Saturday, 14 June 2014

France June 2014

More as an aide memoire than for anyone reading!:
First used the van on a trip to Anglesey in May, to reccy the annual Whitbread walk.  Glorious weather, great coastal walk from Holyhead to Treardurr Bay, where we were camped.  Beautiful rugged coastline.  Would definitely return.  So close to home and yet very different landscape.
A few weeks late saw us camped in Pitlochry, ready for the Caledonian Etape, 81 miles around Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch.  We've done this event a few times before, in mixed weather.  Booked the site on 3rd January, as Pitlochry is deluged with up to 5000 entrants this year.  Mercifully the weather was fine, but chilly, and we both achieved good times of 3 hrs 58 mins  and 5 hrs 13.  No clues for guessing who did what time!  With a little help from friends and family, raised a good chunk of money for Marie Curie Cancer Research.
We spent a couple of days on Skye, with a lovely cycle to Glen Brittle, and the following day an 85 ml tour of Northern Skye, taking in Portree, Old Man of Storr, the pass of Quiraing, a bit like a mini alpine climb, Uig, over the hills to Dunvegan, and back to Sligachan campsite.  Unfortunately that was it!  No trip further into the Hebrides this time.  Try again later in the year.  With poor weather forecast for the foreseeable, and good weather elsewhere, we legged it back to England, and explored a route we'll be cycling in July, the Etape Pennines.  Camped at Barnard Castle and cycled over to High Force waterfall, and from Teesdale to Weardale and back.
A few weeks later, we were off again, back to Anglesey, this time staying at the Pen y Bont campsite, near an inland "sea", near Treaddhur Bay.  Run by a very welcoming couple, the campsite is spotless with gorgeous views towards the coast.  The 32nd Whitbread Walk, organised by Ian and Julia, and this time, Peter, was a great success.  16 people turned up from all over the country, with only Graham still working for the company!  100% success in terms of everyone finishing the 14 mile walk (we usually lose a few along the way, and there was a wobble at the pub with 5miles still to go!
So that's a quick catch up.  Now for France 2014.  Not started too favourably, with a dicky water pump, which occasionally worked, deciding to pack up.  So prospect of four weeks in France with no water on board.  Never mind, as Ian keeps telling me, we've got plenty of water bottles to fill up at the taps on site!  More contrary than the pump is the fact that as the French are beginning to plan their trip to Yorkshire, to see the start of the Tour de France, we're off in the opposite direction.  The bad timing was unavoidable, as Ian has a cycle event planned in the Alps, on the day the tour opens in Yorkshire.  We've both entered one the week before also.
So a long journey from Anglesey to Surrey and an overnight stop, with a cycle up to the top of Box Hill, of Olympics fame, on the Eurotunnel through to France, a long journey down to Arc en Barrois, and then the third leg down to Bedoin, Provence, our destination.  Arrived at our favourite campsite to be told they were full.  Had tried to book, but the cheeky beggars wouldn't let us book for a stay shorter than 2 weeks!  Is she joking!  We've never stayed longer than 5 nights anywhere!!
So off to the cheaper alternative, but as it turns out, the equally good municipal site, also in Bedoin, Camping La Pinede.  Set on terraces amongst the pine trees.  We arrived with a high temperature alert, at 38 deg.  Absolutely boiling wandering around the site, deciding which pitch to move into.  Too much choice, and out of season, because the swimming pool was closed!  Crazy people parked by the dozen on a nearby Aire, with no shade at all, in the blistering heat!
After a comfortable night's sleep, we set off over to Malaucene.  Ian said he was taking it steady, but I lost sight of him after about 30 mins!  Climbed up Le Mont Ventoux, with the sun beating down.  Easier than the Bedoin ascent, so seemed like the sensible option, for our first tough climb, after three days of driving.  Very hot, but still took another layer and cag, just to be on safe side, because I can't remember ever being warm on Ventoux.  21 km and 5600' ascent always takes me by surprise.  Felt good but excruciating pain in toes!  There's always something, sore back, sore bum, sore neck!  Relieved that it clouded over near the top, but constantly wafting away dozens of flies, buzzing around ears, sunglasses, gloves etc.  Like Pigpen, in Peanuts, I looked just behind me to see a cloud of flies, competing to see who could land on me first!
A chocolat chaud at Chalet Reynard cafe 7km from summit, on the way back down and a fast descent into Bedoin.  The heat hit you on the descent, like an oven, and people were still making their way up the mountain.  Thunder was beginning to rumble behind, and the odd spot of rain!  Back at camp, the storm clouds gathered behind us, and later lightning and heavy rain broke the heat!  Hopefully it'll be more comfortable tomorrow.  Good for getting acclimatised to cycling in the heat but there is a limit!

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