Cycling France, part deux…

My steed by a church in Northern France

Bonjour, bonjour,

So I am partaking of a second rest day here in Cognac which is very pretty and full of warmth and sunshine (please forgive any bad spelling, I am usuing a French keyboard).

The past 3.5 days were hardcore cycling having covered 370km in that time. Iam now officially into the South (I reckon).

So, ‘pois’ or ‘weight’ is something I forgot to mention in the first post. I have learned just what gravity is in the past 10 days. At my first stop in Brighton I dropped all the weight I thought I could and yet still, in Laval, I was able to drop more. Any spare screws I might not need, a puncture repair kit, some chapstick. Anything. I have 3 luxuries, my camera and charger; about 650grams to 750grams, my MP3 and charger; about 300grams and a book; about 300 grams. Everything else is pretty much essentials and only weighs a total of no more than 8 to 10 kilos, on top of that on a day when I stock up on food and water it may reach 12 to 13 kilos max. Yet you feel it! This trip, if nothing else, has taught me how to pack light. But I am also amazed at how fast the body adapts, the legs strengthen and suddenly hills just dont seem so bad. It is a sign of how we are able to change with our environment. So to anyone who thinks they could never do a long endurance sporting thing, you can. Trust me, you will quickly get used to it!

Mysteed by the Loire river

 I cycled through the Loire valley which was beautiful, a welcome break from the endless farmland that pervades all of Western France. Truly this is country that is able to provide for itself in terms of food requirements but, I wonder, at what cost? Even though you may be in ‘la campaign’, the countryside, in reality this is a land entirely engineered by man and not a place of true nature, just another anthropocentric zone destined to be a desert for all life except that which we deem necessary to our needs. I have to say much of the countryside here has filled me with lamentations, not joy.

The rivers and woodland, however, have been wonderful, when they appear.

My steed near a Chateau

 So this brings me on to the psychology of the ride. It has not been plain sailing. Engaging in such an endeavour single handed presents issues of motivation. I have a 16 day plan (which I am one day ahead of) to which I want to stick which means in my head there is a final point, namely Capbreton, where I will meet friends. This means that, when alone, and with the nature of a lo ng distance cycle ride, you are always thinking about the next step, wondering when you will arrive where, where you will camp etc etc. This makes it difficult to not keep pushing and therefore hard to focus on the present. In many ways this sort of sporting event fosters the opposite mental state to the relaxed state of mind which meditation brings about, namely, to maintain a total awareness in the present.

However, that said, it is the challenge that drives here and not, perhaps as I had hoped, the calm tranquility of being in nature:outside. That will come later when cycling with friends in Spain, I believe.

So, for now it is on with the challenge, not always easy but a goal to aspire to which will be a feat of achievement and something to refect on that will give strength in times when difficulty rears its ugly head. Perhaps not something to repeat many times over (!) but something I will definately look back on with pride. And besides, its all on a bike, which is just so great!

Cycle stats:

360km:       in 3.5 days

1:                   puncture!

1:                   moment of fear in a tent in a forest where I believed there were still wild bears living in the French countryside.

1:                   moment of fear in a forest where I woke up to sunday hunting by French farmers and feared I might resemble a deer

1:                   beautiful sunrise over the Loire river

~4000:       calories per day

1:                   still intact rear wheel!! woop

3:                  days of warmth and sunshine (sorry folks)

1:                  hopeful rugby fan for England in the world cup.

I have included a few pictures below including a couple of a visit to a cognac distillery which my couchsurfing hosts were lovely enough to take me to yesterday, and also a great photo of a potential manic album cover.


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