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Cycle camping: day 3 - John C. Kirk

Jul. 6th, 2010

11:00 pm - Cycle camping: day 3

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I went on a cycle camping holiday in Brittany from 3rd July to 10th July (via Breton Bikes). I'm backdating my blog posts for each day, based on notes I made at the time.

I forgot to describe the campsite yesterday. This was one of the most expensive ones I stayed in, charging €10.80 for the night: €6.80 for the pitch, €3.80 for me, and €0.20 tax. I assume that I was paying for the location, because the facilities weren't up to much. In particular, there were no water taps near the pitches, so I had to walk up to the main block of buildings for that. Also, there was no toilet paper in the loos! They hadn't simply run out; there were no holders on the walls, so I assume that they never had any there. This type of thing isn't a problem if you're prepared in advance, but it's a bit awkward if you get caught out. I hadn't taken a toilet roll with me, because of all the advice to travel light, but I think I will on future tours. Fortunately there was a public toilet down by the ferry port which had loo roll, so I stole several sheets of paper from there to take back to the campsite.

Speaking of preparation, I also had trouble with the ferry schedule. According to the route, day 4 was a "rest day": stay at the same campsite for two days in a row, while taking the ferry over to Brehat (the island) to wander around. When I checked into the campsite, I offered to pay upfront, but the lady in charge said that if I was leaving after 08:00 then I should pay in the morning. When I went down to the port for a swim, I had a look at the ferry timetable. It said that you could only take your bike with you if there was enough room, which is fair enough. It also said: "Bikes obligatory before 09:00 (going to island) and before 16:00 (going to mainland)". I assumed that they didn't mean you had to have a bike with you at those times, so it probably meant that you could only take a bike with you at those times. Unfortunately, the only ferry that left before 09:00 was at 08:15, so I'd be cutting it pretty close if I had to leave the campsite after 08:00. Again, if I'd known about this in advance then it wouldn't have been a problem, but it complicated things.

Recapping the story so far: I'd chosen a 6 day route, which would involve cycling from Sunday to Friday, leaving both Saturdays free for hanging around the campsite and getting to/from the station. On day 1 of cycling, I did all of day 1 of the route, and half of day 2. On day 2 of cycling, I did the rest of day 2 of the route, and all of day 3. At this point it was fairly clear that I'd finish the route with plenty of time to spare, so I decided that I'd try another route to fill up the remaining time. Geoff Husband suggested an alternative, namely that I could take a longer route back to Gouarec by going along the north coast. However, I wasn't keen on trying that with such a "zoomed out" map and no specific directions to follow.

I didn't intend to spend all day on the island, so I figured that I'd begin my return journey (day 5 of the route) afterwards. If I couldn't get onto the ferry at all, I'd skip the island and head back south even sooner. In theory I could lock my bike up at the ferryport, but I didn't really feel comfortable doing that with all of my equipment on it, and I also didn't want to carry the panniers around with me all day. (Living in London for so long has made me suspicious!) Lucy said that she might stay on the campsite for another day, so that she could leave everything in her tent.

When I got up in the morning, I saw that Lucy's tent was still there but her bike had gone, so I assumed that she'd already gone over to the island. I packed up, checked out, and took my bike down to the port. I asked whether I could take my bike on the 10:30 ferry, but they said no, which I'd expected, so I then began my southbound journey. I didn't see Lucy again until the end of the week; it turned out that she'd just gone for a coffee, and when she got back to the campsite she found that I'd disappeared. She then took Geoff's advice of the long route back, which worked out ok for her.

Heading south, I was initially retracing my steps. I was a bit disappointed by this, because I'd prefer more of a circular route to visit new places. Be careful what you wish for! I took a wrong turn near Bringolo, and wound up cycling a lot further than I'd intended to, finally reaching Chatelaudren (where we stayed on Sunday night) at 14:45. I cycled around the town centre looking for somewhere to eat, then I felt a bump and discovered that I was now on the pavement. Fortunately the kerb was quite low at that point, so I didn't fall off, but I thought: "I need food!" I've heard other cyclists refer to the "bonk", where you completely run out of energy, but this is the first time I've experienced it. Unfortunately, all the restaurants were closed. As far as I can tell, you need to buy lunch between 12:00 and 14:00. However, one of the pubs was open so I bought a Coke and sat down for a while. This pub also had an English style toilet, including a seat and toilet paper! It's amazing how much I appreciated these small luxuries after I'd had to do without them.

This completed day 5 of the route, and day 6 would take me all the way back to Gouarec. However, I decided to split that in half, and camp at St Nicolas du Pelem overnight (where we were supposed to stop on Sunday), then get to Gouarec the following morning. I phoned Breton Bikes to let them know I was coming, so that we could pick a convenient time to meet. While we were on the phone, Kate Husband mentioned that the campsite I was going to had an outdoor pool; very nice!

So, I set off for the next leg of the journey, but I had some more trouble with the route. It said: "3km on you reach LANDRODEC where you turn left signposted BOURBRIAC. After 4km you turn right signposted signposted (sic) ST PEVER D24 which you reach after 3km."

I found the signpost for Bourbriac ok, but the next one actually said "St Péver D4". I turned right there, but I didn't see another signpost for 5km. This is where I started to worry again - was I going the right way? If so, I ought to be there by now. If not, I ought to turn around before I went too far off course. I didn't want to abandon a correct course like I did the day before, but I also didn't want to go on a massive detour like I did in the morning. Maybe I should have waited until I saw a sign for the D24? In this case I decided to continue in the current direction for a bit longer, and I reached St Péver ok. I scribbled new info on the directions: Breton Bikes may amend it as I suggested, or they might add an extra line to say "Ignore the sign for the D4 because it's the long way around."

Before I bought the GPS, I read some reviews on Wiggle that complained about the short battery life, saying that it would only last a few hours. As it turned out, the original battery lasted for 17 hours and 20 minutes (almost 3 days of cycling) before the watch beeped to say that the GPS battery was low. I had the GPS strapped around my left arm, and I felt a bit like Scorpius (from Farscape) as I slid out the old cylinder and put in a new one to keep myself going! Admittedly this was outside my body rather than inside, but there's still a cyborg aspect to it. Anyway, the GPS definitely earned its keep, so I'm glad I bought it.

When I reached St Nicolas du Pelem, I stopped off at a newsagent to buy some comics, in an attempt to improve my French. I hoped that the language would be fairly simple, and that the pictures would help to give me the gist of what was going on, so I bought a Spider-Man comic and a Darkwing Duck paperback. The Spider-Man one was a collection of 3 American issues, which I can read online, so I can compare them to find out what the original English said, but I think I got the basic idea.

I finally reached the campsite at 19:20. Unfortunately, this was 5 minutes after the registration desk closed, so I just pitched my tent in an empty space and hoped that they'd be happy for me to pay the following morning. This was also 5 minutes after the swimming pool closed (on the opposite side of the road), which was disappointing. If I'd known about these times, I would have gone straight to the campsite rather than stopping off in the town centre first; ah well, never mind.

I washed my dirty clothes in a sink, although I didn't have any detergent with me. When I've used laundrettes in England, they normally have a vending machine on the wall that sells individual scoops of washing powder, so I thought the same thing would apply here. Sadly not, so I just had to rinse my clothes and hope for the best. (Note for future trips: take some small sachets of washing powder with me.) I'd already discovered that leaving a wet towel to dry on my tent overnight didn't really work; even if it didn't rain, there wasn't enough sun to dry it and then the morning dew would make it damp. The campsite had a clothesline next to the sinks (indoors), so I hung my clothes up there to dry. Walking back to my tent, I heard a demented cockerel crowing at 20:00; I'd always thought that they only crowed at dawn, but apparently not.

Looking at what I've typed, it all sounds quite negative, but as I was approaching the campsite I felt young again, as though I was in my 20s. I think that's partly because of the physical activity, but also because I was only responsible for myself, with no work/SJA to worry about.

Distance cycled: 94.1km. (Based on the route, I was only supposed to cycle 62km!)