A while ago I asked Tristan to write something just to summarise his time touring. This was his reply.
Here I was, stuffed under a bush, sticks poking in my back and a pannier for a pillow, with the sound of the sea crashing in the near distance, when only that morning I’d opened the zip of the tent and seen ducks paddling on the river at the edge of our pitch. It was the end of the second day of riding about 100km, and little did I know, the next day I would be doing the same again.
It was Bastile day, and myself and a friend had just finished day six of our tour having covered about 430km. We had just had dinner on a beach near Jard Sur Mer watching the fireworks from five or six different towns across the sea. You could tell where the large towns like La Rochelle were by the larger fireworks displays.
We had had our normal tea of pasta with a pasta sauce, I cannot remember which flavour but it could only come from a choice of about three. I had been cooking mine on my stand up gas burner in my mess tins as I did every night, when I caught the handle and knocked my freshly cooked pasta into the sand. Against the recommendation of my friend, I decided not to rinse the sand off and eat it, but instead cooked a much smaller amount. Our pudding would have been the usual of probably stale bread with jam.
We looked around the beach for somewhere to sleep, deciding on the top of a large pile of rocks a good three or four meters tall that acted as protection for the hill behind against the waves until we realised that firstly, it would have been a pain to carry bikes and panniers up, secondly that there was only space for one person amongst the vegetation and thirdly, although we had roll mats, they would do nothing against the large gaps in the rocks which would have made it impossible to sleep. We decided to retreat from the beach, however we had to navigate our bikes up quite a steep path, that was more steps than path, in the pitch black (It definately had been easier in the light). We retreated back along the grassy costal path that we had taken earlier in the evening looking for a place to sleep in some woodland.
When we had ridden past it earlier it had looked ok and there were a couple of places to sleep, however in the dark these same woods gave both my friend and I the ‘heebie-jeebies’, but we needed a place to sleep and didn’t really want to be woken up horrendously early by someone shouting at us for sleeping somewhere that we shouldn’t be as wild camping isn’t particularly legal in France. As I stood on the path to check if anyone was coming or if a possible sleeping spot could be seen my friend looked for one. He chose a spot that when it was pitch black looked very good, however in the morning we realised that it was quite visible. As we piled all of our stuff through a tiny hole and lay stuff out we realised that the reflectors on our panniers were very visible as the moon was very bright that night. We tried to pile them all together or cover them in leaves. We had decided before we started not to tape them over because, although it would be difficult to cover them at night, if we did end up riding at night they were extreamly effective at showing that we were there.
I lay out my ground sheet, my roll mat, then put my sleeping bag inside my bivi bag, got changed and got into bed. I lay there looking up through the low wooded canopy at the bright moon, the waves crashing on the beach mere tens of metres away thinking how good everything was. Yes, I had felt pretty down at the whole pasta incident but I remembered how I had felt sitting on the hill, looking out over Portsmouth, trying to eat lunch but not being able to. Wanting to say thanks but no thanks I really don’t want to do this but cracking on anyway. I felt extremely happy that I hadn’t thrown the towel in and how I had enjoyed the entire journey so far and in hindsight enjoying the whole journey.
The next morning we woke automatically, as we had trained ourselves to wake up early when we were wild camping so we wouldn’t get caught. I looked around as I rubbed my eyes and noticed that our spot was about a metre away from the path when it had looked about five in the dark. We quickly packed everything up and piled out from the bush gaining some particularly interesting looks from some early morning runners