river. Low and behold we are invited to join them for dinner later in the evening. Happily we accept.
We use the pre dinner time to have a stroll through Nérac, which turns out to be lovely vibrant country town, with loads of independent shops and quite a bit of culture going on.
Petit Nérac with Saint-Marc at the centre.
We call at our new friends and are treated to a lovely dinner of Foie Gras and Ratatouille in there garden overlooking Nérac. Later there neighbours, also from Perth arrive and we have a long an entertaining evening. So if you read this guys: Thanks a million again.