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Schwarzwald ‑ Bayern —
Canal 2 mers —
Budapest ‑ Cuxhaven — around Burgundy — Rhine — Donau — Bretagne‑Loire — Alsa.‑Fr.Comt.‑Bur.‑Swis. — Atlantic‑S.W.
Le Canal des Deux Mers allows you to hike from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea via the Canal de Garonne and then the Canal du Midi.
From Bordeaux to Toulouse it is the Canal de Garonne (formerly called Canal lateral à la Garonne). This portion is very pleasant, very natural, very green. The buildings, towns and villages crossed, are beautiful and well maintained.
Then from Toulouse to Agde it is the famous and very media-friendly Canal du Midi. From Toulouse to Port Lauragais everything goes on for the best. Then we pass through the department of Aude. Instantly everything changes. No more track, only a chaotic and often abominable path. Until Agde, it's off for almost 200 km of velo-cross.
In reality THERE IS NO CYCLING PATH on the Canal du Midi. Moreover the excellent site of the'AF3V, which lists all the greenways and cycle routes in France, shows it well: the Canal du Midi is in grey meaning "CYCLING ROUTE IN PROJECT".
The mini-slideshow below is by no means exhaustive, it should have been a continuous movie!
The Canal du Midi is almost 200 km of velo-cross:
Our hosts are outraged and horrified. They told us:
We were lucky. We had good weather and our special bikes (mountain bikes) allowed us to ride comfortably on this miserable track. On the other hand, and despite our high-end German tyres (SCHWALBE) which are very resistant to punctures and punctures, Bételgeuse (although light) suffered a rear tyre explosion on the last stage to Agde.
Luckily Martin, always farsighted, had a spare tire (with a soft bead) in his panniers. As happened on a Sunday, without this spare tyre we would have been stopped and missed our TGVs on the way back.
Many cyclists have complained to the elected representatives of the Aude and Hérault. They are now saying that it is the fault of the State. This is totally false. The decision-makers and financers of the cycle paths ARE THE DEPARTMENTS. Moreover the break in equipment from "real cycle path" to "dreadful path" is PILE at the border between the departments of Haute-Garonne and the lamentable Aude.
Yet all the studies show that investment in cycle paths is very profitable and very quickly amortized by the economic spin-offs of cycling tourism.
The truth is that the departments of Aude and Hérault are PROFITTERS WHO OPERATE CYCLING TOURISTS. Indeed the local politicians know that thanks to the reputation of the Canal du Midi the cyclotourists, like all other tourists, come on their own. No need to invest to attract them. These exploiters are satisfied to collect the financial manna of this tourism without giving the slightest service, the slightest facility to the cyclists.
In addition, the beauty of the Canal du Midi works of art is praised. This is true for some too rare works. On the other hand, many bridges, which are the most widespread works, have been repaired in a deplorable way. The general shape of these bridges is sometimes beautiful but most often spoiled by cheap concrete masonry. Example in photo opposite.
Even on this aspect the politicians of the Aude and Hérault have acted lamentably. They have sabotaged the heritage of their departments.
Nor should we forget the responsibility of VNFs. On no other canal, in no other department (than Aude and Hérault) have we ever seen towpaths in such a pitiful state, without maintenance. It must be said that contrary to the other tourist canals (including the Garonne canal) the locks are not automatic but manual. As a result, from April to October, VNF staff are mainly employed as lock keepers. It is sure that waiting for the barges, then pressing the buttons on their portable remote control, while joking with the boatmen is less tiring than maintaining the towpaths. Would some local syndicate have succeeded in imposing the blocking of the evolution of their profession to the new necessities of the time?… in the mind of the beholder, this never happens in France…
On the Web, some people claim that the absence of a bicycle path allows for a much more natural route. This argument can be an excellent pretext for inaction, but it is VERY surprising because it is contrary to reality. In fact:
The historic plane trees that border the canal are sick with coloured canker. The disease progresses inexorably. The trees are all felled year after year.
The canal is thus completely disfigured. The banks are gradually exposed. No shade and only a sad landscape remains.
You should know that at each of the many sites where diseased trees are felled… there is a burning pit. Indeed it is strictly forbidden to move branches, trunks and roots so as not to spread the disease. So everything is burnt on the spot, just at the edge of the towpath… What a pleasure to breathe all these smokes !!!
In this bleak outlook, we must not forget the abuse of the bicycle tour operators who sell this surprising circuit "Canal du Midi" by rating it as "easy". Obviously it's flat! But the reality mentioned above is different. But "the customers want it" so "we sell it to them"!
Moreover on the tourist plan the attraction is also contradicted by the often dirty, even dilapidated state of the cities and villages crossed; it is very Mediterranean… in its worst aspect!!!
Compte tenu de l'état déplorable du Canal du Midi et sachant qu'il est défiguré pour de très longues années par l'abattage de tous ses arbres, le meilleur conseil est donc de le zapper totalement.
The best is to prefer the Canal de Garonne to him. It is less crowded, much more natural, greener and quieter. On this last point it should indeed be recalled that the Canal du Midi runs (often and closely) along very large roads and motorways which are very noisy.
For the volunteers who absolutely want to ride on this course, it is IMPERATIVELY advisable to do it on mountain bikes, without children, out of season (meeting in the middle of the season is a permanent nuisance and a danger) and to aim for a period of good weather.