From Lapalisse we drove north along some very narrow country lanes. I stopped the van to take some photos of a field of sunflowers near a farm, just as I got out 3 farm dogs started barking and growling so I quickly hopped back in and drove a bit further on. It was a short drive from here to the tiny hamlet of Sorbier, where I spent a week in 1996. I had signed up to do work on an environmental project here with a dozen other people from around Europe and the USA. As it turns out, this environmental project consisted mainly of cutting down trees and bushes with axes and machetes! The local town council wanted to create a walking path along the old railway which had long since overgrown. It was great standing in front of the town hall where our tents had been pitched 11 years ago, it brought back a lot of memories.
Above: Oh god, not more sunflowers...
Below: Me in Sorbier
Bottom: Sarah canoeing down the Besbre
From Sorbier we drove to the nearby town of Jaligny-sur-Besbre where we parked up and had lunch. By this time it was red hot and Ace was like an oven. We had picked up a leaflet about canoe hire on the Besbre and at 2pm an eccentric woman arrived and opened up. I went and asked her if we could hire a canoe and she replied “Canoes? We don’t have any canoes here!” despite the fact we were standing in front of about a dozen. Obviously my confused look gave her cause for concern as she immediately started saying “Je plaisante! Je plaisante!” which is the French version of JOOOOOKKKKEE!
To hire a canoe for an hour I paid €6.10 – a lot cheaper than the Ardeche but I guess on the Ardeche they come and pick you up 6km down the river, here you had to get your own way back. We got our stuff ready and headed off paddling up past the grand looking chateau of Jaligny which is closed to the public. A woman was feeding ducks and her father fishing from their riverside garden. Cows and horses were grazing along the riverbanks and it was very peaceful and calm.
A couple who were right behind us at the canoe hire shed starting moving towards us at a rate of knots. Monsieur had a double paddle which he was dipping in and out on either side of the river and Madame had a single paddle which she was using. They seemed to be moving along with such ease, it was almost like they had an outboard motor on the back of their canoe! At the same time Sarah and I had gone round a bend where the current got stronger and where we were barely able to inch forward! At the halfway stage of our hire we slowly floated back towards the canoe hire place where our crazy friend was amazed we hadn’t fallen in!
We set off in search of an aire de service for the night. Driving through a small village we saw signs for a borne de service (electric and water station) right next to a pretty lake. Families were fishing and picnicking on the banks, occasionally coming up to wash their hands and feet at the tap provided for motorhomes to clean out their chemical toilets! (By the way, I still haven’t seen a woman empty a chemical toilet…)
We stayed for 3 hours while we charged the laptop and camera batteries and filled up with water. We headed to the nearby town of Varennes-sur-Allier and spent the night in the car park next to the town hall with 7 or 8 other motorhomes. I was teaching Sarah to open a bottle of wine and she whacked herself in the private parts… ouch! Not a good end to the day.