4,451km down: 1,774km to go
We left the camp site at 7:30 this morning, the day was nice and cool. The first 15k went well, a slight up with a slight tail wind – nice! Then we came around a corner and saw a truck we recognized on its side in the ditch. My immediate thoughts were “I hope no one’s hurt”, quickly followed by “I wonder what will happen with lunch?”. Christano was driving and had moved over as another car was coming towards him. Unfortunately Christano did not see the irrigation ditch next to him as it was covered in grass and looked just like a grassy verge. And would you believe, the oncoming car turned off the road just before him anyway!
The first truck out in the morning does the flagging until the lunch stop. The second truck (which carries the cook for dinner) does the flagging of the second half. We rely on the flagging, as well as our written directions. One of the team sometimes writes left when they mean right on the direction board so flagging is a vital part. As well as this, we have our own notes of the names of cities we are passing through. Plus of course we always have the end destination for the day. As the first flagging truck was now out of action, Esther – who was with Christiano in the truck – was sent by bike to do the flags. We are not sure what notes she was flagging but we ended up on a different highway.
Whilst I was riding along at one point, there was a great big flock of black birds flying and swooping and soaring. I was watching them and thinking about how wonderful it is with all the intricate manoeuvres and changes of directions that they fly in sync with each other, without crashing and they know when to change directions. I get nervous just following one other rider closely, let alone riding in a peloton! I would probably not make a very good bird.
We stopped and looked at the remains of a roman aqueduct system, and we went past a chateau that my daughter Kelly would love to run events in – the Chateau de Barbegal (wedding and other events centre).
After we had been past the Roman ruins and the chateau we had to go through a town called St Gillies. We got into town but the flags were obstructed by a steel grille fence. We wandered back and forward but could not see a way round then we noticed that people were squeezing through the barriers and up the street. So we thought “Ok we can do that too”, but we could not fit through with our bikes. So then we saw a gateway, and thought we’d found the way in, so through we went. After about a minute a siren sounded, and the first thing we noticed was the people quickly going back out to the otherside of the barrier – which we can’t because our bikes don’t fit. And then Brett notices (now of all times) that the barrier looks like a stock barrier, not a people barrier! Oh my god do we start to cycle quickly!! We got to another opening and out we went like rats up a drain pipe! Turns out they have the Running of the Bull (note singular) in this village for three days at the end of summer each year. This was of these three days! So we had a lucky escape! In this event there are 6 cowboys and one bull with carpet on his horns but still …. Would not have liked to be caught in the middle of it!
One of the interesting parts of our daily rides is that because we cover quite a lot of ground in a day (average of 100k) we get a great contrast over a day. Today was no exception, we started off with hills, villages perched on the hillsides, through small towns, crazy busy stretches of highway, back roads, gravel tracks, marsh land, small towns, back to crazy intersections, we saw Camargue horses, rivers and canals. Plus we went past the Petite and Grand Rhône.
We rode though an area of marshland for about 25k (later when we looked at the map we had gone just over the top if it) and there were lots of white horses. We found out later they were a breed of horse – a Camargue horse – specific to the Rhone Delta.
Today we had our first introduction to what is known as the Mistral winds that happen throughout the year in the Rhone Delta. It was like being back in Wellington, struggling to get over 10k, which made it a long day. For the first time on the trip jackets are out, and when we walk to dinner the temperature has cooled noticeably.
We are staying at the Kyriad Hotel, yay it has air conditioning and WiFi, plus a laundry nearby (but this can wait until tomorrow). I went to a restaurant with Michele, John and Brett called Le Suite. We all had the special of steak but different deserts. I had the lemon tart (citron pie), it was fantastic. I can understand now why my friends Delwyn and Pat were determined to recreate one when they got back from France last year.
One observation made on the trip is that in general, the drivers over here are pretty good about bikers; the big trucks even give a very small toot just to let you know they are behind you so you don’t suddenly swerve in front of them. The drivers we have the most trouble with are drivers of small white cars. These drivers toot angrily at you as if you could pull over more, then go right into the other lane to pass you. This is followed by other drivers who move out slightly giving you room but pass you within the lane. I will have to see if this is the same at home.
Edit 06/09/12: Cristiano had to wait about four hours for the right machine to come along to extract the van from the ditch!