Bad Photoshop job because I didn't take enough pictures of the map.
An hour or two on the autoroute left me hungry, in need of fuel and ahead of schedule. I stopped at an aire, after which I didn’t much feel like getting back on the bike. I scouted around and I realised that if I climbed on top of a picnic shelter I could sleep right by my bike but without anyone being able to see me. It was more homelessness than camping, but I still woke up with a view of the snow-capped Pyranees back in the direction I’d come from and the sun rising in the direction I was going. I swung down to the ground, surprising a French van driver, loaded my bag into my box and set off for one of the more interesting bits of French motorway, the Milau Viaduct.
The trip could easily have ended at the following scene. I arrived minutes after it happened (there were only two vehicles ahead of me, neither of which were damaged, thankfully) but had I been immediately behind the truck…
There were lots of UK-registered bikes at Milau. I talked to one group of guys who’d ridden all the way from Yorkshire to Italy to watch the MotoGP. Funnily enough they’d also had to sleep at a motorway aire a few nights previous after getting stuck at a closed pass and finding all the hotels occupied. They said (and I can imagine) that it was pretty cold in just their leathers. I felt very glad of my sleeping bag and mat, and glad I wasn’t rushing to get back to a desk by Monday morning.
In the exhibition at Milau there was a large-scale map on the wall and I realised I could make my onward journey through the Gorges du Tarn, which I hadn’t researched at all but turned out to be pretty spectacular.
I climbed out of the other side of the gorge towards Cervennes National Park. There was a sign for something called "Aire Naturellement du Camping" which sounded promising, but turned out to be a rather depressing field that charged €5 to set up a tent—non merci.
Less than 15km down the road I found the best campsite of the trip so far: well hidden from the road, and with a soft bed of pine needles for insulation and comfort. It was so quiet that I could hear the rush of wind under the wings of a buzzard as it swooped overhead. The view into the national park was a bonus; it’s nice to watch the landscape change as the sun goes down and then wake up as the reverse process is happening.
My next destination was Joe. We’ve known of each other for many years and have mutual friends but have only met once, again during our 2009 BMX trip. So it was really generous of him (and family) to put me up for a couple of nights and show me his BMX trails/vegetable garden hybrid. He’s put a few photos of my stay online as well.
I thought the hard pard of the trip was over at this point, but, as you’ll find out in the next update, that turned out to not quite be the case…
P.S. I registered quis.cc 10 years ago today. Happy birthday old website.