I was reluctant to leave camp, but I been living most my life in a squatters' paradise. Besides, we possessed two pricey train tickets to south-eastern France. I felt a pang of regret that we were skipping over this spectacular stretch of road as we biked one last time into Cebere. The Mediterranean stretched out from my handlebars and the predawn painted the hillsides purple. A warm breeze blew off the water, but otherwise it was utterly still.
That proved to be the apogee of the day. A dense, four-hour train ride led to the Marseilles train station, which was lightly mined with dogshit, as I discovered (guess how!). It was also occupied by a contingent of French police whose mission, as near as we could tell, was to hassle anybody brown skinned. However, everybody seemed surprisingly good-natured about the whole race-hassle-thing.
Later that afternoon we found ourselves in Les Arcs Sûr L'Argens, the nearest town with a train station to the Verdon Gorge. It was a gloomy afternoon and we were cranky, tired and feeling overwhelmed with the whole unintelligible language thing. A trip to the Hipermarché, a French hybrid of a Walmart, which turned into a two hour epic didn't help. Nor did the lazy, gluttonous washing machine in the camp ground, which ate six euros without washing our clothes, or indeed, even so much as a "merci."
A feast of beef stew, fromage (gouda with cumin) and wine regionaux lifted our spirits and we went to bed resolute to climb some hills and have some thrills the following day.
Not exactly speeding
Afternoon gloom over the artuby
Vendredi dawned bright and clear. Or so we guessed, when we finally stirred from our sleeping bags at 10AM. It was well towards noon by the time we had set off, and the clouds were already building in the distance. Some pleasant climbing on nearly deserted, forested roads led to a bigger climb on a bigger road and le Col de la Grange. The thunder reporting in the distance on the climb finally materialized into a light rain. We donned our rain gear and carefully made our way down from the Col.
Chateaudoble with rain
Despite our best efforts to wait out the rain in a tiny cafe in Ampus, it continued in fits and starts. By the time we had arrived at the base of Big Climb #2, we had lost all desire to continue further. We found a cute, cheap (by French standards) pension in Montferrat and watched French TV in hopes that osmosis might force a little more of the language into the void between our ears. My favorite program was on trained circus cats. Their tricks sucked eggs compared to the trained dogs on the show, but I enjoyed the arduous, intricate, pointless effort involved in the training. Sisyphus would smile.
Samedi, despite feeling quite spry on the climb to Comps Sur Artuby, we quit while we were ahead and made early camp in the cheap municipal camping (only 7€!). After all, the trip through the gorge was supposed to be the most taxing leg of the randoneé.
The jury unanimously returned the verdict: delicious