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Journal for 2-September-2004 : St Paul de Varax

A relatively early start this morning. The sun isn't coming up till 7:30, and the fine clear nights have left so much condemsation that most of our camping gear needs to be dried at least a little bit before we go.

Really nice morning riding today, on minor little roads up a gentle but spectacularly beautiful valley that lead us away from the Loire River system and over to the Rhone.

After a great descent into a valley we got detoured by a closed road. The offical detour lead onto the autobahn (I know, that's German, but I don't know the French word for them) but the unofficial detour lead us up a narrow windy steep little country lane, serving about 3 farm houses. Very interesting. Dodging the cats, birds and occasional tractor, we delicately navigated this gravelly hedge lined path for a couple of Ks. At the end we could see we were riding through open fields, but at the time it felt like traversing a jungle, with the hedges encroaching over the narrow path.

We met some German cyclists trying to find a railway tunnel to ride through. We checked their bike path guide, and sure enough, there was a bike road that lead through the mountain we were expecting to have to ride over, which we duly followed to Prisse. The 15% grades to get to the start of the tunnel were probably punishment enough for this bit of cheating. The bike route has to cross the new TGV railway to get to the tunnel from the old one.

More Baguettes and Camembert for lunch on the grass in the sun by the duck filled canal at Prisse.

Back to real cycling again, on proper roads with real traffic other than german cycle tourists. Our crossing of the Soane was over a single lane old baily military bridge dating back to WWII. The protective traffic lights were not phased quick enough, so two thirds of the way across, we got struck with oncomming traffic on a carraige way less than 3m. I tried to stop the lady driving straight towards me, but she just waved back at my stop sign. The cars following after her's wern't so narrow, and we were forced to let their scowling faces past clutching the edge rail of the bridge.

More nice riding (if a bit headwindy) through flatish country to Neuville les Darres. It was another beautiful warm sunny day, and we drank all our water – something we haven't managed since Queensland almost a year ago. Half an hours searching revealed a filthy squat public toilet (no flushing or had washing here, let alone wiping) and eventually a spare tap. Only after collecting all our bottles and removing their lids did I learn it wasn't connected to anything. We eventually got some Eue from the local bar/restaurant for the price of two Limonarde's.

Made it to St Paul de Varax to discover – horror of horrors – the local bakery was closed for the month. So no freash bread :-(. We got some “long life” bread and chocolate croissants from the mini-market. Long Life here means stale.

The lady at this camp ground was unhappy with us for not arriving within the designated hours (even though we had), but checked us in anyway. We stopped her nicking off home early, which is a shame because if we'd turned up ten minutes later we'd have camped for free.

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