The way back into France was heading South of Geneva. A customs post, unmanned on this particular day was soon behind me and a sign showing the speed limits for France.
I’d heard from Norman that the customs are sometimes manned. There are limits on what people can take into Switzerland. Alcohol being quite a low limit.
I was hoping to make it to Orelle in the alps within three days. This would have allowed me to catch up with friends Paul and Nikki who were due to leave on the 25th. This was already day two and it had been very hot with a headwind all day and I hadn’t managed the distance I needed.
Paul sent me a message warning of weather , thunderstorms expected. As soon as I could switch to a French network I managed to call and we agreed I’d see how far I got.
It’s all uphill, so I didn’t get very far. I checked the map and the next day would be 89 miles in the alps. I detoured East and found a campsite, La Terroirbox in Pressiely. What a bargain that was. Only €5.40 a night.
Ordinarily you pay in most campsites. For me it’s one adult. Then you add a small tent placement, add on electric if needed and then tourist tax. This one was just one adult plus tourist tax.
Once the tent was setup and I was showered I have Paul a call to confirm I wouldn’t be able to make it in time. A pity but not a lot I could do.
I bumped into a English couple, Darren and Carol from the U.K. they had been in Italy and had come back to France due to the extreme heat there. I asked if they knew whether the bar would open as I wanted a beer. They didn’t know but then gave me a Leffe Rouge from the campervan. we sat down to chat about where they’d been and all sorts of other topics. The beer was soon gone so Carol instructed her husband to go and get a bottle of red wine. That was soon gone too along with a load of cured sausage they had bought in Italy. Had a great evening chatting. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo as my phone was on charge.
Overnight there were thunderstorms. The inside of the tent lighting up briefly as if a dodgy light was on the blink. The rain was extremely heavy. It kept me awake for several hours and I finally drifted off again about 3pm. I’m surprised it kept me awake after a 6.6% beer and half bottle of red wine!
Next day I checked the forecast. More rain due, so I decided to stay put. There was plenty of places to sit and allow me to update the blog. The time seemed to fly by. I hadn’t had chance to get to a shop in between downpours, so I had to use some of my reserve food. I always carry extra to be prepared for something like this.
The campsite was run by a commune. Like the U.K. if a home is moveable. You do not need planning permission. All sorts of houses had been built into trailer chassis. Many of the chassis bought new for the purpose. Others were yurts. But extremely well fitted out. The campsite helped pay for the improvements for the permanent residents. this was so unlike the other campsite that had permanent residents. This was very well run by the residents.
Next day weather looked better. Although rain was due on and off all day.
First 3 miles saw 20% of he days climbing out the way. Straight from the camp it was up!
Was cloudy to start with and soon headed toward large rain clouds. They were skirting the hills and mountains. I tried my best to pick through.
Rain started so I dived into a small chapel. to have a look around, paid a euro. Lit a candle and left after the rain had stopped.
I was nearing the town of Frangy. Some 12 miles away. As I neared there was more and more debris on the road from the previous days storms.
I went past a couple of broken telephone poles and then in the valley it looked like hell had been let loose. For a couple of miles following the river, there were hundreds of trees that had been struck by lightening. I’m certainly glad I made the call not to ride. I doubt I would have gotten through unscathed. There was even still hail gathered in areas. Yet the temperature was about 20 degrees.
Overall the riding was easy and I soon found myself at the campsite. The route having been again on the Compostelle pilgrimage route. Wherever I stopped, tourist information etc. I was asked if I needed a stamp for the pilgrimage.
On one of the trips to the supermarket, along with the normal bits and pieces, tomatoes, bananas, I needed to buy some more underwear. I had brought just the two pairs of pants, which would be fine, other than somehow I lost a pair off the bike while drying. After I recalled I used to put a strap through clothing to make sure it couldn’t come loose. Anyways, I managed to find some, but may have been a bit optimistic in the amount of weight I had lost. I bought medium, bit tight. Hopefully loose a bit more or I’ll have to manually stretch a pair..
The rain continued on and off most of the day. I had a cape I could wear to ride through it.
I stopped at a nice looking campsite in Comtesse. Slightly more expensive than Normal but had a nice bar, restaurant and a swimming pool. At one point everyone started looking in one direction. I looked around to see a big rainbow… and lots of rain coming.
As I ride further south, the heat increases again. The sound of cicadas making a noise in the trees becomes more regular to the point it’s constant. The smells remix me of riding through Spain, hot tarmac, olive trees. It brings back lots of good memories.
Much of the route is following the Via Rhona. This is following the Rhone and takes me through many agricultural areas. Lots of vines for wine but also pears, apples, plums and even Kiwi fruit. Christoph in Austria, when we talked of gardening mentioned growing kiwi fruit there, and was sure it would work in the UK.
With a name like Rhôna, it was following the river Rhône.
I crossed this several times. Cote du Rhône is one of my favourite red wines. I don’t think I’ve ever had one I didn’t enjoy.
One break I took after the start of the day, about 18 miles into the ride was by the side of a field. The aroma of Lavender being harvested was wonderful, I couldn’t resist watching the process, enjoying the smell and having a short break at the same time. The harvester looks like a miniature maize harvester and instead of a trailer, uses a similar box on the three point linkage. The farmer looked amused as I sniffed in the air!
Just after the lavender field, I was happily cycling along and looked over to my left. I could see a huge mountain in the distance. I stopped to poke closer. I could just make out a man made structure on the top. It resembled somewhere that’s iconic to cycling. I double checked the map and bearing. Yep. It was my Ventoux. Famous in cycling and often an end to a stage in the Pyrenees.
Temperatures continued to be hot. Getting to 33 degrees Celsius most days. It’s fine, an early start helps a lot to get good miles in before the heat slows me down.
The climbs are not too bad. Reasonably short. Longer than at home but only lasting a mile or two. As it’s not in the mountains, there are villages at the top of them.
On the way to Montpellier, a Saturday I needed to get food for the day and maybe a bit extra to cover for the shops being shut on a Sunday. I came across a very upmarket Lidl. It had an underground car park, security guards inside. It looked a lot newer and when I got to the checkout the lady asked to look in my bar bag. I presume to ensure I had stolen anything. Put my nose out a little until I noticed ALL customers were being asked. I’ve not come across this before.
As I was riding a sign said my route was blocked. The town centre had been closed for a large market. It was absolutely rammed. Everything on sale from clothes, to good to even live piglets. The lady asking if I wanted one for my bike!
Now I’ve reached the outskirts of Montpellier, my route will go from a south westerly direction to a more westerly direction and some of it will be a reverse of the route I did to Africa. I’m looking forward to seeing how much I remember if any travelling in the opposite direction. Hopefully I still have the PIN code for the boaters shower along the large canals.