Fri 17th May
The Canal du Midi.
Avia had to leave early in the morning for her studies in the lab. I said I’d leave with her as she had the key to the bike shed.
I got the bike out, said goodbye, packed the bike up and left.
On leaving the University campus, I noticed that it looked like something between a 70’s social housing project and a public hospital. The rain also made it look een more depressing then it was. I didn’t think too much about it.
There were road works all over this part of Toulouse (and all over this part of France) making it loud, ugly and unpleasant to manoeuvre around. I thought it was a shame that the area was being so violently altered. Dust was everywhere.
Shortly after, I was finally on the Canal du Midi. something I started envisioning when I was laying out the blueprints of this trip back in London.
It was very similar to the previous canal to begin with, green and beautiful although the water wasn’t as clear and it felt different. But then it began to change quite in a few ways. It was clear to see they were related, but the Canal du Midi felt unique.
The smooth, hard track had been replaced with loose gravel, a cyclists nemesis (way behind the great evil that is sand) and for the first few hours it was very tranquil. I got to the first major town on the canal which was Castelnaudary. I stopped for lunch, watched a dog tussle with its docile owner, then continued.
Just outside of Castelnaudary I located a supermarket, picked up some more food and treats (the money I’d save if I wasn’t hooked on treats) and continued. A Middle Eastern guy parked up outside the supermarket and began begging before I went in.
On the way out, I gave him some apples, a chocolate bar and a few other bits. He stowed them away and seemed grateful.
Shortly after leaving the city, the canal changed dramatically for the worse. It was still as picturesque as it had been, but it was here the floor turned into mud from the last two days of rain, making it hard cycle and impossible to maintain a continuous flow. The secret of cycling.
Most of the time it wasn’t too bad, but when it was bad, it was impossible, either wheels jamming in the mud or slipping, resulting in a heavy dose of gravity and embarrassment. A safer alternative was to get off and walk, getting mud in your shoes. More cleaning for later.
I was aiming to get to the other side of Carcassone by the end of the day, but the mud had slowed me right down making progress miserable. By the time I decided to call it a day I was 10km away from the city, not 10km out. I was slipping behind.