Rest day today; relaxing in Royan, on the Atlantic Coast. I’m a bit more than halfway down France, and it’s pretty flat from here (I think). Problems revolve around heat and headwinds in this part of the world – it’s been close to 40 degrees at times.
Everything I read before setting off suggested I’d be meeting other cyclists all the time. By Thursday afternoon, flogging against the wind through the marshes to the north of La Rochelle, I was pretty sure this was nonsense. I sat by the side of the road, wondering how long I would have to wait before I saw another tourer. Fifteen minutes later, I came out of a pharmacy with a bottle of sun cream just in time to see three shoot past. There’s some old saying about buses, which obviously applies to cyclists too…
I caught up, to discover that all three were Brits; two 18-year old lads from Scotland heading for the Côte d’Azur, and a dreadlocked guy called Darryl, who was powered entirely by hemp protein (or something similar) and heading for a festival in Portugal. I was really happy to be running into other bikers, and we made quick ground, sharing slipstreams to a campsite near La Rochelle.
And then we were six. Two more bikers (and two more Brits) had just set up in the same campsite. Just three hours after wondering when I’d see anyone, I’m sat around sharing tips and routes and plans with a whole bunch of others.
On Friday we went our different ways; the Scottish lads headed off with a tight schedule and a master plan (we passed them a little later with their nth puncture of the trip), Darryl remained recharging in his hammock, and I headed south for Royan with a doctor called George.
It was really easy riding in company; chatting and swearing at French drivers really makes the time fly. We covered 90km (including a top-notch transporter bridge near Rochefort – hopefully pictured) before pulling up in Royan for a rest day, which has included the constructive (washing clothes) and the slightly less so (multiple beers while gibbering endlessly about life, the universe and everything).
Tomorrow, George is swerving east, en route for Italy, while I’ll be back on my own and ploughing south towards Spain. We saw two German tourers this morning who are heading my way; the way things seem to work out on the road, I may well see them again.
Hopefully above (still don’t trust the software) is a little corner of England in Royan.
568km / 355 miles so far, by the way. A bientôt, all.