Left at 0930 this morning. Hot in the sun, cool in the shade. It was to be the start of another hot day. So, on went the coconut suntan oil. Pooh! “Elephants love it!” as Penny had said. We rode to the town centre and bought two apple pastries after eating nectarines and bananas and tea for breakfast. Then off onto some smooth, flat and quiet roads to Durtal and Baugé.
Stopped in Durtal for some lunch. Went to market and bought some goats cheese, bread, tomatoes, nectarines and bananas. Old town with chateau in the centre. Some men on a knife stall commented that “Vous etes tres courageux!” But one commented that he would prefer to stay here and buy some cold beers. But that we must send him a post card when we got there.
We left and, as usual, stopped a few kms out of town for lunch up a side road in the shade. I had a quick kip while Dan wrote addresses into his address book. Stopped at 1pm and left just after 3. Still hot and carried on past Baugé. Roads are long, straight and tedious after lunch. This morning the roads interesting and rural.
From Baugé, we rode along a busy road to Saumur via Longue where we bought supper. Had a pint of full cream milk again. Feeling hot and headachy at this stage. Shot off to Saumur along a very fast road. Skipping along, cruising at about 22kmh easily. Came into a campsite on an island which was packed with Dutch cyclists on some sort of package tour.
Put tent up next to a French couple who were very nice. They were on a motorcycle tour (BMW) and touring for a month. He showed a few places to go in Saumur such as the caves. We offered them some tea. He said he’d try some in the morning. We shall see! Had supper of tinned mackerel, tinned plum tomatoes, rice, melon, vanilla and chocolate mousse and tea.
I’m enjoying myself more and more each day. But I think about Penny a lot. God, I miss her. I hope I see her in Algeciras. 18 months seems an enormous amount of time [to be away from Penny] but I am sure it will pass quickly. I hope Penny will wait. .
Distance 83.16kms Average Speed 9.6kmh Time 8hrs 38mins
Slept well until 7am when radio woke me up. Dozed for an hour. Feeling stiff in the legs. Got up, made some tea and looked at bikes. Dan adjusted the bikes. A few squeaks and noises were ironed out. Packed up. Left at 1130am.
Weather warm. Cloudless sky. Very bright. Wore sun hat for first time (but still face burnt). Cycled into Mayenne (twinned with Devizes!) Downhill into the town. Pretty down on river. Bought two ‘pain raisin’ and bread. No supermarkets but were told of a market up the road. Bought some caramelised praline off a stall. Cost 30Fr. Think we were ripped off. Bought nectarines, bananas and salami. Went to another stall for cucumber but got talking to the man on the stall (who spoke English) about the Sahara and Niger. Bought green pepper, tomatoes and he gave us some free strawberries all for 5Fr. Chuffed.
Left town and stopped for lunch 5kms out. Bliss sitting by the side of a lane eating lunch in the shade. Very hot in sun. Slept for a bit. Noticed ants the size of a finger nail! Left at 3pm-ish towards Sablé, 50km away. Countryside and atmosphere more typically French. Very rural areas. Still lots of attention from passers-by. Drinking 3 or 4 water bottles per day - peeing very little. Knee hurting.
Stopped in Viages to buy some supper. Funny looks off the locals. Drank a pint of fresh milk each. Yum. Headed on for last 50km to Sablé. Firemen putting out stubble fires. Dan’s knee was hurting for a while. We had been pushing out the kilometres today. Must not overdo it. At last, came into Sablé in Hippodrome camp site. Very smart. Had an ice lolly. Routinely put up tent and got cooking. Had delicious supper of pasta tubes, tinned salmon and mushrooms a la grecque. and herbes provencale. Pudding of gateau au semoule. Tea. Enjoying it more now. Feeling less homesick if at all but missing Penny like mad.
Just heard on BBC World Service that Gorbachev has been overthrown by Boris Yeltsin. Hope this is not going to affect the trip!
DST 78.8kms AVS 8.1kmh Total distance 361kms Time today 7hrs 44mins
Woke up at 0830am feeling as though we needed another two hours of sleep. Clambered out of tent past all bar bags and front panniers (It’s too cramped with those inside so we’re going to keep them in the ‘bell’ of the tent). Felt a bit stiff and groggy. Heavy dew on everything after a cool, clear night. Tried to dry a few things off but not enough time. Paid about 30Fr for the campsite. Took us a while to get packed up and on our way. Left at 1010am.
Went straight to boulangerie, after dropping off our rubbish and bought some bread for lunch and two pain au chocolat for breakfast. Bright, warm day leaving Gavray. Climbed up out of town for about 5kms. Taking it nice and easy in the mornings. Went through Villedieu les Poeles. Church bells ringing. One or two Brits but less frequent. Lots of interest and attention from passers-by in bikes. Carry on through town dodging traffic on way out. Next stop, Mortain. Lots of 5km to 6km climbs. Hot and sweaty. Knee hurting so put support on it.
Stopped for lunch in side road at 1pm. Pate, bread, creme fraiche, biscuits, bananas, orange and pistachios. Eating a lot but need it as we feel very tired after the morning ride. Wheeled bikes into a field and lay on roll mats in share for siesta. Slept for 1hr. Dribbling all over mat so must have been out! Carried on feeling dazed and lethargic. Went up long climb past an amusement park. Old man and woman shouting “C’est dur, eh?”, and “Bon courage!” We find lots of people say that.
Came down long hill into Mortain . Lovely cruise past abbey. Stopped to put on suntan oil as we are burning a bit. Countryside become more interesting and flattening out. Good cycling. Decided to stop in Garron but no campsites so asked and was told ‘14km away in Ambriere’. I was quite tired by now. Carried on flat, smooth road. Stopped to have a biscuit. Got into Ambriere and went to campsite on way to Mayenne but was full. Now in Ambriere municipal campsite by La Varenne. 24Fr for night. Fish jumping, lots of boatmen. Tent up and sleeping bags in . Cooked supper of rice, tuna and tomato sauce. Lapsang souchong tea - delicious. No milk or sugar. Had tinned chocolate cake and an orange too. Realising difference between holidaying and travelling in amazing. Budgeting targets, targets and cooking for ourselves. Feeling free and quite happy. Feeling less homesick but think about Penny a great deal . I miss her. Quite tired.
Distance 103km Average speed 10.2kmh Time 10.05hrs
Showered on ship after an expensive meal. Ripped off (In my experience of travelling, it’s always within the first 24 hours of a journey or being in a new country that you get ripped off!). We slept on the floor of the ferry on our roll mats because we had not booked a cabin or a seat. Woke up to herds of people walking past to get to cars. Hot and sticky in ship. Little sleep. Felt awful, tired and homesick. Pretty miserable altogether, thinking about yesterday.
Must press on and get into the journey. Spoke to some bikers and other Brits before getting off the ship. Dark in Cherbourg. Got some money from cash machine. Cherbourg was very empty and quiet at 6am. Depressing so we did not hang around long. Cycled to Briquebec arriving 9am. Weather miserable, cloudy, dull. Bought two ‘pain chocolat’. Had an expensive, ‘tourist price’ coffee. Buying food for now and tomorrow.
Carried on to St Sauveur to join main road to Coutances. Long straight roads. Stopped past La Haye des Puits on a side road. Had lunch of fruit, creme fraiche, biscuits, cheese and salami. Then had a glorious siesta. Drinking a lot of water and sweating profusely. My right knee is a little painful. Roads a bit dull and packed with trippers from the ferries. Countryside gently rolling but quite easy going.
I find I’m riding a bit faster than Dan at the moment. We are getting on well. Arrived in Coutances felling a little weary. Many tourists. Met some Brits who were on holiday. An old Frenchman came up to Dan to talk. He was a POW during the war. Nice guy. Went to supermarket after shooting down a long and fast hill. Much interest in bikes. People asking questions all the time. Half seem to have done the Tour de France but are usually balding and getting fat.
Keep thinking of all those trippers going past and how we’ll pass them when they are on their way home. Wedding procession hooting at us on the way to Gavray. Cheering and waving. Cycled down long hill into Gavray to camp site in town centre. Pretty little place. Camp site full of ‘frogs’ with barking dogs. Unpacked bikes, checked them over. No problems yet. Repacked backs bags after setting up the tent for our first night out.
I felt quite homesick when we first arrived. Penny is in my mind all the time and missing family. This is only Day 2! Good, hot shower. Opened up present from Susanna. Pictures of all family and a card. That’ll be good for morale in the future. Not particularly hungry. Ate little tonight. I can’t wait to see Penny in Algeciras.
Distance - 104.2kms AVS - 8.8kph Time ins saddle - 11hrs 44mins.
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family, works in a technology company in London and does as many micro-adventures as he can.
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