A Mediterranean Jaunt

[I’m using the (Un)Inspired Ramblings Facebook page to post some more regular updates and photos in between main blog posts here. You can find it here.]

A few days spent hugging the mediterranean could barely be more different than those spent plugging my way through the Massif Central. Passing through Sète, I am suddenly in a world of marinas, tourists and fast roads.

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I’m a little way from Caen now. Thats in miles, by the way.

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There are a few things that I haven’t seen for a while.

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(Yup, thats a 24/7 vending machine for fruit and veg, in place of a shop. Odd.)

Initially I follow a walking and cycle path following the thin branch of land separating the Mediterranean and the Étang de Thau, a large lagoon stretching 18 km by 6 km from Sète towards the south west. The lagoon is on average just 5 metres deep and has an important role supplying mussels and oysters to the region. After that it’s a mixture of off-road trails, bike paths and coastal roads. One one day I spend the afternoon a little lost, trying to navigate along tiny tracks in a network of coastal drainage ditches.

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The tracks pass between vineyards and private properties, and its noticeable than many of these, even those smaller places, are behind fenced and gated boundaries here. Some more intimidating than others.

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There is a lot of roadside decoration.

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A couple of days are spent riding through uninspiring tourist resorts. There is occasionally some surprising interest…

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…but the large majority are deserted, as the short season here has ended. Its very strange passing through whole deserted purpose built towns. Shops and garish bars shut, pools closed, beaches empty. These resorts must make their money in the few months that they are open, and then lie dormant for the other 3/4 of the year. It seems like such a waste. Thinking back, these places are a mine of interesting photographs, but I can’t find the inspiration to stop and explore. Sometimes I’m just too lazy for my own good.

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The weather is warm and the ground is hard and dusty here. In just a couple of days I decimate my set of 10 tent pegs. This is all thats left (including the two spindly ones that were originally just to support my coffee filter holder. At least they are now dual purpose but I can no longer make coffee if its blowing a gale!).

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Camping on sand close to the beach, my ankles are bitten to pieces by a mixture of sand flies and midges. I do manage an early morning swim to make up for it though.

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In one campsite I meet a friendly neighbour who seems so hungry that I donate a can of sardines that I’ve been carrying for a few days but haven’t felt the urge to eat. He probably needs them more than I.

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Later though, I find some evidence in my tent that perhaps he wasn’t quite satisfied after his meal… Cheeky bugger.

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I spend a night in a campsite in a horrible commuter town on the outskirts of Perpignan. I take a walk to find a bar or cafe or somewhere with some life, but there is nothing. Breakfast in Perpignan the next morning makes up for it somewhat – the city is somewhere to explore at leisure, with lots of history, as well as this rather strange, manicured canal running through the centre.

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Closing in on the border with Spain, I creep around a more historic coastline.

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I spend my last night in France in Banyuls sur Mer, sampling some local beer…

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…and having a minor kit explosion the next morning.

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Then I head up into the Pyrenees, although unlike last year, I’m essentially sneaking over the very Eastern edge at the Col du Banyuls, where heights don’t really reach more than 500 metres.

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It is still steep here though! (There was some pushing).

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I say goodbye to France…

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…and hello to Catalonia, in northern Spain.

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Posted in Bikepacking London to Seville (2014) and tagged , , , .

9 Comments

  1. Keep up the great work Chris. It’s great seeing the regular blog posts. Looks like the weather is slowly turning in your favour. Viva Espana!

    Where are those deserted towns?

    Also, I’m keen to learn what section of the ride would make a good 1,000km jaunt (for me) next year. The Massif looked incredible, but am keen to see how the Spanish adventure unfolds.

    All the best.

    • Thanks! Its hard to keep up actually – very easily a couple of weeks can pass and I’m then struggling to remember the details. The photos at least help prompt the memory. The weather is better now although I was in my tent in a torrential thunderstorm last night! Those deserted towns were, I think, around the Etang de Leucate. Certainly the photo from the bridge was taken of Port Leucate (which actually wasn’t totally deserted), but I think some were on the stretch south of there. I’m currently a little aimless in Spain. The first day on a GR trails was brutal (hauling the bike up boulder filled streambeds, essentially) so I’ve since opted for a couple of days on the roads. I know of some nice, more cross country biased long distance trails in the south (http://www.transandalus.org/ and http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/routes/road-bike-touring-gr-48-spain/) and am tempted to hop on a train to get down there but that feels a little like cheating…! The Massif Central route would be great and you could probably do it quicker than I did – from looking at your ride last year you covered some decent distances. I met a couple of French guys at one point who were riding with just rucksacks (no camping gear or electronics) and who were doing the route in about 11 days. Let me know what you decide! Cheers, Chris

  2. Great photos but I can imagine its a bit of a mental struggle whether to maintain momentum or stop to get the camera out – you’re doing well! I left Shell five years ago (struth) and haven’t actually done any paid work since so have had to resort to degrees of hedonism – boating, cycling (more for exercise), motorbiking, walking, climbing…. Marguerite has gone back to work so me and the dog go out to play or something like that. Been doing a small amout of voluntary work called Advocacy which entails speaking up for people who can’t perhaps due to age, mental health, incapacity – only done it for 6 months so early stages still. Now at the time of the year when many of the toys have to be put away and in fact today its raining and blowing a gale so even the dog isn’t looking enthusiastic.
    With all this cycling, there must be more fat on a butcher’s pencil than you’ve got – or do you pig-out on bread?
    Diarmid

    • Yes – I’m slow enough getting going in the morning and during the day that I’m often feeling guilty about stopping too often. This doesn’t really make any sense as there are no deadlines or rules, but I still feel the guilt. But then I also berate myself for not stopping and making the most of opportunities, so I can’t really win ;-).

      I have lost about 7 or 8 kg since I left in August. There’s a photo on the Facebook page but it’ll be on the next post so you can judge for yourself :-). I have been eating lots though – pastries in particular in France! And Coca Cola, as bad as it is (never really drink it at home) is like nectar after a few hours riding!

      The voluntary work sounds interesting, and hopefully rewarding? I can’t say I miss the Aberdonian weather at this time of year…I never did really look forward to six months of greyness and dark…:-)

  3. LoL. I saw a 24/7 pizza vending machine (albeit at the side of a pizzeria) in St Pierre dels Forcats (France) near the Spanish border. Maybe they too have difficulties with opening hrs 🙂

  4. Funny about the cat! You could have adopted him! Someone on the Divide got offered a tame eagle that must have got lost and had latched onto a random stranger who was trying to rehome it. I’m gutted I wasn’t asked as I’d have totally said yes as I’d have LOVED to ride around with a big eagle clinging onto the Jones bars

      • Ha, yes, and ‘get a bloody move on’.
        Seriously though, it’d be cool, right?
        If it was a small one, could probably build a little perch for it on a Go Pro helmet cam stand or something like that…

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