Thursday, 23 October 2008

Third Email

Dear all,

As the space between each communication is increasing, this email arrives along with thoughts that perhaps I should approach "Gap" for some sponsorship!

My last mail found me moving on from Montpellier but not before attending my final dental date. I was all packed up and ready to go as I rolled my bike into the root treatment reception. During my various visits to the dentist there had been much laughter at each others expense (the biggest being the bill!) that I decided to ask her out for a drink. However, that night I found myself dining with three dentists as she brought along two female friends. During the course(s) of the evening it transpired that they were all 'dentists by default' having marginally missed out on medical marks and not having the 'gumption' to doctor them, which would have enabled them to become one. Mind you, my dentist had already acquired some surgical skills by inexplicably breaking the long root cleaning tool in my tooth thus sending me off with a souvenir and stressing that it shouldn't cause me any bother - it hasn't so far!

It was after midnight when I moseyed on out of Montpellier hardly pushing the pedals. With the warm air on my face and not a care in the world, I was ready to face whatever lay ahead. I cherish such simple moments never knowing when they will reappear. I cycled till after three and although I still had heaps of energy - due to an excellent healing from Michel earlier the previous day, I decided to grab some slumber at a campsite. I padlocked the bike, unrolled my therm-a-rest then clambered fully clothed into my sleeping bag. I was awakened a few hours later by a small man trimming a large tree with a chain saw to enable a massive mobile home to squeeze into the space next to me -yet another example of a campsite where peace was at a premium, the only peace being my caramel coated chocolate biscuit that I ate for breakfast. After a couple cups of coffee from my flask I popped in by the office to pay. However, due to the shortness of my stay, the owner figured five euoro's was fine, rather than the formal fifteen.

After an uneventful day of purely putting miles on the meter I must have slipped into autopilot as I found myself on the autoroute (motorway). Dawn was beginning to settle down but I certainly wasn't as vehicles roared past at an alarming rate. For the first time in France, cars continually hooted and tooted with flailing fists telling me to get off - I couldn't! The nearest exit was eight miles away. Rather frustratingly I could actually see the road I was supposed to be on, as it ran directly parallel to the autoroute but out of reach beyond the crash barriers and cars. An autoroute maintenance vehicle stopped to inform me what I already knew - I should not be on the road, it is very dangerous and that I should leave at the next exit! I put my head down, my pedal power up and tried to ignore the uneasy sensation that was sweeping over me. After another two miles where I encountered more horns then on a safari, a four wheel drive 'Gendarmerie' vehicle came to my rescue and rode behind me with all lights illuminated as I sprinted along the remainder of the route. They were so understanding and courteous that they even escorted me across the flyover to the right road. Incredibly, upon departing they complimented me on the fact that I had lights on my bike, not mentioning that it hadn't helped me to see where I was going! I soon came upon a sign for camping but as it was now late everything was locked up so I had to squeeze my bike under the entrance barrier. However, I saw some life in the lodge so I wrapped on the door to enquire about a pitch. As it was peak season there was no guarantee of a place but the owner must have taken pity on my parched appearance as she presented me with a large bottle of mineral water then escorted me to a wee corner where I could place my tent. I was already being mauled by mossies but couldn't be bothered slapping on insect repellent just for the few minutes it would take to throw up the tent. I bitterly regretted this the following morning when I woke up with more bites than a computer!

I left the site late in the day after resetting my alarm and tending to my bites with tiger balm. Although I was covering the miles the mercury was moving just as quick, hitting the high thirties, so I began to take my time stopping frequently to rest, recuperate and rehydrate. Nurturing my nocturnal needs I again cycled late into the night finally stopping at a bus shelter in a wee village called Rians where I managed to grab four and a half hours semi sleep despite constant meowing from my curious feline friend. Then just when I managed to eventually drop off, the local council rubbish trucks decided to start their shift - their depot being directly along the dirt track road next to where I lay. There was no more sleep to be had so I climbed out of my sleeping bag liner, packed away the clothes I was using as a pillow, put on my shoes, bit into a banana and wolfed down some water before stepping out of the shelter to be surprised by a soldier rigged out in full regalia - pressumably waiting for a lift but obviously not from me!

Thirty early morning miles saw me to Salernes where I sat for hours in the square simply snacking, dozing and reading my book letting life go by. I chatted for a bit with the boss of the local tourist office who was actually an artist but was having a period of creative doubt and drought. Drought was not the problem of the two drunks who started a fist fight, clumsily trying to clout each other but both failing miserably. With the entertainment at an end I decided to replenish my provisions then push off. Stepping out of the supermarket I spotted a couple of young English students sitting slumped against the fence. Although they had two brand new bikes and were bristling with brawn the exertion of three hundred miles in the previous three days had evidently taken its toll. As I cycled across the car park waving goodbye, they were both busy gobbling chocolate gateau to fuel the final hurdle of their nine day dash across France! I trundled on for another twenty two miles to Le Muy where I was fortunate to find free camping for the night. The owner, who had English friends staying kindly invited me to dine with them. Mind you, I had to sing for supper giving the English couples son a massage.

Twenty miles took me back to the coast and to St Raphael where I enquired at the local tourist office regarding internet access. I was in luck - they had a computer you could use 'gratis' for ten minutes. As I needed more time to tidy up my last tome I asked if it was okay to use it longer and I would vacate it each time a tourist ventured in. As you can imagine this took an eternity but is how I met Ian from Stoke who had not met his bike off the plane. Intending to cycle around the coast for ten days he had spent the first two in the tourist office trying to locate his mode of locomotion. We guzzled some grub (Cheers Ian) followed by a beer at the Loch Ness Bar. Then in the wee small hours I continued on to Cannes. It was only twenty miles but I spent the whole night cycling and sitting in secluded beaches enjoying the peace and tranquillity eventually seeing the sunrise as I cantered into Cannes. I did check out a few places to grab forty winks but there were already people either in, on or up them - I complemented them on finding such fine places to park.

That day I continued along the coast finally stopping near Nice to dine on a tin of lentils, brown bread, a brace of bananas and a pair of pears very happy to have found a quieter spot - sardines in a tin are positively open plan compared to all the bodies on the beach where there is no sand to 'sea'. Later as the sun was slipping away I showered on the beach managing to wash my cycling shorts whilst still wearing them. I then pushed my bike through Nice finding the wealth basking in the bay simply mindboggling and wondering why people feel they need so much. A few miles further on I found my accommodation for the night behind a twenty four hour roadside cafe van, waking up the next morning to find three men smiling down on me as they played cards. I was offered the use of a portaloo situated behind the van, which despite its name looked like it had not moved for some time, neither had the filth inside, so I discretely slipped down to the shore for an alfresco experience! Although I was close to Italy I still had the madness of Monaco and Monte Carlo to meander through where obscene wealth calls out from every crag. Monaco is built up more than the English national football team with the buildings so close together that privacy has gone right out of the window. I found it a little claustrophobic and ignoring for a moment the wee issue of money, I would certainly not choose to live there!

With the Italian border in sight I sat down in the middle of a grassy roundabout under a palm tree (the only shaded area) to eat my Roquefort cheese and bread and to bid farewell to France. Serious cyclists apart, whose faces were as hard as the road when they powered past all lycra and longing for a better speed, I found the French very friendly and helpful always greeting you with a beaming smile and a bonjour.

As my Italian itinerary is still in note form it shall follow soon but the heading refers to my poor navigational skills as I failed to negotiate one of the many pot holes in the Italian roads and bit the bitumen breaking my collar bone. However, healing with haste and I am now in Korinthos, eighty km's from Athens after taking a ferry from Brindisi (Italy) to Patras (Greece) and gingerly creeping around the coast.

My supply of thanks is rapidly running dry due to the immense help I am continually receiving, both emotionally and physically, so if anyone is aware of a source where I can bulk buy, then please give me a shout.

As always with much love...Eric x

1 comment:

ME Association said...

Hi Eric

Next time you blog, can you at the very least let us all know where you are? You blogged yesterday but only got to Istanbul when filling in the daily mileage journal – and that was almost a fortnight ago!

All the best, mate! I hope your shoulder is holding up well.

Tony from the ME Association