In preparation for our 50+ mile cycle today, on the advice of Lee (camping and cycling fwennd and hippy), we had porridge oats for breakfast that we’d soaked overnight in water. I’ve never eaten prison gruel. In fact, I don’t even know if gruel is a real thing, but if it does exist then I’m pretty sure it’s made with porridge soaked overnight in far too much water, spiced up with two indestructible sugar cubes. It was pretty grim to say the least but, by George, Lee was right; it was the first day we hadn’t been hungry before an appropriate time for lunch. So, yummy gruel for brekkie from now on then. Mmmmm.
We set off at 8:30 and it was already hot, hot, hot. After an hour or so, we could tell we were heading towards the Alps as things started to look a little hilly in the distance.
We cycled over the EDF Canal which, unsurprisingly, was constructed by the EDF energy company and serves these impressive looking hydro-electric power plants.
We slowed down when we saw cars and a train going through tunnels carved out of the cliff face. They looked incredibly exciting but we weren’t allowed through them on our bikes. Instead, we stopped to admire the massive old stone bridge supports. A new bridge had been built in its place, but the old, partially demolished, structure looked way more ornate.
After 51 miles, we arrived at Greoux-Les-Bains and set up our home for the night at Camping Regain, which sadly has nothing to do with male pattern baldness. There was nothing for miles around the campsite so it was great forward planning that we’d stopped and got some pasta from a Lidl earlier, where (uncomfortably) the security guard had followed us both around the shop. You get that a lot when you’re as stinky as we are.
What the campsite lacked in facilities, it made up for in location. We played in the river that ran through the campsite for a while, skimming stones and reading our book.
Then we started planning the next stage of our trip. With no pudding after our pasta, I got far too excited when the owner of the campsite drove past our pitch and offered us a melon for 2EUROS. You’ve got to love an impromptu melon for supper.
The next day, we continued towards the mountains and it started to get rather hilly.
I don’t think it was technically a mountain at this point. We were getting a few cheers and motivational beeps from passers-by and the roads at one point were those typical switch-back style roads you’d usually associate with a mountain, but I’m pretty sure it was just a bloomin big hill.
We knew that today we’d pass our 1000th mile so we stopped at about 995 miles for celebratory lunch provisions: a bag of Tagada, a bar of Milka with Tuc biscuits (not cheese Tuc; that would just be wrong) and a little bottle of champers. When we hit the 1000th mile, we stopped and had our mini celebration at the side of the road. Woo hoo!!
I was told back in England that cyclists in France get much more respect than in the UK. As soon as we arrived in France, this became abundantly clear. There are cycle lanes everywhere and (more than once) cars have stopped to let us pass crossings – even when it was their right of way! It really is super cycle-friendly here and today was no exception. Cycling on the narrow roads, motorists were warned by these repeated signs to give at least 1.5m space for us, little trampers.
One word of caution though, if you’re planning on cycling in France, they REALLY dislike it if you cycle on the road when there is a separate cycle lane available and, trust me, they are not shy in coming forward to tell you how mad they are. We’ve been told off now at least couple of times. Sorry France.
At lunch time and after about 26 miles, we arrived in the beautiful town of Moustiers-Ste-Marie, in its perfect setting amid these giant limestone cliffs.
We stuck lucky and got the last pitch available. We made our nest habitable, had fajitas for lunch with a (celebratory) Desperados then went for a swim in the bright blue Lac de Sainte Croix.
The next day was a rest day, so we picked up our morning baguette from the campsite reception, bought some jam for our picnic then walked to the completely deserted lake to hire a canoe for the morning.
With some slightly dubious rowing skills (canoeing is much harder than it looks) we canoed our way across the lake and into the canyon. I wish I could explain in words how amazing this place is, but when I try it just sounds so clichéd. It was just… stunning….
When the current got too much and we had to evacuate our canoe, we decided to stop for our picnic.
On the way back, we stopped for a swim in the canyon and only just made it back in time to the canoe rental hut.
Back at the campsite in the evening, there was a band on and a strange but friendly and entirely lovely man with yellow sunglasses and cut off denim shorts asked us if we could help him get on the WiFi. At one point he announced enthusiastically with wild eyes that he was “FROM HOLLAND”. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get his phone to connect with the WiFi but later on he came over and gave us a bottle of wine, telling us that he had a wife and two children now but that he “knew his people” and nodded at us in a knowing sort of way and motioned to the tattoos on his arms. I felt bad that we couldn’t crack the bottle open and drink it with him, but we had a mountain to climb the next day, so I put it in my bag for later.
PS. You’ll be pleased to know we managed to buy some honey for the gruel to mask the blandness. Roll on breakfast time!