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Distance: 15 Km Very easy ride following the Canal de la Jonction to the Aude River. Crossing the Aude river is a bit tough. After that follow the Canal de la Robine all the way to the center of Narbonne. Unpaved towpaths but in excellent condition. One can also choose to ride on paved road next to the canal at some points, as car traffic is very low here.
Picture 1. Turn right to follow Canal de la Jonction to Narbonne. This is if you come from Le Somail.
0,0 Km At the junction of the Canal Du Midi and the Canal de la Jonction, head south towards Narbonne. See picture 1. Stay on the right bank (west bank).
3,0 Km Pass through the village of Salleles d'Aude and continue straight. No need to change side of the canal.
4,9 Km Continue straight until you get to the Écluse de Gailhousty. Now things will get a bit complicated!
When you get to the Écluse de Gailhousty, cross the bridge to the other side of the canal. After the bridge, turn right onto a small dirt road behind the building. Cycle a few meters and look for a very small single track going of into the woods on your left. Follow this single track to get to the railroad. Join the railroad and use its bridge (made by Eiffel) to cross over the Aude River. Once across the river, get off the train track and rejoin the towpath along the Canal de la Robine heading south. See picture 2 below. They say that the railroad bridge is not used by trains going at high speeds, which I cannot really confirm. There are a few factories in the area that are still serviced by this line, as can be seen on google earth.
The train line from Narbonne to Bize Minervois, passing through the station of Sallèles-d'Aude, is 21.5 kilometers and is still used for freight transport (85,000 tonnes transported in 2000). Declared to be of public utility by a law of December 14, 1875, the line was put into operation by the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer du Midi and the Lateral Canal de la Garonne in 1887. In 1879 it was planned to extend the line up to La Bastide-Rouairoux in the Tarn ... but this project never came true. Passenger traffic was abolished in 1939. From 1983 to 2004, a tourist train traveling at 40 km / h, the Minervois Tourist Railway, run by an association, was the link during the summer, taking the bridge Gailhousty (Gustave Eiffel), stopping at Sallèles (Amphoralis) and Bize (Oulibo and "monitored bathing"). Source: http://www.lindependant.fr/2014/12/20/la-mairie-de-salleles-d-aude-veut-relancer-le-train-pour-narbonne,1970559.php
Old tourist train Bize Minervois to Narbonne after retirement.
The tourist train before it was retired, crossing the Canal Du Midi. There is no longer a tourist train.
Picture 2. Cross bridge at the Ecluse de Gailhousty. (google images)
Alternatively, you can also cycle to St Marcel Sur Aude, join the D607 to cross the Aude River, proceed to Moussan, and rejoin Canal de la Robine a bit further downstream.
Another option is to cycle to Cuxac d'Aude, join the D13 to cross the Aude River, and rejoin the Canal de la Robine after that. Attention to high traffic moving at high speeds on the D13!
Follow the Canal de la Robine using the towpath on the right hand side (west bank). Follow this towpath all the way to Narbonne.
Locks on the Canal de la Jonction
Écluse de Cesse, 300 m from Canal Du Midi,
Écluse de Truilhas, 1 KM from Canal Du Midi
Écluse d'Emparé, 1,6 KM from Canal Du Midi
Écluse d'Argeliers, 2,3 KM from Canal Du Midi
Écluse de Saint-Cyr, 3 KM from Canal Du Midi
Écluse de Sallèles-d'Aude, 3 KM from Canal Du Midi
Écluse de Gailhousty, 4,9 KM from Canal Du Midi
Locks on the Canal de la Robine
Écluse de Moussoulens, 5,8 KM from Canal Du Midi
Écluse de Raonel, 9,8 KM from Canal Du Midi
Écluse du Gua, 14,2 KM from Canal Du Midi
Thomas Jefferson travelled the Canal Du Midi in 1787 and wrote this about the Canal de la Jonction: The Canal Du Midi links to the sea "at Narbonne, by a canal they are now opening, which leads from the great canal near the aqueduct of the river Cesse into the Aude. This new canal will have five lock-basins of about twelve pieds fall, each. Then you are to cross the Aude very obliquely, and descend a branch of it six thousand toises, through four lock-basins to Narbonne..."
Next to the Écluse d'Emparé is an ancient Roman site converted into a museum, called Amphoralis. It is located on the east bank of the canal, and one must use the bridge located at the next lock to cross the canal in order to get to the museum. Amphoræ were made here from 100 BC to 300 AD. These were mostly used to transport wine. About 1 hour should be sufficient to visit the entire site. Check opening hours on their website.
If you are in Sallèles-d'Aude you might see a weird tower, about 8 meters high. This tower was used to guide mail planes (aeropostale) from France to Senegal in Africa. They were used between the 1st and 2nd world war. Each tower would function like a light house, sending out a morse code with its light beam. These lights were turned on by a man in the village whenever he got a call from the control center in Perpignan. Airplanes would follow these signals all the way to Africa. Only a handful exist to this day: Baziège, Montferrand, Lézignan, and Sallèles-d'Aude.
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