Mont St-Michel to Dieppe

Wed 6th Aug.

A late start due to extreme laziness, compounded by buffet breakfast and the fact it’s tipping down outside. Eventually I summon the get up n go and head to the campsite to pack up the tent we left to air! Its not too wet, so pack it up, return to hotel and reorg for sight seeing day at MSM.

You can’t get all the way to the mont using your own vehicle’s now (as you used to be able…..tide depending) cos they’re building a causeway, which is a bit of a shame in my opinion, still, can’t have nature ruining your revenue stream I suppose!
However, there is a free bus service in some rather natty double ended wood clad buses with driving cabs at both ends

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We spent a good few hours wandering, exploring and ‘avin a bit of cake!

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One thing I should mention is that the higher up the Mont you go, the more expensive it gets!

Did some Petes pants

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Following which we headed back to Pontorson, repacked again, spa bathed….again, then scoffed at Le Relais Gascon. …….again. This time a melt in your mouth Lamb steak; lovely.

Thu 7th- Fri 8th

After making full use of the buffet breakfast (cheese n ham rolls for lunch!) Not forgetting the spa bath one last time, it was off to Pontorson station to catch the train to Caen. We’ve already “done” this part of Normandy so agreed to cut it out and concentrate on the new!
Therefore train it was, with one change. ….using the aforementioned back wheel/rear load up the escalator system!
We reached Caen in the late(ish) morning and started up the canal to Pegasus bridge, crossing over after paying our respects, and heading north…..after Petes pants of course

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The coastline between Caen & Dieppe is a tad undulating with deep river valleys heading to the rugged coast, interspersed with long sandy beaches. However, just up the coastline is Merville, which apparently is quite important to the Paras of WW2 vintage, and looks well worth a visit

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The campsite for tonight is in Cabourg, a seaside town and resort centered around a mahoosive Casino and founded in the 1850’s.
Unfortunately on the way to Cabourg I noticed Anns rear wheel was slightly wobbly, and on closer inspection realised another spoke had given up the ghost …..bugger!
Once the tent was erected I took said bike around a number of bike shops but to no avail!
The stormiest night so far endured under canvass, torrential rain, thunder and lightning with storm force winds……..should have pegged out the guy ropes I thought……altho to be fair I haven’t yet and it turned out “Bertha” huffed and puffed and didn’t blow my tent down.

Sat 9th

Morning Greetings from another savage hill! What a way to start the day. We continue treading along the coast looking for a bike shop to repair Anns wheel.
We came across many

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With a variety of different machines, but unable to fix a wheel

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After what seemed and actually was bloody miles we arrived in a posh townfull of people who “DO” and I managed to persuade a shop to fix the bike, altho I supplied the spoke (Surly has spares) and it still cost €30! Still. ..it was done and we started moving along again.

Ooh-says Ann a mile or few further on- look at the size of that bridge! Mmm says I, forgetting to mention we’d be crossing it…..when we eventually reached it.

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Its high, there’s a traffic jam all the way across….Ann hates heights, but buggered if she’ll let a load of French bloody holiday makers know it

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The view off the side from same position

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Our 1st selfie

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Miles to go yet to tonight’s campsite at St Juan Brunival, but there’s surplus adrenaline sloshing around in Anns system and the afternoon flashes by.

Sun 10th

Another stormy night courtesy of Bertha. ….who apparently is planning on hanging around for a week or two. ….excellent, NOT! the plan it may be a changing.
We manage to get up and pack between downpours. Out of camp, turn left and in 100yds it starts raining, in 400 and I’m as wet as I ever could be and it doesn’t matter how much more it rains I’m as wet as I can be…..oh joy!

On the plus side (my glass is always half full-at least in this weather it is) the wind is behind us pushing us forcefully towards Dieppe. …..mmmm isn’t there a ferry to England from Dieppe? Oh yes!

Its wetter than the proverbial Haddock’s bathing costume. There are also a number of rather savage (as in steep down into & long up out of) river valleys to negotiate along the way, with rivers of water flowing down the roads too.

On reaching Fecamp we retire to the Golden Arches for respite and sugar. I was hoping to catch a train but unfortunately the 1st one out of town is at 1700hrs….so we soldier (or should that be sailor) on! On the bright side…..Anns black dye from her home dyed saddle has transferred onto her cycling pants…..which left a very interesting “pattern” on the Mc Donalds white leatherette seat.

After brief respite in the golden arches we set off again and lo….after only 35 miles it stops raining!

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Altho looking at the sky ahead you’d be keeping your jacket to hand.

At the Maccie D’s in Fecamp I utilised the free wifi and booked an F1 in Dieppe for that evening. ….1) so we’d have a dry night and 2) so we’d have to get there!

It worked. ..we got there up one last mother of a hill…….why are they always always at the top of a bloody great hill?

Using the F1’s free wifi I checked out the weather for the next week and lo! Bertha was a visitin for a week or two. …..so I checked the ferry times and after a quick discussion we decided on cutting short our continental sojourn and catching the ferry to Newhaven then the train home.

The only fly in the ointment was the ferry left at O my God its early! So we’re a peddling to the port at 3 in the morning. ….with no lights & it’s dark! We finally get to the port after an horrendous climb up & over & around about to find that thankfully the ferry is running late cos of Bertha….so yes there’s plenty of time to check in.

Checked in and Q’d up we then get free entertainment watching the -attempted- illegal stowaways getting hauled out from beneath the lorries, shouting out they’re behind you to the police as more climb the fence,  before they are rounded up and herded away by rather nasty very big dogs. All joking aside….its chaos. The risks these people are taking are almost beyond reason. Why on earth do they want to come to England after crossing most of Europe?

So…the end of another adventure, but…….we’re off again soon, this time Budapest up the Danube to Basel, then down the Rhine to Hook of Holland.

Nantes & Mont St-Michel

Mon 4th Aug

A lazy rest day yesterday and a short 5 mile “leg turner” then a catch up with the notes for blogging.

Initially we planned an unloaded trip to St Nazaire. Didn’t happen. A late start then getting as far as Nantes where doing the tourist thing took over. I mean,  who’d expect to see an Elephant giving rides in Nantes? Well Petes pants did!

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Anyway the plan has changed yet again, we’re now going to catch a train to Avranches and do the Tourist thing at Mont St-Michel, then onward&upwards to the Hook of Holland. Mainly cos we’re running out of time to catch the ferry back to Harwich so as to be in Norwich for Carls birthday.

Tue 5th Aug

Gentle droog into Nantes Gare SNF, a little bit of buggering about getting the bikes to the correct platform, but only because the French fat controller doesn’t know which platform the train will leave from until 20 mins beforehand, therefore everybody hangs around the info board, then its a mad rush to get to the platform. We’ve been very lucky with the Velo friendly trains so far and our luck continues! Slight issue of changing trains at Rennes so we wait on the platform we arrived at- hoping we wouldn’t have to change- until info boards announced relevant platform…..unlucky! Mad rush for platform 7. Ann went with the lift and I went with the escalator. Now I’ve had one or two dodgy moments on escalators with a fully loaded bike, so this time I thought deeply about what I was doing and wheeled the Surly on backwards ( this prevents the bike flipping up n over…..not good!) Hurrah,  it worked, and with the panniers braced against my leg and me holding seatpost said treader was going nowhere.

Whilst sitting back enjoying the journey I happened to discover the train stopped at Pontorson, which is the village closest to MSM…..result! So a quick 5mile tread toward MSM to the campsite I had selected when bugger me it was full…..in August? What? Is everyone on holiday? So 5 miles back to Pontorson to camping Halitosis. ….also full, but they’ll let us put our tent up besides the kiddies play area for only £20 per night…..not impressed and it started raining again. …oh joy.

After erection duties me n t’ boss headed into town in order to find some accommodation for the following night as we wanted to spend a full day at MSM in order to do it justice. We found a very nice Best Western called Hotel Montgomery, originally the home of count Montgomery, with parts of hotel built in 1600’s, on Pontorson high st and entered into negotiations. Initially we had a standard room for the following night, but after stepping outside and seeing big black clouds in t’sky we promptly went back to reception, renegotiated and secured a deluxe room for two nights. ……sod the camping! Back to campsite collect bags (but leave tent to air) back to hotel and move in. Not only is room huge but the huge bathroom has a huge spa bath…….boss is in heaven! This, we decided, was our wedding anniversary treat to ourselves.

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The hotel receptionist also recommended a very very nice little restaurant just around the corner for scoff on the Rue de Tanis called “Le Relais Gascon” check out the moulles, with local cider…mmmmmm! (sorry Leslie!).

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Being our anniversary we had a drink or two with our repaste

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Apparently I can’t handle it anymore?

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Loire downhill continued

Thu 31st

Tours to Savigny en Veron, 40 mile Loire a Velo (LaV) version of Paris Roubais. Ooh that route planners a card! Cobbles& more cobbles, but only a few climbs today. Thankfully by this time I had learned to look at the route, the landscape & ignore certain directional instructions therefore cutting out Alp d Huez and stayed on the flat very busy (not) D roads following the river.
Savigny en Veron is in the middle of nowhere, but on the way was a handy supermarche where ee bought tea: 3 legummes in a jar (potatoes, petis pois carrots) and belly pork slices. So we boiled them up & put to 1 side covered then fried off the pork in 2 batches (there was a fair amount after cutting it up with 1st aid scissors) with onion, keeping it warm on veg pot.
For a paltry €1 the owners allowed us to charge all the electronics- 2 phone 2 garmin – in their office, nice and secure, whilst we did our T thing and then wandered around the -deserted- village

Fri 1st
Savigny en Veron to Angers, 45 miler today with cobble ambushes thrown in just to keep us alert.
Ann hit one set at quite a clip, dislodging her back pack which snapped the rear back mudguard’ holder on’ere’s & induced a slight buckle in her rear wheel. We stopped earlier at the 8 mile point -no sign of Eminem tho- and I tried bodging, but it only lasted a couple of miles, so at the bosses suggestion we used the 1st aid scissors to trim the rear mudguard  & zipp tyes the lose fixers to the ones further up…I’ve not described this too well…so see picture:-

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All bodged up

Altho this sorted the mudguard issue the buckle was getting worse note to self….I must learn to “true” a wheel & carry the tool reqd…..
Ann was noticing the buckle because as her tyre is the biggest we could fit ( fatties don’t fit fine) it was rubbing against her frame. ….the sun shines on the righteous tho, cos literally just after I said we’d have to find a bike shop which are fee and far between. …low and behold up popped cycle obsession of Gennes, velos-reparations-location the proprietors of whom were just finishing lunch al fresco outside their fine and much appreciated establishment.
With scoff polidhed off the very nice velo mechanic “trued” Anns wheel, whilst I browsed the extensive merchandise. ..only buying some chain lube.
20 mins & €22 later wheels straight, chains lubricated and tyres inflated we’re off again.
The campsite we found wasn’t actually in Angers but to the SWest at Camping de L’Ille  du Chateau,  les Ponts de Ce. A tad expensive at €19, with no bog role or yogi bear tables….still needs must!
The bar was the only place we could charge the electronics, and the odd beer may have been drunk whilst watching highlights of Wales woman’s rugby team being given a right good stuffing by their french counterparts. Vive l’French!

Sat 2nd Aug

A biggy today;  60 miles or so to just short of Nantes.
Turned out to be an excellent route with much to see, including some sculptures in both stone and wood spread along the route

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Not a sculpture!

The LaV route planner managed to fit in 2 savage climbs, and I mean savage!

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Ann cresting LaV version of Mont von Tu!

Happily for us the worst climb was going up river. It was very long and steeper than a steep thang! To be fair to LaV tho it was a diversion whilst the flat bit was under repair. Ooh it was steep, everyone we encountered was using their lowest gear (walking).
We stopped en route for a café au lait that turned into café au lait and cheese n ham toasties next to a rather interesting sculpture

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Oh she's a big lass & a canny lass & I like her Rear....

Petes pants were also represented

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Tonight’s campsite is Camping Belle Riviere just outside Thouare-Sur-Loire.  Absolutely brilliant little place, I’d say just about the best we’ve stayed in on the Loire Velo route both this year & last! €14 per night, all normal facilities plus a marquee dining area with microwave,  1 yogi bear table between 2 tents, comfy bog role very nice kids play area and only 1k from large supermarche and 8miles to center of Nantes along cycle route.
Turned out a 63 mile day in total. ..Well impressed with the Boss, she’s carrying hslf our total load at present,  but that’s going to change. I had a good think & have worked out a way to lighten her load and help me burn more calories ‘cos according to my garmin I’ve only spent 25800 since Hoo…..not enough!
We’re having a rest day Sun, then an unladen trip to St Nazaire on Mon before heading on again. Route not finalised, but probably train to Anfers then tread north to intersect Paris- Mon St Michel route…from there who knows?

90 miles to Paris

A wonderful nights sleep for me, but everyone else seemed to be kept up by dog fights, cat fights, dog & cat fights and the trundle of the harvest being gathered all thru the night. Excellent! Less chance of me being droped on the 90 miles into Versailles.
After little more than 5 miles I had another rear blowout, again blowing the tyre off, at the bottom of a steep hill……me thinks I could be over inflating. Whilst liaising with the van to bring the spare tyre – as I reckoned mine was shot – as well as gathering some more spare inner tubes, a very sprightly old gentleman emerged from the adjacent farm, showed us his ID proclaiming him to be in the 90’s and then showed us a hole used by the resistance in WW2. Not sure if he was involved but wow! How lucky was that?

We met the van a few miles on and I swapped the tyres, then  we headed onwards. This was quite a challenging day with a number of steep & long climbs, hats off to Bob who struggled on manfully with his limited gear selection until at yet another steep little number caused his chain to commit hari kari by throwing itself into the gap between rear cassette and the wheel, snapping 2 spokes in the process. Thank goodness. ….a rest for all whilst the support team of Leslie, Bernie, Joc & Ann, which we had not long left after lunch in a small market town square. …literally, a selection of ribs n chicken bought from the market stalls and consumed on the steps of the town hall, which I don’t think was quite what they were expecting when we arranged to meet for lunch!

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"Bill" pose post Mkt square scoff

Anyway, with a few extra tools Nobby was able to bodge – with much verbal assistance from the rest of us – Bobs wheel back together with a couple more gears and so onwards we went.

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This was the last 25 mile push into Versailles, Dave the Map brought us in around the outskirts of Paris by a most excellent route…thanks once again for all your work mate!

Then suddenly. …another blow out, only this time it was Bobs front tyre being blown off and spreading green slime allez uber! I think your bikes trying to tell you something Bob.
Fate however was smiling down on us as only 10yds up the hill was a cool shaded pool/washhouse that you find spotted around, so we all- except Bob – took shelter from the blistering sun and dipped our feet in the cool waters….Bliss!
Dave had explored somewhat further up the street and had found a small bar where he got a round of coke in, and they also happened to be showing the last 13ks of that days tour (the one with the big crash 2-3ks out) won finally by a french chappie….vive le french!
Once we were all suitably refreshed we restarted our tour into Versailles. Dave somehow managed to bring us in via cycle paths, green lanes and royal parks right to the RV in the Palace gardens next to the Waldorf hotel where we met the “cherie’s” and Jennie and Clare….Pete’s (the dastardly front wheel knocking out from under buggers) wife and daughter. Oh…did I forgot to mention how Pete…..after having accepted my last fruit pastel, then despicably contrived to do a 90° turn to the left directly in front of me from the rhs causing me to fall in front of a rapidly approaching juggernaut (ok I made that bit up). And he wouldn’t return my pastel. …I’m sure he’d only been sucking it for a minute or two!

So Hoo to Paris completed, a number of incidents but no casualties and a fine time was had by all!

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Our planned accommodation for the next few days was to be the campsite we had stayed at last year….but it was gone! So we stayed at the Ibis in St Cyr along with Dave. 1st night on the 2nd floor, which was a bit of a mare with the bikes, next 2 in the disabled room on the ground floor (yes yes, thank you,  but please try and refrain from any so called humorous comments. ..thank you!) which was excellent.

Sat 26th – Sun 27th

On Saturday me n the boss went shopping in Versailles- spare tubes, Co2 regulator and bulbs…I am converted! and another tyre to match the rear one (from Bob) now fully treaded out with Schwalbe Marathons plus….which is my 1st choice of tyre. The only reason they weren’t fitted is I was using what was already on the Surly.
Then seeing as we’d done Versailles last year we went around the more remote parts of the gardens

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on our bikes before meeting up with everyone in the German restaurant of the Hotel Paris Versailles……what?
Still an exceptional traditional German bit of scoff

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-altho the staff were typically french, no lederhosen to be seen- followed by a small medal presentation and a very bright pair of shorts for Pete I can’t remember exactly what they were for, but Pete with great regret (sic) declined them and allowed me to commandeer them for various photo opportunities around Europe,
Petes pants

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so here’s me in the “Bill” pose (as taught to us all by Bill…..apparently it makes you look….thinner?)

Sun

The colonials, along with Dave & Nobby took an early start so as to cycle, into on and back from, the Champs Elysee before the tour arrived. Me n the boss declined on account of having to put the bikes and gear together into ‘touring’ mode. This also allowed us a cheeky lay in!
The plan, as agreed the night before, was to RV at the Arc d Triumph at 1400hrs, but because they dithered and gushed so much they didn’t actually make it back to Versailles until 1330. Still…we were there and were very happy to ogle

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C no hear no...bugger not enough hands

and take in the woman’s race- won by Marion Voss, quelle surprise!

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Lizzy Armistead fell quite heavily.
Then we soaked up the atmosphere. …which was electric

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The closest the English came to cycling Champs E

Next year we’re going to bring, hire or buy step ladders so as to see more of the action

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Once Mr Nibili had been crowned victorious we declined going to a Parisian restaurant with the guys as we needed to get an early start, Dave joined us as his Paris transport map skills were sadly lacking and we headed back to St Cyr, stopping off in the St Cyr station Kebabery for 3 very good burger and chips avec coke total cost €18.
Then back to the Ibis to finish packing and hand off the now unwanted gear to Dave who would pass it on to Nobby -lighter is better! – for collection from Hoo at a later date. Everything packed n loaded it was off to bed!

Mon 28th. Start of “Our” Tour

A very quiet breakfast sans the gang at the Ibis, cheese but no ham, they’re budgeting! then down to St Cyr station for the journey into Paris Mont something or other.  Oh the joy of heaving the bikes up stairs to the platform. …it was a bit of a bugger getting them onto the train too cos the train was leaning away from the platform on a quite steep adverse camber….at least 2ft step…..hey ho!
Once we got to central Paris it was a gentle 2 mile bimble to Gar d Austerlitz, a 10min Q for our tickets to Orleans ‘avec velo’ then a quickish jog to platform 21 where after another brief struggle loading we settled comfortably before departure for Orleans. …our start point. (Again as we did last year)

We’ve changed our plans a number of times (and to be honest they’ll keep changing) but for the moment we’re now going to cycle down the Loire to St Nazaire then up towards the Hook of Holland, altho we still haven’t decided how/which route to take from St N.)
So….back to Olivet, 11ks south of Orleans apprez a quick tour of Orleans centre ville

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(very European) for a bit of grocery shopping & a drop of fuel before the big off tomorrow.

Tue 29th

Whilst in the campsite I found a brochure; A Loire a Velo that advertised an App….so lazy bugger that I am I thought I’d download it to save on some map reading, route planning campsite finding etc & blow me down but it works….& is even in English.
The only downside is the lack of gradient indicators on the route map…..which has earned it a stern talking to by the boss! Now cycling down the Loire you’d kind of expect to be going downhill. ….however I think the french Loire a Velo (LaV) route planner has a great respect for the TdF chap and in his honour has followed his lead by adding a few category climbs (and they’re definitely category climbs if you happen to be loaded down with luggage, children and trailers) each stage.
Our daily target is 40 ish miles per day give or take, so not quite trusting the LaV app & in truth not having fully investigated all its glory, I used Google maps & we headed of to Blois to a campsite at the top of a hill that doesn’t actually exist. The silver lining was a Carrfor supermarche where Ann did the shopping whilst I guarded the bikes and hastily investigated the ‘points of interest’ function that pinpointed an existing campsite at a grand total of only 55 miles for the day!
It was a large sprawling campsite “go where you wish” with all the facilities, right by the river and only €8.40. WIFI by the office & not too bad really

Pete’s Pants

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Oops...wrong leg forward

I cooked scoff whilst Ann preped the next days cheese n ham roles…..we just got pitched and settled in before it started raining

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Eye of newt etc etc

We’ve now gone back to the 10-12 miles before breakfast routine which works for us!

Wed 30th

Chaumount sur Loire to Tours via Amboise. A short day today in lieu of the extra miles yesterday and so we can do a bit of sightseeing in Tours. That was the plan soon fubar’d by a late ish start but horrifically compounded by a mountain stage by the LaV route planner.
Seriously, altho the route is on the quietest of roads, if its taking you away from the Loire then by definition you’re going to be doing some climbing. …and the sad thing is there’s no need cos the D roads running along the Loire are so busy NOT! I’m not sure if its cos of the time of year, but after 20 miles of a few deviations into ‘them thar hills’ I ignored the Col d Up a Hill sign and stayed on the roads where, if we were lucky we were passed by 20 vehs per hour.

Point of interest function found us a very nice camp for €13, again the facilities. …with Yogi bear tables to hand were very good including loo role wifi and a bar. The beer was a tad expensive at €9 for 1 large & 1 small…but hey…..only 28 miles covered (including trip to Le Clerc Supermarche) but metres climbed….lots!

Hoo to Paris with some Colonials

Mon 21st

Today was final prep day, including Van collection a walk around Hoo but before all that a trip to Evans cycles in Maidstone with Dave the Map & Nobby to buy another garmin as I had misplaced my last one. I’ve been informed this is the last one!
We browsed the shop for other shiny bits, Dave was drooling over some bike or other, as was Nobby, but seeing as he has 7 in his lean to at present he decided he probably has enough to be going on with.

That evening we RV’d with Sandy & Marion and had an excellent curry (more carb loading!) the Pink Paprika in Hoo whilst catching up and shooting the breeze. The down side to all this liquid carb loading and (this time) a completely deflated comedy bed was another poor nights sleep for Ann. Another early start so as to be back at Bob & Leslie’s for a 7 o’clock start didn’t help!

So here’s the gang from left to right

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Bob, Pete (with the lightest bike ever) Dave the Map, Bill the hill, Moi, Nobby, Ann & Leslie (taking a photo). This photo was taken by Bernie, Bills much better half!

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Not forgetting Joc the Van driver, Nobbys better half.

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So, photos taken, last minute delays avoided of we set to Canterbury, a mere 62 miles down the old A2 and othrr assorted byways.

I’d forgotten how hilly Kent is! However the ride was thoroughly enjoyable with added moments such as Dave taking us the long way around Canterbury for the duty Cathedral shot

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Well organised! But the highlight was the fording prowess of Bob & Bill, lets say Bob took an early bath and Bill, not to be outdone (and having nowhere else to go) belly flopped onto Bobs bike, buggering the derailleur and tattooing a half chainring onto his belly. Nobody was drowned or hurt but Bob was left with only 4 gears.

Post Canterbury bathing the route to Dover was very hilly. Dave Ann & I went on whilst Bob, with Bill Pete & Nobby’s help, tried to find some more gears. Needless to say we didn’t meet up again until the ferry port, having missed our planned ferry! But no worries we simply got on the next one with nary a wait.
‘Cos we were rushing Dave Ann & I took the A2 down into Dover port- 39mph without peddling for 2 whole miles!

As mentioned a short ferry trip to France where we RV’d with the support team in Calais then another very undulating 23 miles to Boulogne where we were accommodated in an F1. Aslight shock to the system for some, but me and Ann were well at home.
Joc had found a restaurant called Crocodile. Quite good really, there are 3 menus to choose from:-
Basic: main meal plus all the beeer wine or pop you can drink
Middle:main & appetiser or dessert eith all you can drink
Expensive: appetiser, Main & dessert with all you can drink.
We were all too knackered to do the menu justice, a very good business model for France but I don’t think it would work in Uk?

Wed 23rd
Only a short 55miler today from Boulogne to Gapennes via Etapes: this is a WW1 commonwealth war cemetery, which was collocated with military field hospitals where over 10700 from the commonwealth were buried. It was positioned on a rail line that allowed access from both the northern & southern battlefields so the injured were shunted in. Towards the end of the war there were over 2500 women in various roles from nurses, auxiliaries & YMCA volunteers.
There are also 660 German soldiers buried here.

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Another seriously hilly day, Bob struggling with a lack of gears and Ann strugged due to 4 nights sleep deprivation, her broken wrist and lower levels of tetesterone than all us blokes! By the end of the day she was completely wrung out from giving 100% for the last 3 days.
That nights accommodation was a very nice Gite,

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With a very welcome spa/farty bath big enough for 6…..or me Bob, Bill n Nobby!
There were a surfeit of knick knacks allez uber but apparently my Rolf Harris impersonation wasn’t in good taste

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In my defence I was actually trying to take the mick out of Terri.
Joc, Bernie and Leslie welcomed us in with chilled Smiths smoothflow which smoothly flowed diwn some very parched throats.
Dinner was in a small french country pub  which had plenty of mussels for everyone. ….except Leslie who somehow ended up with a piece of very dry chicken.  She wasn’t best impressed when an extra (very large) bowl of mussels turned up somewhat later…..& very nice they were too!
By dessert, even with Leslies frosty stares, it was just too hot to stay in the restaurant, so we decamped outside to enjoy our various dishes before jumping into the van for our return to a very welcome bed.

Thu 24th

With Ann deciding (very wisely, but not very happily) to stop riding, I thought it best to strip all the unnecessary weight from the Surly so as not to get dropped out of the back of the old man peleton like Richie Port.

So we were down to just the men now

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Gapennes to Sourdon via the Australian war cemetery (at the top of the hill)…only 56 miles….easy! Not!

Bob qualified for his bus pass today, and with the hills and his lack of gears I’m sure he could’ve done with it!
With Ann in the Van the tetesterone lecels were boiling over and much banter abiut lite bikes, wheel sucking and 34 tooth rear cassettes was bandied about along with a somewhat raised tempo!
Not far from the cemetery we were descending one of the many hills at a fair clip when Bob caught a wasp or Bee in his helmet. ..which with nowhere to go stung him! We all stopped ti offer sympathy. ….to the Bee & extract the eniru from Bob. After a few minutes of rest we set off again, topping 35mph + no problem; just as we slowed considerably to enter the village at the bottom of the hill due to a X roads there was an almighty BANG! which turned out to be my inner tube exploding and blowing my tyre completely of the Rim. I’d have been buggered if it hsd happened 1 or 2 mins earlier!
Fortunately I was carrying a spare and with the help of Petes Co2 cannister (I’ve got to get me one if them!) we were off again.
Amongst the banter of the day a challenge. .nay gauntlet had been thrown down re who would get to Villes Breton cemetery 1st- it being at the top of a rather steep hill- Bill was the favourite in my eyes, but due to some roadworks & a diversion at the bottom of the hill I managed to steal a couple of 100 yds on him. He chased me dow, but fortunately I had enough reserves…and gears to hold him off….Result! The fact that he may have beaten me up every other climb of the day……or week…is of absolutely no consequence!

After RVing with the girls, walking around the cemetery & recovering

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it was a mere 12 miles to the evenings accommodation.
A very tasteful barn conversion in the middle of nowhere. Once cold beer was drunk and rooms allocated it was off for scoff at a local interesting place with a surfeit of cats but an excellent steak & chips!
Then a return to the barn conversion for cake!

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It was a big cake to get all those candles on it…..tasted good too!

A new adventure & a bit of a catch up!

Well we’re off again, this time a short hop to Paris via Stanton for a concert & BBQ at Mick & Sue’s then onwards to Hoo St Werburg to visit with Nobby Joc & Paddy the spaniel prior to joining a new group of friends I haven’t met yet (mostly Australian) for a short trip to Paris for the end of L’Tour. Altho by this point there wasn’t an Englishman left in the peleton so I was wondering why!

A quick update
So…to bring you all up to date, the last time I blogged was……oh my goodness. …24th Feb. Lordy lordy, how time flies when you don’t keep up with your admin!
Well, long story short; flew from Trivandrum to Sri Lanka for 10 days sight seeing, then fly to Bangkok, decide to hire a couple of bicycles & cycle for 5 weeks south (ish) to Vietnam then back again.
Fly back to India for a day or two then back to Blighty in time to freeze our a***s off. Sort out Caravan

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Pimped Anns bike

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And bought myself a new one

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So…all caught up?  No…..ok then, for a quick catch up in the mean time go to: twonowgopedalling and read the bosses blog & I guarantee I shall bring us all up to date, in detail, once I’ve got back to blighty & reread my notes….honest!

New Treaders; actually 1 new & 1 looking like new.

My trusty old Stirling Dawes “Stealth” treader ( so named cos it looked unremarkable but went like stink) gave up the ghost by snapping its frame. To be fair I bought it 8 years ago for £50 well used, so bearing in mind I was pushing 23st initially & probably weighed it down with at least that last summer on our 1st adventure its done remarkably well.

The question was what to replace it with & quick ‘cos we were off in less than 3 weeks time. First I went around all the 2nd hand shops looking for a suitable frame I could swap all the bits onto, but no joy. Then it was the interweb, now being an avid reader of all blogs & articles cycling, I have come across mention of the Surly Long Haul Trucker. A shop in Cambridge dealt in them and sold frame setts as well as complete bikes. A day trip to Cambridge later and somehow I came away with a complete bike. Still I got to see where the 3rd stage of L’Tour would start

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And had an amazing bit of scoff into the bargain

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This was all in, plus 2 cans of coke, freshly cooked for less than £12.

My initial enthusiasm for my shiny new toy soon paled cos of a few (in my opinion) design flaws.

1) the gear change shifters are located in the bar ends of the drops. So for those who have no idea what I just wrote, picture a set of curly racing handlebars with sharp pointy levers sticking out of the ends of the curly bits pointing back towards the bike…..at just the right height to stab yourself in both legs with when doing a Contador (dancing on the peddles whilst standing). The other issue with placing the levers at the very end of the bars is: when you go to change gear, especially from middle to large chain ring, the pressure applied at the end of the bar ‘pushes’ the steering so that you end up veering into the traffic, in England, or the kerb virtually everywhere else in the world.
2) no mud guards (sometimes called fenders) fitted as standard. The ones I wanted are all encompassing….with flaps, however I had to make do with shorties.
3) the logo on the rear A frame

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Fatties Fit fine

Mmmm, too many people I know will be extracting the Eniru me thinks, plus

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Long Haul what? Just a little adjustment for maximum embarrassment.

Anns pimping was done by Dunx Cycles in Lowestoft high street, well I say done by, they stripped it down, sent it off, sent it back again when they got the colour wrong, rebuilt serviced and replaced parts as reqd

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Ting!

A fine job, the powder coating was a very reasonable £98. So if you’re looking for a custom paint job try them out at Www.dunxcycles.com or email dunxcycles@gmail.com
The vinyl (graphics) were done- at very short notice- by Lee Ffrench at Cobb-lees on Snape Drive, Oulton, Lowestoft, so again if you want graphics try him at sales@cobb-lees.com

So…new bikes ready it was panic packing time in readiness for our 1st leg: Lowestoft to Stanton. The reason for the panic packing was Bob Monkhouse & family were also going to aforementioned concert and BBQ and had offered to take our gear and get some meat for the Barbie. Result!
In addition to that piece of laziness we also took the early train to Beccles knocking 10 miles off so we could pop in to see Sara (Ann & I had a bet on whether she would be in so early. ..0830, shop opens at 0930! I won).

Sat 19th-Tues 22nd July.

A thoroughly enjoyable luggage free ride covering the 1st 2 stages off last years great adventure saw us meander into Mick & Sue’s nice n early ready to be entertained. ….and so we were by the RAF Honington band & Military Wives choir who were raising money for the Honington rehabilitation unit and BLESMA.
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The evening BBQ that followed with all the Blesma chaps & chapesses was brill! Special mention must go to Lilly -Terri’s mum- who even tho we worked together for 4 years didn’t recognise me! Hello Lilly, hope you are well? Terri was in good form too pulling everyone’s leg!
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A selection of Micks leggs, all size 9

And Lo….this was the beginning of Anns sleepless nights. Surrounded by a chorus of tented snorers (when they eventually stopped yacking and went to bed)

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Every tent a snoring!

Interposed with ferocious rain, startling thunder and bright lightening!

An early start so as to catch the train from Thurston to Hoo where we were met at the station by Nobby Clark (he of hammer delivery service fame, Paris 2013) who escorted us back to chez Nobby Joc & Paddy. The comedy began early with Mr Clark locking us all in his back garden behind his 10ft gate with only a front door key…oh how we laughed!!
Bikes safely ensconced we RV’d with the colonials and Dave the Map at Bob & Leslies. Introductions all around followed by everyone using 1 finger to guage the weight of Pete’s bike -how light? Even Ann using her broken wrist hand nearly launched it thru the ceiling!!

Leslie & Bob then served up tucker from heaven. …Lamb and Pork with veg etc. I was so busy carb loading (stuffing my face) I didn’t even get a picture!

Back to chez Nobbs for a cup of T and an early night, unfortunately for Ann I had also partaken of a beer or two, and this combined with the comedy inflatable bed meant another sleepless night for her and only 7 hrs for me….quelle ‘orrer!

Munnar- Elephants, trekking Tea & Culture

3rd Jan – 16 Jan 2014

Our driver Sennan who was found thru Sylvia at Gracefulhomestay (who also beat him down to Ru2800 per day, thats £28) was an excellent investment! For the all in price per day we got him, his local knowledge of Munnar (he does this trip quite regularly) all fuel, tolls, mileage & his living expenses plus he’s at our beck & call. I’ve got to say he couldn’t do enough for us, and was quite surprised when we didn’t use him but rather walked out & about.

So making full use if Sennans knowledge we planned the next few days tourtastic adventure.

Ann & Carl wanted to do some elephant riding….seeing as I was only just back up & about I didn’t feel up to it so became the official photographer

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And feeding!

Then we went to Top Station

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How cold?

As you can see it was a tad misty & not crowded at all. Annoyingly more expensive for foreigners. ….again!

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The following day was out gallivanting in Sennans very comfortable Innova taking in the countryside, from the large plantations of eucalyptus trees (the seeds of which were smuggled into the country by the wife of a Tea plantation manager…in her stockings) still used to provide fuel for the boilers, to the never ending tea plantations themselves

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Weighing in the T leaves

Then popped into the T museum

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I’ve no idea what this concrete crocodile has to do with Tea, but it has pride of place right outside the front door!

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Maybe something to do with the Old Dodgy handshake club?

But talking of Crocodiles we also checked out the crocodile rehabilitation centre

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Then we drove for miles to a nature reserve so Carl “Grills” could have us trekked around allez uber in the mid day heat looking for wild animals……we didn’t even see a mildly upset one, other than Ann, refusing to climb the (wobbly) watchtower and still suffering with her broken arm

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To be fair it was a long way up!

Whilst out exploring around the hotel Carl had noticed some advertising for a  Quad bike experience just down the road, so early doors the next day we went & had a thrash! Brilliant fun & needless to say I thrashed his lap times!

Then that afternoon it was time for a bit of culture. ..we went to an Indian theatre to see a performance of Kathakali….a danced mimed artform performed to percussive instruments and wailing….think really long drum solos and that long wailing song from Pink Floyd!
1st the dancing with accompanied wailing

Now the drummers equaling Cozy Powell doing his 1812 overture drum solo piece (he played for Rainbow, Black Sabbeth & Whitesnake amongst others)

So after 5 hectic tourtastic days at Munnar we did the long drive back to Trivandrum, spent a last couple of days panic shopping in both Trivandrum & Kovalam….well Carl did, fitted in another trip to the Zoo, at Ru20 its just such good value, before sending Carl back to Blighty on the 0400 o my god its early plane.
Then it was a day or two at Graceful homestay prepping for the next leg…backpacking South East Asia via Sri Lanka.

The boss and I have decided to limit our baggage to One daysack each, that we can carry onto any plane; which means no sharps, no liquids over 100ml and weighing less than 7kg!

When I look back at all the gear we had…..oh boy!

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How much kit?

So we’ve gone from that to this:-

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