Cycling trip 2018

Vichy – Bordeaux


  • Equipment: bike – Genesis – Tour de Fer 10 (2017)
  • Back panniers – Altura – Dryline – they are waterproof – tested. Couple of bibs, 2 cycling shirts, Chamois cream – Butt’r. One summer cycling jersey and merino base layer. Clothes change – one shirt and one pair of 3/4 trousers that I could use in the evening after the cycling. Waterproofs – jacket. Sunblock – SPF 30
  • Camping tent – Terra Nova Voyager Superlite, Therm-A-Rest Prolite Plus mattress, Eris 250 Sleeping Bag by Gelert,
  • Primus – EtaPower EF – Cooking system – here
  • HTC 10 – fantastic navigation through more difficult moments, photos and blogging. Absolutely great! Supported by Anker PowerCore 20100 and Anker PowerCore 26800 Portable Chargers

Some interesting numbers – for me:

Trip distance: 1800 km
Ride time: 106.29 hours
Avg speed: 16.90 km/h
Max speed: 56.7 km/h
Total Altitude Ascending: 18574 m
Total calories: 82773 kcal

Day 1 – 21/07

Twickenham, Kingston, Portsmouth, Quistreham, Caen, Paris, Vichy

Route map

Trip dist: 52 km
Total dist: 52 km
Ride time: 3.56 hrs
Tot ride time: 3.56 hrs
Avg speed: 13.37 km/h
Max speed: 31.4 km/h
Avg cadence: 40
Avg power: 91 W
Alt Asc: 115 m
Tot alt asc: 115 m
Dist Asc: 2.0 km
Tot dist asc: 2.0 km
Down: 102 m
Tot down: 102 m
Dist down: 3.0 km
Tot dist down: 3.0 km
Avg HR:
Max HR:
Calories: 483 kcal
Total calories: 483 kcal

The new trip is starting today. Definitely need holidays this year. First step in the travel saga was getting to work. On the way to work I had to pass through the bike shop to sort out my front disc brake. Guy from Evans Cycles in Kingston adjusted the break and showed me more less what to do. For some reason the front wheel axle gets loose. Had to change for one from my old bike hopefully this will stop the problem. As a result the pads get out of whack and brush against the disk.

At work I had to have a quick lesson on the disk break fixing. Thanks for YouTube nerds. I had a look at 3 or 4 demonstrations on how the breaks work and how to adjust them.

Managed to escape from work around 15.30. As a result I managed to catch the train to Woking and then to Portsmouth before the rush hour. Arrived in Portsmouth 17.38. Had leisurely ride to the terminal and then waiting for boarding that started at 20.00. As I was waiting for the boarding I realised that the break was off again. Taking the example from YouTube I sorted the problem out. It took me half an hour and a bit of trial and error, but I did it. The weather in Portsmouth was just lovely. After a suffocating day in London today there was a beautiful breeze. I didn’t mind at all standing and waiting to get on to the ferry.

On the ferry couldn’t get to rest. I was awake most of the night. We arrived at Quistreham 6.45. I was first out of the boat and cycling towards Caen. It is a grey sky and a bit cooler here. It was nice and slow ride. Had so much time to kill. Train to Paris was spot on time. The door on the train was so narrow that I had problems getting the bike on. The next step is cycling through Paris.

Cycling through Paris never disappoints. This time managed to ride between the Louvre and Arc de Triomphe. Paris as always very hot and humid. Had a nice slow ride, my favourite jambon-beurre sandwich and now on the train to Vichy.

Apart from the time I spent on travel it has been an easy experience this time. Got to the camp about 16.20. Quick set up and trip to Lidl that ended up being a trip to Vichy town centre. Then shopping at Lidl and back to camp. Had to wash thoroughly all the stuff I had on. I think some of it was developing its own ecosystems. God bless the water and a bit of soap.

Now planning tomorrow’s escapade. It is rather hilly around here. Got to be wise. 😂

Day 2 22/07

Abrest, Puy-Guillaume, Chateldon, La Trappe, Palladuc, Ferrieres-sur-Sichon, Cusset, Vichy, Abrest

Route map

Trip dist: 99 km
Total dist: 150 km
Ride time: 5.27.40hrs
Tot ride time: 9.23 hrs
Avg speed: 18.37 km/h
Max speed: 48 km/h
Avg power: 133 W
Alt Asc: 1128 m
Tot alt asc: 1243 m
Dist Asc: 30.52 km
Tot dist asc: 33 km
Down: 1120 m
Tot down: 1222 m
Dist down: 28.74 km
Tot dist down: 32 km
Max Alti: 893m
Avg HR: 154
Max HR: 176
Calories: 5430 kcal
Total calories: 5914 kcal

Just to finish the blog from yesterday. Went to the tent around 23.15. Set myself comfy. Poured a dash of Pastis and was going to add some water. Woke up at 4.45 in exactly the same position. Topped up the Pastis with water, drunk it slowly and woke up at 9.45. Sun was up and the temperature in the tent started rising. Otherwise I would have slept longer.

As I didn’t think at all when shopping yesterday I didn’t have anything for my breakfast. So, topped up the water bottles prepared my handlebar bag and went for a ride.

Managed to get to Puy-Guillaume in no time. There was a shop open so I got myself the breakfast. Went to another shop and had a coffee. Then decided to get into the mountains. First went to Chateldon. Charming medieval village. Kind of smaller version of Dinan with no tourists at all. From there the uphill started. 30 km going up. First at about 7% then after Rongere-Montagne about 3% with some 7-8% moments.

Finally I had a chance to get properly on the new bike and see how it was on uphills. Unfortunately the bike was stationary for 2 months before the the trip. I only got it going 2-3 weeks before the French escapade. Front wheel went to distributor of Genesis and it took him long time to replace it.

At first I thought I was on the wrong bike. I was out of gears and thinking what if steeper hill will come. I didn’t realise I was already riding up a 9%. Then slowly I started getting on with the bike.

After 30km of the uphill suddenly there was a down. Nearly all the way to the camping.

The views were magnificent. Roads – considering were I was were relatively OK. Few pot holes and slippery gravel but nothing really disappointing.

The few weekends that I rode through Surrey Hill definitely have been beneficial. My legs were OK for the day.

Yesterday my pedals have attacked me with huge ferocity and the pins when I was loading the bike onto the train. My shins are just one cut on top of another.

Going through Vichy on the way back I managed to get some more shopping but forgot my portable backpack. So got a bag from the shop and on the way back managed to snap my speed sensor. Reattached with some glue dots for repairs of the mattress and a cable tie. It works. See for how long.

Some sausages and salad for supper plus the unavoidable wine. Got myself some spirals for mosquitoes today. Wise.

Day 3 – 23/07

Abrest, Cusset, Chatel-Montagne, D420 St-Nicolas-des-Biefs, Le-Mayet-de-Montagne, Arronnes, Cusset, Vichy, Abrest

Route map

Trip dist: 97.12 km
Total dist: 247 km
Ride time: 5.21.36hrs
Tot ride time: 14.44 hrs
Avg speed: 18.12 km/h
Max speed: 47.6 km/h
Avg power: 153W
Alt Asc: 1184 m
Tot alt asc: 2427 m
Dist Asc: 29.63 km
Tot dist asc: 63 km
Down: 1166 m
Tot down: 2388 m
Dist down: 35.1 km
Tot dist down: 67 km
Max Alti: 898m
Avg HR: 142
Max HR: 166
Calories: 5414 kcal
Total calories: 11328 kcal

Was up at 7.30. Breakfast – last bit of the baguette from yesterday, dry saucisson, tomato and a coffee.

After the usual comings and goings I think I started the ride about 10. First trying to find a bike shop. Forgot to bring the lube for the chain. It is standing next to the kettle in the flat.

Went to Vichy to realise I saw one close to the camp in the opposite direction. The shop was very posh and rather expensive but …

The first 10 or so km of the trip to Chatel-Montagne weren’t very enjoyable. Loads of trucks. Then I realised that there was a massive refuse processing plant. Then the road slowly emptied and I had the topical French up and down the hill right to Chatel-Montagne. There was a beautiful church from XII century. I could feel the age of stones – especially those on the floor. There was bar open in the village so I stepped in and had a coffee and 2 cans of full fat Coke.

Things that I forget from one trip to next: like bring my bag pack, get some loo paper, drink water as I go along. I completely forgot about this one yesterday. Had some drink but not enough. Today – more than 5 liters of water through the trip. Have to say feel better.

From Chatel-Montagne the uphill started. I wanted to get to St-Nicolas-des-Biefs – it looked like a nice place in the middle of mountains. I had about 10km of 7-8% uphill.

I decided to get to the D420 just passed Chargueraud. I never know what to expect round the next corner. Sometimes it is a sadistically steep hill or a fabulous view. At some point going through this steeper part I noticed a sign: Le plateau de la Verrerie à Saint-Nicolas-des-Biefs. Thought to myself: plateau my ass. I am going up some steep hill man. No plateau here.

The turn to D420 didn’t promise much of the relief. First 500mts I could see ahead were exactly the same as the bit I cycled just now. Then round the corner the gradient went down to 2% then to 1%. I cycled like a madman for 10km to St-Nicolas-des-Biefs. It was my cycling heaven. The road was fantastic and I just could push up the hill, I was ‘Running up that hill’ to paraphrase Kate Bush.

Then after St-Nicolas-des-Biefs the downhill started and it was same 1-2% for 10km to St-Clement.

Nearly 20km of beautiful slow rolling hills. This bit has to go with my section of best rides ever. It was a hot day today but I had a pine forest to protect me from the sun and heat. At the same time there were the smells: pine resin and herbs, great surface of the road and no traffic at all.

Then on one of the downhills past Le-Mayet-de-Montagne I detected some strange noise from the back wheel. The mudguard snapped in half. Took the broken part away, put it in the rubbish bin and kept cycling. Stopped in Cusset in the bike shop to see if they had a replacement. No. But the very nice owner of the shop had a look at the disk breaks and how close to changing them I was. They look like they have been used but still can go for a while.

On the way through Vichy got my shopping done. Today it was pork chops with tomato and avocado salad.

What a beautiful day.

It turns out that the couple that runs the camp bought it last year. It is the first season of their new home and live. They are really happy. They come from St.Malo. Sold everything there and took the plunge. The woman works as a photographer in winter. Last year sold loads of images to the mayor of St.Malo. They use them on the website.

Day 4 – 24/07

Abrest, Gannat, Ebreuil, La Bosses, St-Eloy-les-Mines

Route map

Trip dist: 62.41 km
Total dist: 309 km
Ride time: 4.06.03 hrs
Tot ride time: 18.50 hrs
Avg speed: 15.22 km/h
Max speed: 52 km/h
Avg power: 116W
Alt Asc: 901 m
Tot alt asc: 3329 m
Dist Asc: 23.36 km
Tot dist asc: 86 km
Down: 691 m
Tot down: 3080 m
Dist down: 17.31 km
Tot dist down: 84 km
Max Alti: 759 m
Avg HR: 149
Max HR: 173
Calories: 4261 kcal
Total calories: 15589 kcal

It was an insanely hot day today. Temperature went over 40°C. At some point my computer indicated 42°C but it was in my own shade. So it would have been much higher.

I remember one of the days like this in 2012 when I went through Provence. Around Sisteron the thermometer on the pharmacy was showing 46°C. I don’t think I have been through such a hot day in the past couple of trips. Maybe one day cycling around Ouroux-en-Morvan. It was 40°C in the sun. There were no clouds till maybe 14.30. At some point I was cycling from one shade to the next I could find.

Anyhow, this is it about the weather.

Morning – woke up at 8.00. Had some breakfast. Packed everything, loaded the bike and set of at around 10.00.

I never know what type of trip I will have when I prepare the next day. Today it was one of those… tricky one.

Loads of uphill at 4-7% plus the luggage. I remembered to hydrate constantly. Drunk 7 ltrs of liquids through the ride. Some with rehydrating tablets, some Coke and just plain water.

Navigation was really nice and simple today. I checked the map couple of times just to see how much more do I ride. There was one more camping at about 40 km but in a very small village.

I stopped in Bellerive at Decathlon shop. Got a replacement mudguard. Just a cheap one. But the bike looks better. Then the ride to Gannat. Part of it very busy as there was an access to motorway. Then it got easier. Stopped in Gannat for a coffee, a Coke and replacement of water. Then the hill started in earnest. 5 km of 6-7% then a downhill with a warning of 8%. The surface of the road wasn’t great either so got down very gingerly to Ebreuil. At Ebreuil next climb started and went on for 14 km to get up to La Bosse. The mount is marked 771 m above sea level. My clock stopped at 759 m.

Then there was a slower downhill until 4km before St-Eloy-les-Mines. It was really the only part of the road today I could cycle a bit faster.


Met another cyclist on the camp. French guy. He does similar trips to mine. He suggested a visit to Gorges du Tarn. We will see where the road takes me next.

Had to buy some readymade food from Carrefour today. I was starving. Some pasta with seafood, potato salad with tuna, cheese and some chorizo.

Trying the new spray for the insects today. So far so good. Camping by the water. Nice small camp with older ladies running it. Not a word of English but managed to even get a chair. And all for €7.70 per night.

Baguette and the croissant ordered for tomorrow morning. Have to think of stronger breakfast before I start sa new ride.

Beautiful day just a bit tired and hot.

It is a summertime. In the lake next to the camp the fish are jumpin’.

Day 5 – 25/07

St-Eloy-les-Mines, La Vernede, St-Gervais-d’Auvergne, Barrage-de-Queuille, St-Georges-de-Mons, Viaduc-des-Fades, St-Prist-des-Champs, St-Gervais-d’Auvergne, Teilhet, St-Eloy-les-Mines

Route map

Trip dist: 83.85 km
Total dist: 393 km
Ride time: 5.07.54 hrs
Tot ride time: 23.58 hrs
Avg speed: 16.34 km/h
Max speed: 51.6 km/h
Avg power: 120 W
Alt Asc: 1217 m
Tot alt asc: 4546 m
Dist Asc: 30.73 km
Tot dist asc: 117 km
Down: 1210 m
Tot down: 4290 m
Dist down: 30.11 km
Tot dist down: 114 km
Max Alti: 779 m
Avg HR: 139
Max HR: 164
Calories: 4957 kcal
Total calories: 20546 kcal

So, yesterday I was feeling under the weather. In all of the senses. A bit hot and bothered and a bit dizzy. Thought it was all about the weather and the heat. Only this morning when taking my usual dose of pills I noticed the laminate I carry around about Addisonian crisis. I had a touch of this. Mystery solved. Doubled the dose of cortisol and straight away was feeling better. Why didn’t I think of this last night. Lesson learned.

Feeling happier about my body, it was time for the breakfast. Baguette tradicion, croissant, saucisson, radishes, nectarine and a coffee.

I was out at 10.20 with strong promise to myself that the moment I feel worse is back to the camp. I decided to manage even better my liquids intake. Had planned to knock down a liter bottle every 10km, stop more often and cool down. Even put some water on my head.

I survived the day of big cycling. I felt absolutely fine. Drunk loads of liquids.

Normally I go to a bar order a coffee and a Coke or two and get my bottles refilled. Today in a bar in St-Gervais-d’Auvergne the woman agreed to only fill in one of them. First time it happened to me since coming to France.

The cyclist I met on the camp last night gave me a great tip. Cemetery – there is always running water. There were just enough of the bars on the way to have plenty of water with me. On the way back through St-Gervais-d’Auvergne I filled the bottles in the municipal toilet.

The trip itself evolved as I was cycling. I wasn’t sure where to go and what to see. Decided to go for the dam and the viaduct.

Up to St-Gervais-d’Auvergne the road was the usual uphill. Slightly slower. About 4-5%. Then I managed to find the route to Barrage-de-Queuille. Of course I didn’t have my glasses on properly so I didn’t notice a bit of the road that was marked as red on the map. It turned out to be a crazy downhill of average 11%. Road was nonexistent, surface full of gravel. On the breaks all the way. When I got there I realised that on the other side the road was only a stony path through the forest. Getting out of the dam place was a challenge with a 7% hill for about 4km to Queuille. I thought how lucky I was that I cycled down on the steep bit and the up was more forgiving.

The gorge where the dam was built was completely enclosed by mountains in all the directions. The forest was ancient and the smells trapped there were just stunning. At the bottom it was the old moss, trees and mushrooms. Towards the top the pines.

There was another great uphill from the viaduct. Slightly more gentle. About 5% all the way. One moment I was looking up at the viaduct and the next it was at eye level and then it was below.

When the downhill started it was a bit difficult as the hill was rather steep.

Suddenly I noticed that the bike wasn’t behaving. Looked down – flat front tyre. Managed to find a spot of off road space and changed the tube. Must have been one of those very sharp stones that cut thought the tyre.

Managed to pump up and was off again. In Carrefour here they didn’t have the inner tube or a decent tyre. So mended the pinched inner tube just in case I get another puncture. Always carry with me 2 spare tubes.

The tyre is a bit of concern as the cut was on the spine of the tyre and it looks vulnerable after pumping it up.

Might have to travel to Montluçon tomorrow to get the break pads changed and maybe get a new tyre.

Tonight it was a beaf stake, coleslaw, tomatoes.

Feeling happier.

Day 6 – 26/07

St-Eloy-les-Mines, Montaigut, Évaux-les-Bains, Chambon-sur-Voueize

Route map

Trip dist: 40.50 km
Total dist: 433 km
Ride time: 2.29.50 hrs
Tot ride time: 26.28 hrs
Avg speed: 16.21 km/h
Max speed: 39.80 km/h
Avg power: 88 W
Alt Asc: 394 m
Tot alt asc: 4940 m
Dist Asc: 10.58 km
Tot dist asc: 127 km
Down: 541 m
Tot down: 4832 m
Dist down: 17.01 km
Tot dist down: 131 km
Max Alti: 649 m
Avg HR: 131
Max HR: 155
Calories: 2130 kcal
Total calories: 22676 kcal

Short day for cycling today. I decided to come to Chambon-sur-Voueize. Small village with a nice camping municipal. Only €3.32 per night and next to Intermarche. I was trying to stop somewhere between Montluçon and the line I was following through France.

In Montluçon I want to get to a bike shop and get new tyres. Sort maybe a bit the gears and put new break pads as well. As I was preparing the day last night I didn’t know what I do now.

First the front wheel started playing up a bit so sorted this one out. The bike still didn’t feel right.

Couple of km later noticed that I had a slow puncture at the back. As I started the repair I thought it would be great to change the break pads at the same as the wheel was out.

Trying to remember what the good guys were showing on YouTube I managed to get myself going again after 40 minutes or so.

What I realised after this couple of days that the tyres on the bike are not very much puncture resistant. So will definitely be looking for new ones tomorrow. Hopefully in one shop there will be someone willing to do the break check and have a look at the gears.

Definitely having a second shower today. I can regulate the temperature of the water!!! For such an inexpensive camping the facilities are rather good and clean.

Tonight it was pasta with a bit of pork, mushrooms and garlic. Got loads of garlic.

Stunning scenery all the way today.

Update, managed to sort out the breaks and I think the gears as well. Still going to Montluçon for new tyres.

Day 7 – 27/07

Chambon-sur-Voueize, Montluçon, Chambon-sur-Voueize

Route map

Trip dist: 60.07 km
Total dist: 493 km
Ride time: 3.46.38 hrs
Tot ride time: 30.15 hrs
Avg speed: 15.9 km/h
Max speed: 50.53 km/h
Avg power: 108 W
Alt Asc: 741 m
Tot alt asc: 5682 m
Dist Asc: 20.78 km
Tot dist asc: 148 km
Down: 742 m
Tot down: 5575 m
Dist down: 21.81 km
Tot dist down: 153 km
Max Alti: 479 m
Avg HR: 134
Max HR: 165
Calories: 3278 kcal
Total calories: 25957kcal

So it was a trip to get the bike sorted and see the town of Montluçon.

Slept well last night. Woke up at 8. Had scrambled eggs for my breakfast. Tried to get out earlier today and I was on the road at 9.30. From Chambon-sur-Voueize it was nearly 4km of uphill to start with. Then the road was up and down all the way. The French style. Steep and long down and up hills.

After getting through the first notorious uphill I realised that the bike wasn’t just behaving properly. I spent best part of 40 minutes trying to set the wheel straight and just wasn’t happening. Then the ride itself wasn’t very stable. I couldn’t really let the bike go on the downhill as it was too shaky. Stopped another couple of times tried all of the tricks I learned until now, but I failed. So I put it as close to the point that I know it should work and cycled gingerly to Montluçon.

Because I was faffing around on the road so long when I got to Montluçon the bike shop I was looking for was closed for lunch. The only two open were Sport 2000 and Decathlon. Sport 2000 technician was on the lunch. Decathlon – managed to catch the technician before he escaped for the lunch.

Guillaume – very nice guy had a look at my issues with the bike. Big problem – the back axis was loose. This was a serious problem. He said – you can’t ride like this it is dangerous. He worked on the wheel for good 15 – 20 minutes with some serious tools. Had to take the disk of the break out and then slowly adjusted the axis until he was convinced that it was safe.

Then I asked him to look at the front wheel and the breaks set up. It turned out that I had it set perfectly fine.

The problem with the front wheel was that the cut from the puncture was getting larger by the minute and what I saw as a wobble on the wheel was a bulging bit of a tyre.

Next thing then changing the tyres. They had only skinnier tyres in the shop so I decided to go for the change.

So I got something skinny with me now.

Then he sorted out the front gears as well. I learned a lot from him as he patiently explained everything he was doing. Then he took the bike for a ride. Was satisfied with the bike. So I paid €88 and went back home.

About 10 – 15 km from Chambon-sur-Voueize the thunderstorm came. Well, I got few drops of rain but suddenly the temperature dropped. The thunderstorm was hitting places around but not my trip.

Got to the camp. Got shopping done. Had a shower. Washed clothes from the road. Stated cooking and burnt myself. Hopefully it is not too bad. Then after the supper I poured a cup of beer. Went to drink it and got stung by a wasp. Don’t even know when she managed to drown in the cup. So from burning pain it was a nice change to a stinging pain. Fat lip tomorrow.

Otherwise supper was great. Chicken breast with salad, some avocado and black radish. Temperature is fantastic. I got another beer and I am on holidays in France.

Day 8 – 28/07

Chambon-sur-Voueize, Angly, Chenerailles, Jarnages, Ajain, Gueret,

Route map

Trip dist: 71.25 km
Total dist: 565 km
Ride time: 4.36.16 hrs
Tot ride time: 34.51 hrs
Avg speed: 15.47 km/h
Max speed: 50.09 km/h
Avg power: 65 W
Alt Asc: 851 m
Tot alt asc: 6533 m
Dist Asc: 26.07 km
Tot dist asc: 174 km
Down: 736 m
Tot down: 6311 m
Dist down: 23.67 km
Tot dist down: 177 km
Max Alti: 548 m
Avg HR: 133
Max HR: 157
Calories: 4068 kcal
Total calories: 30025 kcal

The thunderstorm was coming. It was very hot and humid and sticky. No air to breathe. It was great to see a bit of the rain were I was but it was lightning and thunder for a good few hours.

Only a few drops on my way and same on the camp. At night it started raining again so I picked up the washing. It stopped very quickly as well.

Had scrambled eggs again. This time with chorizo. Nice coffee. And I was out at 9.30 or there about. My plan yesterday was to cycle to Aubusson. Half way through the route I thought I want to change the landscape a bit. Been in mountains for a week. I wanted to stretch my legs. Another reason of course it is the weekend and everything is closed on Sunday. I wasn’t sure about the Aubusson so I checked quickly what bigger place was within my distance range and the town of Gueret popped up. Only 20km more. Looks like a nice route as well. So I turned right.

I know already that I can’t expect flat around here but at least I thought I will head down for a moment. Of course I couldn’t have been any more wrong. Somehow I was going up and up and up and not really that much down.

Landscape didn’t disappoint. The temperature was extremely nice at the beginning of the day about 20°C. Then it went up a bit but not hugely. Maybe 25°C.

The town of Gueret really pretty. Very hilly. Just one hill steeper than the previous.

After setting up the tent I went to Leclerc straight away. All smelly from the road. Got shopping done for 2 days.

Then settled down and had my supper. Now chilling out and waiting for the night with couple of beers. Had one red Desperados. Didn’t like it that much. The original with tequila – much better. Camping was nearly empty when I arrived. Now it is getting busy.

The burn on the hand is a bit red but no blister. The lip was swollen just a tiny bit inside of my mouth this morning. Now the swelling is nearly gone.

Day 9 – 29/09

Gueret, Grand-Bourg, Fursac, La Souterrains, St-Vaury, La Brionne, Gueret

Route map

Trip dist: 82.55 km
Total dist: 647 km
Ride time: 4.25.56 hrs
Tot ride time: 39.17 hrs
Avg speed: 18.62 km/h
Max speed: 49.32 km/h
Avg power: 103 W
Alt Asc: 929 m
Tot alt asc: 7463 m
Dist Asc: 28.57 km
Tot dist asc: 203 km
Down: 945 m
Tot down: 7257 m
Dist down: 33.15 km
Tot dist down: 210 km
Max Alti: 511 m
Avg HR: 132
Max HR: 152
Calories: 3858 kcal
Total calories: 33883 kcal

Just another day in cycling paradise. Absolutely fantastic and fabulous day.

Yesterday I did the last bit of cycling on D100. Road that was running parallel to a motorway. As a result the road was nearly empty. Maybe couple of cars from either direction. Great ride.

Some very strange people on this camping. Lonely guy with his barking little dog. One table and two chairs.

On the other side a guy alone in a two bedroom 6 people tent. He spent most of the afternoon spraying insect repellent on the tent.

I woke up just before 8.00 this morning. Had baguette for my breakfast and was on the road before 10.00. First 6km was a gentle uphill of nearly constant 1%. Great as I will be taking this first stretch tomorrow morning as well.

Then I rode to Grand-Bourg. Very picturesque little town/village. Spent some time looking around and popped in to the market. Didn’t buy anything.

Then cycled through Fursac, La Souterrains and St-Vaury. Popped in to the church in Fursac and La Souterrains. I like French churches. They are practically unadorned and show the skills of people who constructed them when looking at the stones and beams.

All of the road today was practically empty. Apart from couple of absolutely scary motorbikes nothing really happened related to traffic.

The weather was perfect in the morning then it got a bit warmer (37°C) at around 14.00. Beautiful breeze – cool most of the time. No really steep hills. Just nicely rolling through a beautiful landscape. Absolutely loved the ride today.

This morning when I was preparing the ride I noticed that there was a part 2 of the D100 on the other side of Gueret. So I planned to come back this way. Again the same. One tractor and some bikers. This time not speeding but just stinking the road with some really nasty black smoke and fumes.

All the time since I started riding this time I could hear and see some birds of prey. Never from a closer distance or not looking into the sun. Today for the first time I saw 15-20 of them on the road. The best one was a family of red kites (I believe) two young ones and an adult. The adult bird was teaching the little ones how to drift using the air currents. Showing them how to do it and then pushing them gently to try the same. The other adult was a bit away just watching the lesson and protecting the rest of the family I guess.

Then saw quite a few more of the red kites and couple of different birds. I think one was a buzzard but the other one was grey with white tips on wings. ) Just got down and picked up a mouse I think from the field.

At the camp I had already the supper nearly prepared as most of the shops are closed today – I like this in France. At least one day in a week chill out and let everyone else relax as well.

Today it was turn for quick rice and chilli con carne. All pre-prepared and cooked in 5 minutes. Can’t leave anything fresh out in this weather.

Now time to relax. Well I was really relaxing all day.

Cycling meditations – Day 10 – 30/07

Gueret, Benevent, Lauriere, Saint-Laurent-les-Églises, Camping Du Pont Du Dognon, Ambazac, Camping Du Pont Du Dognon

Route map

Trip dist: 81.58 km
Total dist: 729 km
Ride time: 4.54.01 hrs
Tot ride time: 44.11 hrs
Avg speed: 16.64 km/h
Max speed: 50.09 km/h
Avg power: 100 W
Alt Asc: 1102 m
Tot alt asc: 8565 m
Dist Asc: 29.82 km
Tot dist asc: 233 km
Down: 1268 m
Tot down: 8525 m
Dist down: 34.76 km
Tot dist down: 245 km
Max Alti: 489 m
Avg HR: 136
Max HR: 162
Calories: 4516 kcal
Total calories: 38399 kcal

As it happens in all of my trips. The first week is there to release the stress. I think I started getting aware of the road and the journey on the way back from Montluçon, the Decathlon shop. The day after the trip to Gueret and then yesterday when I had a trip around and saw those red kites playing up in the air.

Anyhow, today I decided to come to the Camping Du Pont Du Dognon. Just looked OK on the map as a place and the distance.

In the morning I woke up at 7.30. Started packing up slowly. Got the baguette, had some breakfast and coffee and was out before 10.00.

The first bit of the road I knew from yesterday. It was a nice uphill for about 6km just perfect to start the day. Before I knew it I was up and down couple more hills and had 20 km done. Then the steeper hills started and I was a bit slower.

I was taking time going up so I had quite a bit of time to meditate. Road was clear. Very little traffic. Great, as couple of times I got completely lost in my thoughts.

I stopped in Benevent and Lauriere. Beautiful architecture especially in Benevent.

I saw again red kite flying on top of me couple of times.

Got to the camp at 14.00. The office was closed so I checked more less the camp. Had a look around. It looked inviting.

Came back to the office and sat down in the shade at the table to have a quick browse through the news. The owner of the camp is a young guy called Fabien. The camp ground is on a considerable hill. Quite a challenge to get up to the bar from the bottom of the hill.

Anyhow, his girlfriend saw me waiting and called him. Had a quick chat. Yes, no problems, set up were you like and then I will see you at the office. I saw a big tree and loads of shade on one of the pitches. Decided to get set there. Once done I popped in to the office. It results that Fabien’s great-grandparents came from Kraków and the original surname was Możdżeń.

Had a quick chat with him. Asked about the shade on the camp and he told me that the best pitches were right at the bottom. He told me as well that the closest shop is about 12km away in Ambazac.

With not too many options I got on the bike again and went back on the road. The way to Ambazac was a bit more uphill. Got done the shopping at Super-U. Brought loads of fruit and veg. Some beef, gnocchi and salad for dinner. Nice salad it was as well: tomato, cucumber, avocado and kiwi.

Now came to the bar having a second beer of local manufacturers in a village next door Saint-Laurent-les-Églises.

This is one of those camping places that are hidden gems. I know that if the camp has got loads of Dutch people it must be great. I met 1 French couple, 1 German couple and I am totally surrounded by the NL reg plates. Little boys and girls talk to me in Dutch as if they knew me for ages.

Fabien put on some nice French jazz on. The evening is just gorgeous now. Sun is setting behind the hill. Another perfect day.

Correction: the great jazz was – Devon Lamarr Organ Trio.

Day 11 – 31/07

Camping Du Pont Du Dognon, St-Leonard-de-Noblat, Bujaleuf, Cheissoux, St-Moreil, Sauviat, St-Leonard-de-Noblat, Camping Du Pont Du Dognon,

Route map

Trip dist: 81.77 km
Total dist: 811 km
Ride time: 4.50.57 hrs
Tot ride time: 49.02 hrs
Avg speed: 16.86 km/h
Max speed: 56.7 km/h
Avg power: 116 W
Alt Asc: 1188 m
Tot alt asc: 9753 m
Dist Asc: 30.83 km
Tot dist asc: 263 km
Down: 1191 m
Tot down: 9717 m
Dist down: 32.15 km
Tot dist down: 277 km
Max Alti: 471 m
Avg HR: 133
Max HR: 156
Calories: 4294 kcal
Total calories: 42694 kcal

Another great day around the area. Got up at 7.30. Slow preparation for the breakfast. Scrambled eggs it was with a nice baguette. Part of the baguette was a lunch I took with me.

Salad with cucumber, nectarine and kiwi was a real Michelin star proposition.

Did a small washing. It is so hot that I have to clean everything every day. By 9.30 sun was shining on the tent so I was glad I didn’t buy anything really perishable.

I was out of the camp before 10.00. First bit of the road was down to the bridge Pont Du Dognon on river Taurion. From there it was quite challenging uphill to Le Chatenet en Dognon. Then slightly easier to St-Leonard-de-Noblat.

Absolutely beautiful little town. Loads of medieval architecture. Small streets. Spent some time going around the place.

On the way to Le Chatenet en Dognon I was feeling a bit sluggish. I thought it might be the effect of couple of Pastis from last night. But I know I didn’t overdose. Then I realised that I cleaned the chain last night but forgot to put the lube this morning. My chain was squeaking and screaming at me. When I stopped in St-Leonard-de-Noblat I found a Leader Price. No chain lube but I got baby wipes. I found a bit of shade behind the shop and cleaned the chain. The stuff they put in baby wipes works miracles.

It took me a few wipes but I got the chain clean and stopped it from squeaking. Thought I would have to repeat the procedure again at some point during the trip but bike was feeling better. Then getting out of the town towards Bujaleaf I found Carrefour.

Popped in and of course they had some lube. Cheap and cheerful. Put in on and now was ready to go.

Actually it was so cheap that I had to clean the chain again back in the camp. Used half of the pack of wipes but managed to get the chain nice and clean. Then rinsed of the oils from baby wipes and in the evening put the lube. Just in case I will forget tomorrow.

There is the route to Santiago de Compostela through this region and I can see more and more pilgrims on their way. Couple of days ago met a girl going with a mule. Old fashioned way, back some time ago using donkey or mule on the Camino was very popular. Especially if people manage to get longer time to do longer route though France. In 2010 I met some people travelling to Santiago from Lithuania with a mule.

Today at the Carrefour I met a woman that was biking there. We had a quick chat and she set of. Quite a few villages I passed through show signs of welcoming pilgrims. Great thing. I know from experience that everyone going to Santiago will need help at some point.

Bujaleaf – another one of those hidden gems in French countryside.

From Bujaleaf I decided to go through countryside. First bit took me along the river Maulde. Some stunning scenery especially from the bridges on the road. Then rather than coming back I rode through more countryside towards Sauviat.

The village St-Moreil was a killer. Very long and steep hill through the bourg. Scenery though paid for all the pain of going uphill.

In Sauviat I took the main road D941 to St-Leonard-de-Noblat. What a discovery! I nearly didn’t have to pedal at all right down to the town. I just let the bike go. Managed some decent 56.7 km/h. Probably would have gone faster but there was quite a bit of headwind. Back in St Leonard did the shopping. Just some chipolatas and water and lemonade.

Back in the camp got chatting with the Dutch family next door. The guy takes around his disabled son on a tandem that must have been constructed just for him. He must be really fit. The boy 65kg doesn’t like helping on the uphill as they pedal fast. Likes helping on the downhill when they can go fast. Crazy family.

Fabien – the camp owner – told me that the situation in this part of France is very similar to that I saw in Morvan last year. Loads of properties for sale and people escaping the place as there is no work. This part of the country is emptying as well. I think the situation in Morvan was even worse than here.

What a shame. Such a fabulous environment. Today saw another bird of prey. This one was twice the size of the red kite.

Day 12 – 01/08

Camping Du Pont Du Dognon, Ambazac, St-Sylvestre, Grandmont, Saint-Léger-la-Montagne, La-Jonchere-St-Maurice, Ambazac, Camping Du Pont Du Dognon

Route map

Trip dist: 52.24 km
Total dist: 863 km
Ride time: 3.35.19 hrs
Tot ride time: 52.37 hrs
Avg speed: 14.55 km/h
Max speed: 51.84 km/h
Avg power: 125 W
Alt Asc: 867 m
Tot alt asc: 10621 m
Dist Asc: 20.47 km
Tot dist asc: 284 km
Down: 868 m
Tot down: 10585 m
Dist down: 21.96 km
Tot dist down: 299 km
Max Alti: 564 m
Avg HR: 122
Max HR: 149
Calories: 2534 kcal
Total calories: 45228 kcal

This morning I was awake at 6.30. Stayed in the tent till 7.45 watching the sunrise behind the hill. Medication. Coffee. Salad. No baguette?… Fabien was late today with the delivery. I had to wait till the 9.15. Had a quick sandwich with some scrambled eggs.

Then Marco, the Dutch guy next door popped in with his bike pump. It turned out that my back tyre was lower on pressure. The front wasn’t too bad but still it needed some air.

By the time I finished all of the breakfast and preparation the sun was high up in the sky and it was going to be another scorching, hot day. I was planning to go on a longer ride to Peyrat but thought I won’t last all day on the open road today. It was 34°C when I left the tent.

Getting out of the camp is a challenge in itself. Very steep hill. Dropped my rubbish in the bins and as I was leaving I met Fabien. So, where are you going today. Absolutely no idea. That’s the best plan he says. You like going up the mountain, you can get to Ambazac mountains and go through St-Sylvestre and Saint-Léger-la-Montagne. It is hilly but you will be in the forest and have some shade.

I had a quick look on the map and decided to go for it.

The large bird of prey was flying on top of me again. I stopped and had a look at it. Brown nearly orange – the tip of the feather in the wing.

I already knew the road to Ambazac, so I didn’t expect any surprises there. About 3km before Ambazac I felt a bit of a wiggle on the back tyre. I know that sign already. I think I had a very slow puncture yesterday. Completely by chance I pumped up the tyre this morning. Otherwise I would have noticed that the flat was setting in.

Set up my little repair store at the side of the road and whittled the new inner tube into the wheel, pumped up and was on the road again. Shame my hand pump doesn’t really come close to the performance advertised on Amazon. Had to replace my old one. Thought this was smaller and more powerful. Rubbish.

I thought I had enough pressure and kind and tiptoeing went on the road again. Will have to ask Marco for his bike pump again.

After Ambazac I took the road into the mountains and cycled away. Slowly, slowly I was going up and up. In St-Sylvestre there was an old church so I stepped in. As always understated and this one was very hot inside. There are no openings apart from the door. All windows are closed in churches.

Before I left the village I saw a sign to cemetery. Testing, not for the first time the advice from the nice cyclist I met in St-Eloy, I went to the cemetery and again there was a water tap. It wasn’t at the entrance but I found it. Nearly had a shower there trying to cool down. Drunk loads of water refilled the bottles and cycled away thanking the nice man.

In the village Grandmont there was an archaeological site and loads of people having lunch break after the hard morning in the sun. They found a XIII century huge house and there were just getting the things out slowly. Fabien back in the camp told me it was a brand new discovery. So not much of the detail yet.

Then I cycled to Saint-Léger-la-Montagne. The town itself was steeper than the road that brought me there. It was painful getting up to the centre square.

From there the road was going down so I decided to get the shopping done for today and cycled back to Ambazac through La-Jonchere-St-Maurice.

Got back to the camp, slowly had a shower and washed my cycling clothing. Had lamb chops for supper. Now drinking Jenlain beer. Ambrée.

It is a bit cooler now. Nicely settling for the night.

Day 13 – 02/08 – Cycling meditation whilst mending puncture. This one – self-inflicted. User error.

Camping Du Pont Du Dognon, Ambazac, Nantiat, Cieux, Javerdat, St-Junien

Route map

Trip dist: 68.13 km
Total dist: 931 km
Ride time: 4.01.31 hrs
Tot ride time: 56.39 hrs
Avg speed: 16.92 km/h
Max speed: 49.71 km/h
Avg power: 110 W
Alt Asc: 852 m
Tot alt asc: 11474 m
Dist Asc: 22.62 km
Tot dist asc: 306 km
Down: 909 m
Tot down: 11494 m
Dist down: 26.91 km
Tot dist down: 326 km
Max Alti: 435 m
Avg HR: 131
Max HR: 161
Calories: 3422 kcal
Total calories: 48651 kcal

So. I said goodbye to the camp in Pont Du Dognon. I had another great chat and said goodbye to Marco and Stein. Stein is the boy with learning difficulties. I’m really lucky in meeting all those people on my way through the life.

Breakfast – coffee, baguette, jamón serrano, goat’s cheese and the Michelin star salad. I was quick to start packing up and drying out the dew of the tent. I have tried to get out a bit earlier. Managed 10.00. Had a last chat with Fabien as well. Didn’t bring any personal cards with me. Wanted to give one to Marco. Hopefully Fabien will pass my email to him. Fabien noticed the reaction of the Facebook around the camp. Was very pleased and will start following the blog as well.

I knew the first 10km of the road very well by now. It was different with all the gear though. Slowly, slowly I managed to get to Ambazac and then I thought it will be easier. Ha….

I never went to higher altitude today. It was all the time about 300m above sea level. Just constant up and down. Up and down.

The best bit of the road came between Ambazac and Compreignac. Beautiful forest, great smell of pines, shade. And although I was going up and up, I really enjoyed this bit of the road.

Then suddenly the tree protection stopped. I had about 40km to go and the sun was merciless. At some point I checked. It said 42°C and a bit. I thought I won’t do it again. I mean check the temperature.

The asphalt was melting under my wheels, my fat was melting on me faster than I could say antidisestablishmentarianism. Water dripping – not a pretty picture today.

To add insult to injury going through Chamber I felt the fatal wabble. Puncture in back wheel. Accustomed as I am to keep the inner peace. Ha…. I found a spot in the shade of a building and started the mending procedures.

First of course I checked the tyre. Nothing there. Not even tiny bite or anything. Ummmm. The plot thickens. Started checking the wheel. Nothing there either. Well, let’s inspect the inner tube. I thought I had the bit of a puncture. So I pumped up the tube and to my surprise the air came out of completely different part of the tube. As soon as I saw the puncture I knew what caused it.

Yesterday when I was mending the puncture I think at some point I run out of patience and used tyre levers to push the tyre onto the wheel. In doing so I managed to trap a bit of inner tube under the rim of the tyre. This was the mark I saw this morning. User error.

As painful as it was I managed to get the tyre and the tube on the wheel. The tyre is very small and just fits the wheel. Guillaume in Montluçon struggled putting them on.

Remembering my Yoda’s technique I did it slowly and as carefully as I could. It was excruciatingly painful experience. My left arm muscles were gasping for a break. Slowly, slowly millimetre by millimetre I managed to put the tyre on. Wiggled the walls, pumped up a bit more and wiggled the walls of the tyre again, just to make sure the the inner tube is safely in.

Then there was a pumping up the tyre thingy again. Had to use my little pump again. I have to say I swore at it several times in the past few days. This time I thought I will make sure I screw it up tight, then I started pumping. To my surprise it was actually holding the pressure and I was getting to the 5 bar, eventually.

Satisfied with the job I had some drink of water and hydro stuff. Cleaned my hands with baby wipes. This things clean everything.

Set of after 1 hour or so. Started peddling and after few metres felt the wabble again. Goodness gracious me I thought. Not another puncture. I run out of inner tubes. It wasn’t. The asphalt was melting badly under my wheels creating this really weird riding experience. Couldn’t go fast on the stretch from Chamboret to Javerdat. It was insanely potholy road with sharp stones all around.

Just before entering Javerdat the surface of the road improved and I started pushing through the gears.

It managed to get from shade to shade… At times. Drunk every single last drop of water I had on me. Just managed to get to the camp.

Set up the tent, thought for a moment. Took the bike, checked the nearest shop and went off to get provisions. I know that the smell and the look of me was disgusting but I didn’t care. Done the shopping in U-Express. Came back to the camp and realised I set up the tent on the wrong plot. I mean it was really sunny. And it wasn’t actually a plot. Just a corner of the camp.

Nevertheless, I had a shower washed all of the stuff from the road today. It was lethal and needed to be sorted. Then I cooked. Chipolatas Moroccan style. Additionally, I had some tagliatelle with seafood and beetroot salad with it. By the time I finished the sun was hitting the pitch so strong that I decided to move the tent. Found another pitch in shade and knowing the movement of the sun I was happier with the new location.

Obviously had to have another shower and then slowly settled down. By the way – St-Junien is a pretty little town.

Tomorrow – go and get some more inner tubes. There are a few big shops here so I don’t think I will have problems with new tubes. There might be a bike shop as well but I didn’t ask the Google yet.

There is.

Today decided to go for wine. I didn’t buy a bottle beyond €4.00 on this trip. Always looking for special offers in shop. All of them have been better than the wine we get for a tenner in UK.

Not a slightest bit of hangover. Today’s choice is Gaillac.

By the way – I went through a region of beautiful forests and lakes.

2nd by the way – the camp is full of Scottish.

3rd by the way – the French next door are getting merry.

4th by the way – Pastis is the remedy.

5th by the way – earworm for the past week Mes Emmerdes – Charles Aznavour

6th by the way – the other night I woke up with a feeling that a badger past by the tent and left some of his perfume behind. Looking back I don’t think it was a badger at all.

7th by the way – it is going to be even hotter tomorrow.

Day 14 – 03/08

St-Junien, St-Brice, St-Victurnien, Oradour-s-Glane, Confolens, St-Junien

Route map

Trip dist: 85.30 km
Total dist: 1016 km
Ride time: 5.05.45 hrs
Tot ride time: 61.44 hrs
Avg speed: 16.73 km/h
Max speed: 52.42 km/h
Avg power: 108 W
Alt Asc: 1090 m
Tot alt asc: 12564 m
Dist Asc: 30.55 km
Tot dist asc: 337 km
Down: 1087 m
Tot down: 12582 m
Dist down: 31.24 km
Tot dist down: 357 km
Max Alti: 304 m
Avg HR: 133
Max HR: 158
Calories: 4533 kcal
Total calories: 53184 kcal

Started the day at 7.30. Had scrambled eggs with bacon and coffee.

I heard about the Oradour-s-Glane place from Fabien on the last camp. Was going to pass through there yesterday. Good thing I didn’t. I cycled the first bit along the river Vienne. Both villages St-Brice and St-Victurnien very pretty. Reminds me of the places in Brittany a bit. Very clean, some old architecture. From St-Victurnien the climb started and went on to the village of Oradour-s-Glane.

The place was left after the war as it was – destroyed – by the orders of de Gaulle . It was going to be kept as a reminder of war atrocities.

642 inhabitants of the village were killed on the day. The Germans put children and women in the church and set it on fire. Outside machine guns.

After visiting the memorial I decided to go for a ride. Didn’t know how many km I will be able to do. It was very hot. 40+. I went for the main road out of Oradour-s-Glane. There were several ways of getting back to the camp.

The man from the St-Eloy saved my life today. I visited 4 or 5 cemeteries. All of them running water. Kept refilling the bottles again and again. Although it was so hot I managed to get through some good distance.

On one of the downhills got stung by a bee. Left inner part of the thigh. And I was being overtaken by couple of cars so had to pay attention. The road was nicely placed in the landscape but the surface was rubbish. Very bumpy. Still I was going further and further from the camp.

Managed to get a very soggy ham sandwich and a largest croissant I had in my life in Lesterps. It was either go back or cycle a bit more and see the town of Confolens. Very nice it was. From there I knew there’s a route through the countryside directly to St-Junien. These were the last 24 km of the day. The first 7 km or so it was a constant uphill. 7-8%. Although there were trees and shade at times it was really difficult to cycle through the sunny bits.

Once I got up the hill it was a bit easier but I was getting very tired. With 13 km to go I stopped. Sat down. And sip by sip emptied both bottles. I had a rest for about 15 minutes. Then cycled through the village of Saulgond. At the end of the village there was a cemetery. I poured a lot of water on myself. Then topped up the bottles.

Although the terrain seems to be flatter I climbed similar amount I was doing in the mountains. Just constant up and down. There was another uphill for 2 km from km 75. And then the killer inside St-Junien. This was a scorcher. No shade, sun burning my backside.

I wasn’t a pretty picture when I got to the supermarket. Got stung by a wasp on me left forearm. I swore, just gently, and to myself only. Got some quick and instant food today. I couldn’t wait to cook anything.

Back at the camp it was already in the shade. Took the shower did the washing. Put couple of cans of Beuf Bourgogne on the stove. Few minutes later I was much happier person.

Planning tomorrow’s move now.

Day 15 – 04/08

St-Junien, Gorre, Oradour-sur-Vayres, Rochechouart, Chabanais, St-Junien

Route map

Trip dist: 75.43 km
Total dist: 1092 km
Ride time: 4.20.17 hrs
Tot ride time: 66.05 hrs
Avg speed: 17.39 km/h
Max speed: 56.31 km/h
Avg power: 112 W
Alt Asc: 892 m
Tot alt asc: 13457 m
Dist Asc: 24.14 km
Tot dist asc: 361 km
Down: 899 m
Tot down: 13481 m
Dist down: 27.15 km
Tot dist down: 384 km
Max Alti: 331 m
Avg HR: 125
Max HR: 151
Calories: 3321 kcal
Total calories: 56505 kcal

After all of the effort yesterday, after the supper and some beer tasting, I can’t remember falling asleep. Just collapsed. Woke up at 7.00 nice and fresh and invigorated. Finished off the box of eggs with some bacon. Coffee. Washed my pants and shirt from previous night. And I was ready for the adventure of the day.

Started by going through the bit of the road I will be traveling tomorrow morning with the luggage. About 3km if some serious climbing to get out of St-Junien.

It is really a beautiful town, beautiful place and beautiful landscape around. Stop if you pass by.

I was thinking yesterday whether to stay another day here or go to the next place. Glad I decided to have another ride around here. After the climb out of St-Junien I took the D21 to Gorre, going through St-Cyr and St-Laurent-s/Gorre.

It was a bliss. The road was empty, fantastic surface, just undulating. The road was going through beautiful forest and the temperature was considerably lower than in St-Junien.

Some houses in the middle of the woods with open park, no fences. It was like a magical land for moments.

The road was worse between Gorre and Oradour-sur-Vayres. Much less shade and protection from the sun. Then the stretch between Oradour-sur-Vayres and Rochechouart got really nice as well.

In Rochechouart I went to visit the chateau. Interesting place. Nice chateau. It was advertised on the road as a art gallery. Unfortunately all of the chateau was off. I just could get in. Took some pictures but no feeding my artistic interests. To finish the day I decided to go to Chabanais and then take the scenic route to St-Junien.

It got a bit late again and the sun was getting stronger. There were some really heavy uphills in this part of the road. The part of the road between Chabanais and Etagnac was really awful. The road surface. Just collapsed in parts, overused, slow to ride and little or no shade.

I think I drunk 7 or 8 litres of water through the ride today.

Got to St-Junien and decided to take the shortcut. Ha. 9-10% hill. At least I was riding in the shade.

Got the shopping done for tonight and tomorrow morning. Came back to the camp, washed my riding clothing, paid for the camp. I think I might try to start tomorrow as early as I can. We will see.

My brother called. They have got higher temperatures in my hometown in Poland than I have in France!!!

What’s happening?

It is nearly 21.00 and the temperature doesn’t want to drop.

Great day in the saddle even though it was warm.

Day 16 – 05/08

St-Junien, Nontron

Route map

Trip dist: 55.81 km
Total dist: 1148 km
Ride time: 3.19.11 hrs
Tot ride time: 69.24 hrs
Avg speed: 16.81 km/h
Max speed: 45.63 km/h
Avg power: 130 W
Alt Asc: 651 m
Tot alt asc: 14108 m
Dist Asc: 18.72 km
Tot dist asc: 380 km
Down: 716 m
Tot down: 14197 m
Dist down: 22.73 km
Tot dist down: 407 km
Max Alti: 308 m
Avg HR: 127
Max HR: 152
Calories: 2650 kcal
Total calories: 59156kcal

After a very nice ride yesterday I thought I will try to make it out of the camp a bit earlier. So today I got up at 6.40.

Slowly took the tent down and started packing up. Shower, breakfast, and I was out at 8.40.

Straight away realised that I had problems with the breaks on the back wheel. Set up my workshop on the pavement and a few minutes later the bike was running smooth.

After yesterday’s ride I knew that I was for a 5% for about 2km to get out of St-Junien. Afterwards had a few more of these and steeper.

I decided to get on the red route on my Michelin maps.

I was hoping that it won’t be very busy because it was early morning and on Sunday. It turned out to be a great choice for the day.

Yes, a few steeper hills but the tarmac was beautiful for about 30km. I got 20km done in slightly over 1 hour. Stopped couple of times. Had loads of water. The road quality changed when I entered Dordogne. It was very potholy. Nearly like Richmond.Then it got better again after Augignac and to Nontron.

Route Richard Coeur de Lion – turns out I have visited some places on the list.

As I already visited the chateau in Rochechouart I didn’t stop there. In Limousin or whatever place I am coming from the road was going up before every single village.

So you up and up, then a bit down and the up and up again to the centre of the bourg. They looked very carefully at the terrain before settling down. I guess defence was the highest priority. The first small towns I managed to cross without climbing were the Piegut-Pluviers.

Normally when I see the loads of curves sign on the road for so and so meters it is the coin toss. Only after the first curve I know I will be going up or down for some distance.

Well, today I had a surprise. It was a sign with 6000m of curves. It was after I left Rochechouart. I was really surprised when it turned out to be just a winding road through a beautiful forest for kilometres. It was great!

Another thing I have noticed for couple of days already that many people don’t have fences in front of their properties. Just the park and the land.

Nontron is a great place as well. Set in a very picturesque way in the terrain. Loads of different levels and some steep little roads and alleyways.

Got to the camp very early today. About 13.00. Set up the tent, had a shower, washed my cycling clothing. Today whatever they have got in the little shop on the camp. Probably a tin of raviolis. All camping places have got one.

The camp is huge and all plots are large. A bit far from facilities but will manage. There is a little stream at the back of my plot. French only.

Tomorrow might have to get up early to go for a ride. It will be hot later. Apparently Tuesday night the rain is coming and Wednesday and Thursday there might be some showers and thunderstorms and the temperature should drop considerably.

Day 17 – 06/08

Nontron, St-Pardoux-la-Riviere, Grottes de Villars, La Pinalie, St-Pardoux-la-Riviere, Champs-Romain, Savignac-de-Nontron, Nontron

Route map

Trip dist: 67.89 km
Total dist: 1217 km
Ride time: 4.06.57 hrs
Tot ride time: 73.41 hrs
Avg speed: 16.49 km/h
Max speed: 43.30 km/h
Avg power: 131 W
Alt Asc: 892 m
Tot alt asc: 15023 m
Dist Asc: 25.58 km
Tot dist asc: 406 km
Down: 885 m
Tot down: 15104 m
Dist down: 24.76 km
Tot dist down: 432 km
Max Alti: 310 m
Avg HR: 128
Max HR: 157
Calories: 3236 kcal
Total calories: 62506 kcal

When I was planning last night the route for today I saw on the map Grottes de Villars. Those points on the map can be interesting but I remember going to a waterfall that was a trickle, or water going through couple of larger stones. So I investigated a bit and it turned out to be a cave kind of Lascaux style with paintings 19.000 years old.

I thought I will investigate further when I get there. I was going through there anyway.

This morning I got up early. About 7.00. Got the baguette, had breakfast and coffee. I was out of the camp around 9.30. Went to Nontron and realised I left my phone at the camp. Back to the camp, picked up the phone. And was out again. First 7 km from Nontron were uphill. Then the climbing stopped for a while and was a bit of a flat ride.

The state of roads in Nontron and around the place is absolutely shocking. It got better again towards St-Pardoux-la-Riviere. This was another one of the beautiful little towns around here.

Got to the cave at about 11.30. There were not too many cars in the carpark. Got to the office and got the ticket for the 12.30 tour. I was like – man really got to wait for 1 hour! Anyhow the ticket was bought, €9.20 by the way, so I had to wait.

At 12.30 the tour started and boy was I for a treat.

Grottes de Villars

Absolutely stunning, spectacular, fantastic. I wanted to visit the Lascaux caves and the paintings.

When I came to the UK in 2000 I went to the college to do the Access to Higher Education in photography course. One of the first classes on the course was Art History. Susie Wright brought some slides and the first one was of the paintings in Lascaux caves. From this moment I was hooked on art and art appreciation. Has been a long journey now but I still remember those first images.

I know that I am close to Lascaux as well. So I had a look at their website. Gosh, booking in advance, queues and rather expensive.

I am so glad I stumbled across the Grottes de Villars. It made my day looking at the art that could be as old as 19.000 years. The cave itself is a spectacular organisation or chaos of such a range of stalactites and stalagmites.

Best hour spent off the saddle.

As I spent 2 hours of the good riding time I decided not to go crazy and follow just a part of the route I planned. It was going to depend on the road and the climbing. The first part of the road although 5-6% I did really quickly and got to La Pinalie without a problem. Then it was a great ride down to St-Pardoux-la-Riviere. I should have stopped there as I did in the morning, but I thought I was invincible.

In the morning riding towards St-Pardoux-la-Riviere I realised that I forgot to put the sun protection on my arms. The first shop was Aushan. Got there the baby wipes, lotion, water and some hydrating drinks.

Should have done the same second time round. Well, I didn’t and I went to the Champs-Romain. What a village. Golf course open in the centre of the village. Expensive looking houses. You just never know what you find round the corner.

Getting to Champs-Romain was quite a challenge with hills of 6-7%. It was steeper than the hills I was riding in the morning. The climbing didn’t stop. It was more and more difficult to find shade. I started running out of liquids.

Desperately looking for any person to ask for some water. In this sun? No way.

Then the providence provided. One of the houses didn’t have the fence and just by the the row of cabbage there was a water tap. Filled in my bottles. Drunk one of them with some hydrating tablets. Filled the bottle again. Wet my head and the hat. Felt much better. Thanked the nice people that put the tap there.

On the way back to Nontron I found on the map a little shortcut. I know that my shortcuts sometimes get me into trouble. Never mind. The view around the road to Savignac-de-Nontron were breathtaking. Doesn’t matter that I had to go on the 8-9% for a while afterwards. Then in Nontron already, I asked Google maps for a route to Intermarche. Of course it was another shortcut. I didn’t think the the bike and I could go up 12-13%. But we did. It was painful as part of the hill would have been steeper than 20%. Just a wall.

All the time there were loads of horse-flies. Nasty little insects. I must smell like a horse or horses ass when going through these rides.

Got the shopping done. Completely forgot that it is difficult to get replacement cartridge for my cooker here in France, although the ones I get in the UK are produced in France. Running out of gas, so might be no coffee and cooking for a while. Will have to find a Decathlon somewhere. I think, I managed to get it there last year.

Had some gnocchi with tomato sauce and chicken for supper.

Waiting for the air to cool down. Apparently tomorrow might be a bit cooler and then the temperature drops. We will see.

Day 18 – 07/08

Nontron, Brantôme-en-Perigord, Riberac, Sourzac, St-Laurent-des-Hommes.

Route map

Trip dist: 102.66 km
Total dist: 1320 km
Ride time: 5.43.12 hrs
Tot ride time: 79.25 hrs
Avg speed: 17.94 km/h
Max speed: 43.10 km/h
Avg power: 86 W
Alt Asc: 601 m
Tot alt asc: 15624 m
Dist Asc: 18.12 km
Tot dist asc: 424 km
Down: 721 m
Tot down: 15825 m
Dist down: 25.20 km
Tot dist down: 457 km
Max Alti: 252 m
Avg HR: 126
Max HR: 144
Calories: 4471 kcal
Total calories: 66978 kcal

Last night thought to move the camp around Riberac. 60km of the road and the camp looked ok on the website.

I was up 7.15. After the breakfast. The baguette and some bacon, goat’s cheese and nice, fresh little cucumbers. No coffee. Running out of gas. Just keeping the last bit for one special occasion. Whatever it might be.

I was out of the camp around 9.20 and heading towards Brantôme-en-Perigord. As beautiful as Dordogne is with spectacular views and some really pretty towns and villages the state of roads is just appalling. This is between towns. The towns themselves are even worse.

So riding much slower especially downhill.

The first bit of the trip took me to the town of Brantôme-en-Perigord. What a place full of character and some stunning architecture integrated with the caves. Very picturesque. To the point of being picture perfect. Loads of tourists around. I had a quick look around the town and set off towards Riberac. This bit of the road was going along the river La Dronne. Some spectacular views around. Clouds came as well and the temperature dropped. I was doing really well in the saddle and the distance was just disappearing. I got to Riberac before 13.00 and done 60km. A bit early to settle. I was full of energy and ready to go again. So I checked for campsites around and the one in Mussidan, actually in Sourzac looked like it might be interesting. Without any further thinking I set off for the third leg of today’s trip. The road wasn’t marked as main one. It was rather busy. Quite a few trucks of the heavy gauge. Got to the camp and noticed that the office wasn’t open on Tuesday. Stood there for a while and then picked up the phone and asked Google for the closest camping place around.

There was one at 11km on the other side of Mussidan. I got ok to Mussidan, spotted a Super-U and did some basic shopping just in case. Some cooked chicken, salad, some fruit and tomatoes. Couple of beers for the evening. After the stop asked Google again for the route. It took me through some village roads, off road, to a point of no return. Always remember – Google maps for cycling are in beta. Somehow managed to get to the closest better road and cycled with Google to the camp. It turned out to be a very small, intimate place, run and owned by English. Apparently they have got loads of Dutch people coming but this year even they stayed at home in Dutch camps as the weather was so perfect. I noticed that there weren’t as many people as previous years on any of the camps I have stayed.

Beautiful place for the camp on the river with access to a small lake. The guys here do mainly Gîtes, there are only 6 places for caravans and a small field for tents. Nice facilities.

A day full of riding as the weather got a bit cooler. Enjoyed a bit of a flatter roads. Not too much because it gets boring and doesn’t make space for downhill and rest.

Washing done, the thunderstorm predicted for today didn’t happen. They moved it to Wednesday/Thursday night. Might be stuck at the camp on Thursday.

Day 19 – 08/08 – Little mosquitoes, little flies and normal size horse-flies.

St-Laurent-des-Hommes, St-Michel-de-Double, St-Andre-de-Double, Lake Jemaye, La Jemaye, Ponteyraud, St-Aulaye, La Poste, St-Michel-l’Ecluse, La Grave, Echourgnac, Mussidan, St-Laurent-des-Hommes

Route map

Trip dist: 96.08 km
Total dist: 1416 km
Ride time: 4.55.46 hrs
Tot ride time: 84.20 hrs
Avg speed: 19.49 km/h
Max speed: 46.79 km/h
Avg power: 121 W
Alt Asc: 842 m
Tot alt asc: 16467 m
Dist Asc: 26.72 km
Tot dist asc: 451 km
Down: 822 m
Tot down: 16648 m
Dist down: 25.92 km
Tot dist down: 483 km
Max Alti: 119 m
Avg HR: 122
Max HR: 162
Calories: 3530 kcal
Total calories: 70508 kcal

Yesterday,I thought I would explore the forest around – Foret de la Double. Couple of scenic routes, some view points on the map. Looked interesting.

Forgot that yesterday when I was coming here on the border of the forest, whenever I would stop by the woods hundreds of little mosquitoes would be on top of me in a split second.

I didn’t get anything for my breakfast today so decided to see if there is anything in the village of St-Laurent-des-Hommes. The only shop that had anything edible was the boulangerie. Got a pain aux raisins and a croissant. Eat both and set of for the day. All of the rural roads were actually really nice. Some up and downhills through the day. Quite a few little settlements full of character. Nice little old churches, and lovely architecture around.

Then I decided to get to the lake Jemaye. It turned out to be a spot for the day for local and some kids group holiday. Wanted to get a panini. There were 2 shops already open. The man looking like the manager told me I had to wait till 12.00. It was 11.45 – so I got back on the bike and went away.

Few kilometres later in the small town, very picturesque as well, St-Aulaye – I found a bar that was open. Got myself my favourite sandwich jambon, beurre, gruyère, Coke and a coffee. Satisfied that I will survive the road now I decided to go through La Poste and then through a scenic route through La Grave.

Only then at the first stop to get a sip of water I remembered my fights with mosquitoes yesterday. At any time I would slow down or try even to stop they would be on top of me. There were not only mosquitoes but little flies that were trying to get in to my nose and ears, and to top up there were the horse-flies too.

The whole trinity of nasty little insects.

Through the trips that I had in the past I know that I have to go around 15km/h to escape the flying nasties. I’m rather a slow uphill goer but today I was flying. The moment I would slow down I had them on top of me – straight away. From km 43 to km 82 I was riding like a possessed man.

Recommend Foret de la Double if anyone wants to practice uphill going skills. I never knew I could go that fast for that long.

It wasn’t all bad news. The forest was beautiful, lush, green, full of beautiful smells. I just didn’t stop to take any photos. It will remain as a memory only in my mind.

Then did the shopping in Intermarche. Got some stuff for tomorrow morning. It might be a late start as thunderstorm is predicted for tonight. From around midnight. So I got a small baguette some ham and couple of nectarines to get me through the morning.

It was a great day in the saddle again. Some great little places and in spite of the little buggers totally enjoyable.

Chicken, coleslaw and a red pepper for supper with some very nice white grapes. The solid variety.

Now waiting for the thunderstorm.

Day 20 – 09/08

St-Laurent-des-Hommes, Montpon-Menesterol, Castillon-la-Bataille, St-Jean-de-Blagniac, At.Aubin, Guillac, La Sauve, Creo, Camping Bel Air

Route map

Trip dist: 83.94 km
Total dist: 1500 km
Ride time: 5.00.01 hrs
Tot ride time: 89.20 hrs
Avg speed: 16.78 km/h
Max speed: 35.72 km/h
Avg power: 97 W
Alt Asc: 553 m
Tot alt asc: 17020 m
Dist Asc: 17.39 km
Tot dist asc: 468 km
Down: 528 m
Tot down: 17176 m
Dist down: 17.79 km
Tot dist down: 502 km
Max Alti: 57 m
Avg HR: 118
Max HR: 142
Calories: 3305 kcal
Total calories: 73814 kcal

I don’t plan my trips in advance anymore. It is just about enjoyment of the environment and the unknown roads opening in front of me. Never know what I will find round the next corner.

I was waiting for thunderstorm last night and it came. It was going to happen at about 6.00 but it came at midnight.

Prepared all I could beforehand. Nothing directly on the floor in front of the tent. Everything stuck snuggly.

The first wave of thunderstorm wasn’t particularly long or noisy. I can’t remember when it stopped raining.

Then at about 3.00 there was just one huge thunder very close. More rain came.

I woke up at 6.30 and to my surprise the only rain I had was coming from the tree above me. The sky looked rather peaceful.

After a few moments of deliberations I decided to start packing slowly. Let the tent’s roof dry a bit.

There were couple of chairs and a table in a little hut with WiFi area. Had my breakfast there. No coffee again. Just a baguette and some jambon. Couple of white nectarines.

Had a shower and realised that every time the wind comes new drops fall in the tent. Packed up the wet bit separately from the rest of the tent and was ready to go at 9.35. After cleaning the rubbish, cycled away. Did about 1.5km when remembered that I left my phone on charge in the utility room.

Back to the camp. Picked up the phone and as I was there went to the toilet as well, and then started the day again at 9.50.

No nasty insects since the moment 0. Perfect. Can go at my own pace. The first part of the road was along a beautiful forest. Got to Castillon-la-Bataille in no time. As I looked at the map last night I had option to go on the D936. Just before Castillon-la-Bataille I was on this road and I didn’t like it a bit. Very busy with loads of lorry traffic. So I went for the second option. Went to the other side of the river Dordogne and cycled along. Very poor road but views were magnificent.

Then there was a bit of tricky navigation. This is why I thought of going along the main road before. It turned out that I was in the wine land and there are no signs to places, only to chateau this chateau that.

To get St-Aubin I had to go through a 10% with all bags and stuff and I didn’t mind at all. The views of the vineyards on slopes were just so stunning. And I was in the middle of it – on the tiniest of the roads.

I realised that the placement and the orientation of the vineyard changes depending on the orientation on the map. Then, at some point, in the middle of nowhere I went to try some grapes. The first one was warmed up by the sun already. Sweet and very juicy. Then I stopped 6 or 7 times trying different grapes and all of them tasted different. I am sure that one of them had the aftertaste of herbs. The only one I saw with the name of the grapes was a Merlot.

As I was getting closer to the camp I didn’t want the cyclingto finish for the day. I was so enjoying the road. Will be back in the vineyards tomorrow.

Very civilised campsite. Set up the tent went back to Creon to get the shopping. About 4km cycle. Finally found in Carrefour a screw-on gas container. So got some pasta and loads of salad for today and some eggs for tomorrow. Came to camp tried the cartridge, it bloody doesn’t work. Fitted fine but no gas out. So it was for the special moment with my old cartridge. I managed to cook the pasta and there is a bit more left. Might cook eggs tomorrow and maybe there is a room for the coffee.

Day 21 – 10/08

Camping Bel Air, Loupes, Croignon, Jonqueyres, Nerigean, Port de Genissac, Moulon, Tizac-de-Curton, Rauzan, Frontenac, Courpiac, La Sauve, St-Quentin-de-Baron, Creon, Camping Bel Air

Route map

Trip dist: 90.41 km
Total dist: 1590 km
Ride time: 5.12.30 hrs
Tot ride time: 94.33 hrs
Avg speed: 17.35 km/h
Max speed: 50.87 km/h
Avg power: 111 W
Alt Asc: 947 m
Tot alt asc: 17968 m
Dist Asc: 27.31 km
Tot dist asc: 496 km
Down: 956 m
Tot down: 18.132 m
Dist down: 30.16 km
Tot dist down: 532 km
Max Alti: 110 m
Avg HR: 116
Max HR: 145
Calories: 3179 kcal
Total calories: 76993 kcal

Great day in the land of wine.

Got my baguette at 8.15 and managed to prepare a coffee and some scrambled eggs. Prepared a sandwich for later and after the usual preparations I was out about 10.00.

Decided to stay all day in the vineyards and just cycled through some beautiful forests, chateau, villages, small towns and loads of slopes with vineyards. Some of the chateau totally out of the fairy tale, some very humble. Same with villages: some were just postcard pretty and some well aged.

Some beautiful little churches but I found only one that was open in St-Quentin-de-Baron. This one showed some old frescoes on one of the walls. The rest of the church was just restored.

Managed to come back to visit the river Dordogne in Genissac. Sat on a bench and had a gianormous nectarine watching the water flow. Behind, what looked like the whole of the village, had a Friday lunch by the river. Getting out of Genissac stumbled across the U-Coop. Stopped for water and some hydrating drinks.

Stopped a few times to check the quality of the grape. Every time I stopped the grapes tasted different. Sweeter, more bitter, warm – those are my favourite, all very juicy. I realised as well that they keep only the grapes at the bottom of the vine. Towards the top of the vine there are only leaves that are trimmed constantly. Some of the vines were old and weathered, there were some new vineyards being set. There is a hope for the future.

Slopes – some of them killers. 11-12%, standing like a walk in front of me. I got up as much today as when I was riding through the mountains. On some of them my legs were burning.

Fabulous day all the time round. Got lost couple of times in small roads with names of winemaker and not the place. Beautiful.

Came back to the camp and most of the people around me were gone. I guess Friday. Now the place is getting filled up with new people.

Let’s enjoy the evening.

Day 22 – Pines, heather and cicadas

Camping Bel Air, Creon, Langoiran, St-Morillon, La Voile, Hostens, St-Symphorien, Guillos, St-Michel-de-Rieufret, Portets, Creon, Camping Bel Air

Route map

Trip dist: 121.08 km
Total dist: 1712 km
Ride time: 5.25.25 hrs
Tot ride time: 99.58 hrs
Avg speed: 22.32 km/h
Max speed: 37.67 km/h
Avg power: 71 W
Alt Asc: 402 m
Tot alt asc: 18371 m
Dist Asc: 12.82 km
Tot dist asc: 509 km
Down: 391 m
Tot down: 18.523 m
Dist down: 14.39 km
Tot dist down: 547 km
Max Alti: 131 m
Avg HR: 129
Max HR: 153
Calories: 4491 kcal
Total calories: 81485 kcal

Couldn’t have been so close to Gascogne and Le Lands and not step in. Remember my first encounter with Le Lands in 2010 on my way to Santiago de Compostela. I travelled through Bordeaux and went to Mimizan. Then the following day took a main road down to Bayonne.

I came back in 2012 on my tour de France.

What got embedded in my mind after both times of travel through the region: the smell of pine trees, the heather by the roadside and the sound of cicadas.

I had about 40km round trip to get in and out so I knew it will be a bit more kilometres today.

Had a coffee. The gas still lasted. I think I might be very lucky if the water boils tomorrow as well.

Had the baguette, croissant and the coffee of course for the breakfast and was out about 10.00. After crossing the river Garonne I was going through the last vineyards and getting into the forests.

I decided to take the straight as an arrow road from St-Seive to Hostens. I realised that it was Saturday and there were loads of cars and motorhomes. People finishing holidays or starting maybe. So just before Cabanac I went for a pee stop and after consulting the map I found a cycling path next to the main road. Found the path and before I knew it I was in the beautiful forest and had cycled 50 km.

Followed through the forest to St-Symphorien. I have done 35 km in the cycling path. It was great but very little happening. Counted cyclists I passed by. 16. 3 groups of 3 and 7 solo riders.

Recorded a short video

Pines, heather and cicadas

Then went through Hostens. Stopped at cemetery to get some fresh water and was off again. In St-Symphorien I went back to the road. A little bit more of excitement and things to see. I was riding through kilometres of the forest. Loved It. It got quite warm as well. So the smells were just unbelievable. Le Lands of the Gascogne never disappoint.

It was yet another beautiful cycling day. Total change of scenery and topography of the terrain. The only problem I have with cycling on flat is that I have to pedal constantly. I don’t think I pushed the pedals as many times as I did today on any other day of this trip. The cycle path was on a small slope all the time. I went up about 40m in 30km. So I had to push slightly harder there.

Apart from this the land of Le Lands is as flat as a pancake. The only uphill or down I had it was in the first and the last 20km between Creon and Portets.

Got my food from Carrefour, now chilling out. Found a little bottle of Bergerac on shelves of the supermarket.

Had to say Good Bye to my Castelli bibs. The lycra has lost its lycraness and I bet people could see my bum through the thin fabric. This explains as well why the sun was hitting so strong my backside.

Day 23 – 12/08 – Bordeaux

Camping Bel Air – La Sauve, Bordeaux on cycling path

Route map

Trip dist: 37.69 km
Total dist: 1749 km
Ride time: 2.12.36 hrs
Tot ride time: 102.11 hrs
Avg speed: 17.05 km/h
Max speed: 44.27 km/h
Avg power: 54 W
Alt Asc: 85 m
Tot alt asc: 18456 m
Dist Asc: 2.69 km
Tot dist asc: 511 km
Down: 174 m
Tot down: 18697 m
Dist down: 6.62 km
Tot dist down: 553 km
Max Alti: 139 m
Avg HR: 104
Max HR: 137
Calories: 821 kcal
Total calories: 82306 kcal

Very short trip today.

I have passed through Bordeaux twice in the past trips but never stopped to see the place.

Woke up early this morning – 6.00. I didn’t want to rush through the morning as I had the check in at the hotel from 12.00 only. So I just pondered around the pitch and the camp. Started getting my stuff together. By 8.00 I had nearly everything packed. Just waited for the tent to dry down from the morning dew. Had my breakfast and the gas cartridge gave up on me very close to boiling another cup of coffee. It wasn’t going to be. Had part of the baguette, prepared snack for later. Packed the tent and was out of the camp by 10.00.

There was no point in rushing through the ride today. I had around 40km to go and plenty of time. The cycling path to Bordeaux was really nice. Plenty of places to stop, have a coffee or just visit a little village. I stopped in Lignan had a coffee and a Coke. After yesterday’s ride the back break was playing up a bit so sorted it out in there. Getting better at this thing, I think.

There was only one bit of the path that wasn’t well marked and I found myself on a very busy road to Bordeaux. Checked the map and the phone and decided to go back to last roundabout and there was a sign for cycling path. I just didn’t go enough through the roundabout last time. After this point I got through to Bordeaux relatively easy.

I booked a hotel room in Ibis Budget close to the train station. I didn’t realise it was opposite to the train station. Perfect, as I have 7.08 train to get me to Caen.

After checking in and a shower I went to visit the city of Bordeaux. It was very hot. 35°C +. Had a 10km+ walk around the centre of the city. Some very interesting architecture, loads of places to visit, galleries and museums. It is Sunday so quite a few places shut for the day.

I didn’t know why I wasn’t so keen on Bordeaux before. One thing that struck me today was how dirty the streets are. There was a smell of urine and poo in quite a few places.

French don’t clean the dog shit at all.

Sadly the city is full of homeless people. Met a few Polish guys in the shady entrances to the shop or a tenement houses (kamienica).

The place is absolutely cycling and walking friendly. Loads of roads are just for pedestrians and cyclists only. I think, I would have to come here in autumn or spring to enjoy the city to full extent. It was just a touch too warm for a longer walk. Maybe coming with someone that knows the place would help. It was a strange experience in Bordeaux again. I can see the beauty of the place but it is just too dirty for the weather that they are having.

Got some provisions from a small shop round the corner and came back to the hotel.

Another shower. Packed now fully dry tent and the towel. No washing today. Hopefully early night as well. Air-conditioned room for tonight. It doesn’t work perfectly but it keeps the room definitely cooler.

Will try not to make it as difficult as last year my trip to the train.

Day 24 and 25 – coming back

Bordeaux, Caen, Ouistreham, Portsmouth, Clapham Junction, Twickenham

Route map

Trip dist: 51.08 km
Total dist: 1800 km
Ride time: 4.18.26 hrs
Tot ride time: 106.29 hrs
Avg speed: 11.86 km/h
Max speed: 29.90 km/h
Alt Asc: 118 m
Tot alt asc: 18574 m
Dist Asc: 4.10 km
Tot dist asc: 515 km
Down: 130 m
Tot down: 18828 m
Dist down: 4.72 km
Tot dist down: 558 km
Max Alti: 116 m
Calories: 466 kcal
Total calories: 82773 kcal

After a practically sleepless night in the hotel I started my way back to London on the train at 7.08.

It was just a strange night that was supposed to bring thunderstorm and rain through the whole of the night, instead it was just hot and still, it felt like calm before the storm. The air-conditioning in the room was working but it was a bit noisy and sleeping in bed after more than 3 weeks in the tent was rather strange as well. Could have been my experience from last year when I nearly lost my train because the alarm didn’t sound. I tried the alarm several times during the trip and it worked fine but maybe just something at the back of my mind.

Anyhow, I managed to catch the train without any problems. The switch of the train was very smooth as well. Didn’t have to even change the platform. Which was great as the first train was delayed by about 7 minutes and I had only 19 minutes for chnge to start with.

The first train was TGV so it was very fast at moments. The second train was an InterCity. It was the slowest the train could go. I wasn’t rushing really so I was happy enjoying the landscape. Suddenly the train has become the busiest thing I have seen since times of communist Poland when people were jumping through windows to catch a sit or even get on the train. There were groups of kids coming and going to holiday camps. Suddenly there were 10 or 15 bikes. Luggage everywhere. And yet they managed to get to Caen on time.

I decided that I will take the overnight ferry from Ouistreham to Portsmouth. Arriving after 22.00 in Portsmouth would have me stranded there. So another sleepless night it was going to be. I had a ride around Caen, and then popped in to Lidl on the way out to get some food for the afternoon.

Then I had the slowest ride to Ouistreham. Stopped at some place that looked like some old bath place to have my lunch.

Got to the Brittany Ferries and had the ticket printed. Then went for a ride around Ouistreham. Visited one of the D-DAY landing places – Sword Beach. Went back to the town and had 3 very strong coffees. Then it was just the wait for boarding.

On the ferry found a nice sofa and set up the camp in there. Was asleep before I remember. Woke up at 2.00 to the sound of snoring… Not me! Had to put earphones in and then woke up at 5.00. Washed myself and changed the shirt.

Got to Portsmouth train station and took the 7.28 train to Clapham Junction. Then had a ride from Clapham Junction and to the shop to get some food for later.

Feel absolutely exhausted from the travelling but I had some fantastic holidays. I think I might do it again.