Right here we go again. I just typed out my whole blog post and was about to click publish when my one hour of internet at the library expired and I lost everything. Luckily the woman working saw me and let me have another hour of internet. I would still rather be sitting out in the sun in the 23 degree heat than writing this out again!
So I have a lot to catch up on. I left you in a forest in france still on the eurovelo 6 route. I followed that route to Besancon where I was hosted by my first couchsurfer the lovely Marie, a primary school teacher (and headmistress, their system is different). We went for a nice drink with her friends and then I was treated to a traditional meal from the region of ‘liquid cheese’ and smoked sausage. I had to rise early to a foggy morning as she had work the next day but that put me in good stead for a fine day’s cycling. I did my first (imperial) centurion along the banks of the Doub and various canals heading towards Basel. The scenery was really nice and the fog cleared to a gorgeous day of sun.
I got to Basel the following day and was hosted by Iona the half English half Nigerian girl working for a pharmacutical company. She showed me round, cooked me dinner and we went to a very ‘hip’ bar. Very nice indeed. I spent the following dqay relaxing by the side of the Rhine in the sun, watching the swimmers go past and the filthy rich hobnobbing. I was sitting under a tree reading when Ziggy (yes, he did play guitar, and churango, violin and penny whistle) stopped and asked where I was heading on my bike. As we were both heading to Italy we decided to join forces and go together the next day. I spent the night at Didii, another couchsurfing host’s and her friends house drinking a heady fruit cocktail and having fun.
Ziggy had already arranged a host, a friend of a friend’s place only 30km or so away from Basel so we spent a lesiurely day riding there and getting to know each other while he nursed an illness from something he ate the night before. We were welcomed by Susanna and Theo into their lovely very artistic home covered in there family’s works of art or instruments. We had a nice meal, good sleep and a very hearty breakfast to set us up for the morning of climbing a 1000m pass. The weather was thankfully good and we had nice views of the valley and lush hills. I felt good on the climb and it filled me with confidence for what lay ahead.
We took 2 days to reach Lucern where we had a very fun night at another couchsurfing host’s place. We stayed with Fabio and Julianna and were treated again to good foo, drink and conversation. Every couchsrufing expereince so far has been great for me, really welcoming and good fun. Some people are skeptical when they hear about couchsurfing but it really does work, people are nice!
Well after a late night Ziggy and I set off towards the St Gotthard pass. Unfortunatly our paces were too mismatched, so after a final lunch together overlooking an alpine lake I decided to tackle the pass by myself. Having to wait, especially at the top of climbs was spoiling the cycling for me, so it was for the best. Plus the weather forecast was also only good for the Friday with Saturday and Sunday looking cloudy and grey. So I ‘put the hammer down’ on Thursday afternoon and managed to get to Wassen by nightfall where I cooked a hearty curry and washed them down with a couple of Weiss beers ready for what lay ahead the next day.
And what a day it was! It started misty and cool as I began to ride up the continual uphill road. As the day progressed the mist cleared showing the steep green slopes surrounding me which got more and more rugged and gnarled as the day went on. I continued slogging all morning, varying between spinning in my lowest gear or going up a few and standing on the pedals in a higher gear. I did curse buying 2 kilos of rice as it was the same price as 1 but couldn’t bring myself to shed any weight and loose food. In fact that probably made it all the more satisfying reaching the summit of 2106m with all my gear while lycra clad roadies did it only with their carbon fibre steeds.
I treated myself to a beer at the top, ate some biscuits but didn’t stop too long. I was too excited for the miles of cobbled road and switchback turns that lay ahead. As much as I enjoyed the uphill with it’s great scenery, it was nothing compared to the fast descent on quiet roads.
I spent another day getting to the border of Italy and camped near Como. I had an uneventfull rest day near a lake and then a quieter day heading to Bergamo that was punctuated by a massive storm. I had followed a busy road from Como all day when it had turned into a motorway, so I came off, ate some cheese and then the storm began. Luckily there was a noisy bridge to take refuge under so I put in my ear plugs, brewed a coffee and waited untill it passed.
The rest of Italy has been pretty uneventful. Yesterday I met a 30 something German guy called Uri and spent a relaxing afternoon cruising ot Ostiglia where we stayed at an Agricamping. Basically a guy’s house with a big garden where we could put up our tents and have a shower. My first hot shower and clothes wash in a week, it was definately neccessary! So I feel clean and refreshed today and ready to carry on my trip, A few more dqays in Italy, might pop in to Venice if I feel inclined and then Slovenia, back into Italy, Slovenia and then Croatia.
I will try and get some photos up now if I have time. EDIT – The computer won’t let me so you wil have to wait.
Right I have just had a bit of excitement. I stopped for the night in a forest just outside of Demigny. My outer tent was up, the inner was drying as were my clothes. I just sat down to catch up on writing my diary when a crack of thunder sounded pretty close. Definately time to put the tarp up. As I almost had it up the rain started, gently at first but increasing to a pour and me scuttling around tying out the sides, getting my clothes in and getting my panniers in. However I have just eaten a whole baguette with chorizo, camembert, tomato and onion from my little nest and am just about to crck open a (slightly warm) beer so I am pretty content.
So I left you at the holiday home with my family, needless to say that was a nice week of relaxation and fine dining; leaving there on Saturday morning felt like the true begining of my trip. I followed the EuroVelo 6 along the banks of the Loire all day in blazing heat on smooth tarmac, a bit nicer than when I set off. I camped by the river just outside Nevers after pushing my ladden bike across a good distance of sand, worth it for the spot though. Monday I reached Nevers and headed off attempting to follow the EV route which I found out is signposted very well in the Loire but not other regions in France. I ended up on a fun, slightly scary dirt track which turned sandy, resulting in me pushing my bike again. However I came across some friendly middle aged french distance runners who pointed me in the right direction. I spent the rest of the day using my road map and coincidentally came back en route before camping in a field near Bourbon Lancy.
Yesterday I carried on with the EV, following the canal that runs parrallel to the Loire most of the day. I had a frustrating moment as I stopped for something to eat in Paray le Monial; one of my posh sandals had fallen out my pannier. ‘It must have been when I clipped the annoying barriers you have to zig zag through.’ I thought. ‘I did that a few times probably up to 30km ago! Do I go back and look? What if I don’t find it? It would so frustrating throwing away the other shoe!’ Anyway all was good, I went back to the impressive canal bridge and asked a friendly looking couple of cyclists. The woman excitedly told me it was just back a little way, so happily I retrieved it and went about my day with a smile.
I was making good time, I have a Couchsurfing host in Besancon (Don’t ask me how to do the accent on the C) on Thursday so I decided to stop at a campsite to have a shower and wash my clothes. I didn’t know it was an expensive one at €13.30 but boy was that shower nice. On the pitch next to me a fellow cyclotourist rolled in; Weinhart, (sorry if that is spelt wrong) he was spending his 2 weeks holidays doing the EV from the West coast of France heading to Basel where I am going. So we chatted and this morning we cycled together until lunch and then went our seperate ways; he stays at campsites every night unlike my roughing it ways. And that is me pretty much up to date. I will leave you with the image of me sitting under my tarp, a buff and a lamp on my head my shirt buttoned up all the way and trousers tucked into my socks swatting the big fat mosquitos in this forest.
ps. sorry if there are spelling mistakes, the little kindle i use can’t keep up with my thumbs so misses letters or spaces sometime. I can’t blame them all on it though, spell check has made me lazy. Photos to come when I get to a computer next.
Well, my first few days of cycling are over. I am writing this from a sofa in a holiday home overlooking the Loire river, I shouldn’t get used to this!
Before my trip began I had a good old shin dig at my house to say goodbye to everybody. Thanks to my parents for all the lovely grub and organisation, the cake was a spitting image of my bike too, well done Mum. Thanks to everyone that came, it was a great night. However due to it being such a good party it meant that when I left on Monday morning I felt truly awful, still hanging and very run down. Not exactly how I had planned to be starting my voyage but there you have it.
I rose early Monday morning said goodbye to my parents and had the obligatory photo in front of the house. I rode the few miles up to Cheriton where I would be picked up and taken through the Channel Tunnel by a chap called Norman and his wife (This is a service provided by Euro Tunnel not a strange arrangement). While I was waiting to be picked up I was going to smoke my last cigarette, unfortunately I felt so bad I could only manage 2 puffs and had to dismiss it as a bad idea. Probably a good way to give up in actual fact, but it didn’t feel that way at the time.
Anyway, I reached France in one piece and began to cycle; up and down hills with my bike weighing a tonne and a stiff headwind whilst feeling under the weather, lovely. I struggled on, fuelled by as much baguette and Camembert as I could force down but by about 3 I had to submit and have a nap by the side of the road. I was awoken not long later by a Frenchman enquiring if I was OK. I was, and carried on with the task at hand; getting down to Ousson-sur-Loire for my family holiday which started Saturday, something which felt like it loomed over me and put a lot of pressure on me. I managed 70km that day and camped on a municipal football pitch near Montreuil.
Tuesday was much of the same, I hadn’t slept well, I woke up feeling pretty ill, the cycling was challenging due to hills and headwind but it was drizzling a bit as well. Again not the nicest start to my trip but I struggled on heading south. I managed 120km and camped in a forest near a road. From Wednesday things got a lot better, the hills began to flatten out and the wind died down a bit. The scenery was all pretty similar, fields of wheat that had just been harvested, wind turbines, radio masts (always a welcome when you are close to them as you know you are at one of the highest points in the area), tractors and the occasional forest.
I have not yet paid for a campsite but have found a few nice spots. A couple of football pitches which have been nice; a couple of bits of forest but one of my most audacious was probably Thursday night. I had had a nice day’s cycling, hilly to begin with but the afternoon was spent tacking with the wind, as the road meandered I would either be helped or hindered by the wind which made for interesting riding. As I had done around 100km I decided that I should stock up on water and find a camp site as there was a storm approaching. As I approached a little French village I found one of my usual watering holes, a cemetery. Well this was an especially nice one, nice and green and not yet crowded with graves and it had a nice awning area with a bench to take shelter from the rain, perfect flat ground too for my tent. Now I did wonder how offensive somebody might find this if they were to come in, personally it didn’t bother me at all, but I thought the chances of someone coming in were pretty slim so I risked it. I made my wash in the morning very swift too, someone turning up when I was in the nip wouldn’t have been good.
The Friday after my night with the stiffs was pretty uneventful cycling wise, the wind had shifted in my favour and I was on cruise control. I reached Chateauxneuf-sur-Loire early in the afternoon and had my first beer for 5 days so that I could charge my Kindle and send an email to Mum. I got chatting with a few locals and impressed them with the scale of my trip, I made an exit when the nutty old lady drinking Pernod sat a little bit too close and kept hinting at me buying her a drink.
From Chateauxneuf I followed the EuroVelo 6 cycle route along the banks of the Loire; this route goes all the way from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, it is well signposted and follows either quite roads or separate cycle paths, it made a nice change to the usual scenery and not having to stop and look at the map regularly. I arrived to the holiday home by the banks of the river early and made myself comfortable, had a beer, took a dip and awaited my parent’s arrival.
So for the rest of the week I will be chilling out, stocking up my fat reserves and enjoying some nice alcohol with my family. The first week didn’t really seem like the start of my trip to be honest more of a warm up of what is to come. I need to make a few decisions now though, follow the EuroVelo route, which looks lovely and scenic means I would meet more cyclists and not worry about busy roads. However that avoids the alps and takes some of the sense of adventure away from carrying along on my planned route. Decisions, decisions.
I am still free of nicotine, the first week has been fine, it is worse now that I am sitting around with nice food and wine and not cycling a lot. But, I am feeling good about it and I am definitely coughing less. I am yet to hang out with smokers though, that will be the real test. I might treat myself to a cigar at the end of the week to celebrate but we will see.
Here are a few photos from the party/first week of my trip.