Wendysday May 17th
Pontivy to Josselin: 48.5km, 127m climbed, 2hr 51’
Total Distance 224km
Last night I promised you jeopardy and boy do we get it today!
We had a great night last night. We had a shared barbeque with our new chums around the site’s bbq. Christine, Geoff (both at least 10 years older than me) and Yvonne last year did La Manche, which is another long distance cycle route from Cherbourg to Roscoff. This year they are riding to La Rochelle. Jean-Jacques (late 60s) is riding solo from Concarneau to the Black Sea and is only using a map and a compass to guide him, last year used the same method to cycle from the most westerly point in France (Finisterre) to the most westerly point in Spain (Fisterra). Points to all who spot the link between the two names.
As the meal was cooking two girls arrived on their bikes, one Irish and the other English. They looked very hot and bothered and as it was getting late we invited them to join us for dinner. They were both around 30; Blythe is Bristol based and training to be traditional plasterer, using lime plaster and the like to renovate and repair buildings that are 100 or more years old. She did La Velodyssee two years ago on her own. This time she is joined by Dee, a social worker from Liverpool. It turned out that we had been at the Carhaix campsite at the same time. In between they have been wild camping. Listening to the exploits of the others I felt very soft with Wendy and the camper van’s luxurious support.
We managed to get through a lot of wine and beer and in between times I showed a French camper where to pitch and sorted out the problem with his electrics – he hadn’t plugged the other end of his cable into his van. He swore he had only been drinking water.
It was one of those evenings that live long in the memory.
The soothing sound of a fine drizzle on the campervan roof woke us this morning. It was not hard enough to need an umbrella for the trip to the boulangerie but by breakfast it was hammering it down. The forecast was for rain all day. I began to drop hints about the benefit of having a lay day in Pontivy. Wendy remained impassive despite my most endearing looks and so out into the rain I went.
The target was 50k to Josselin all along the canal. It could have been a very nice trip, however the forecast was Pluie and Pluie it did all sodden day (that’s not swearing girls, read the sentence again).
Out of Pontivy I passed a long flight of locks, about a dozen. Between each lock was a big pound for boats to wait their turn to go through the lock and also to minimise the effect of the big locks being filled or emptied. There are no photos today as it was too wet for me to stop and take them (have I mentioned it rained?).
The lime trees, which had given me such welcome shade yesterday, were collecting the raindrops together and hurling them at me in cupfuls. They may make excellent parasols but they are rubbish parapluies.
10k in and I began to warm up. I pulled the zipper down on my waterproof and whoosh! Suddenly I couldn’t see. The vapour from my toasty little body was condensing on my glasses as fast as I could wipe it off. It was like riding through a fog. I experimented with the zip fully up – too hot – and with the zip fully down – too cold. By now I had nothing left dry to wipe my glasses with. All I was doing was moving the water around. The only way I could carry on was by using a combination of peering over the top of them and squinting through them. Not safe! Fortunately the towpath was tarmac all the way.
I realised I have never really cycled in rain before. Back in my previous life, I used to plan the days I would ride home from work according to the forecast. If I did get caught out I would get a lift home instead. This is yet another new experience but not one that I am going to be terribly fond of.
As I was picking my way through the fog of my own making I became concerned about the danger of the wooden barriers that are sporadically placed along the track to prevent cars and motorbikes. I remembered reading the account of a man cycling La Velodyssee who had been dazzled by the sun and cycled into one of these barriers. The bike went underneath and he caught the barrier on his forearm, breaking it. [In case you are worried, he did return to complete the trip some months later.]
Caution was to be my watchword.
Things were going well and I was slowly building up speed; when out of the haze I suddenly saw a panel of Heras fencing across my path. I braked with a loud squeal (possibly from the brakes or it could have been from me) and stopped just inches away from the fence. Thank goodness for hydraulic disc brakes. If I had been on my mountain bike I would have hit it. The fence, that some lunatic French builder had put up around the lock keeper’s cottage he was renovating, was completely bare of any signs and I reckon that even if I could have seen properly it would have been hard to pick out the thin grey mesh against the background of the grey day.
Shaken, but not stirred, I skirted through the car park and continued on my way.
I got to Rohan in good time. From what I could see, it was a pretty place with some lovely old buildings, big camping car aire and a marina. It was on the approach to Rohan that I saw the first pleasure boats I had seen in three days on the canal. The canal doesn’t seem to be open to traffic at the moment. I decided not to stop for lunch as I was going well and didn’t want to get cold. If I was thirsty, all I had to do was keep my mouth open for a while.
No more than 50m on I got a puncture! It was my back wheel too – all that fuss with disentangling the chain. Never mind what would Sir Bradley or Chris Froome do at a time like this I thought? I looked around; no teammate could be seen offering me his bike, not even was there a car speeding up with a spare wheel and a mechanique to change it.
It took me 40 mins to change the tube, including eating lunch, which I didn’t think was too bad, considering it was raining and my wet glasses were doing a decent impression of a kaleidoscope.
Fortified by my success and a jam and banana sandwich (you wanted to know what we are eating Mel!), but a little worried that I had used up my spare inner tube and didn’t want to have to start using patches. I set off on the 20k to Josselin.
On Andy’s recommendation I have been reading a book called, ‘How to Read Water’ by Tristan Gooley. It is a fascinating book about how to interpret the clues and patterns in all forms of water, from puddles to the sea. Thanks to my study of this, I could tell from the myriad of interwoven circles appearing across the surface of the canal IT WAS STILL RAINING!
In a short while another section of Heras fencing appeared, this time fortunately plastered with Route Barré signs. A group of four cyclists on electric bikes were just wheeling their bikes around the barrier the last one turned to me and gave me a Gallic shrug as if to say ‘these things happen’. I chose to follow the deviation signs, which led my round in a small circle, so I too pushed past the barrier. In a couple of kilometres I caught up the shrugger and her chums who were now wheeling their bikes across a section of towpath that had been completely dug up in the process of repairing the canal bank. My worry about another puncture meant that I carried my bike the kilometre or so of the excavations.
By the way it was still raining
Not long afterwards the outskirts of Josselin appeared, I crossed over the canal and found the Domaine de Kerelly campsite. Madame the campsite owner came out and showed me that Wendy had nabbed a good position not far from the bar.
I left my bike propped up against the hedge in the rain, dropped my wet kit at the door and walked straight into the van’s shower. When I came out there was a mug of tea waiting for me.
Never have I been so pleased to be cycling the Velodyssee with all the luxury Wendy and the campervan provide!
Wetter than sailing kit!
[News Update: the rain stopped at 1745]