Blain to Nantes (with pic´s and video)

As it wasn’t far to go to Nantes I was in no rush in the morning, I took a ride into Blaine to the boulangerie to get supplies – a baguette, salami, cheese and Viennese croissant…yum. Back at camp I spoilt myself with another hot shower then fixed my sandwiches for the day after breakfast. It was near midday by the time I set off and once again it was straight back onto the canal under blue skies and a hot sun, perfect!

I wasn’t riding for long when I had to stop at a road crossing which bridged over the canal. To my left a beautiful tree lined road dipped gently downhill for about 300m ending with a church and a garden which looked quite interesting and worth a possible look. While I was doing a quick map check to see if there was anything of interest in the little village on my left a cyclist I had last seen a few days ago stopped and we both went “heyyyy” in recognition and had a little chat about each of our journeys. He was on his way to Nantes, so his trip was almost done and he showed me his book which detailed the route I wanted to take – some nice information. After that we wished each other bon journe and bon voyage and he was off as I still pondered whether to turn left…or crack on ahead…and as I was pondering, another rider stopped alongside me, this time someone I’d not seen before…he greeted me in French, I did likewise and it didn’t take him long to guess I was not French so he switched to English and he said “nice bike…ahhh…Rohloff!”, “yeeaaaah, cool”, I replied, to which he said, “someone else with Rohloff, I like you!” – how can you not like someone who greets you in such a manner, and so we got chatting. I explained that I was thinking of going to have a little look at the village down to my left and he said he was just looking for somewhere to eat as he had no food on him…so, I said, “I’ve got a baguette with cheese and salami, you’re welcome to share…”. “ok, yeah, that sounds good, you’re sure??” “yeah, of course!!”…so we decided to find a spot to have lunch and thought we could look at the village while doing so…so freewheeling down into the village I discovered his name was Adrian who is from France and was on an epic journey of his own, having already cycled around the UK and was at that time on route to Spain, then Portugal, back into Spain (southern end) then along the coast heading east – pretty much the exact route I was planning on. There wasn’t anywhere in the village to picnic so we decided to pedal back up to the canal and backtrack 50 yards where there was a picnic spot with tables under the trees and there I got the baguette, salami and cheese out and Adrian in turn added brioche, dates and chocolate (got no food haha!!)…turned into a feast! So, while we were having lunch another cyclist pulls into the picnic area and leans his bike against one of the other tables…and it turns out Adrian knows this guy – they’d met on the trail the day before. He too was French, but unlike Adrian was not able to speak English, but where I didn’t understand, Adrian kindly explained to me, and vice versa for the newcomer – whose name is Frank. Frank got his cooker out and brewed some coffee and produced a jar of jam, which we spread on the brioche and had dessert…you could tell Frank was a veteran the way he talked and the way Adrian treated him with a reverence and respect, so we talked of bicycles, routes all over the world as Frank is a veteran – been cycling for over 7 years and has cycled all over Europe, he was a fountain of knowledge for routes and general advice. Just as interested as we were in his stories and advice he was asking us about our bikes, the rohloff system, how my bike differed from Adrian’s etc…it was just so good to be able to just talk to people with no pressure of time, no pressure of having to be somewhere, you could just be, in the moment…

After we’d drunk and eaten our fill we decided to start making our way to Nantes and as we were all heading in the same direction we did so together…and we weren’t going long when we made another stop!  This time at a house on the side of the canal which had recently been occupied by a young couple that Frank knew who had a little café going selling coffee, tea, drinks etc with some tables on a small deck…very sweet spot. So again, we got talking, where are we going etc and we also talked about their house and their plans – on the other side of the building that had a huge oven for baking bread and they were converting that side of the house into a bakery. It smelt so amazing in there and there were piles of baskets for proofing stacked up along the walls…very cool. The oven was from the previous owner or tenants and the couple hadn’t yet started baking.

Eventually we bid our farewells to them and were off once again…Adrian and I swopped bikes for a bit, totally different ride! As we got closer to Nantes the canal towpath ended so we had to cycle through the countryside again and so I saw my first hill after several days of flat riding, ooofff, it was an effort getting up there! But up there I got and it was cool riding as with uphills come downhills and we had some sweet freewheeling in there too.

As I still hadn’t managed to find a mug I liked I wanted to visit the Decathalon in Nantes and Frank directed us there en-route to the city. While the lads stayed outside I nipped in and scoured the store for a worthy mug…I did find one, not quite what I was after but I got it anyway, still too small, but it was steel, 400ml capacity (yee-hah!) had handles so I could hook it to my bags saving packing space. While I was inside Adrian was checking in with his family and was off to his sister’s place. I wanted to see if there was camping in the city and Adrian translated that to Frank who said no problem he’ll take me there…it was only a couple of km’s down the road anyway…so we bid our farewells to Adrian and Frank and I rolled off into Nantes…it didn’t take very long and we were riding along the beautiful Loire river into Nantes. The infrastructure was also built for cyclists and it was all bike lanes segregated from the traffic – easy riding! Frank showed me a couple of statues and memorials and we continued to ride. We’d been riding for a little while and we seemed to be heading out of town and here I am, with a guy I just met that morning, who lives on his bicycle, who doesn’t speak English (at all), nor I who knows but 2 or 3 words in French, and who I am blindly following as it seems like we’ve passed the site I had marked on my google map. I checked my phone and sure enough, we passed it long ago…and so ingrained fears start to fester and build in my mind…where are we going? Who is this guy I’m following…? I think Frank sensed my unease and he spoke to me to try reassure me, “not far, not far”, he said and we are now leaving the city, still following the Loire, heading east, away from my route south as we enter countryside and pass a gypsy camp stoking further fear…we’ve ridden about 9km’s away from Nantes now and it’s just as I’m about to stop and check my phone out of a fear I’m being led into an unsavoury situation when I see a sign for a campsite…ok, so there is something out here after all…maybe Frank is alright after all…shortly after that we can see the campsite and Frank points it out – this is it!

We ride up to the gate, it appears to be a back gate – just a wide gate latched with a small chain…Frank goes first and rides in to the site, the gate swings wide open so I have to dismount and retrieve the gate to close it. By the time I’m back with my bike, Frank is gone. Assuming he went to reception, I went there…but he wasn’t there…hmmm, ok…so I sign in and pay for 1 night, which included some complimentary cider from a local farm, not a bad welcome! As they were quite full they said there’s only space in the field at the back, no problem. So I’m back on the bike heading to the field and there I find Frank, who’d already set his camp up, had some coffee on the stove and was handing me a slice of bread slathered in jam…I could only laugh at the situation, my fears were totally unfounded…Frank you legend, rolled in like he’d probably done a million times before, a true veteran.

The field wasn’t super busy and we had a sweet spot right at the back in front of a big stand of bamboo with some neighbours. A few meters away was another tourer. We greeted him and walked over and started chatting – he was a Dane who’d just come down the same path as us and as heading east towards Germany. Inevitably we all compared kit and looked at each other’s bikes and compared notes.

Once I’d setup camp it was time to cook so Frank and I put our stuff together and for starters we had a soup, for mains we had pasta with tomato sauce and some meat and dessert, brioche with jam, alriiiiight.

As it was still light after we’d eaten I asked Frank if he drank beer, “oui, oui” he said. I then asked if would like to go drink some beer, “oui, oui!”. So we jumped back on the bikes and rode back up the Loire about a kilometre to an open air riverside bar we’d passed on the way…

We arrived and there was a 3 piece performing and a nice crowd watching and singing along. I got the first round and we sat down as the day was darkening, with families enjoying the evening and with the band playing what must have been French folk songs as they all knew the words and were singing and dancing along.

Frank got the second round as the crowd cried for an encore and the band obliged…

It was dark when the band packed up and we headed back to the camp site…I’d seen a gap on the trail on our way to the bar and said to Frank I was going to check it out…sure, enough, the gap led right down to the river…but, where was no river, despite there being a loud sound of rushing water…I made my way down bank with my bike headlight lighting the way and there I discover it had dropped several meters – the Loire is tidal – and the water was rushing out and rapids and rocks had appeared…I could also see stars in the sky and the water was warm and inspired maybe by the beers I decided to come back with my camera. I explained this to Frank and he was keen so we went back to camp, I grabbed my camera and we headed back to the river bank. I brought my headlamp with me and seeing rocks a few meters in I waded out to them with my kit. The bright light on the water attracted some nice fish and they were jumping against the current as I waded out…the pictures I got were ok, being the novice I was in the use of an SLR and time delayed shutter speeds and different ISO levels…it was an adventure anyway and Frank, the legend, was out wading in the river and helping me take pictures.

After we’d had enough, we rode back to a very quiet camp and to our tents for a kip.

Short highlights clip

Malestroit to Blain (with gallery and video)

In the morning I said my goodbyes to Gwen and Caro and hit the canal again. Pretty flat and straight it was and by lunch I was in Rohan with the skies covered by heavy grey cloud, threatening to rain. As stopped at the bridge to check my route and a fella pulled up alongside me on a fat bike all kitted out as a bike packer. Said my greetings in French and he asked if I par-ley-voo’d in Anglais and why yes of course I do! Luke, from England it was and he was wondering where the Eurovelo 1 was – I pointed in the direction I thought it was and said to him I may not be right and I’d not seen any signs or anything. Off he went and I decided to go to Decathalon as I wanted a proper mug, a stainless steel bad boy of at least 500ml, stuff the little rubbish one I had that held but a sip. While riding there I spotted Luke on the other side of the canal heading in the other direction…ok. I got my mug from Decathalon and then followed the route I had available on my phone and it promptly led me into a weird no-man’s land kind of place…rough single track, bouncing all over the show, slow going and windy too…but I persevered and eventually it looped onto some decent track and I cracked on as the skies got blue.

As I got within a couple of km’s from Blain I spotted Luke and stopped to have a chat – he was looking for a place to sleep. I said I’m heading to Blain as there was a campsite there and he said he might do that too – I never saw him again, but, I did meet 2 English guys in Nantes a few days later who had also met Luke and mentioned he’d pushed on and was en-route to the Pyrenees. Wherever you are Luke – hope you’re well dude.

So I arrived at the campsite in Blain, right by a beautiful Chateau. The receptionist was super friendly and once all was done she jumped on her bike and showed me around. The site was quiet so I picked a nice spot next to a table and got my stuff sorted out. As I was finishing up a couple I had seen in Malestroit arrived – but – they had a tandem, with the front rider being only responsible for pedalling while reclining in the seat and the second rider at the back, doing the steering, braking and pedalling! We got to chatting and they were a French couple just finishing a tour of France. The bike was hired from a shop in Nantes where they lived and were returning it the next day. I got to have a ride in the front seat – so cool, you can pretty much chill while pedalling, even read a book, and the rider at the back does all the work!!

The campsite was lush, it had a gas cooker! I rode around the Château, cooked a dinner and had a good night’s sleep.

Pontivy to Malestroit (with gallery)

 

The next morning I got up a bit earlier, in time to see the French couple packing up almost about to depart, exchanged greetings, pleasantries and chatted a bit about where we were each going – they told me that from Pontivy to Nantes is all canal – just go straight! They showed me their map and plan and told me their next stop and it turns out they were also looking at 75km/80km a day – Malestroit was their next stop.

I think I left a bit earlier at about 1100 that morning and hit the canal immediately. As with all canals, it was pretty flat and the tow path was in very good condition. I started seeing a lot more cyclists – whole families with touring gear, mom, dad, son, daughter, all with racks and packs, impressive! Some cyclists even had trailers with their dogs along for the ride, sometimes kids were in the trailers with a small dog in the front basket! Amazing. Also passed people with horses pulling carriages who appeared to camp along the canal. Summer in France, amazing! Also, everyone was super friendly, all who passed would call out a greeting with a smile, I’ve never said so many “bonjours” in a day! It was amazing riding, despite its flatness, which some said was boring – I found it amazing, beautiful and perfect for warming the legs up for what lay ahead.

Along the path I was one of the quicker riders…I was doing a lot of overtaking and I passed a guy who had a pillow strapped to his saddle! As I passed him I said “Bonjour! I love your seat!” pointing to his saddle and laughing! “Ahhh oui oui” he laughed and I rode on by…

Along the way I was hailed by the French couple who had stopped to have lunch – I stopped and we had a chat and got to know a bit more about each other, where we were riding from and to etc. I topped up my water and set off and shortly after that found a perfect picnic spot – a small island on the canal with a picnic bench that had a little roof for some shade. I boiled up a cup of coffee, put together a baguette with cheese and salami then polished it off with a cup of rooibos. While enjoying my chill time, the French couple rode by and shouted “beautiful place for picnic” with a big smile! J yes it was. Shortly after that, the guy with the pillow for a seat rode by too and he also hailed me and shouted “hallooooo” waving and smiling!

After my picnic, it was my turn to set off and a few miles down the road was a bar, and who should be sitting outside, pillow man with his friends and we all did the shouting and waving and laughing!

It was good riding!

I saw the French couple again later but this time I passed them – I had my music and was in the zone so didn’t stop but hailed them as I cruised by…

 

I made it to Malestroit easily due to the flat riding and as it was 75km I decided to stop instead of pushing through to Rohan. As I was heading to the showers, the French couple pulled in and we arranged to go for a drink in town together.

Once they were ready after setting up camp, we walked in beautiful Malestroit! An old town with preserved buildings from the middle ages, it was fantastic. We strolled about then found a seat outside one of the bars and ordered a few drinks. My new friends were Gille and Caro, a couple from Brittany who lived in a seaside town, were both teachers, and had left the coast to escape the hordes of tourists that descend to the beach in the summer holidays.

We spoke of my future in the Basque country and they both said they loved the area and often went there on holiday. They did mention that they also speak a different language in the Basque countries, not at all like Spanish but something far more difficult! We all agreed a massive learning curve awaited me!

After drinks we went for dinner, they being from Brittany knew the local specialities and we went for gallett – a crepe made from buckwheat flour, which makes the crepe brown, and is typically a savoury meal. It was really good and for dessert I had a crepe with crème anglais and ice cream – to die for…

After that we headed back to camp and slept a good night’s sleep.

Carhaix to Pontivy

 

By the time I woke up and got up, my neighbours had all gone! It was only 0930 or something…French are early risers I thought. Had a brekkie and slowly packed up my gear and left site at about 1130, nice and easy. I had a route preloaded from the previous day so continued on that.

I haven’t said much about the riding, but day 2 was very similar to day 1 – beautiful, traffic free cycle route (which I later found out are called “greenways” by the locals”) which run through mainly field and forest and hardly a soul was to be seen on them. I stopped at a boulanger to pick up some breakfast (or lunch) and got a delicious Suiss croissant thing – magic. I was prepared with water this day having filled all my bottles in the camp site before leaving. At about the 70km mark I again started to think about an overnight and as I entered Pontivy, lo and behold, a sign for municipal camping! (French villages are extremely well sign posted for everything – bakery, doctors, the works). So down to the camping we go and who do I see, the French couple from the previous night, and some others that I recognised. They said they’re off to town to get something to eat and off they went. I setup camp and cooked up another spaghetti and sauce. Afterwards I went into town for a walk which had a canal running through it with a Chateau and old town centre – very pretty. Again, darkness fell and everyone was asleep.

Arriving in France (with gallery)

The cyclists were the last to board to board the ferry and once boarded I found a seat and made myself comfortable – it was just before 11pm afterall. The seating area was quite empty so there was lots of space and I saw people unpacking their sleeping mats and sleeping bags and realising that I’d made a newb mistake by not bringing mine! After a little wander around the ship, and a packed of peanut M&M’s I settled down back into the seat. By this time the lights were off and it was dark onboard and people were kipping out across the floors…and I couldn’t sleep the chair was so damn uncomfortable…eventually I conceded and curled up on the hard floor with my shoe for a pillow, not the best night’s sleep but sleep nonetheless came.

I woke before the lights came on and went for another walk, this time out on deck and the eastern horizon was just going orange. I could just make out the French coastline and could see some fishing vessels with their lights on. It was a beautiful clear morning out on the sea. Not long afterwards the lights came on and we were docking in Roscoff…however, I could not find the way to my bike, wandering around the garage decks like a lost lamb…eventually I find a deckhand and asked him how to find the “bicyclette” and he kindly escorted me to my beloved lol

 

And my beloved was there waiting, as I left her. I could say I mounted her and those of you with dirty minds may have a snigger, well go ahead, I mounted her, and stroked once, twice, and rolled down onto French soil…which didn’t feel much different if I’m honest…it was a port, it was grim, there were cars, traffic and I just joined the queue for passport control. After checking my bags for stowaways (not really) I was given the go ahead, and then, I pushed into France, officially. I hadn’t plotted any route into my GPS so I kind of had no idea where I was going…I just knew I had to get to Morlaix as that’s where the route I had on my phone for the Eurovelo went after Roscoff…the weather was quite grim – cold, grey fog covered everything, I couldn’t see much further than 20 meters ahead. Impatient English we racing by me towing caravans on the way to their holidays…I passed an artichoke field, something I’d not seen before, some of which were flowering, very beautiful…and seeing a sign for Morhaix, I duly went that way, and stumbled into a village, Saint-Pol-de-Leon. I saw a church towering over everything so I aimed for that and found myself in the village square. At first it appeared everything was closed but I spotted a boulanger which had a café attached and I needed a massive number two – so I made a beeline for the café and remembered that I knew almost zero French. I ordered a croissant (imaginative I know) and somehow a coffee – which seemed to have several options – I just said espresso. I bolted both down and did my business and then thought “what now?”…I had no idea where I was or how to get…oh…get where? For the first time since leaving I had no plan for where I would be staying that night…and to be honest, it was a bit unnerving. Firstly, I had no idea of the terrain ahead, how far I could cycle a day (I was guessing about 80km per day) or even what would be available wherever I found myself in the evening. I didn’t even have food in my bags, only a litre of water and I wasn’t really yet fully confident in my ability to find what I needed in my bags or even how to setup camp quickly, if I had to wild camp for example. Luckily – one thing was in my favour, and this I was prepared for – time. I had all the time in the world. What a fucking fantastic feeling. Yes, out of my depth, but this is what it’s about. So I found a bench in the village square in the grey morning gloom and got my laptop out, because that was something I knew how to do – plot a route, and plot a route I did, plugged it into my little Garmin so now I had a route to follow. I can’t remember the end point I had – I think it was La Rochelle, almost 800km away or something ridiculous, but hey, it was something to get me going. The village was starting to come to life by now, cafes were opening, more people were about and the clouds were breaking and the sun was starting to beat warmly. Good time to set off, and away we went, a bit nervous but we were moving and we had a route…got lost once or twice, but generally was smooth going. By the time I got to Morlaix, the sky was clear and blue with the sun beating down, hot! Morlaix has a beautiful centre with the aqauduct as the backdrop. I stopped and saw a kid taking pictures and asked him if he could take one of me with the aqauduct, poor bugger didn’t know what stood before him, this being he see’s before him unintelligible. After an awkward moment he was rescued by his grandfather, who, although spoke a dash of English, at least understood what I was after. I showed him how to do it and bless him, he took some pics but they’re not very good! We had a short, friendly conversation in a limited fashion and they wished me bon voyage very kindly.

That day turned very hot and by mid-afternoon it was scorching and I was parched and out of water. Little did I know that back water France shuts down completely at this time, so much so that villages appear to be ghost towns – shops, houses, the works, all shut up and there was nowhere I could find water, I was looking for taps in gardens, behind buildings, nothing and I didn’t even know the French word for water at that time either! There I was riding through a village, a bit desperate for water, I cycled past a house which had its door open and I could hear people talking, so I stopped at the door and realised I was pretty much in their living room – there were 3 people I could see, the nearest and elderly man eating an ice cream. I sevo-played and he gave me the blank stare and gestured to someone in the house – an elderly woman, who guessed what I was after and duly filled my bottle, and silly me, too shy to ask for more, left my other 2 bottles empty and cycled away…

That 1l didn’t last long, but luckily, I cycled through what appeared to be a stop for motorhomes, which had a tap available and I filled all 3 bottles, one twice after downing a litre of water, and also having a mini-shower on the spot! Lovely stuff. At that point it was getting on in the afternoon and I was about 75km in already so I started to look for camping spots…as I said before, I was guessing I would be looking at doing about 80km per day. As I approached Carhaix I spotted a sign for “municipal camping” and on route there, passed a Lidl! How about that for luck! A quick shop for some dinner, it was up a hill, then down a hill, out the back of town, into the woods and there it was – a camping site. After sorting the paperwork (5 euros!) I found my own camping spot under the tree and setup camp, leaving the flysheet off because it was a clear night and I was feeling clever, having made my first camp and all…

Got to know my neighbours, a French couple (just a hello at this point really) and another French bloke who was there to learn Brittany, a dialect spoken in the region. I had a few hours of light left so cooked a spaghetti with sauce. What was amazing is that as soon as it got dark, the whole site got quiet – everyone had gone to bed! So, a little read on the Kindle and it was sleep tight to me.

Surprise, surprise, it rained in the night and I had to jump out of bed to cover the tent – luckily only a few drops got inside – I was under tree cover luckily so heard it before it got to me.

Day in Plymouth

I think I stayed 2 nights in the campsite just outside Tavistock, which turned out to be a beautiful village with an amazing cathedral and aqueduct, along with cycle paths which made it easy to get around. I also did some exploring and found a river close by where I spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing before riding back to camp feeling very relaxed.

I had also started looking for a warmshowers host in Plymouth in preparation for my ride there and found Steff, who warned me that I would need to camp in the house and she was currently moving house, but this didn’t deter me and I’m so glad I went as I had an amazing day with Steff. I had arrived on Saturday afternoon and after un-clipping my bags I went down into Plymouth, had a bit of calamari, rode around and finally headed back up the hill to Steff’s where she cooked a delicious dinner. Steff offered for me to join her on the trip to her new home, close to Tavistock, as I’d offered to help out with whatever she deemed I could help with. So on Sunday morning we drove up to the house – it was a beautiful blue sky day and after a walk with Pip and Percy (the boys) on the moorland, we had an easy drive through the countryside that took us to her house in the woods on the road that has no name…a beautiful property, what used to be a gatehouse for the manor on the neighbouring property, surrounded by forest on all sides, no neighbours in sight, so peaceful, idyllic. A work in progress, sure, but what a place to call home! So while Steff tended to the toilet I set to work weeding out the veggie patch, a pretty simple task but one that I at least knew how to do! After that I made a simple lunch and we ate out in the back garden under the trees while the wind blew…and also in the backyard, 3 beehives! Steff and Will (I didn’t meet Will who was out at sea working at the time) are bee-keepers, and Steff kindly offered to let me help do some bee keeping! We donned the suits, lit the smoker (which went out! Lol) with a mission to capture one of the queens who was unfortunately only producing drones – which isn’t good if you want a hive that produces honey. I was a bit nervous, kind of expecting the bees to start attacking but they were so calm about us rooting about in their hive, lifting out each frame as we looked for the queen bee…finally, Steff spotted her, all black she was and quick as a dart across the comb…but Steff, with nimble fingers, captured here and we popped her in a little cage for safe keeping. It was within a few seconds that the hive’s mood changed, you could sense that the bee’s were becoming agitated, I had a few flying hard against my face screen and the noise from the hive went up in pitch…they knew their queen was gone! So we quickly layered the neighbouring hive with a layer of newspaper and popped the hive on top – this was to allow the bee’s from whom we’d removed their queen, to integrate into another hive with another queen, and so we left them to get to know each other while we had a cuppa tea. Steff also showed me the other hive’s queen bee, who was a bit bigger and had also been marked with a dab of red paint on her back making her easy to spot. Steff – if you’re reading this, I hope the bee’s have become fast friends and have you potting honey in no time!

So after an amazing day we headed back to Plymouth where I cooked a simple dinner of fried onions and potatoes with some salad (I think), packed my bags, had them back on the bike and it was time to say goodbye…thank you so much Steff for having me! It was only my second warmhowers experience and it was brilliant…

So I had a ferry to catch and as I was in a strange city, in the dark, I thought I’d plug it into Google maps navigation and let it take me there, especially as I found the port dead easy on my own the day before, but nothing like the comfort of having Google maps right…wrong! Lol

It started well, down the hill along the main road…then a turn off the main road into the dark parking lot of Plymouth Argyle stadium, weird…then through a dark park…then down a bleeding cobbled road, bouncing down all the way only to rejoin the main road…what the hell was that for? Again, freewheeling down the main road and the signs point out the harbour to the left, but Google maps, says no, turn right…ok…like a blind mouse I follow, back into a dark park, along the old city walls, ok nice…up to a left turn, which turns out to be a massive flight of steps leading up to god knows where! There’s no way I can carry my bike up these stairs…where does Google maps get this routing from I wonder in curse format! So, I turn around and follow the damned signed, all the while Google maps persists in having me do a u-turn to follow its route…madness! I think it has something built into its code that forces an adventurous route, assuming all cyclists are fit lads with carbon mountain bikes that can ride over everything and anything!

But, finally, I ride into port, present passport, lane 20, bosh…I’m staring up at the ferry…this is it.

The real day 1, setting out on my own, Kingscott to south Devon.

Weyyyy

And so on the 1st day of August, I leant my fully loaded bike up against the wall of the house, said goodbye to George and Sarah and watched them drive off to Cornwall. It was so quiet, the sun was warm on my arms and I was alone, with my bike. It was both a relief and scary at the same time. I’d been feeling both excited and shit scared for this moment. Scared that this choice I was making was doomed to fail and I’d not be able to do this journey…but also excited that this moment had finally arrived and at times it felt like it would never come. So here I was, at last, facing my fears and accepting that this was it, and then I was off…and it was good J

Devon was beautiful to ride, despite the up and down nature of the county, gave me good practise for climbing and I was starting to get a real sense of how the bike operated with a load heading up hills – yes it’s slow, but this is where the Rohloff hub comes into its own – it’s so comfortable climbing and along with the Brookes saddle, this is where this bike belongs, on tour, carrying a load, climbing hills (and mountains one day!).

After the 2 days riding from Bath I repacked my bags, leaving a few items with George, cutting a good few kilo’s of stuff like my 2 spare tyres. I’d also left my D-lock at Nicks (on purpose) and a good bottle of whiskey – enjoy Nick J

The road to Tavistock was pretty good, mostly tarred road with a few km’s of single track across the moorlands.

The campsite was really nice, cheap and I managed to wash clothes and practise setting up camp, cooking and cleaning, packing and unpacking – which was difficult as I couldn’t remember where I put everything lol.

Day 2 and North Devon

We arrived at kingscott in North Devon in the evening, just over 90kms travelled from Taunton. Much tougher day once we entered Devon as Devon is hilly, so it was slow climbing much of the way. Weather was also against us, particularly the head wind which was gusting quite strong. We also got rain squalls during which we got soaked but it wasn’t bad as it cooled the legs down nicely.

Typically, it was a monster hill that greeted us just 800m from our destination, but once over the top we were greeted warmly and after a gloriously hot bath we braai’d and ate like kings…

The next days weather was pretty miserable. Aub and I chilled in the house most of the day until the sun came out in the afternoon. George got back from Exeter and we went down to the beach by Northam. Wind was howling and I flaked out on the swim. Did have an ice cream with clotted cream on top…won’t do that again! 😊

The next day I went down to Torrington cycle hire to meet Hutch who was going to show me a few technical bike maintenance skills. Spent the afternoon there and learnt some new skills.

George and Aub arrived in the evening and we rode up the Tarka trail to Barnstaple to see Aub off. Nice ride along the old railway line into town then a tough ride back to Kingscott, hill after hill…

George, Sarah and I then went down to the Royal exchange for some pool and beers.

Next day we went into Barnstaple for new tyres for Georges car and walked about town. Found a saffa butcher and got some droewors, sweet. Also bought some fudge, which was top class delicious 😋

We then went to the beach and the weather was good for swimming so had a great swim in the sea.

We ended the day in Roborough in the village pub with a fantastic meal.

Got back to Kingscott and the sky was full of stars…

And so ended my time in North Devon, magic place and thank you to George and Sarah for having me…

Day 1 done

From Bath we cycled to Taunton, 95km in total. Staying with Nick, a warm showers host. Hot day most of the way, but got a bit of rain close to Taunton. Arrived dusty and tired.

Bike is heavy, need to shed a few bits 🙂

Epping Forest

This summer is ridiculous! Another hot day and hey, I don’t work <massive grin>, so I loaded up the bike with the full baggage configuration and rode up to the forest. Found a sweet spot along a little river and setup the tarp and tent for some practice – the tarp took a bit of time, had to work out how to secure the main line to hang the tarp over – eventually got it nicely taut and the rest was a cinch, apart from all my guy lines wrapped in the tarp typically entwined themselves like a brood of snake bastards. So, lesson learnt there. Played a bit with my camera on the Joby tripod and also the GoPro with the app on my phone, very cool. App’s a bit fiddly but it’s very handy.

Here’s the route:

And, here’s the pics from the Canon. I’ll try and edit the GoPro footage some time and get it on the YoutTube.