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.

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