Monday, 24 May 2010

aT tiMes LiFe jUsT sHoWeRs uS wiV giFts

Yesterday started with me struggling to drag myself out of bed. Feeling really low in energy and doubtful I could do much cycling, we went on to climb 600m. We climbed all day through green fragrant forests, the air was incredible and I felt strong. Our target was a village called Mouthe in the Haut Jura region. I kept expecting to see Julie Andrew twirling over the meadows, instead we met a group of bike tourers on Pino Tandems. The bikes are a strange mix of recumbent at the front and normal upright position at the back, a really fun and sociable way of riding. This gathering of ‘Pino Lovers’ had been prearranged by the website founders Marc and Regis. They were such a generous bunch and treated us to a three-course meal, shower and the much needed use of their washing machine. We all free camped just outside Mouthe in a valley of dandelions that opened with the morning sun turning the whole valley yellow, tucking themselves back up at night. We were literally encrusted with pollen by the time we left. I am feeling very blessed and happy to be doing what we’re doing.

What a glorious couple of days. The weather has been fantastic: warm and breezy with just the right amount of clouds to be splendidly picturesque. We are now very close to the border with Switzerland. Getting here was pretty superlative. We did a fair bit of uphill from Champagnole to Mouthe, but climbing is only tough at the beginning and on a change of incline. From descending to ascending is a real big hit, legs burn and it seems impossible to carry on up. But soon enough one gets into a groove and the lactic acid reabsorbs, life becomes much easier. I shift gears from time to time and switch from spinning to thrashing for a wee bit. Somehow the change in rhythm seems to keep the legs going. I'm not sure this is the accepted way for cyclists, but at the moment it feels right. On a long climb it is easy to mentally accept the task at hand and keep going. Slowly, slowly, metre by metre, up we go. The challenge is to accept that after the ridge one has just climbed, there is always going to be another. Higher, at times steeper, invariably there. Without a doubt we are carrying way too much luggage around. Once in Genova we will empty our bags and do a full reappraisal of what we need. It certainly is a fine line between comfort and weight and luckily we have a good opportunity to ditch all that we don't need.

While having a refreshing beer at the auberge “l'Oeil du Boeuf” we spotted two guys on a really funny sort of tandem. Of course we went to have a chat and, after introducing ourselves, we were promptly invited to go and camp with them [Mark and Regis] and a few other friends. We had a moment hesitation because we needed to do some washing, shower and since we intended to have a day of rest, set up camp for the morrow. Mark offered all of the facilities of his home, just 50m away at the end of the village. We accepted, and what a good choice that was.

Mark and Regis amongst other things run a review website. Mainly they test winter gear aimed at Nordic Skiing, but both are also into cycling. Their knowledge of kit was impressive and Mark even sorted us with a clip we had lost from one of the Ortlieb panniers. It was a pleasure dining and spending time with them and the rest of the gang.

The place they had chosen for the night is situated on Mouthe's plateau just outside the source of the river Doubs. The landscape is gentle around us, low hills framed by higher ridges, sapins and épicéa la Furieuse(Norway spruces and silver firs) on the steeper faces and a few lichen covered shrubs dotted on the lower hills. The grass is short, not cut but grazed, and the entire landscape is covered in bright dent de leon, a vast expanse of yellow undulating in a gentle breeze. We spent the whole of a lazy day here, having breakfast with everybody then seeing them leave, two by two at different points of the morning and afternoon.


Grace said...

not at all suprised to hear you are meeting such lovely people along the way, like attracts like and so I reckon you will be meeting lovely people all the way to Japan!! Loving reading your blog...Love you xxx

Anonymous said...

Hey cyclists!
Finally found your site after lots of trying. We're the couple on the large motorbike with the backgammon. Hope you're really well and enjoying life. Greetings from Damascus and safe travels.
Matt and Flora xx

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