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Cycle camping: day 4 - John C. Kirk

Jul. 7th, 2010

11:00 pm - Cycle camping: day 4

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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.

When I got up in the morning, I went along to the office to pay for the night, and the lady there was quite happy for me to "backdate" it. This was the cheapest place I stayed, since it was just €2.45 for the night (€1.60 for the pitch and €0.80 for me, or possibly vice-versa). It was "Camping Municipal", which partly explains it. She asked whether I wanted to have a shower, and I said yes. There was a sign up on the wall that said "€10 pour cles de douche" (or similar), which seemed a bit steep, but I figured that I really did need a shower at this point. However, she opened the shower block for me without charging me any money. I'm guessing that the €10 is a deposit so that you can borrow keys for the duration of your stay, then you can take a shower when the office is closed. The site also had "proper" toilets, with a shared loo roll dispenser outside the cubicles. All in all, excellent value for money.

I checked on my laundry, but unfortunately it was all still wet, so I had to put it in a carrier bag and take it with me like that. The swimming pool was now open, but it was also quite crowded, and it didn't really seem worth spending €3 for a quick splash before I set off. If I'd reached the campsite at 18:00 the night before (as I'd originally intended) then it would have been worth the money to soak in the cold water after so long in the saddle.

With all the practice, I was getting a lot quicker with the tent: it took me 15 minutes to set it up the previous evening, and 10 minutes to pack it away.

Before I left the campsite, I had a quick flick through the comics I bought the previous day. I then discovered that the Darkwing Duck comic was actually in German rather than French! Possibly this wouldn't make much difference to how much I'd understand, but it wasn't quite what I wanted. So, I stopped off at the newsagent on my way out of the town. I needed to explain that I'd bought the German version by mistake, so I'd like to swap it for a French version; this put a bit of a strain on my language skills.

Me: "Bonjour."
Him: "Bonjour."
Me: "Vous vendrez ca ... en Mardi avant aujourd-hui. Mais, je ne sais pas ca en deutsche."
Him: "Deutsche?"

I didn't know the word for "yesterday", and this was Wednesday, so I phrased it as "the Tuesday before today". I also then realised that I'd used the German word for "German" rather than the French word for "German".

Me: "Allemagne?"

I think that may be the country rather than the language, but at least it was on the right track. He looked at the comic, and he was surprised to find that it was indeed in German. He then went over to the stack where I'd picked it up, and found that they were all in German. He took the whole stack behind the till, so I'm guessing that he sent them back to his supplier for a refund. I took a different (cheaper) Disney comic, and he refunded the difference, so that all worked out nicely. The new one was aimed at a younger audience, so I got a bit bored with the Mickey Mouse story, but I'll try to plough through it at some point.

I left St Nicolas du Pelem at about 12:00, and returned to the Gouarec campsite at 13:15. I then phoned Breton Bikes so that they could come out to meet me, and swap routes. While I was waiting, I draped all my wet clothes over the bike, using it as a clothes rail.

Speaking of the bike, I originally asked them for a touring bike. However, when I did a short test ride I didn't feel comfortable with the dropped handlebars. I could have put my hands on the flat bit at the top, but that's much narrower than other bikes I've ridden, so that felt weird too. I've ordered a touring bike from Roberts, and that will have dropped handlebars, so I do need to get used to them, but it may be best to do that on short journeys rather than trying out a brand new cycling position on a long journey. Anyway, they were quite happy to swap the bike for one with flat handlebars, and that's what I used all week. It didn't have a kickstand, which I regretted every day, but apparently you need to pack the panniers carefully in order for the bike to balance like that. The bike would also benefit from a second bottle cage; I kept a spare water bottle in my panniers, but it's a bit more awkward to reach. Anyway, my Roberts bike will have both of these features, and I'm glad I asked for them now that I've tried touring without them.

I now needed to choose a different route, and I decided to have a crack at "The Island of Adventure". Geoff Husband was a bit dubious about whether I'd have time for it all, especially since that was a 7 day route, but I figured that as long as I doubled up all the days I'd be fine. Since that was the route I'd originally booked, I'd probably regret it if I did two routes during the week and neither of them was that one. Also, it has an Enid Blyton aspect to it! (She wrote a series of books called "The something of Adventure".) Digressing slightly, I think that The Famous Five are often unfairly maligned; they're an easy target, but there's nothing wrong with "wholesome" activities, and this holiday involved me doing similar things (cycling/camping/swimming in the countryside).

Anyway, this was a fairly lazy day. I stayed at the campsite for 2 hours (until most of my clothes were dry), had an ice cream, and took advantage of the opportunity to do a bookswap. I wouldn't want to carry loads of books around on a trip like this (due to the weight), so I'd like to take ebooks instead. However, I don't know how long the batteries last on something like a Sony Reader, and I didn't really have any opportunity to plug in a charger while I was away. Some campsites had power sockets available (for an extra fee), but they looked like commando sockets, i.e. they were intended for heavy duty cables that went into motorhomes, rather than being normal wall sockets. (The other problem with ebooks is the limited range, but that's a topic for a separate blog post.)

I left at 15:15. The only clothes that were still wet were a pair of socks, so I left them tucked under the straps of my tent, i.e. they were draped over my panniers as I cycled along. Breton Bikes have an article on their website called The Rule of Three, and I probably should have read that in more detail before I went out there. Anyway, they recommend the technique that I discovered by accident (for wet socks), but they also apply it to pants and T-shirts. I'm not sure whether I'd have space to hang all of those off the bike while I'm cycling! Still, I can bear it in mind for future trips.

As I left Gouarec, I cycled along the canal path in the opposite direction to Sunday. I saw some kids jumping into the water from the wall next to the lock, so that confirmed my theory about swimming. One interesting feature of the locks is that they had double windlasses. In other words, there was one windlass on each gate to open/close the "cat flap" at the bottom (controlling the flow of water), but there was another windlass on the bank to open/close the gate itself. I didn't see any of them in use, so I don't know whether that's easier than pushing a big wooden beam to swing the gate around.

I reached the campsite in Guemene (Le Palévart) at 17:00, thus completing day 1 of the new route. As per the directions, it doesn't look like much at first, since there was a small area with a couple of caravans parked on it. However, since I was on the bike I could go over the footbridge and pitch my tent in a much bigger field, next to a stream. The instructions suggested that I could use the water to chill a bottle of white wine, and this was such a good idea that I had to try it! It wasn't strictly necessary, since the wine was cold when I bought the bottle at the pub, but it was fun.

Once the wine was in the water, I went in search of dinner. There were a few pizza places around, and one of them said that it was open afternoon and evening (no times specified) and that they did deliveries in the evening starting at 18:30. That suggested that they'd start serving dinner at the same time, so I turned up at 18:30 to check; the door was open, and I spoke to the member of staff inside.

Me: "Bonjour."
Him: "Bonjour."
Me: "Etes-vous ouvrez pour manger, s'il vous plait?"
Him: "Maintenant?"
Me: "Oui."
Him: "Non."

I was quite pleased that I'd put the whole sentence together properly, improving on previous days. So, it was a bit disappointing to find that it was all for naught. I was trying to work out how to ask "When do you open?", and he anticipated this by saying that they open at 19:00. That also seems to be fairly standard in Brittany, so it's something else to bear in mind while scheduling your route (along with lunchtimes).

Anyway, I came back later and I was completely stuffed full by the time I'd finished the pizza. I had a glass of wine with dinner, then I went back to the campsite and fished my bottle out of the water. I then drank about half of that out of a plastic camping mug; classy!

By this point in the week I was definitely getting a tan. (I've now been sunburnt enough times to overcome my aversion to using suncream.) However, this is a bit selective, based on the parts of my body that were exposed to the sun. In particular, the top/front of my arms is quite brown (facing upwards while I cycled), while the bottom half is still quite pale. So, they look a bit like sausages that have been cooked under the grill and not turned over yet! Ah well, I remember something that Kate Rew said: "a tan isn't a tan without a tanline".

This was another "Campsite Municipal", so again it was fairly cheap: €4.50 altogether (€1.75 for me, €1.55 for the pitch, and €1.20 for the bike). They had normal toilets, although I had to borrow toilet paper by sneaking into the ladies' loo when nobody was looking. The only snag was that they locked the gate that led to the field by 20:45, so I had to climb over it to get to the facilities block. It was only about 1m high, so this wasn't a major challenge, but if the field is part of the campsite then they shouldn't really be blocking off access. (On the flipside, if it's not part of the campsite then they shouldn't be charging me to stay there!) Still, it was a nice place to spend the night.

Distance cycled: 40.6km.