Monday 26. 09. 2016 La Tranche sur Mer – Chatelaillon Plage ( 92 kms )
Why is it that people with no charm and no apparent fondness for their fellow man insist on following a career in hospitality? I completely understand that my host was obliged to rise early in order to lay out my breakfast but a smile, even an insincere one, would have been a pleasant greeting! Ignoring such grumpiness, by 08.30 I was retrieving bike and bits from the overnight lockup. Notable at this time of the morning was the slow dawning of daylight; it was also a good deal chillier than the previous evening when I had spent a comfortable half hour drinking a beer (quite a small one )at the café on the other side of the road. This morning I returned to a very cheery barman who sold me a can of Orangina and sent me off with a smile and a ‘bonne route’.
So, today has been an experience and an education in very different road surfaces: everything from baby bottom smooth (not much of that) to real bone shakers and single wheel tracks. Thus I spent quite a lot of the ride looking down, trying to avoid punctures and, more importantly remaining upright.
It was also a day of very flat lands and, if birds were your thing, there was a plethora of different species which sadly I do not have the expertise to identify except by size and colour although they did seem to have in common a love of mud and slush. They were the natural inhabitants of this curious environment unlike the vast machine I encountered shortly after ignoring a ‘route barre’ sign. It was the size of a small bungalow and was devouring the hedgerow growing alongside the canal. And these hedges were really small trees up to 2 or 3 metres high. It has to be said that this was an awesome spectacle if unsettling to see how quickly nature could be destroyed. The purpose of all this activity escaped me although it appeared that the canal was undergoing a widening process which may have been necessary to retain adequate drainage of the marais. I know not.
Equally extraordinary but entirely natural was the sudden appearance of a cliff in an otherwise completely flat landscape. Dredging up sparse knowledge from an old Open University Degree, I could only speculate that this had once been in the sea. On the summit stood a village called La Dive and I have since researched the name and discovered that it was indeed an island at a time when the sea covered this area. I had nurtured a hope that the name might involve bungie jumping. Mmmmm.
As I left the flat lands and met the canal path I encountered a very polite middle aged male cyclist waiting patiently for me to complete a short but narrow descent. He spotted my Welsh flag and my Welsh cycling vest and embarked on a conversation thankfully in English, well, Irish. He enquired after my venture and then explained that he had caught the ferry to Santander and was making his way north to St. Malo and then back to the Emerald Isle. We wished each other well and continued in our opposite directions.
I have included a photograph in this day’s blog which illustrates a very bizarre form of fishing. People without fishing lines but with huge nets which they hurled into the canal Maritime on a rising tide and then proceeded to frantically winch back in using a curious winding gear. The fish which were the object of the exercise were apparently mullet although in the short time I spent observing this activity I saw not a one either in or out of the water.
Thereafter, I followed some twenty kilometres of various canals on boneshaker tracks! Hurrah! It was, therefore, almost a pleasure to reach human habitation in the form of La Rochelle. During a short break earlier in the summer we had taken the motor home to Chatelaillon Plage and I had ridden the cycle path from there to La Rochelle. I remembered it well, and so that which might have caused a getting lost situation, was avoided. A final thrust along the coast and I arrived in Chatelaillon Plage with the sun still shining and the tide coming in. Content to end the day here, I stopped at the first hotel, Le Rivage, where I requested a room for me and one for my bike. Having deposited said bike and unloaded my gear, my return to reception was greeted with a bottle of ice cold water and an energy bar. I guess I must have made a hot and dusty impression but what a response! Many thanks to a very thoughtful receptionist.
After a shower, and a remarkably good salmon and rice salad from Carrefour washed down with an exceedingly small bottle of wine, I look forward to tomorrow with a growing confidence.