Sunday, May 27, 2012

WWOOFing : Host 2 - A Little Teaser

Simply sublime...

Cycle Touring Day 57

As with Day 47 when I cycled to WWOOF host one, I only had a short cycle to do today in order to get to WWOOF host two. So, after spending the morning utilising free campsite wifi, once again, to chat with family and friends and get the website up-to-date, I set off.

I had initially planned to cycle some way on the road and some way along the Nantes-Brest Canal which I was still unsure if I could cycle along or not. The canal and towpath ran right along the edge of the campsite and there was even a gate directly onto it. So, rather than even contemplate the road route, I plumped for the, surely, more scenic, canal route.

Not far along it though, the tarmac began to break up and the surface became very jagged and rough. "Hello", I thought to myself "these are perfect puncture conditions are they not?". You already know what's coming, don't you?! Not 30 minutes later, after stopping to take a photo, as I pulled away, the front of the bike felt really unstable and was wobbling like crazy, I glanced down and lo and behold, the tyre was completely flat. That was suspiciously fast.

After examining the front tyre, bit by bit, looking for the entry point I could see nothing so, with front panniers and tyre off in a flash (without the use of tyre levers I hasten to add now that I know the proper tricks of the trade ;) I discovered that it was not in fact a puncture but that the tyre had split ever so slightly at the join of the inner tube rubber itself. A Park Super Patch applied in seconds and with the tyre (again with no levers ;) and wheel back on, I was just about to head off when I heard a voice in French presumably asking if everything was ok. I turned to discover a fully laden cycle tourist! After a moment or two we both realised we spoke English so my puncture mime was put on hold. He asked where I was from, presumably not having noticed my flag and was surprised to learn that my flag was actually English! Guess where he was from? Switzerland!

As it turns out, I may have been a little harsh on the French in my flags post, as this Swiss chap also didn't know the English flag and was only familiar with the Union Jack. So, after another brief explanation, he eventually departed a little wiser but not before we had stood on the towpath and chatted for almost an hour. I thought my tour was already quite impressive, distance wise, but this fella was already 11,000km + into his and was already planning his next jaunt in South America. It made my recently achieved 3,000km seem paltry in comparison! Still, there is a long way to go yet :)

Oh, and just so you are aware, all you fellow stats fanatics, I am not including today's little problem as a "puncture" in the significance count, as it was clearly not a puncture but a manufacturing defect. So technically, I am still punc...actually I am not gonna say it!

A light shower as I left camp and headed out along the canal towpath.

You see what we have to endure to bring you these reports from the road?!

It's agony at times. Sheer agony I tell you.

That tall tree reminds me of Brian May's hair - before it turned white!

Just one of the many beautiful lock-keeper's cottages along the canal.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cycle Touring Day 56

Another great day in the saddle but I pretty much had every kind of weather today - apart from snow!

When I woke it was cloudily and overcast and as I headed into Brest itself if gradually grew darker. Seeing signs for E. Leclerc I began to feel hungry so I followed the first one (up a climb from the coast) only to find that it was an internet shopping collection branch, something akin to Argos! As I headed back towards my route in annoyance I passed an E. Leclerc distribution centre and just as I was was cursing my luck once again, I spied the supermarket version around the next corner. No sooner had I got in the door than the heavens opened. I only realised that it was rain though as all the staff and customers were looking up as the noise of the rain fell on the skylights. It steadily got heavier and heavier and as I sat on a bench just inside the main entrance eating my lunch and pressing my map, one of the loudest thunder storms I had ever heard passed over head. Perfect timing once again.

Once the rain had stopped I pressed on and was immediately able to cut out a 10km detour from my route as I had noticed on my map that a road crossed the river much closer than my sat nav had intended to take me. As we climbed out of Brest and headed south again the clouds gradually dispersed and for the rest of the day I cycled under a mainly clear blue sky.

As I approached onto the Crozon Peninsula I crossed over a wonderful new cable-stayed bridge, the Térenez Bridge spanning the river. I chatted with a chap who was taking photographs of the bridge and we exchanged stories about our cycling and walking adventures both in French and mime once again. Cycling up and away from the bridge, in a mild headwind, I cycled further onto the Crozon Peninsula before turning back and enjoying the tailwind, to head towards Châteaulin where I would be camping. En route back I began to climb steadily and was treated to some wonderful views across the landscape to the the south of the peninsula.

The climb did not feel particularly steep but I could see that we were quite high. I checked my sat nab elevation and was amazed to see we were over 200m above sea-level. We were skirting the Ménez-Hom hills and as I was in no hurry whatsoever to cover the remaining distance to camp, I plodded on slowly enjoying the scenery. The 15km descent into Châteaulin was nothing host of breathtaking. I barely peddled for almost a full hour and the breeze cooled both body and mind after another long day in the saddle.

Only the French, surely, would include such a glorious cycle path in the construction of such an immense bridge!

An arty bit.

The old bridge - now closed.

More arty stuff.

The old and the new, side by side.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cycle Touring Day 55

Another wonderful day's cycling today. Extremely hot though at times, especially on the climbs, and unlike Day 53, I'm not sure I could have carried on for much longer than I did as I was close to being burned alive. If the bar here on camp tonight was open, I could drink it dry. At times I would have given anything for a slight headwind today as the climbs were in dead heat and the short descents in-between were not long enough for any kind of respite. Come the end of the day, the water in my bottles was so warm it was like drinking straight from the hot tap!

I had not intended to cycle quite so far today but a tailwind almost all the way from yesterday's camp at Saint-Pol-de-Léon, enabled me to eat up the km's and I completed 103km in 6 hours dead - over an hour faster than it usually takes to do 100km. As I had no campsite earmarked for tonight I had to cycle another 13km to find one, but once again, it's almost more difficult to find somewhere to wild camp than it is to find a campsite over here, there are so many of them.

Enroute to this site though I took the opportunity to wander around the Abbaye Saint-Mathieu de Fine-Terre at Pointe Saint-Mathieu near Plougonvelin. Reading the information plaques it said that following the French Revolution in 1789, the Abbey was essentially placed in the hands of the general public and for many years it was purely a source of 'nice' stone for the locals. Crazy!

I wonder how long he's been here.

Might need a bit of work to get it up and running again.

And a few drops of chain lube!

Bretagne is littered with megaliths by all account and despite plenty of them being highlighted on my map, this is the first one I have actually seen a sign for...

...and found!

When I got back the boys were taking a nap. It was a jolly hot day!

Had I not just found a campsite moments earlier, I could have slept in there tonight.

I could have woken up to this view too!

I do like perfect sand.

I don't think I will ever master these French campsite toilets. It takes forever to push it all through the grill!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cycle Touring Day 54

A day of rest today and other than a short cycle around the bay and to buy lunch, I spent it at the campsite utilising the free wifi to get the website fully up-to-date and chatting with family and friends.

Reminds me of a song!

My view whilst having lunch in the shade!

A Brief Lesson on Flags

Four people now (three French and one Dutch) have asked me if I am Swiss! As good as the French are at speaking English, they are not too hot on their knowledge of flags apparently. One French chap even lived in the Alps, so surely he must have known what the Swiss flag looks like. But for any Frenchies who might come across this page, here is a little pictorial guide.

English Flag...

Swiss Flag...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cycle Touring Day 53

Whereas both Day 51 and Day 52 sucked bottom big time, today was the most enjoyable day I have spent cycling in my life so far, I think. Everything about it was just right.

I had enough of the right food and drink to keep me going; the sun was back with a vengeance; the headwind had blown itself away; the views were amazing, stunning and breathtaking all the at the same time; and even the numerous steep hills were fun today! Hills that I was climbing, in weeks one and two, in 1st and 2nd gear, are now being climbed in 3rd, 4th and 9th. Have my body and mind finally turned a corner?

Today, as I rode a near perfect coastal route, I cried a combination of tears of pure joy, tears of hayfever, tears of sweat and tears of pain as the sun tan lotion dripped from the top of my bonce, down my forehead and into my eyes stinging them beyond belief!!!

I think today's choice in music had a lot to do with it too. I am a huge fan of Pink Floyd and other than squeezing in "Running Down A Dream" by Tom Petty and subsequently the whole 'Full Moon Fever' album because you have to once you've started it, today was all Pink Floyd. It started and ended with 'Meddle' and in-between I played 'Animals', 'The Wall', 'Wish You Were Here', 'Pulse' (Disc 2) which is essentially 'Dark Side of The Moon' Live with Tracks 9, 10, 11 and 12 ("Brain Damage", "Eclipse", "Wish You Were Here" and "Comfortably Numb" (the greatest version of this song ever I believe)) played on repeat about 10 times at least, 'The Final Cut' and 'The Division Bell". Musical bliss. As I so often do, I ended the day with the 23 minutes and 31 seconds of sheer perfection that is "Echoes". If @PollySamson is reading this, please say thanks to DG for me for his part in my perfect day :)

I've always had lots of energy and stamina for cycling but today it felt quite different to usual. I felt like I could quite literally cycle all night long. I did 125km today and had the light not been running out, I could have and would have pressed on to reach camp even if it was another 50km away at least. I've never experienced a day like it. Hopefully there will be more days like this to come.

Reminds me of a spot on Lago di Garda.

I just love harbours in the late evening sun.

Even motorway architecture looked good today.

As they passed, after a few exchanged greetings, the French, four man crew of this boat sang "God Save The Queen" to me as they sailed off :)

I could have cycled on water today...probably.

As I rounded this corner, I kid you not but DG was singing about ..."staring straight into the shining sun"... as The Division Bell approached its conclusion.

The greatest recording of the greatest guitar solo yet written. IMHO.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cycle Touring Day 52

As with yesterday, I really struggled today. A mild headwind was still present, but nowhere near as strong as yesterday, and the day had started off sunny and bright, but for some reason I could just not get into it today. So much so, that I cut short my intended route by about 20km and made a more direct line for camp.

Even the few pics I took today were crappy. To add insult to injury, at the very end of the day the Sat Nav took me down a coast road which became a dirt track towards camp - the ruddy bugger - which meant I had to climb all the way out again to go around the long way. Today I finally figured out how to avoid "unpaved roads" when creating routes in the 'Garmin BaseCamp' software I use.

I hope tomorrow is better.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cycle Touring Day 51

Once the bike was loaded I set off around 10:30. The rain of the past few days had finally stopped but the morning was cold, grey and damp. My mood was similar to the weather too. And there was a headwind!

The first morning back on the bike after only three days off was agony. I felt like I was treading water for the first couple of hours at least. I hope it's not like this after every WWOOF break! Come 13:00 there was nothing else for it but to dig out the iPod and listen to the entire Bon Scott era AC/DC back catalogue to get the legs turning. It worked for the legs but not really for my mood. But, after an 80km slog, during which I didn't stop to take a single photo my mood was so bad, I eventually reached a nice campsite and after dinner I took a stroll to the beach in the evening sun.

The only company one keeps as a solo cycle tourist.