Jun 3, 2010

Montpellier-Maastricht: ... and still climbing on the Massif Central

Day 4: Secret language of a hungry brain

As I woke up in the morning, I glanced at my always scarce water reserves, and decided that there's almost a big enough drop of water left to rinse off most of the toothpaste after brushing my teeth. It was the perfect excuse to skip cooking again and finish the leftovers of pumpernickel with the fresh goats' cheese I got from a roadside fromagerie in the mountains.

One thing that I must learn to do right on this trip is eating: I seem to be constantly snacking, especially on long uphills, and this part is all okay. I sometimes get hungry and plan on making a meal in the evening, but when I finally stop to camp, I am always too tired to bother with it. However, once a day I literally talk myself into making the effort. For example, last evening I had hot chocolate and instant mashed potatos. It cannot exactly be considered a nutritious meal, unlike the freeze-dried omelette and vanilla pudding stowed away somewhere in my luggage, but ...

... to transform the high-tech, no-effort expedition mix into an omelette, I have to do all of the following:

1. get it out from the bag that is uncomfortable to open;
2. open the package and pour the contents in the pot;
3. add 185ml of water;
4. fry it.

Can it get any more complicated? So far I am mostly eating only food with instructions that do not stretch beyond "rip here to open" or "just add water". Oranges, apples, oats and brick of dates fit into the easy list.

Day 4 welcomed me with formidable amounts of climbing, always compensated by worthy descents once I had reached the summits. Before the first one, there was even a thoughtful sign telling me what to expect. I took a long enough break to put more clothes on, cover my ears and neck and get scared, before hitting the pedals. I had decided (to reassure my father) to squeeze the brakes once I pass the 50km/h limit, but because of the wind I didn't reach much beyond it.

The only scary aspect was the trucks - both on ascents and descents - rushing past. I didn't really have an alternative road to take.Very soon I learned that if a truck passes close enough, the air bubble that it pushes in front propels me slightly away from it, and the vortex behind it pulls me forward, stabilizing me again. No more scare factors.

That was the first part of the day, when I was still able to think about physics.

Then came the second part of the day - clouds gathering into an homogeneous grey mass, civilization getting denser by the minute, the known ground gradually creeping closer to the edge of the map and my poor buttocks hurting more and more with every passing minute.

I have been keeping my eyes peeled and have noticed that I have definitely left behind the zone of Southern hedonism. I see no coquetterie, but only the pure pragmatism of the high lands of the cold, the wind and the rain. Not only do the buildings look like they are meant to be viewed more from the inside, but as hard as I try, I find no boulangeries, where I might charge my empty brain cells with bread. And the ones I found, after a day and a half of reading the shop signs, are simply not of good quality. There is probably one good and one excellent bakery per every two city, town or village streets in Languedoc-Roussillon.

Instead, there are many signs offering pork or beef sausages here, but I don't know how to digest this stuff. At least, not on the go.

As every bit of energy I insert goes into my muscles, or to supporting brain functions for immediate survival (such as paying attention to my surroundings), not much is left for thought processes. The results are as follows:

--> The first "brightest" moment award goes to: fishing my cell phone out of a toilet in Brioude. At least I was stupid enough to lock my bike in front of the bar and leave the key in the lock, instead of putting it in the back pocket of my tights. The drunk brickies and swollen-faced barmaid were the last people on earth I would have wanted to ask for lock-cutting help.

--> The second "brightest" moment award goes to: turning to the left where I was supposed to be turning to the right, ending up doing an extra 9km in a river valley between the cliffs covered with thick green vegetation and wrapped in swirling mist, before listening to my inner voice that was telling me to stop and check the map once again. I suppose I could call it a rather enjoyable sight-seeing tour in nature, before hitting the industrial areas around Clermont-Ferrand.

It was raining and I had no desire to stay out this night, so I was pushing the pedals hard to get to Clermont-Ferrand, where a Bed&Beer apartment was waiting for me. I managed to cycle 103km before I had a flat tyre. Then, in the middle of nowhere, 30km before my destination, I raised my thumb. To be honest, I was only too content with the direction events had taken. What better moment to practise the art of hitchbiking, especially with conditions becoming increasingly bleak: dark grey sky, fine drizzle and a hungry stomach to accompany them. Also, no phone and noone to complain to.

Who wouldn't want to help a mistress in distress, putting on her best puppy dog eyes?

The second small car passing, with a helpful lady behind the wheel, stopped and picked me up with all my luggage and the white stallion. Then, as I was waiting beside the road a second time, the rain got thicker and sky darkened faster than I had ever expected. Am I really to stay here this night? With anxiousness taking a hold inside me, I had to stop playing helpless, turn the bike upside down, take the wheel off and try to replace the innertube. But oh, no! The thin tyres are unimaginably harder to take off without the proper lever - as I realized I am not able to do it, I found that now is the time when I can allow myself to cry...

... but then a car stopped and I put on my best smile instead. He picked up my bike, stuffed it into the trunk in three bits, threw in the luggage, made space for me in the warm dry shiny new car and drove me to the doorstep of Alex and Gilou! :)

A beer was put in my hand and a fork into the other to learn how to eat again. And after a warm shower I got to sleep on my favourite couch, all night long, without rushing anywhere in the morning... Day 5 is without a doubt a well deserved day off.


Baz said...

Hey Triin, that's very cool to be able to follow your bike-trip ! Courage miss !

Triin said...

Merci, merci bien!:)

Now I need all the courage I can get: the physically hard part is over, the mentally hard part still ahead!