Sunday, May 8, 2011

über lüber

Crruunnchh, smack, smack, smack. The sound of a small animal chowing down next to my left ear abruptly woke me from sleep at the municipal campground in Apt. I sat upright, shook Andrew awake. "Wake up, there's a huge rat in our tent trying to eat my ears! Where's your headlamp?"

While he searched, the animal seemed to lunge at the border of the Megamid and I tried to stop it's vicious approaches with my water bottle. But, I struck something more substantial than a soft animal, and the figure just rolled on it's side slightly.

"It's a huge porcupine!"

Actually, with a little light, it proved to be a very petite hedgehog in the middle of a midnight snack of snails. Feeling a bit foolish, but still not ready to go back to sleep with a hedgehog for a pillow (the downside of having a bottomless tent-tarp), we left the tent for a few minutes and watched the little guy scurry away. Apparently he wanted nothing to do with an over-dramatic sleep-deprived Americane.

hedgehog, frightened into a ball

The riding from Forcalquier to Apt had been uneventful, filled with fields of grapes, olives, and silage. We had followed the zig-zagging Luberon bike route against a fierce headwind the first day, and soon departed from the bike route after leaving Apt on the second day due to bumpy roads and unnecessary climbs. We opted for smoother sailing and more direct routes to the few villages in the Luberon that we had decided to visit that day.

fun descent into Reillanne

Bonnieux was our first stop, and what you would expect from a quintessential Provençal ville: beautiful, green, filled with tourists, and surrounded by ruins. We spent time wandering the ruined church lookout, taking pictures, and unintentionally feeding the ants a healthy picnic.

crazy cobblestone

stairs up

rooftops over Bonnieux

We sped down, up, down, up to the next venue of the day: Roussillon. France has a ranking system for the most beautiful villages, or "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France". To be added to the list you must pass several tests of quality, beauty and support. We had already passed through a few of these villages without knowing they had undergone this stringent selection process, but Roussillon let you know as soon as you entered. It had plaques and signs lit by Christmas lights galore touting its fame in the list. Built upon ocher cliffs and surrounded by seas of red and green, it probably deserved its self-congratulations.

exploring the ocher cliffs

the extra creepy blue-eyed keeper of o the Ocres

Roussillon in all of its splendor

red dust-covered shoes

We wandered away from Roussillon with threatening thunderclouds overhead late in the afternoon. After not much more pedaling, we decided to stay the night in Joucas to cut down on our 900 m climb the next day to Sault, the jumping off point of Mt Ventoux.

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