I got up fairly early as I knew I might need to get a few extra kilometres in to get to La Rochelle before dark. It was a drizzly (dreich!) day but that was fine and made a change from the scorching heat of previous days. I just needed to check that I was heading in the correct direction before ploughing on. I saw a man who was rather sun-beaten with a large rucksack sitting on a bench and asked if I was headed the right way. It turned out that he had walked all the way from Belgium. He was undertaking the Compostela de Santiago pilgrimage and was heading towards St Michel Chef Chef too. We had a good chat – with my terrible french it’s a miracle I managed to speak with anyone at all! He told me I was going the correct way. He only had 2 euros left in his pocket so I gave him some money so he could get a good lunch and wished him well.
The sun returned and it was soon back up to 30C on the thermostat. I rocked up at a little cafe in one of the villages (part of a campsite) and chatted for a while with some locals there before carrying on. I wanted to push on as much as possible today so that I could have a free day in La Rochelle before heading home. Most of the day was spent on gravel tracks and local roads which was really nice.
I was riding along the Marans canal quite a lot of the time which was lovely but hot and with little or no shelter.
After a while I found a tree to sit under and ate my lunch. I finished off the last of my sweetcorn bread (made with maize). Today I had it with banana. I had a few oatcakes with flax seeds in them – really tasty, and a snack bar too.
I decided to try a little live facebook streaming which was quite fun. I would do another live facebook broadcast if I got to La Rochelle!
After a good rest I carried on, shooting past Marans without even noticing it. Around 10km from La Rochelle I had to find a village to stop for drinks and more food. I was running out of water which was a bit of a worry.
I went off the route into a small town, I forget it’s name, and chatted to a man in his garden. He told me that there was a cafe very close by and gave me fantastic directions. 5 minutes later I was chatting to the bar lady who gave me a massive glass of lemon squash. I went next door to get a tomato and tuna tart and sat just enjoying the quiet and the rest. The final pit stop before the final push to La Rochelle.
With a final ‘bon courage!’ I was off again – just me and my bike. I continued south.
I had booked into a hotel called Le Yachtman right on the Old Port of La Rochelle ‘Le Vieux Port Sud’ as it was signposted. It was fairly straight forward to find it, I just followed the signs all the way to the port. As I reached my destination I felt both elated at having made it but a little sad that this was the end of the road trip – for now! I had resolved to finish the velodysee (from La Rochelle to Hendaye) very soon though.
PART 1 complete – ROSCOFF to LA ROCHELLE
I tried to do a little live video to say thanks to everyone who had supported me and left me messages of encouragement. It was quite a short broadcast since I felt a bit emotional and, as my friends can confirm, I lose the ability to speak when I get emotional!
The port was really busy with lots going on. Millions of restaurants – how anyone is supposed to decide which one to eat in is beyond me. Le Yachtman was lovely. I was a bit apprehensive about leaving my bike in the corridor but I put my lock around the rear wheel and frame and the nice chap at reception assured me it would be fine. I got washed up and then headed out for a sorbet by the boats and to read my book before supper. Lovely just sitting and watching the world go by for a while – there hadn’t been much of that before I left for my trip and so I vowed to make more time for myself in future!
Lessons learned !
With any big trip (as my friends told me before I left) it’s really important to add in some rest days. I had pushed on every day for 9 days and, for me, the distances I was doing were tough when I take into account the load I was carrying. It meant that my fitness improved really quickly but I did struggle around day 5,6 and 7 and mentally it became quite tough.
After a couple of days rest in La Rochelle I felt ready to possibly carry on. Unfortunately I had already made the decision to return home. I don’t regret that decision at all though. I had a lot to arrange before going to Malawi and I had some extra time to pop up and see the family which was brilliant. I don’t always have time to properly catch up with people in my day to day life so it was time well spent.
That evening I had a most delicious meal of artichoke, poached egg and smoked salmon starter (started eating fish now and again since struggling with vegan diet a bit) followed by the most delicious mashed potato and fish dish ever! Next to my table was an array of Scottish Single Malts – it was almost as if it was meant to be !!
Cycle the Velodysee – you won’t regret it! Just get the guide book with the maps and make sure you pack light! Happy pedalling everyone.