Biking The Forgotten Canal Du Midi: Day 3
An easier day of riding included another Riquet marvel, boat jams, and a movie set.
Breakfast was another highlight, something we don’t take for granted in a country where the first meal of the day is often just a disappointing croissant and café. Our host arrived with huge trays of grapefruit slices, apples, yogurt and granola, toast, hardboiled eggs, hot chocolate, orange juice, and coffee.
We left early for what would in theory be the shortest and easiest day of the adventure. We planned to ride 21 miles to the village of Homps where we’d arrive mid-afternoon and give ourselves extended time to recuperate and celebrate passing the mid-point.
The going was again slow, at times as the path either seemed to disappear or tightened to a tire-width surrounded by untamed grasses that whipped our legs as we pedaled.
We had accepted this as part of the adventure by now and there was little grumbling, but it required focus to not skid off the path. We had to stay alert at various junctures to spot hand-made signs that would indicate when to cross a bridge and continue along the other side. But with few trees, we had some nice views of hillsides to the north, and glimpses of the Pyrénées mountains to the south.
As we rolled just east of the village of Le Redorte, the path took us to the foot of a stone bridge called Pont-canal de l'Argent-Double. The bridge runs along an aqueduct and serves as a good example of the ingenuity it took Riquet’s crew to create the canal. At this point, the canal crosses the Argent-Double River. The aqueduct carries the canal over the river, and the arches under the bridge allow any potential overflow water from the canal to tumble down into the stream below. For the 17th century, it was an impressive bit of engineering improvisation.
As we were marveling at Riquet’s cleverness, just a few minutes after crossing the aqueduct we stumbled into the most unexpected moment of the whole trip. A crew of about 200 people was filming a movie about the life of Riquet. On the far side of the canal, a dozen actors wearing 17th-century peasant garb were mulling around, smoking, and leaning on shovels as a woman with a walkie-talkie carried on a frantic conversation.
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