Rain is the most constant factor these coming days and I drive through it happily. Powerful thunder and strong wind is heading my direction and I change my heavy, sticky rain pants for a new purchase: a legging. Suddenly it’s lycra, spandex ánd rain.
One of these rainy nights turns into a heavy storm where my tent is able to handle it all. Although I am not fit altogether -because of the hard thunder so nearby, the rain noisy on the surface of the tent and the itching of mosquito bites- I decide to go cycling. Sitting in a tent when it’s raining is not my idea of great outdoor fun. The will to cycle is quite strong, something I am a bit amazed of. Of everything actually because this way of living takes so much effort. Everything takes lots of time. There’s no such thing as luxury, or easiness (but it actually is just that!) It’s all very much work: every morning packing a wet tent and unfolding it in the evening to put it up again, still wet. The wind might blow it over the campground if I do not pay enough attention. Then I head for the shower to wash myself and some clothes as well, and start cooking. Then it appears my lighter is finished so I need to find another one. No shops around though. Me swirling over the campground to head to another camper, a big broad smile is coming to me as the sun is able to shine some rays through the thick clouds. This means an evening without rain. Makes cooking so much more a pleasure. Especially with a lighter at hand now…
This much of harder work for the fairly simple tasks put the details in different view so that I admire them even more. An evening without rain. A bench. Finding the balance between departure and enjoying the sun in the morning. Usually I start cycling around 10 but it turns out 12 sometimes too. Sitting on a bench, tent drying next to me in the glowing sun. Drinking chai from my thermo flask, enjoying fromage chevre combined with bread with little pieces of dried fruit. Simply wonderful. Oh… the little pieces of dried fruit appear to be smoked pork. And I am a vegetarian…
The nice thing about cycling, I think, is to get there on your own power. To see yourself moving Southwards on the rather impressive Michelin roadmap. I have the idea to smell scents better. I’m on the D910 to Poitiers and I see the details on it better as well. A perfect shaped German Shepard with a few meters of iron lash is lying peacefully along the roadside. Dead. White goats being fresh and eagerly out on the grass after some time being kept inside are now happily throttling together. Their milk produced to fromage chevre. Watchdogs behind fences are barking and running with me as far as they are able to, their tail shaking happily up and down. There goes their image. A Dutchman on the camping needs to hold on to the lash of his Pit-bull strongly or the dog will jump enthusiastically all over me. Quite a few Dutch people come up to me, being surprised I cycled all the way from the Netherlands. Some ask for my motivation, a weblog address and are generally just interested. Eating lunch in the shower room while raining hard outside I am able to stretch my lunchtime as long as I like, talking with a Dutch woman who’s from a village near to where I live. I choose my own pace, and am surprised how I am able to find my way, waiting for the same lights as the cars does, it feels great.
A few days I am on the route national and it waves it’s tarmac slightly up and down via Saintes, still on the Santiago de Compostella route. I try to avoid the bigger D-roads but am not always able to. The average speed here is 90 km per hour, wonder how many keep to that, and luckily a small piece of tarmac is reserved for me. About 30 centimetre. Just enough if I keep concentrated and stay to that little strip. Sundays are generally more relaxed on these roads and I fly to Dissay with an average speed of 17.5 km per hour. I move 60 kilometres in 3.5 hour with speeds of 44 km per hour to find myself a campsite without reception. I am all alone, a hot shower and finally the preferred squat toilet to fulfil my needs. I am feeling slightly better though, when a second guest -an older couple in a camper- on the lonely campsite arrives, giving me the feeling of security. Unknowingly providing me a deep sleep.
Muesli and yoghurt are being introduced into my daily diet to get rid of the bloated belly I seem to keep up with each day. From now on I want bread only once a day and minimize the intake of pastries. In a meanwhile the surroundings are changing, however cycle paths keep ending as abruptly as they start. Out of nowhere they appear and without a reason or warning they end. I get the feeling of coast; bleaching colours and perches drier. Houses are slightly more Mediterranean but most of the villages still very devoid of life. People need to head out to the cities, to the hypermarche’s to get their daily food. Grape yards appear, me enjoying goat cheese, kept being well much longer now the temperature is cool due to the rain.
Slowly I do come into some sort of a rhythm, although it takes some effort. I seem to want too much still, pack it all in one day. Rest’s coming to me only on a day of no cycling ‘cause cycling involve way more than just cycling: I need to find a supermarket to buy lunch and dinner. I try to cycle an average of 60 kilometres a day and always cook a meal with lots of vegetables (like pineapple curry) after dinner I fancy my chai (Indian milktea) and love to do some writing in my diary. And each and every evening I am thanking my knees, my legs and my whole body that they perform so well.
The feeling of being where I am now is not so normal or usual anymore. The travelling has become the greatest factor of joy, it has become the power I drive on, slowly at times. Especially when there’s a strong South-West wind, the direction I am going to. It’s heavy at times so need to rest and recuperate. Salt will do and I find myself eating half a bag of salted and roasted corn. The routs takes me along corn fields, wheat fields and sunflowers still small. Heavily loaded trucks with trees pass me as I pass wild purple orchids. I wonder off in an Unesco listed church while being overwhelmed by its quietness and little, little details. ‘Oh, you’re so brave’, ‘Aren’t you afraid?’ ‘You’re all alone?’ and ‘Good luck,’ I understand all these sentences in French by now. Just like the language my body speaks, different than before, I eat potatoes, carrots, bellpepers, honey, rice crackers and haring.
I leave the Compostella route and go on to Cozes, only because the road to Royan, along the coast, is a bigger D-route which I don’t want to ride. The wind will definitely sweep me too much from one direction to another and that’s not what I want on a road full of speeding traffic. Arriving tired at the quiet municipal campground I’m being spot by an English/French couple who like cycling too, and they invite me over. The promising of having tea and cookies get me over, although I am really tired. Another English couple, Jan and Keith also invite me over and besides their lovely English humour, I enjoy Keith’s heavenly cooking skills: homemade chili marmalade. The cheap camping is great, providing free wifi where I am able to keep in touch with Steve, an American friend I met in Damascus. We’re going to cycle through the Sahara and decide to meet earlier, probably in Biarritz, as he’s near (Carcassonne) where I am now.
Having learned how to ask for brown bread -complete- and porridge -flacons d’avoine- I can now improve my diet, along with the dried bananas I’ve found in the supermarkets. They make a nice change on the dried figs while the whole Gerblé food assortment does very well on me.
Amboise to Montalivet: 9 days with 3 days of rest
Total 384 kilometres (average of 64 km a day)
More pictures to see at the Dutch post