Thierry Crouzet

Machine translation from French

Against the backdrop of the health crisis, with the certainty of seeing our freedoms restricted the next day, Philippe and I decide on one last getaway. Meet at 7.45 am We pedal to Sète, take the train, which drops us off in Narbonne shortly before 9 am.

The crisis motivates us, it makes us feel the lack of freedom, by reaction pushes us to seize the slightest existential opportunity. In the late 1970s, after leaving the USSR for Europe, Andrei Tarkovsky was surprised: Europeans, although free, did not use their freedom. Deprivation is a driving force. We shouldn't need it to express ourselves, but sometimes it wakes us up, like an illness that keeps us locked in before teleporting us to a new spring. So our bicycle, more than a means of transportation, participates in our liberation and becomes an instrument of creation.

It must have been very blue, but the sky is overcast when we leave the station. A few zigzags between the houses and we find ourselves in the cathedral square, an imposing building with a Tuscan facade, yellow under the gray light, an architectural jewel which organizes the city around it, perhaps for the people of Narbonne say to themselves "Me also I can create such beautiful things ", and that visitors like us receive the same injunction:" You are free to compete with me, you even have the duty to do so, it is the counterpart of your freedom, the responsibility with regard to others because you are free only by their goodwill. "

The cobblestones slide under our studded tires. We join the Canal de la Robine , which crosses the city, establishing a connection between the Aude, the Canal du Midi and the Mediterranean. I knew him under a blazing sun. Today the drizzle stipples its course a muddy green. We stop under a bridge to put on our raincoats, but already the rains stop. The towpath lined with plane trees ejects us from the city. Rather than following him towards the ponds and moving further away from home, we veered across the field towards a departmental road which sends us straight to the Clape massif .

La Robine
La Robine
La Clape
La Clape

I've never cycled through these hills, only seeing them from a distance from the highway to Spain. When I prepared our route, I discovered that they were riddled with paths, just like my massif familiar from Gardiole, whose geology and alignment with the Pyrenees they share. We can see them stand out on the western horizon, as we begin the climb on a narrow paved road with passages over 10%.

Soon we slip between the pine forests and the vines, playing from single to single. When I study the maps, I often discover sectors that are strongly favorable to cycling and others that are incompatible although not very urbanized, either because of the intensive agriculture which has raked the territory, or because of a lack of enough walkers and for cyclists, the old paths have closed, like a vascular system that has become sclerotic, retaining only its main arteries. One only needs to stop to cause an embolism. These poorly irrigated areas distress me. I never feel good about it, as if the space around me is suffocating.

Do they come to this critical state for lack of curious cyclists to support them or by their nature repel cyclists? On my bikepacking trips, I always cut these bloodless areas, suffering from a deficit of paths. When, like today, I pedal in their opposite, I rejoice, with a desire to explore all the possibilities that I have to give up, because our goal is to get home before dark.

La mer
The sea

La Clape connects cliffs, bathed by the Mediterranean a thousand years ago, and groves of Aleppo pines, which deposit their needles on the ground to make it soft. Once at the top, I don't see the sea, so much does it merge with the sky, then a ray of sun reveals it. We descend on the southern slope through a pure paradise for our wheels. The shock is violent when we enter Narbonne Plage. Informal urbanization. Stacks of ugliness to the seaside, the beach contained by a tasteless pinkish wall. The view is sumptuous towards the Pyrenees and one can only think how sublime this coast must have been fifty years earlier.


We walk along the beach without pleasure, a decrepit cinema setting, half silted up, which foreshadows the end of time. Saint-Pierre la Mer offers nothing better, and even its port which could have been picturesque does not stop us. We go around the Pissevaches pond on a charming road, before plunging back into the sea and finally finding a little serenity on the marsh paths.

A trace is rarely perfect from the first draft. You have to relive it several times, refine it, before you can offer it as a finished work. In the future, I will cross the Clape from west to east before reaching the sea at the level of the Pissevaches marshes.

Embouchure de l'Aude
Mouth of the Aude

We cross the Aude and then connect to the trail of the Grand Tour of the Hérault , an opportunity for me to recognize this sector a second time. We push to the mouth of the Aude, without much charm, toil in the foothills of the coastal dune, then plunge towards the land, to join the path which runs along the Vendres pond, invisible pond because of the reed beds .

Every now and then a drop falls, then the sun comes back. We find a brief asphalt sector before crossing a wood cluttered with rubbish, I'm ashamed, I don't understand the people who unload their rubbish there when a little further there is a free recycling center. We are sullen when we enter Sérignan, break through a depersonalized suburban area, only smiling again in the city center, where it is market day. It is noon, we sit on the terrace of a very good bakery for lunch.

La Grande Maïre
The Great Maïre

The trail is now familiar to me. Through the vineyards, we reach the Grande Maïre, the old Orb delta. The lagoon environment is splendid, the track perfect, it takes us from detour to detour to the Canal du Midi, in one of the sectors still planted with plane trees. As always, we stop at the Libron locks, a rather extraordinary river structure, since it allows two waterways to cross.

When we arrive in Agde, the sky clears up and the sun hits generously. We are on our land. We reach the Etang de Thau, we stop to eat pancakes in Marseillan, then return home without hurrying, with an essential and unavoidable stop in Bellevue which we never tire of.

Fin du canal du Midi
End of the Canal du Midi
Sète depuis Marseillan
Sète from Marseillan
Nice view
Over there

Once home, night falls on the pond. Full west, I can see the mountain of Agde, guess the Pyrenees. I come from there. I'm proud of it. I experienced positive and negative emotions, shared with Philippe. Nothing complicated, neither expensive, nor too expensive for the environment, a simple walk that once again turned into a trip, with enough memories to make me want to tell it, to give back other desires, so that this one day mini adventure game becomes a ritual that should never be neglected for long.