I ended up taking two rest days, as the last few days were very tiring with the amount of climbing I’d done. Jane & Chris were wonderful hosts and it was with a tinge of sadness I climbed back on the bike Wednesday morning in the rain. I keep reminding myself it’s winter and so should expect poor weather, although I have noticed it getting warmer in general the further south I’ve traveled.
The climb out of the valley was long and arduous, with storm clouds gathering. Some of the small villages I passed through were like ghost towns, with no signs of life. This has caused me the biggest problem in terms of both food and water as I try not to carry too much. Jane had told me that the majority of villages are supposed to have a communal water supply available for travelers. I found few to be honest and hoping for a Cafe or bar to be open was a lottery. One village had a bright pink church (pictured below) which would probably have seemed OTT had it been bright and sunny, but as it was it looked dull with the dark clouds behind.
The rain subsided towards the end of the afternoon and I managed to find a nice quiet spot in the woods just off the route. Wild camping can be quite fun and while it may not be to everyone’s liking, I’m getting used to it. I’ve had all kinds of wild animals around the tent in the night, a rather noisy deer, a cow with a bell on and a very noisy owl in the tree above. You get used to the strange sounds and now I just get my head down and sleep, once the meal has been prepared.
Thursday dawned bright, clear and cold. I was soon warmed up though as I started to climb out of the valley. I climbed, I climbed, and I climbed some more. In total three and a half hours of non stop climbing, with no respite. I cannot remember working harder than this on a bike. Don’t let anyone tell you that the downhills will make up for it, because today there weren’t any, I seemed to ride across and up the hills all day. It had been cold all day too and as the sun was going down, I knew tonight would bring ice. Sure enough, I woke in the morning to find the tent encrusted in ice, which meant a later start to the day. Not really what I wanted as I’d hoped to reach Le Puy later that evening, or at least camp on the outskirts of the town.
The good thing about being able to change both your mind and the schedule, is that I decided not to try and keep to my original plan and eased off the effort. The previous days climbing had left my legs heavy and once I started, today began with some more tough climbing. I soon realised it would be later on Saturday before I reached Le Puy and I actually enjoyed rolling along the Loire Valley, or to give it it’s French name, Les Gorges de la Loire, though you can see from the picture (below) the storm clouds were once again gathering and there was a horrendous headwind down the valley.
By the time I had called into the large supermarket on the edge of Le Puy it was getting dark, so I quickly sought out a suitable spot to camp for the night, looking forward to my rest day tomorrow and a chance to explore the town which had been my destination since leaving Dieppe.