From 29th May 5th June – 1077 kms behind me.
It’s Monday and it is a day of rest for me. It is needed as I am feeling all out of sorts and very tired. I couldn’t have found a more peaceful place to rest, on a back to basics organic farm.
By last Wednesday Kath and I were getting a bit desperate for something to happen. We phoned the insurance people only to discover the claim had be halted because they wanted proof of our intention to come home, we didn’t have a return ticket, hence the delay. They had forgotten to let us know. We heard later that Kath had been offered a seat on a flight at 5.30 Thursday evening. I am to get onto the saddle again after breakfast.
That evening we were invited to Cecile’s birthday meal, where we eat pizza, pasta salad and drunk far too much (well I did). So it was with a bit of a sore head that we packed up to go our separate ways. I eventually left at about 10.30, heading south to Rochechouart, heading for the Dordogne region.
Kath texted to tell me she had seen two red squirrels playing by the side of a swimming pool! She knows I have never seen a wild red squirrel. I just hope they were wearing the correct swimwear, trunks and not shorts as the signs loudly instruct – a bit of an obsession by the French authorities so it would seem. I may win some points back later.
The ride went well and I was in good spirits when I arrived, I even didn’t mind a 3 km detour up a steep hill and back after going the wrong way up the D10. That positivity only lasted until I tried to set up camp on my own.
Kath got back home by 10, saying it was a stressful but successful journey. It has been a very emotional time for us both.
The lonesome blues: Let me assure you a being on your own is hard and I have every sympathy for those who are alone. I know because I have been alone for four days. It is harder to get things done and work things out when you have no companion. My first night camping alone was a trial to say the least. First a tent pole broke. Not the first time that has happened, but with Kath around fixing it was a doddle, other things got done and I was told how clever I was. On this occasion everything had to wait for the repair to be done; twice because I cut corners and didn’t put the repaired piece at the other end of the pole where the curvature and therefore the tension is less.
Now I know that one should check pockets before putting the washing in the washing machine, but there was no one there to remind me. What a mess, tissue everywhere. I carefully removed my clothes and shook them outside, leaving the steps covered. Next, a search for a dustpan and brush to sweep up and 10 minutes to scrape tissue deposits from the drum.
Clothes eventually get to the drier and in goes the token and all of a sudden nothing happened. I pulled, pushed and twisted what I could to no effect. Had my darling been there she would have suggested removing the big pile of clothes left on top of the drier, revealing the switch and saving me being shown by the camp attendant.
And then there is coping with that wretched cuckoo, he has followed us since St Malo, and he is beginning to bug me. Every day he is somewhere about. I missed him at the dawn chorus at Brantome, after being woken up by a terrific thunderstorm that shook the tent so hard I thought the poles would break! But after being absolutely drenched later, he was the first bird I heard, mocking me, calling me the cuckoo for cycling in the rain. He is still here, waiting, watching.
Rochechouart to Brantome, bigger roads today with lorries thundering by. Not such fun this stage. I did enter the Dordogne and the National park though, and that felt significant.
There is less of a verge now as the roads run between acre after acre of grassy meadows with islands of little woodlands breaking them up. Full of crickets and butterflies and lots of colourful flowers, including my favourite, the wild orchids. For company there were flocks of goldfinch, with their peculiar call when in flight. Cheeky chappies they are, they know perfectly well how fine they look in their red and gold attire.
And then a double stage, 110 kms. Forecast is for sun and showers. I spoke with Annie the previous evening while I supped on a cold Stella. She advised I stay in my tent till the sun came back. How right she was.
Day started wet but not too wet. Made a coffee on the trangia (I am getting very fond of my little stove) to go with a croissant from the first patisserie I come to, and still got away by 8. The morning cleared up and I was mindful of a conversation I had some years ago with a County Councillor, a keen cyclist and photographer, who went on to be arrested taking pictures up women’s skirts in London parks. He told me that even on wet days it rarely rains the whole time. By the afternoon it was clear his judgment was impaired in at least two important ways, it poured down. The roads filled with water and I got soaked. The meadows switched off, the flowers closed down, the crickets stopped their chiruping the birds took refuge in the trees and the grasses bowed down. I was left on my own for two hours with just the occasional ring of the bike bell as large drops of water from my helmet landed on it. It did eventually brighten a bit, by then I had decided to pay for a pre-erected and pre-equipped tent for the night and slept in a bed.
Another double stager brings me to Gramat and this back to basics organic farm, with rustic amenities and a bucket to poo in and cover in sawdust. Camping in a meadow with the flies. Perfect. Having done some whopping hills and seen some spectacular views I need to rest.
Pas d’urine: things are happening to me, I no longer need to stop to pee even after drinking copious amounts of coffee and water before and during each ride, what does this mean? Is this something I need to be concerned about? If there is anyone out there with access to a hospital library who can help me please get in touch. If the advice is good enough I could send you a picture of my rash, although it is probably best to do that personally rather than it going viral on the Web!
Polecat and weird beard: I saw a polecat (at least I think it was) wandering around the campsite at Les Eyzies de Tayac early as I cycled away, he was on his way to the mini zoo with rabbits and things, I may have avoided carnage. It was there as plain as the nose on your face but scarpered when it saw me. I wondered if it was the white growth of beard that I am sporting that scared him. It certainly seems to have scared the young girl I asked if I could camp for the night, she darted into the room at the back and moments later her mother appeared. She assured me it was my Englishness that spooked her not the beard. I am not so sure.
I spoke to a man and his female companion yesterday. We were talking trailers. His was being pulled by a 1965 trike with a 350cc engine and had been all over Spain in it. He said it was made in the Czech Republic. He told me about another he has at home built in Preston by a Company called Bond. The man had a beard and showed no signs of anxiety at mine. He also wore a respectable length of shorts – unlike me!
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