Busy road for 5km. Traffic free canal tow path for 19km. Cycle track. Busy town centre.
No train this morning but it's going to be a longer walk, perhaps the record so far, so an early start was needed. At 06:40 Neil set out in the dark. The route retraced about 200 metres of yesterday's arrival. Still half asleep, Neil followed the pre-prepared GPS path and set off for Agde. He spotted the error before too long and regained the correct path after a few more hundred metres.
As the walk was following the CR1 cycle route, Neil was confident that the main road out of town would have a cycle path as many main roads do in France. No such luck. It was a battle with the rush hour traffic in the dark. Not such a good idea. The worst bit was a flyover junction with absolutely no provision for pedestrians or cyclists. This all lasted about 5 km and there was no other route out of town. That was problem number two.
The reward was about 16km of traffic free canal tow path. The Canal Du Rhône À Sète crosses wetlands and is verging on bleak. The flamingos disagreed and allowed Neil to get close enough to get a passable photograph with a pretty basic digital camera. On the surface there was not much to see but quite a lot of fishing activity was going on with mussel beds and what looked like nets. It was not obvious if this was for farmed fish or to catch passing victims. The scale was so large, it was hard to get a clear view. A snorkeler in wetsuit was harvesting mussels from the canal walls. His boat had two huge bins already full and it was not yet mid-day. The tow path was muddy for a stretch because of dredging works.
The planned walk went wrong for the third time when the expected bridge turned out to be for cyclists and pedestrians, June to August only. It was a set of pontoons linked together to make a hinged bridge. It was set to allow canal traffic. By floating the pontoons through 90 degrees, the bridge could carry light traffic. The maps and satnav and Google Earth all fail to mention this.
Another bridge about 3.5km further on was the only option followed by another main road. The CR1 cycle route continued along the canal tow path. Dread turned to joy when the cycle path came into view heading for Montpellier. This led most of the way and before some worrying motorway junctions, a small lane led off to the left. The expected dead end turned out to be a footbridge across the A9 autoroute. More luck. In Montpellier itself, there were more than the usual traffic problems and road works. New tramways and metro lines were being built. This will be wonderful when it's finished.
The train back to Sète was packed. More luck. Neil got a much needed seat after 35.6 km. This was 1.2 km longer than the previous record from Santa Maria to Chiclana in Spain in March 2005 but a lot less difficult. The trip in Spain needed four buses and a walk between home and the nearest bus stop. We got home well after bed time. Today Neil had time to buy something for supper and write this up before 19:30.
There is another footpath between Plavas les Flots and Montpellier. The details are at Wikiloc. This is likely a nicer route than the one Neil took. Unfortunately he did not know about it on the day.