Posts Tagged With: Snails

Day 55: Salon-de-Provence to Montpellier – 120k

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!

Lunch truck in the ditch on way to Montpellier

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.

Example of the flagging on the way to Montpellier

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).

Aqueduct (roman ruins)

Chateau de Barbegal on the way to Montpellier

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.

Me looking at some of the Camargue horses

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.

Snails on the way to Montpellier – I wonder if some of the riders who eat snails stopped for lunch in case the lunch truck did not make it out in time?

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!

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Day 54: Aups to Salon-de-Provence – 111k

4,331km down: 1,894km to go

I woke up during the night to heavy rain, so I jumped up and pulled in the washing. I slept the best I have so far in a tent, I only woke about four times.

It was still raining this morning – it is always so pleasant taking down a tent in the rain! We had breakfast and then set off, wearing our rain jackets. It had been dry for ages so we also had to be careful of slippery roads. The first part of the ride we went through some really old towns, sitting perched on the top of the hillsides, on narrow streets, with shutters etc.

One thing I have noticed all the way from St Petersburgh is how important the pharmacy is in a town. In every town it is the one place that is really easy to find, usually it has a lit up sign making it easy to find. Maybe they sell a bigger range of stuff than our pharmacies at home.

Roads we followed today: D9, D30, D23, D3, D561, D15, D561, D561b, D15, D543A-D, D15C, D917, D15m, D15h, D17, D16. We climbed up 758 metres, and went down 1,158.

The rain stopped about an hour after we left camp, and before that was really only drizzling. Although it looked like rain a few times during the day, it held off. One side effect of the rain is the snails and bugs were out in force. We saw a man at the side of the road with a half filled bag of snails – either he was going to have a snail race or he was planning to eat them – yuk! They were just like the snails we get at home.

We were coming up a 6k hill – which is not without difficulty by itself – and I was getting blasted by sandflies, they were going up my nose, into my mouth etc, it was very unpleasant. It must have been the result of the first wet weather for ages. Thankfully once we got to the top of the hill they were much less of a problem. When I am riding I work on a reward system “When you get to the top of the 6k hill you can coffee” etc, so we stopped at the top of the hill for coffee, when we walked in I took my helmet off and shook my head, it was raining sandflies everywhere!

Coming down a small windy street with traffic on the way to the campsite

We got into camp about 1:30pm and put the tent up, it was damp and grubby after last night. Having no toilet paper or soap is becoming business as usual but this camp has taken showering to a whole new level – the water in the shower only works whilst you are pressing it! Next time you are bored try having a shower with one hand out of action, pressed against a wall, it’s not straight forward. I also had forgotten that I had no shampoo until it was time to shower, so it was soap again!

One of the riders Jan turns 30 tomorrow, so we had a wee celebration tonight. In Cannes, Brett and I had gone to the equivalent of the $2 dollar shop and got lots of silly presents and a card. The tour guys organized a cake and wine paid for by Danya, luckily they also organized dinner in the camp restaurant because it poured down about 5pm.

We had also planned some skits. Jan has a really good sense of humour (as does Danya) but Jan had never heard of the Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch, so Brett and Geergo and I did it (Geergo was the musician). It went down well.

Hopefully it will be a fine day tomorrow, at least we have another rest stop once we get to Montpelier tomorrow, so we will be able to dry out the tents if they are wet, and dry our clothes. Tomorrow we are climbing about 800 metres. Ha it’s funny, but after days of climbing over 1,110 this now seems a light day, a bit like how 100k is now a small day.

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