Wednesday 30 September 2020

Canal Entre Deux Mers Stage 1 - Bordeaux to Sauveterre de Guyenne

From the city centre, you cross the Pont de Pierre (stone bridge) and then ride along cycle paths on  the east bank of the Garonne for a few kilometres until turning sharp left to join the Roger Lapebie cycle path, which is laid on an old railway line. In places the route climbs to about 100m amsl, but quite gently, before descending a little to about 70m at Sauveterre de Guyenne.

Bordeaux has quite an extensive network of cycle paths but their quality is never very high, and is often quite poor, in fact some of those I rode on I would say would be safer if they were torn up and cyclists just used the road. The situation however improves as you get further away from the city along the river bank.

The Piste Cyclable Roger Lapebie betrays its origins as the bed of an old single-track railway, with the old stations still present, some converted into cafes and bars. The path is asphalt from start to finish, generally about 2 metres wide, and shared with walkers, but the volume of traffic in September was manageable without any serious conflict. The path was clearly popular - I saw lots of walkers and cyclists, some just out for a day ride but quite a few clearly touring.

The condition was almost universally good, and much of the route is shaded by trees planted along both sides. What it conspicuously lacks however is either benches or picnic seating at regular intervals to relax on for a moment, and in particular there are almost no water fountains en route. 

Being an old railway track, there are gradients - it ascends from sea level to almost 100 metres over the 15km or so from its start to Creon - but these are very shallow, so that they are imperceptible to the eye.  Which is not to say you can't feel them - you seem to make relatively slow progress  for quite a lot of effort, for quite a long time. In some ways a more undulating path with steeper gradients is easier, at least psychologically!

Creon is the only settlement of any substance which is directly on the path of the route until you reach Sauveterre de Guyenne at the other end. It has an information office about the cycle path, a bike shop with repair and bike hire facilities, and some shops, bars and a restaurant in the town centre which is only 2-300 metres away. On my day riding this path the afternoon temperature reached 35C - some 11C higher than the seasonal average - and I found I was rapidly dehydrating, so the almost complete absence of water fountains along the way was irritating. Creon is the last real opportunity before the end to top up water bottles, so take it.

The path ends just outside Sauveterre de Guyenne, a small bastide town with its own wine Appellation. There is a hotel, and a chambre d'hotes which was very pleasant - no evening meal but they point you to a restaurant close by which offers a free aperitif if you mention their name.

If you prefer to camp, there don't appear to be any official campsites near the path, but you can wild-camp quite legally in France, on public land or - with the owner's permission - on private land, as long as you stay one night, using a backpackable tent, and leave no trace of your presence. There was certainly space alongside the path where you could pitch a tent in reasonable comfort.

Alternatively, you can continue another 15km to La Réole where there is a municipal campsite on the banks of the Garonne river.

Some photos, with geotags in the information tab, here.

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