Friday, June 27, 2014


We've come a whopping two miles since we left  Avignon until we make our first stop. It has finally happened: the valve chamber Gabi broke the day after buying the bike, can finally last no more and breaks. And it does so at noon, in a place without shade and with considerable wind. We are delighted with the tires we have, Schwalbe Marathon Mondial, but we do not like it so much when we have to replace the inner tubes. So, we spent some time wrestling with them until they allow us to fix them. This Is the foreshadowing of an exciting day that awaits us. We  have also made a new friend; called Mistral, a distant relative of our Cierzo which we hadn´t missed at all. We need to focus our best to balance on the bike. No wonder the wind drives people crazy it doesn´t leave you alone with your own thoughts, let alone talk to your partner. On one occasion, the wind throws us into the middle of the road and a car beeps at us. What do they think, we've done it by choice? The Mistral will still blow for four days more on the purple lavender fields all around.

Overall, in southeastern France education and respect from the drivers leave much to be desired. For some time we have got used to the fact that the safety distance is narrower and the cars don´t usually slow down much. But In this region several vehicles have passed us, practically hitting us, a couple of them even intentionally, and until we reach the La Drôme  region no car will slow down  and wait for the best time to pass us To get there we have to climb two mountain passes on the same day, the highest of 186 meters. As we move away from the Rhone and get back into the mountains, everything changes: the people, the landscape, the mood and intensity of the wind. We visit Grignan and its medieval castle and ride along the Ouile and Eygues rivers, through the beautiful gorges de St. May. When we reach the village of Remuzat kilometers vertically line the valley: it is the pre-Alpine region. When designing the route from the couch at home, we did it thinking of great rivers and avoid the steeper areas. And now we ask the reader to google search what we're talking about going towards Mont Blanc. Precisely in one of these rivers we stop for lunch and have a swim in our birthday suits. While we are enjoying some delicious macaroni with sautéed onions and peppers a huge stray dog ​​approaches  us and keeps us company throughout the afternoon. When we are thinking of adoptng Austin, the animal decides to help finish the bread and find some more interesting non-vegetarian company.

We climb a real hill, one of 1,000 meters but is so easy that in many of the sections we use the medium chainring. On the other side of the mountain we stay in a town called Recoubeau-Jansac, in a region with a funny name: Pays Diois. It´s  impossible not to name a place with a more divine name. English speakers have it worse, as the capital city of the region is Die, which results in macabre puns. The country reminds us of the Baztán valley. It is an area in the middle of the mountains, where the inhabitants have developed a tendency to personal consumption. The produce is locally grown, mostly organic, and they have developed many projects in sustainable agriculture and permaculture. Funny how the bike world is often linked to the "bio-world"; along the way we have found many long distance cyclists part of this movement, vegans or vegetarians who practice yoga and who use natural medicine. One is Sylvain, who welcomes us to Recoubeau for a few days. He will be our host and our guru in God's country. He came here a few years ago, after a worldwide tour by bike with a friend from 2006 to 2009, visiting more than 40 countries along the way. He earned languages, medicine, carpentry, masonry, mechanics (which added to his knowledge as an engineer) and that has permitted him to build to build his own house. With him rest is not synonymous with wasting time. We will visit some friends of his, also worldwide cyclists,that decided that they could no longer live in the house they  had rented, but neither move far from their farm, so they came up with a solution that was supposed to be temporary: build a yurt (traditional Mongolian nomadic housing) next to an ecological cabin for his goats. And what was going to be a tempory solution until they found something better,  turned out to be something that has been running for  three years with no sign of change anytime soon. At night he takes us to an underground location where his friend is showing a documentary filmed  last summer, a comparison between organic farms in France and Romania. At one point in the documentary a Romanian  farmer regrets that agriculture has become a business, he cannot understand how a food industry can work like a plastic factory; it also bothers him that families spend such a small percentage of their budget on food, when there can be nothing more important. We can spend 300 euros on an iphone, but then buy cheap food (I'm not even talking about junk food or precooked) without worrying about pesticides and GMOs that are killing us slowly, and with a good conscience about the exploitation of people and animals, with the consequent collapse of the home economy. In Lidl, chocolate is cheaper.

At night, Sylvain has two surprises for us: first, he´s contacted some friends, a family living in Switzerland, travelling cyclists who await us in their house; on the other hand, he´s made plans with another traveler friend to spend the next two days in the mountains. Not much to think about, we put the bikes and panniers in the van and go up the pass on four wheels that we were  we were going to do on two.

In Chichiliane we switch bikes for a backpack and climb to Plateau de Vercors, up to 2,000 meters. From there we enjoy the beautiful views of the Alps, we see chamois and marmots, and  our wish to see the Mont Blanc grows even more. We sleep in the shelter next to the passage of L'Aiguille, where a score of heroes of the Resistance tried in vain to stop the advance of the Germans during World War II.

When we are in Grenoble, in a house thanks to Sylvain´s contacts, we lear bit more about this war, but the memory of the Great War, known as the World War I, impresses us even more. Not only Because of the absurdity of the conflict, but also in every town  we have passed through we have been seeing signs of the missing and deceased, lists of names: sometimes that exceed the actual number of houses in the village, and they give an idea of the dimension of the conflict. The trenches of the Somme and Verdun mercilessly engulfed the poor wretches who were sent to defend the front. The carnage ended in a million and a half dead (the number of injuries, amputees and mental problems is even higher) on the French side. Chilling to think that the Great War did not skew as many lives as the religious wars between 1562 and 1598 which killed a tenth of France´s population, with two million dead. Too much blood for such a beautiful place.

Friday, June 13, 2014


When you're near Millau you have the option of going to visit the world's largest viaduct. But we are confident that when we get to China, they will have built an even larger one, so we left such valuable tourist attraction aside, a milestone in the history of man's struggle against nature, and instead of the bridge we visit Olivier and Hélène´s house in Prailhac. And it's a good choice: we spend two days with them during which we learn about gardening and natural medicine, house building, cooking and humanity. Not bad. Olivier advises us not to miss the opportunity to climb the Causse Mejean (the highest and Most extensive plateau of France) to see the animals are in danger of extinction. The ecosystem of the Causse, 1,000 meters above sea level and covered meadows with no trees, is like Mongolia. Here biologists have found a place to try to save the Przewalski horses (the only species of wild horses in the world) from extinction. Although this breed is the horse that is represented in the caves of Lascaux, experts say, the the wild horses were forced to migrate eastward as caused by climate change. Their rediscovery in Mongolia in 1879 did not help them, as they began to be victims of massive hunting, flayed or sent to European zoos. The massive domestication almost wiped out the horses in the wild, while the number of breeding stock in the mid-twentieth century was scarcely a dozen. Indeed, the last sighting of a Przewalski horse in the wild was in 1966  in the Gobi desert. In 1990 the TAKH association was formed  to reintroduce horses in Mongolia the horses that wereliving in zoos in Europe. After so many years in captivity, the animals need a period of acclimatization, which takes place in the town of Le Villaret, in the Cévennes National Park. Here they learn to fend for themselves, form herds and natural selection works again. Currently, about 30 horses are living in semi freedom in Le Villaret. The world population of these horses has grown to 1,872,  including more than 300 that have been reintroduced thanks to programs likeTAKH.

Maybe seeing two horses instead of the world's largest viaduct is not a big deal to some people, but for us it is exciting.  The occupants of the cars stopped at the same place as us along the road up to the Causse must have thought the same thing.They all got out, asked us four questions and had us ride up the slope while they video taped us. At least they could have given us some peanuts.

I feel identified with the plateau: it is a difficult beauty to explain and understand. There are barely any trees, no mountains or valleys, there is simply shrubby vegetation, but it has something special. The fact that no slugs fill our tent with drool also helps us to love it. The second day we have engaged in a love-hate relationship because of a headwind forcing us to enjoy the plateau longer than we expected. The descent to Florac takes us along a road on which a warning reads: "difficult and dangerous path", and it´s certainly so for motor vehicles. They have to avoid being carried away by the force of gravity on the slopes of 15%. In the morning we descend vertically half a kilometer that we have to go back up again in the afternoon if we want to stay and live in the national park, and we do it through Eaves Road to the Pompidou. Once here, we go down the Gard Valley, without being fully aware that we are leaving behind a beautiful part of France.

We have just realized that it's summer. Suddenly the heat is stifling, mosquitoes everywhere and there is a strong necessity of water. We are in Nîmes, Mediterranean climate: in a couple of days we have changed from the French Mongolia to the Roma gala. The Nimes festival offers exotic shows: bulls, churros, paella and flamenco. What it doesn´t offer with such joy is a fountain that works, so we have to search for a cemetery to find water (and take the chance to have a furtive shower, those who are resting there don´t really mind) or take it directly from a ditch. Tamagotchi tells us that it is 46.5ºC so we cannot even pedal, we have to stop a  long couple of hours  at in the afternoon so we don´t melt in the attempt. We even rethink today's stage, fifteen kilometers to the beach in the Camargue seem. Howe insuperable however, we have not come here to smell the sea from afar, and in less than an hour or so we are in Saint-Marie de la Mer, where all the gypsies of Europe meet once a year. We leave behind the touristy beaches and we are back in a natural park, this time similar to the marshlands of Doñana. We enjoy a swim in the sea in our birthday suits (I will never tire of enumerating the remarkable benefits of this activity) and camp near the shore, after dragging the bike half a kilometer down the beach.

At night the problems begin. The stove stops working while a horde of tiger mosquitoes choose us to be their dinner. Gabi tries to thoroughly clean all the ducts, but it doesn´t work. We leave the rice with lentils in a tupper. Tomorrow will be another day. Today we eat fruit. But the next day it does not work either. Gabi spends a couple of hours cleaning it completely, cross checking all the parts, taking it apart and puttint it together several times ... nothing. We read the instructions over and over. The first thing is they say is that if there are problems, check that the fuel injector  is right for the type of fuel used. And indeed, almost two months later, we realize that we have been using kerosene instead of gasoline. Problem solved: fifteen hours later, we eat rice with lentils.

 Camping is not easy in this region (equivalent to the autonomous communities in Spain). There is little forest and we have to settle for pitching the tent in untilled fields. Even in a field located a few meters from a military tower. The place is packed with All kinds of animals, two, four, six and eight legged. At night, someone´s stomach rumbles. At first we laugh until we realize that it´s no one´s stomach. The sound comes from below the floor of the tent and it takes a while to find out what it is ... there's a mole among us. Like two idiots, we try to redirect the mole hitting the ground and placing our arms and legs in the right direction. We spend much of the night doing this. The next morning we make sure we have not caused  any damage to the molehill, while spiders and earwigs make us miss the slugs. We chose another privileged untilled field near Avignon. A  place so special that at three in the morning we are woken up by a disgusting smell, like that of a  dead animal, which leads us to think about starting the day directly under the stars. We manage to fall asleep again and the next day defy the heat to reach the papal city, where Gabi will be reunited with an old friend.

Finally, we arrived early and while waiting for our meeting with David, we meet a special family: Monika and Heiner have come from Germany by bike with their three children (the youngest of 9 months) ... all in the same machine . It is a kind of five-seater trike, powered by two adults and a children's bike in the back. Anything is possible in the world of travelling cyclists.  Very soon they become more popular than the Palais des Papes and attract the attention of everyone in the square. We exchange our addresses and go to meet David, who has prepared three days of rest, during which we enjoy 5-1 score that the Dutch give to the Spanish and the French joke about, all of which we'll talk about later.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014


Never take anything for granted. Normally we organize things thinking about cycling for a week or so, and look for accommodation in a house through the hospitable network of cyclists, Warm Showers. Ideally, a couple of days rest, regain strength, wash clothes, cook yummy things, learn and share. When we left Pierre and Stèphanie´s house, we wrote to an acquaintance who lives in Montauban to stay for one or two days, and the response was positive. It was a tough week, quite wet. The showers that fell those days were the kind that leave you with wet feet and cold in your bones for the following days. Since we were going to rest in Montauban, it did not bother us to go out of our way in those conditions to visit Moissac and the surrounding villages that have suggestive names. We even rode along a bit of canal, although we find them boring and monotonous (but you have to try everything).

Our hostess had told us she wouldn´t get home until late and thank goodness because we got lost in Montauban. When we're having dinner, we realized that we had not made it clear in the request and we were only going to be able to stay that night, so there would be no day of rest nor could we wash clothes. But also our hostess starts work very early. We are surprised when she says breakfast is at 6:30. An hour later we are in the street, under a good storm, sitting at the entrance of a bank that has not yet opened, deciding what to do with our lives. Just when our spirits begin to waver, we are approached by a man with Indian features, attracted by our bikes loaded with packages. He is an enthusiast of bike travel, but has never done any. He has devoured books and stories by bloggers and other travelers who have filled his imagination with extraordinary people and places. Despite the rain and fatigue he give us the desire to continue the route which Pierre and Stèphanie had recommended, one That crosses the plains of the Tarn and Garonne, and goes up the valley of the Lot towards Conques.

Bad weather is with us, and the clouds open up upon us. The accumulated fatigue, the smell of dirty and wet clothes, muscle discomfort, the prospect of the next warmshower 400 km away... cause  negative thoughts. We have had arguments about authentic trifles. Although by sound of the words appearing in this journal everything sounds idyllic, travelling in pairs is far from pure harmony and understanding. When we argue, I cannot go somewhere to read while Gabi stays watching TV; he has to keep pedaling behind my backpack, or I have to continue following the scent of his smelly socks. Both parties have to make an effort to restore normalcy and the good mood of the previous days but once inside the spiral of negativity, it is difficult to get out. We decide to make an exception and pay for a campsite in Figeac, hoping that a little bit of comfort and a warm shower will help us. In the evening we reached the peak of the crisis.

I'll tell you what happened to Chi for those of you who have followed our stories only recently. Gabi and I have been together for about four years.  We don't have kids, but three years ago we adopted a cat (I call him Chi, Gabi calls him Cuqui). Because I spent a lot of time at home dedicated to the PhD, I have a very strong bond with this animal. Those who know Chi, know this well. When we decided to make this trip, we decided to leave Chi with Gabi's mother, who has four more cats, and they all come and go when they want as the house is in the country. There are indoor cats, but Chi loves the outdoors so we preferred that option, to let him live happily running after    in the countryside at the risk that one day he might not come home. And that was exactly what happened. A month after starting this trip, Gabi's mother called to say that Chi had been missing for days. Today we still do not know where he is. Tonight in Figeac I can not stop thinking about him. It tortures me that we have shunned our responsibility to go on this trip and the consequence has been losing our child. From this point of view, this adventure can not make up for all that we have sacrificed to be here. I fall asleep in a sleeping bag soaked in tears. To go back home now will not return to Chi to me. If I do not change my attitude, then it is true that none of this will be worth it. The pain is still there and will remain there for a long time (Sabina said 19 days and 500 nights). Outside, the rain continues. 

With me, closer and truer than any conjecture, Gabriel is sleeping. For him, and for me, I disconnect the vicious circle. The next morning Appears cloudy, but suddenly I find that a beautiful day. If smelly clothes, and bathe himself; if the tent is wet, and it withered; if you have to climb mountains, top view sure is beautiful: it is again the first day of our trip, and With That illusion awake every morning since. We returned to the lot and Began the ascent to the plateau Sauveterre and suddenly, what on paper looked so terrible, it makes little bit and Also with pleasure. The landscape undulates and slopes are twisted around the runways.