Wednesday 24th May
Notre Dame de Monts to Talmont St Hilaire to Barre de Monts: 83km,
377m climbed, 5hr 30’
Total Distance 556km
Today was a classic Velodyssee day. It was just the sort of thing I had imagined countless times since the idea began to form. The route took me through forests, along beachside paths and along the promenades of some very nice places. It even took me right through the centre of Sables d’Olonne. All on clearly signposted separate cycle tracks, though sometimes only differentiated by a white line – but what would we give for that in Derby? For those who know it, it was just like cycling from Lacanau to Maubuisson only further. Apart from by yacht, this must be the best way to see the Vendee.
It was bright sunshine and T-shirt order from the off. A day of rest and relaxation in Notre Dame had worked wonders for my knee, which seems to have made a complete recovery. My new trekking tyres felt good too (at least they hadn’t gone down) and I was able to tackle the grit paths with confidence.
Only a quarter of an hour in and I caught up with Geoff, Chris and Yvonne who we had met at Pontivy. They were going well and today is Geoff and Chris’s last day as they are finishing at Sables d’Olonne and catching the train back to Roscoff for the ferry. Yvonne is carrying on to La Rochelle.
I had lunch at Bretignoles sur Mer and was going to take a selfie of me and my sandwich but Wendy had wrapped it so tightly in cling film that by the time I had unwrapped it I had to eat it and worry about photos later. Semper D told me it was 28° in the shade. As I pushed on towards Sables d’Olonne, the temperature began to climb and though fair weather clouds were building, there was no sign of a sea breeze. Every time I stopped for a drink the sweat and sun cream poured into my eyes. The route followed marshes for part of the way and it was amazing to see lizards skittering across my path and even a snake. Geoff had seen a coypu the day before near Beauvoir sur Mer in one lf the canalised rivers.
Les Sables d’Olonne is the start and finish point for a number of long distance yacht races but today the dockside was full of very long, seagoing, two person canoes each with an outrigger. There is a big competition taking place this weekend. By now the heat and the kilometres were getting to me and so I didn’t bother to stop until I got to the mouth of the harbour, turned the corner and saw yet another magnificent beach.
Wendy and I hadn’t been able to find anywhere suitable to camp around Les Sables so we agreed to meet at Camping Sun Ocean, which we had found at Talmont. The only downside was that it was a further 15k on and now it was 30° and I was well through my last bottle of water. Just before Bourgenay about 8k from Talmont I needed a rest and found a tree and sat under it for 20 minutes or so, eating my last bar and draining the last of my water. Were those vultures circling or just crows? Feeling better I set off again and at the same time the breeze kicked in and took the temperature down a couple of notches.
I arrived at the campsite to find Wendy ensconced by the pool but I got a cheer from our Dutch neighbours who had been very concerned about Wendy being on her own.
Never has so much water been drunk by so few in such a short time! Top tip, I mixed it with a little bit of orange juice to aid the body’s ability to absorb it. Wendy has given the campsite a top rating for an overnight stop with a Lidl just over the road, but dog walking is limited (Alf is currently more concerned about the wind in the trees above us and trying to find a safe place under the groundsheet.). In keeping with such a high recommendation the showers are good and I dragged my weary body off for a shower. The shower cubicles are bereft of hooks; this is usually a problem as it means there is nowhere to keep your clothes dry. However here is another top tip. I had with me some ‘S’ hooks, ours we got from IKEA – they are used by hipsters to hang their pots and pans on display – which meant that I had no problem in keeping everything off the floor. We might just be getting the hang of this camping lark?
I think part of my problem today might have been lack of carbohydrates yesterday. We had dined out at La Moulierie at lunchtime and had some great mussels, however I didn’t eat many of the chips and was so full I didn’t eat again until this morning. It is clear that us high performance athletes cannot be so cavalier with our bodies so tonight it was Turkey escallops and gnocchi in a special sauce.
The forecast is for even warmer tomorrow.