Day 18 – Four days to Chamonix!
Hello from France,
We are now in day 18 of Peak to Peak 2014 and have travelled over 1500km all the way from the summit of Ben Nevis completely(apart from that small part of the french shipping channel) under our own steam.
After 17 days non-stop with no rest days, I am very happy we are both strong and fit as fiddles and heading hard for Chamonix and Mt Blanc.
We hope to reach Chamonix in four days time, it is 400km more from this point, but has some large hills as we cross the alps into Switzerland so we are expecting some slow and harder riding.
A recap of the last four days:
Day 14 saw us wake after our first night sleep in France. Well my first nights sleep. Alan drunk Lucozade before he went to bed and was bouncing off the walls all night never sleeping a wink. He woke me at 4am to enquire how my sleep was. When I finally rose, it was to a crappy wet day, and put me in an immediate bad mood. In fact it was the hardest day of the whole trip for me as mentally the realisation of the next 800 – 900km more of cycling sunk in, and in the bloody rain. I was determined to pump out at least 100km though to keep things moving, but all day we battled hill after hill on rough roads with headwinds and Alan called it a day at 80km in the small town of Abbyville. Alan was tired from the paddle the day before and the lack of decent distance did not make me much happier that evening so I was pumped to make up for it the next day.
Day 15 after a good sleep and breakfast saw us back in the saddles and heading south. And today an amazing thing happened, the sun came out! We hadn’t seen the sun for five days and I can tell you that cycling for hour after hourin the rain is a demoralising experience. What a difference the sun made though as we blasted along, stopping in the city of Amiens for a look and then in a small village for lunch. Dealing with the French involves me trying to communicate with my very limited grammar recalled from two years studying French in high school 27 years ago (why did’nt I pay more attention?). Somehow Alan has decided I am the official translator for the trip and I generally make up huge amounts of lies when I ‘translate’ to him what the French are saying. I order food by closing my eyes and pointing anywhere on the menu my finger lands. It’s worked ok so far and we had fish casserole with pasta for lunch even though I thought I ordered a sandwich and a coke. We knocked out a whopping 146km all the way to Senlis on day 15 and had our first experience riding over cobbled streets which almost shook my teeth out. (Before you Lycra wearing, thin tyred road cyclists start smirking at 146km not being very far, do remember we are riding mountain bikes carrying all our gear in pannier bags and ruck sacks including full camping kit). We celebrated that night with a glass of beer and I washed my socks.
Day 16 saw us a wee bit stiff from the previous day and we cruised slowly south in more sunshine arriving after 105km at a small town called Provins. I had tried to book a cheap hotel in Provins but everything was booked out. I did not know why. We decided to just turn up and find accomodation. The first hotel we tried was full so we popped over to the tourist info centre and I asked there (fortunately they spoke english otherwise I would probably have got another plate of fish casserole with pasta). They informed me that this weekend was harvest festival celebration, that’s why everything was sold out.
There were only about two hotel rooms left in the whole city. I called and enquired at the cost and was asked first ‘what country do you come from?’. The hotelier then proceeded to tell me over the phone how the room was decorated and how much I would love it, before informing me it would cost hundreds of euro for the night. At which point I told him in no uncertain terms “look mate, I am from nz, we fought for your freedom in two world wars so if it wasn’t for us you could be speaking bloody German, now give me the normal price you charge French people – not some overinflated tourist price”.
I just made that last part up actually. I am not that brave, or that rude. But I felt like saying it. After declining his offer, Alan and I gave our best “lost puppy, tail between the legs, tired, lost cyclists in a strange land look” and a chap named Max took pity and offered us his garden to camp in for the evening. Max turned out to be a champ, his brother had worked as a fly fishing guide in NZ, and we spent all evening in the village square drinking the weakest beer ever invented and watching parades of tractors and dancing bands and drinking more weak beer until I realised there was no hope of ever getting drunk on beer this weak, and gave up and went to sleep in the tent in Max’s garden. Only to be woken at 1am by Max’s friends coming home for an after festival party. They were very well behaved though and I finally drifted off only to be woken at 6am by Max’s bloody rooster. According to Max it is an english rooster because it likes to talk alot. I think he meant crow alot. It did crow alot. Max told us he was planning to murder it next week as it talked too much. I wish he would have murdered it earlier so I could have slept more. What a wonderful time it was though to be welcomed by local people and spend time with Max and his brother, mother and father and friends. Truly the times when travelling which are the richest experiences when you are invited in by local people and get a glimpse of their world.
Day 17 – after bidding goodbye to Max we cycled to a Boulangerie and I tried to order a croissant and a coffee. Owing to my lack of language I ended up with a ham sandwhich instead which I was still happy with, and I ended up having two. We set-off at 9am on an overcast dan and I felt stronger than I had the entire trip. We also had lovely flat roads all day, and a tail wind so we whipped along, stopping for lunch in Troyes (I had an ice cream, vanilla ice cream translates in french to ‘vanilla ice cream’ so it’s easy to order). We reached our destination after 110km – a small village called Bar-Sur-Mer and I celebrated by washing my socks and cycling pants and having a shower.
Day 18 – today we head for the city of Dijon, a further 120km, leaving three days of climbing up over the alps and into Chamonix.
More Photo’s to come later!