After a nice breakfast by the roaring log fire at our B&B in Olonzac, we once again loaded up the bikes in a howling gale and prepared to set off. Our delightful host expressed concern at us riding in such strong winds and for the second time on this trip we had someone say to us, “You have courage.” As we rode out of the gate, she followed that up with, “Ride safely.”
We stopped off at the supermarket again, to get Steve some elevenses and lunch and then stopped at the charity clothes bin near the store, so I could donate my “waterproof” trousers. They are kids’ trousers, so maybe a little French child somewhere can wear them to splash in puddles or something. We headed towards the path that would take us onto our next stop at Capendu. Steve had read the notes about this stage of the canal path and they said the path wasn’t in very good condition, so we decided to go by road instead. The road followed the same route as the path, but was far less scenic and the roaring wind did not make for fun or pleasant riding at all. The conditions are quite ridiculous actually, I have never known wind to be this strong, for this long and for there to be no easing at all. We are now on day 5 of continuous 50+ km/h winds all day, each day. It really does sap one’s energy and spirit I’m afraid.
We stopped for elevenses in the little village of La Redorte. As we were riding into the village, I saw a lady getting out of her car to place her recycling in the town recycling bin. The lady was a nun in full habit and wimple. I don’t know when I would have last seen a Sister in full habit. We exchanged smiles and “Bonjours” and it was such a picture, to have the French village as a backdrop and a Sister in her habit. It looked lovely. A chilly elevenses were had on a bench in the town and Steve added another jacket because not only was it windy, it was a cold wind and he had been feeling cold even riding the bike.
We set off again and this time we were on quite a busy main road. The land around us was dead flat, so the wind just roared across and pounded us relentlessly. At least when we ride beside the canal, we get a bank occasionally which provides a short break from the worst of the wind. Out on this road though, there was nothing and the wind was fierce. I was soon feeling really quite frightened again, as the bike swerved and wobbled with traffic zipping past. Steve pulled off to the side of the road and I pulled in behind.
“That wasn’t much fun,” he said.
“I don’t want to be on this road anymore,” I said, “I’m going to end up under a car or a truck.” The map showed that not too far up ahead, there was a road that could take us back onto the canal path, so we got off the road and headed for the canal.
Yes, the path was now nothing more than a narrow track with gravel, rocks and big tree roots, which is probably why the notes about it suggested cyclists avoid it, but compared to the road, it was a thousand times better. We also had quite a high bank beside us, which created a bit of a wind break and I bumped and rattled quite happily over every rock and tree root put before me. At one particular spot the bank was so high, that it gave us a section with virtually no wind and some sun, so I suggested it was a nice place to stop for a moment, have a bit of a rest and recover from the scary road and sinister wind. We propped the bikes against the bank and I just sat on the ground and enjoyed the break from the elements. So far there hadn’t been anything enjoyable about the ride, it had just been hard slog, with dangerous conditions and it took all the enjoyment out of the experience. After getting onto the canal track though, it didn’t become easy, but it became a whole lot better.
Along the track we passed quite a few cyclists. I stopped to wait for each group to pass, since the track was so narrow and we all exchanged smiles and “Bonjours” or “Mercis”. A family of four rode towards us, with two little twin boys up in front leading the family convoy, followed by dad and mum. Dad was doing an amazing job because that track was narrow and bumpy, but he was riding one handed, while holding his iPhone with his other hand and videoing the twins ahead of him. I gotta get me some of that balance!
We rode into the town of Marseillette, which was the stop before our final pit-stop. We pulled up at a picnic table beside the canal and had a short, chilly and windy lunch break before continuing on to Capendu.
As we rode the final stretch of road towards that little village, we turned a corner and actually had a brief section of tail-wind! What a refreshing change. I could actually stop pedalling for a moment and just let the wind carry me towards, what I hoped would be, a nice hot shower and several hot cups of tea. And so it was! We pulled up at our hotel, unloaded the bikes, lugged the panniers upstairs to a very nice room (sometimes the cheap and cheerful places have the nicest rooms!). The first thing I noticed when we walked into the building was…heat…it was so warm and that wind had been so cold, it was like being greeted with a big blankie and a warm hug for our cold and wind-blown bodies! To continue the defrosting, I stood under a scalding shower and didn’t want to move! It was glorious! I rounded out our arrival with a couple of cups of tea and finally began to feel warm and somewhat civilised again! When Steve had a shower, he emerged from the bathroom with a grin on his face, dreamily saying, “That was a great shower and I didn’t want to get out.” He had the sort of look on his face that you get when you’ve just tasted a mouthful of the best dessert ever made, that sort of dreamy, blissful look of pure enjoyment! So we both enjoyed the awesome shower. Once again, we appreciate the simple things in life and the joy they can bring!
We decided we had better brave the wind one last time for the day, to explore the village a little, so we headed off into the quaint, spiralling streets of the sleepy village of Capendu. We walked up the narrow cobbled streets, stood on the top of the hill beside the village church, and then wandered back down and through the passageways and along the rows of houses. It’s such a tiny and quiet little place. Hardly a sole to be seen or a sound to be heard in this tiny, quaint little French village. Then it was back to our room, time to light the Trangia on the little balcony and cook up a magnificent pot of vegetable pasta to add some additional warmth and comfort to the belly and bones. As Pop Larkin would say in ‘The Darling Buds of May’…”Perfik!”
So the day started out pretty trying and difficult and uncomfortable and unpleasant, but it finished a whole lot better. As I’ve mentioned before…swings and roundabouts…we just have to ride out the tough bits until the nicer bits come along. All I’m hoping for, is just some respite from the wind, just a lull would do, it need not be anything so dramatic as a completely calm and wind free day, but just a slight drop in the gale force would be fantabulous thank you very much! As I often do though, I count my blessings and it could be worse…I could be in this wind as a high-rise window cleaner washing the windows of the 86th floor…I could be a tightrope walker…I could be standing on the corner of a street trying to hold a Domino’s pizza sign while being hammered by the wind…things could be worse! So even when it’s tough and not that pleasant because the elements are at their crazy worst, I will still remember that I’m just hootin’-tootin’ lucky to be here doing this! Although…it won’t stop me crossing everything possible to hope for a little less wind! Cross something for me will you!?