The Ruru's

Brent & Claire

7/10/23 Marans to La Rochelle 30.5 kms – The Last Time …

With 26 kms to ride, neither of us decided to apply any butt butter.

The nearly empty tube made a thud sound as it hit the bathroom rubbish bin wall, officially redundant. The crunched up plastic bag that contained it was also tossed and fell quiet to join it’s mate.

It was up to our Brook saddles to bring us home. That and our lycra padded bike shorts that separated under carriages on leather.

Panniers were packed as strict as they have always been. For the last time. All three plugs still accounted for. Bags carried out to the bikes and loaded. For the last time. Speedo positioned and reset back to 0.00 km and phone placed in the handle bar holder. For the last time. A wobble to point the bikes in the direction to be ridden and a leg lifted over the bar and foot placed on the favoured pedal in readiness for the half forward momentum rotation. For the last time. “Ready?” “Yep.” Our call sign to push off. For the last time. A glance backwards to see if there was enough gap to own the road infront. For the last time. And then we owned it.

And it was fitting that we chaperoned a canal for most of it. What a way to go out as a threesome – BClaire, me and a canal.

It was dormant of boat craft and empty. Only the sound of our bikes making tracks in the gravel broke the silence. When we weren’t jabbering in conversation. Or life was jumping and making ripplies in the Hookers green/Cadmium yellow hue canal water itself.

We rolled into La Rochelle that was brimming with Saturday life. People everywhere.

The railway station was absolutely stunning. We paused. Okay, I stopped to take another picture. BClaire stopped too. A default reaction nowadays. Anytime off the bike seat to allow gravity to do it’s touchpoint thing always welcomed.

“Ready?” “Yep.” Was that the last last time? We pulled up again down town and got busy visiting the tourist information centre to get a map, a paper map too. For the last time (I’m laughing as I type that). And plug in our accommodation address and let the host know that the Ruru’s had arrived. For the last time.

There was one second to last dismount of the bikes before the very last. At a place we could print off all our travel tickets – the bus, the train, the train again, and the earlier flights home. And, our electoral voting papers. Yep, we have a general election this year in New Zealand and this’ll be a first time to voice our choices from afar. Bugger, the place was shut.

We made our way to our apartment that will be home for the next four nights to reverse this mornings routine. Lift the leg up and over to dismount, unclip the panniers and empty out (they now will be scrubbed and take a much deserved holiday themselves), de-attach the phone and unclip the speedometre.

For the last time.

The big number reads 3,263 kms ridden from Budapest to here.

And although La Rochelle was a goal post-Atlantic reaching, it’s not about the destination (yes it is as we have seen a Fish’n’chips shop), it will always be about the journey from A to B and then C. And what we have experienced from the bike saddle in-between. And more. There is always a way way more.

For the last time, many thanks for following, liking, the comments, the banter, supporting and inspiring us. For the last time.

Or, until the next time. Becasue this will not be our last!

Homeward bound …

6/10/23 La Tranche-sur-Mer to Marans 53 kms – Turn Off Your Screens, Go Ride A Bike

Dew on grass is a fantastic temperature barometer.

Droplets glistening in the sun scrambling to hold onto dear life before either weakening and gravitate to earth and perish being soaked up by the soil not yet frost hard, or shrink and kapuut through evaporation from the sun.

Our clothes hadn’t dried enough from yesterdays laundry neither so putting them on moist added to the mornings start push off. Both doing a body frame shiver as external cold connected with internal heat. Nipple erections shared!

We would normally ride abreast when on a cycle path way so we’re not yelling at each other like we do when in single file. This morning we were rode in single file starting out. Shadows covered the right side of the path, the sun bouncing off the other half on the left. So we both hugged the left to absorb the warmth like mobile solar panels being radiated from the ball of yellow. Wish I also had BClaire’s wooley top on, at least her arms were clothed.

Our end destination today was more inland off the coast, Marans, and therefore we cycled across acreage of paddocks. Farmers have been busy ploughing the landscape. Cycle traffic has diminishes compared to when we first started out, passing the odd solo heading in the opposite direction. One thinks they should be going towards the equator where it’ll be warmer in the coming weeks, not away from it.

A sunflower field yet to be harvested had heads now turned downwards. They’ve been instrumental to keeping the spirits lifted when you are deep in serious thought about something. Everything. Or nothing. Nature is good for that. The best form of therapy to swipe away voices in your head. Turn off your screens and go ride a bike.

We spent a great deal of post-cycling today trying to sort out exiting France. We perhaps should have ridden north of Saint Brevins to the coast and caught a damn ferry off the continent! Notwithdsanding, we got there navigating the air and land transport modes websites. Switching from google maps to google translator to decipher between langauges. The test will be in the pudding when we rock up to the first leg of the journey, La Rochelle bus station to catch a bus to Nantes that departs at 5.50 am. When the dew on grasses is just forming, eeeeeeek! From Nantes to London, it’ll be by train to Paris to catch a connecting train to London. Really just another adventure!

Tomorrow we cycle the last of it. Full stop.

We’d decided to part from our bikes that have been bloody awesome carrying our torso’s how they have and were also working through how to say goodbye to them. Meeting the hosts of our accommodation today, they’ve offered to buy them off us and have a business in La Rochelle for us to drop them off at when the time comes to hand them over. Just like that, it just clicked and couldn’t have worked out any better.

So, until tomorrows final post, to La Rochelle where the curtain will come down and stay down, we ride.

5/10/23 Les Sables d’Olonne to La Tranche-sur-Mer 47.5 kms – Dead Ant

We saw a younger version of ourselves in Jean-Eudes.

It reminded us of our enthusiasm when we both quit corporate roles and together started a business from scratch in an industry that we were completely new to, primary aged childcare. From both owning the broom, to both pushing the broom. And how that part of our relationship legacy has contributed to the people we have become today, warts and all!

Living on site himself, Jean-Eudes was the owner of the hotel. In his early thirties, he too woke up one day having had enough of the corporate entrenchment to embrace the risks associated with business ownership and purchased the 14 room establishment, never having any broom experience neither. Ownership, and operations.

We’d been his only patrons for the night. With a change in the seasons, so too does the tourism industry whereby the volume of holiday makers falls to a trickle. He’ll eventually shut up during January and early February. It’s when he takes his down time to escape brooms and go off to do some rest and recreation. Not necessarily in that order.

If we’d have known about it just being us overnighting, we wouldn’t have inconvenienced him by taking breakfast. However, Jean-Eudes insisted that it was no problem and his passion for what his heart was following showed up in the breakfast presentation served up. Inviting him to join us, he did with his coffee and we conversed.

We absorbed his story that triggered warmth and goose bumps of reflection and feelings. The hotel itself was built in 1826 and when he redecorated, he found old newsprint that he rescued. A proud trophy that propels him to strive and be part of a future legacy. The award plaques on the outside were eye catching when we first rocked up to show the world that he’s doing a mighty fine job for someone who is 35 years of age now. Ever since taking over the ownership inbetween Covid lock ups which tested his resiliency somewhat. Which is all part and parcel of riding brooms. Only those who have pushed and owned can understand. If you haven’t, you can only imagine. We’d been there and know that one has to wear a mask when entertaining customers.

It was also an opportunity to ask if he could make use of our three gas canisters that we were originally going to use when we camped and cooked. Which we didn’t and were still brand new and explosive. Things you can’t pack into ones suitcase when flying. We left them in good hands to do whatever, at the same time feeling strange that we were at a part of our trip where we were now starting the discarding of stuff carried. In readiness to return home.

Which also had a twist after retiring to bed and before our breakfast shared with Jean-Eudes. The long and the short of it was a call made to our travel agent back home to ask if there was an opportunity to change flying home to an earlier flight? Within twenty minutes, the transaction was done to arrive back onto the land of the long white cloud a week earlier.

We believe that the UK deserves more of our time to explore (perhaps a cycle from top to bottom) and smarter geographic understanding to better plan the visit to a number of friends in a number of places spread out across the isle (versus speed dating). It’ll also give us some time to allow the bodies to rest and recover before we kick back into life off the bike seat. Owning a broom (BClaire) and pushing a broom (Brent). For the immediate future. After our time spent with Jean-Eudes, the ideas machine was sparked up and going for it!

We made our way back down to the beach. It just looked stunning. The beach. The tide up but having turned. The dots of people featured along the foreshore. In and out of the waters edge. And the ones frequenting the cafe’s enjoying their expresso or croissant or what ever their pleasure.

We didn’t want to leave.

As we exited south, the phone buzzed with a received text message from BClaire’s hairdresser. Unbeknown to me, it was someone high up on her priority list to inform after our change of flights were confirmed. Nearly even before letting the family know! Positioned on the handle bar with a slight angle, I’ve mastered the art of pressing buttons and looking up and therefore relayed messages back and forth until her confirmation of getting a hair cut was confirmed. Yep! And hasten to add, it is looking very motely and I’m trying to capture it with a photo in it’s natural state without a cap on. Now that’s been a chore without getting the look! If only she could see what I’m looking at.

The riding today was much the same as before, residential suburbia, coastal views of calm ocean, wetlands and closed mouths so as not to have invited guests swallowed, beach forest cover and the like. We stopped to assist a lady who’s husband had taken a spill off his bike and lying there with legs and arms up, looking like a dead ant. Once we got the big fella up and did the floppy chicken in charades, he seemed okay and appreciative. Easily done with one lapse in concentration, jeez we’ve been fortunate, touching wood with only a couple more days riding to go.

Instead of a hotel, we booked an apartment with a balconey that gave us a clear view of the sun setting. They are a dime a dozen now with everything closing up shop. There was a puff of cool air breeze that caused a momentary body shiver.

Summer is beckoning us home.

Even before we definitely end this adventure for sure, that journey has already begun.

4/10/23 Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie to Les Sables d’Olonne 42 kms – Atlantic Barefoot

Yesterday, our speedo clocked over the 3,000 kms ridden. The tour Aotearoa (Cape Reinga to Bluff brevet event) by bike is approximately the same distance. By comparison, we have now covered the same New Zealand distance lengthwise since rotating out of Budapest towards the west.

On a day by day basis, you are zoned in on what is in front of you daily. Or when you look up, around you. Unconsciously, you just follow the routine and like puzzles pieces, they soon fit together to create a larger picture when you take a macro perspective look.

When asked if we have camped a long the way, we both have to grin our response that it too has had a fantastic journey, never erected because it has not seen the light of day from inside it carried bag! It has had company with each carrying sleeping bags, bed rolls, blow up pillows, sleeping bag liners, and head torches! And still looks that way in the last days ahead because camp grounds across France have closed for the season. They re-open in May next year and wild camping really has to be stealth.

However, we would do it again. Carry such. If our bikes broke down at any time inbetween points A to B, we had emergency shelter for a night. Gas cooker, pots and pans and a water filter too. Which would have been interesting because we just discovered that we didn’t have anything to ignite the gas with, removing a lighter and matches on the flights to above the northern hemisphere.

A grimace turned quickly into a grin and then self depricating name calling laughter! More directed at me!

Riding right along, we departed Saint-Gilles following cycle path markers the whole way to Les Sables. Coastal views and wetland crossings went hand in hand. Another much larger boat harbour with protruding walls out into the Atlantic. We rode out onto the point of the mouth on one side to sit an eat our quiche and jambon roll looking back at the city skyline and beach frontage. It was really lovely and a marked improvement on the one ridden past yesterday.

The tide was out, small dots of people were both horizontal sunbathing and vertical swimming. We rode along the length of the esplanade people watching, gawking at buidlings, perving at both. An ice cream break to soak it all up before we found our hotel just two streets over. An earlier check in time and clean up meant we could go wandering to explore.

Rue de l’Enfer just ten metres from the hotel front door, was the narrowest street in the world up until 2006. Then there was the Notre-Dame-de-Bon church to the right at the end of the street. We entered and were again in awe at the ceiling height and front staging with stained glass window detailing. A little further along the street, the L’ile Penotte where one woman artist has transformed alleyway walls into seashell murals. Wonder if she ate all the shell fish before affixing!

Then we strolled down to the beach. The tide had encroached inland somewhat and the number of people had multiplied by the hundreds. We made foot imprints on the sand as we ventured out to the waters edge to finally actually touch the Atlantic Ocean for the first time since arriving at the coast, and stroll some more in its shallows.

There was no guts and glory nudey entrance like we’ve done before.
Maybe the body weariness from the kms ridden is starting to tell us that we aren’t as young as we once were. Or perhaps we have matured somewhat gracefully as we have aged over the last year or three.

Nah, definitely the first one!

3/10/23 Beauvoir-sur-Mer to Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie 65 kms – Le Passage

When looking at the Lavelodyssee route map, there was a huge semi-circle away from the coast inland that it wanted us to follow, and end up back in the place where we were at for dinner last evening with Dorian. Bugger that, let’s take a more direct route and ride up the road (albeit a major) and shave off some kms.

However, just off the coast from Beauvoir-sur-Mer is Le Passage du Gois.

It’s a submersible 4.125 km long causeway located in the Bay of Bourgneuf where it connects the island of Noirmoutier to the mainland at Beauvoir-sur Mer. It’s only passable by car, bicycle or on foot at low tide because it is covered at high tide and varies between 1.3 metres to 4 metres when below the surface. Since 1971, the Norimoutier bridge has connected the island to the continent (Wikipedia).

It wasn’t on route.

Checking google maps did look positive whereby we could then skirt along the coast and again shave off kms, if we did. After deciding to take a look, we came across some fellow cyclists (French) who enthused us with turn left, then turn left and it’ll get you where you want to go. We turned left and then left again to navigate some wetlands into a strong on-shore wind. It’d changed it’s direction over night as well. The wind turmbines in the distance pointing our way.

Excitement rose as we arrived at the point where you leave the mainland. The road just dropped and entered the sea to dissappear. The water was lumpy from the wind and marker points above the water gave you some indication of how the road snaked out to the island. Low tide was another four-five hours away, just as well as we could have been tempted to do a loop out and back over the bridge, which was way off to our left. And certainly worth the gander. You have to do stuff like that, it’s what makes the exploring have some greater awe substance.

Le Passage du Gois – hard to comprehend that traffic will be able to use the 4.1 km causeway out to the island at low tide.

Now, lets find the short cut to ride. We did and off we set following the sea wall embankment down on the land side. Gravel road became two lanes that dimenished to one lane to then beam me up Scotty, totally dissappear. Except for a fence across the pathway and nothing on the other side. A “bleep” dead end. I got off the bike and climbed the embankment to see if there was an alternative option. Wow, the bridge to the island was just about right there! But no way through.

Guess what we had to do? Retrace back to the Le Passage du Gois point and ride the same road ridden out. Looking for other arterial roads this time to our right was also met with dead ends. Eventually we found a road that would take us to where we wanted to go in the first place. Which was the same road driven last evening just about in Bearvoir itself. That had all types of traffic blatting in both directions and a blustery head wind.

The other option was to ride the semi-circle out and around and that was’t an option.

We jesus-christ crossed our torso’s and turned right. Now that was a character building experience with precision focus, preferring to become road kill over drowning in an infested gross water wetland canal. We stopped outside a church in La Barre-de-Monts to count our blessings, toilet and eat lunch. Thank you up there if you are looking down on us!

There was a cemetery beside the church. On it’s wall was a plaque inscribed with the words Commonwealth War Graves. Underneath the words Tombes de Guerre du Commonweath. We entered to pay our respects. Standing infront of seven white coloured headstones, we read each one – rank; name; division; all died on the same day 17th June 1940; and ages, 20, 21, 42, 21, 40, 36, and 44 respectfully. The 36 year old was a beloved father of five children. War sucks.

We managed to shave off another couple of kms finding the route map out of La Barre-de-Monts by taking a straight line towards the ocean. And were graced with some awesome riding though forest trails for a long time, sheltered from the blustery gale. We rounded a bend on the coast and came out at a definite holiday destination, to the right a sprawling beach as far as the eyes could squint with open sea, to the left were high rised buildings with balcanies and some with shops below. The summer season over with loads of shutters closed up where windows and doors are. And so too shop. Carrying on, all the camping grounds too shut up shop, we must have passed just on a dozen or so.

What a shame because the day was a beautiful autumn day with the odd dot of people up and down the beach, and even odders ones out in the surf. Which was choppy still. Land yachts were making the most of the barren stretch, hmmmmmm, now that looked fun and looking for a hobby when arriving home!
Saint -Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is another sea side township that hosts an enclosed harbour. After all the checking in and tidying ourselves up, we wandered backdown to the harbour for a look. The water was gushing in on the incoming tide. The sun wasn’t quite low enough for it to be setting and we agreed, we need to see a sun rise and sun set before this riding is over.

And that is only two or three days away.

2/10/23 Pornic to Beauvoir-sur-Mer 54 kms – The Wet Lands

“Call zis numba, selleck buttin une aind sum one will besable to elp yu.”

“Will they speak English to assist?”

“Qui, yiz.”

These were the instructions communicated by the young fella serving us at the time we purchased our mobile sim card on arriving into France. Sometime the data connection as been a little patchy however mostly we have had cloud connectivity.

Extremely important when hot spotting the technology and searching for a bed to lay the head when establishments WIFI isn’t secured. Mostly about wanting the little pad lock icon in the bottom right hand corner when hooking into ones network.

Our data connection is due to expire in two days time so we followed the instructions given to the inth degree.

Outcome, plan A failed so plan B – we ended up cycling 5 kms to a mall to visit a Bouygeus Telecom shop (our provider) where the shop assistant didn’t speak an once of English which dampend our customer service experience, him having no enthused interest to our pending situation. Plan C – lets speak with the receptionist at tonights accommodation place (they can usually speak a little Anglais) and try to get sorted.

We rode back the 5 kms to our starting point at the head of the harbour to compose ourselves which was more to remove the woollen prolyprops. The temperature was scrambling up the thermometre quickly this autumn day or perhaps it was the little up and down ridden out to he mall and back. Huge mall too, our start of transitioning back into rat race suburbia I guess kind of began as we count up the days left remaining in the Northern hemisphere.

To see the tide in that raised the boats off the mud flaps from yesterday was a great constrasting view. There was something about Pornic that had some pull to wish we had of stayed a little longer, a flirtatious attraction of the sorts. Nothing to do with its name either!

The La Velodyssee cycleway took us away from the coastline for most of the cycling and inland to where vast wet lands criss-cross the topography. Lots of turning right then left then right and some straight before another left. It was a smorgesboard of grasslands, inland wetlands, arable land, urbanized areas, heterogeneious (diverse in character) agricultural areas and coastal wetlands.

But, and this was a dissappointing but, the waterways we followed today were significantly polluted. The contamination, maybe hundreds of years in the evolution, was horrendous. The stench from some of them, putrid. The waterways also act as a boundary for stock, the only fences were to block crossing accessway onto the land. And some of the surface layer experienced today was banked up raw putrid shit. Plastic bottled water unfortunately, will be a forever thing here.

There was a little sweat grime riding into quite a strong head wind. Wind turbines got larger, close enough to hear their swooshing blades rotating, making the most of what we were pushing into. A little longer on the saddles today and a huge difference from the picturesque coast line, most definitely.

We arrived at out accommodation to check in. Oh dear, the receptionist didn’t speak and ounce of Anglais! We needed to now find a plan D. And that coincidently happened shortly after our arrival when Dorian rang to ask where we were and that he had an idea and did we have plans for dinner? We arranged to do another face to face catch up which was just magic. Only he was 2.5 hours away and would need to drive to us for which he did. How cool was that.

We used the time to laundry both ourselves and our clothes, sort out accommodation for tomorrow night (strong secured wifi where we were staying, awesome) and BClaire attend to some work tasks. When Dorian arrived around 7.30pm, he was able to understand the receptionist suggesting where to eat which was another township approx. 10-15 minutes drive away. Got a little lost when a ‘Deviation’ sign had us detour without any further signs as to where the hell to go, a few dejavue moments driving down the same streets in circles! The township looked closed. But here in France, they eat their dinner late and we found what we were looking for which was patroned by others. Even others came in after us to eat.

Amongst the face time yackity yack, plan D failed. No one at the other end of the phone to take our call. Plan E, be present with Dorian as we ate and chatted some more. Walking back to his van, another place was opened so we decided to have a farewell drink. It was a craft beer place with a heap of different brews. The sour beer certainly makes the face winch up!

Dorian delievered us back after some more circle driving of the township. We bid him farewell for a final time. He was really keen for us to visit his turangawaewae – his place of belonging.

A another plan hatched for another time.

(Footnote: full cudos to New Zealanders pushing the stance to clean up our polluted waterways for future generations. Have enough reasons, trust us).

1/10/23 Saint-Brevin-Les-Pins to Pornic 38.5 kms – Listed War Grave 47°08N, 2°20W, off the Evens

We didn’t get to the Casino.

One in the bath tub and one horizontal on the bed watching Georgia give Fiji a decent rugby game of it on the television won out. We wondered if people three rooms down the hall either side could hear us yelling at the thing. And let them make their own assumptions as to wonder back what we were up in room 104!

Another cracker sunrise greeted us this morning. So too another degree of so drop in the mercury as autumn is taking hold. A couple of quiche Lorraines (lunch) from the Boulangerie and two microwave Le Tajine de Beuf e ses Legumes du Soleii (dinner) from the Carrefour supermarket were purchased and carefully stuffed into panniers before we set to it and bunked out of Saint Brevins proper. And for good this time.

The outgoing tide was still reasonably high, where the hell does all the water go when it recedes to be low tide? Having visited Bay of Fundy in Canada to experience the place on the planet where it records the highests and lowest tidal fluctuation at 16 metres, this place on the planet had it’s uniqueness about it with it being shallow yet shrinking outwards to expose so much bottom.

As it did, so too did it all along the coast line followed, attract the population to go harvest kiamoana (food from the sea). And then as the kilometres started to mount up heading further south, swimming beaches started to appear. Being Sunday and cloudless, there was enough warmth for families to spend it still either baking under the sun’s rays or cooling off at the waters edge in the Atlantic.

A stop at an establishment for a mid-morning cuppa was quirky. People sitting at tables or at the bar with caraffes of wine. Were they still to finish up from the night before or do they just start early? One fella was carrying a baguette – “yes dear, I’ll shoot down and get us a loaf, no worries” as we watched him knock one back before bidding other patrons “Au revoir.” The lifestyle here opens ones eyes to another pace of life possibilities, that’s for sure.

Sea walls darting out from the shore with boat craft now starting to be high and dry because of the sea evaporation and decide which way to lean, another eye opener. We took a walk on one as far as the concrete would allow that jutted out. Exposed rocks with sea lettuces green and browns on one side, and tiny wave ripples on the other from a soft on-shore sea breeze to fill the nostrils with the smell of the ocean. It was such a huge contrast from the inland canals and river aromas, that’s for sure. Wind turbines lined the curviture horizon way off shore. And the bridge across to Saint Nazaire had shrunk somewhat.

We stopped at some more concrete bunkers to re-fuel on the quiches. We’ve tried to adopt the French style of consuming food by eating more slower. Pffft, nope. Five bites and it was gone in just about the time it took to inhale and exhale a breath. Let’s see how we go with the microwave dinner!

A British ensign flag a little worse for wear flapped from one of the three flag poles close by. I wandered over to see if there was an English translation to their prominence. Yes there was.

British Expeditionary forces had to retreat against the war machine Germany shortly after it invaded France. What took place a Dunkirk is perhaps more widely known. However, the British government ordered all sorts of ships to become troop carriers, one being the Lancastria.

Like Dunkirk, 15,000 British soldiers (plus other nationalities) were expected to arrive at Saint Nazaire and it’s where the Lancastria arrived to join 20 others to contribute to the embarkation, beginning on the 16th June 1940. The Lancastria’s passenger full to brim maximum was 2,500.

The next day, before it was about to set sail so as to minimise the risk of being torpedoed, the air raid sirens rang out. A Junkers 88 attacked the Lancastria. The first bomb landed in the #1 hold where 800 RAF men were. The second bomb landed in the #3 hold releasing 500 tonnes of heavy oil. The third bomb exlopled near the ships funnel in the machine room. The forth bomb detonated in the #4 hold causing the rip in the hull to allow the sea to rush in. Within 15-20 minutes, the Lancastria was fully submerged.

The names of those boarding stopped when they reached 6,000 so as to cram and save as many as they could. 2,477 humans were rescued. Months and months later, hundreds and and hundreds of fodies were found on beaches or pulled up in fisherman nets. A large number now lay at rest in cemeteries around Saint Nazaire.

It’s estimated that the number that perished were three times more than the sinking of the Titanic. Churchill kept it a secret from the British Empire until after the war and ship papers are still archived under military secracy and will not be opened until 2040. What’s with that?

It’s Britain’s worst maritime loss of life and one of the most murderous sinkings in history.

Off the coast of La Pointe Saint-Gildes, 9.5 miles SW of Saint Nazaire, 24 metres deep along the Grand Charpentiers Channel, lies the smashed wreck of the Lancastria, listed as “War Grave” (47°08N, 2°20W, off the Evens).

The legs did experience some thigh burn because the coast isn’t as flat as to what coming across the middle of the country was like. We anticipate more of the same.

We rested one more time over looking both a harbour with a wall and beach goers over the other side – same planet different worlds. And then we rode into the centre city itself which was a buzz full of life. It too had a harbour except there was no water. Here we experienced the plug pulled leaving lots of boats completely exposed. Jeez it was fastenating. Even larger yachts.

Eating dinner more slowly (no we didn’t), our decision to come south proved a damn good one many times over today, with the kaliedescope landscapes. With thoughts of lest we forget.

War sucks.

30/9/23 Saint-Brevin-Les-Pins to Saint-Brevin-Les-Pins 13.5 kms – A Day At the Beach

Footnote from an updated 29/9/23 FB post – Between Sunsets

Bugger it, might as well keep journalling too. After announcing yesterdays blog writing climax finale, look as it being similar to a live stage performance oncore until the curtain does come down. In our case, the riding has really really stopped.

And sooooooo ….

Pulling the curtains open this morning from our hotel room on the second floor, although walking up the stairs felt like a sneaky little third, I was mooned.

There it was, glowing circular right back at me. One of the best sunrises yet.

As we were checking out, a fellow cyclist from Switzerland shared the space we were loading up the chariots. He was going to Saint Nazaire. And going to ride over the bridge. A hesitational moment of should we too? We were only going 5 kms down the road (because we are heading South) so an additional six to eight kms with two ascents and two descents in the middle was tempting. And we bet the view from it’s altitude would be a panoramic wonder. Once the sweat from the climb was wiped away from the brow. Both ways.

We decided not too and went our separate directions. Another time.

Reaching the beach, the tide was way further out than yesterday. As were the dots of people collecting the shell fish. A large cargo ship split the water heading into the Loire River direction in the chanel. We watched it clear the brigde with enough gap that it could have been a double storey bulk head.
We meandered. Our velo route is now called the La Velodyssee and numbered Euro Velo 1.

There was no rush because we were at the beach. Fishing shacks stood high and dry. World War 2 concrete bunkers were scattered along the way. They stand dormant but, kept as a reminder of the history that played out here. Men were taking chairs from a van and positioning them looking at a square shaped goal post without the tall bits. We met the bridegroom and chatted to wish him congratulations, mention that I could have married him being a wedding celebrant (if I was registered here) and did the same as the bride approached her future happily ever after. They were early so as to take photos and the bridesmaid was doing alright wearing stelettos shoes.

An ice cream stop filled in some time before we checked into our hotel. With a Casino attached. We asked what the dress code was after given our key to the room and a five euro voucher to spend playing number five red or black or the pokies.

One of us could get lucky tonight.

And if I play my cards right, so could Bclaire.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, dong!

29/9/23 Saint-Brevins-Les-Pins Layover – Between Sunsets

What’s wrong with us?

We just can’t do it without getting nancy!

Trying to stay put and chill out doing nothing. It’s not so much that we get bored (yes it is) or more the fact that we love getting out onto the landscape whether biking or hiking (yes it is), or both (yes it is).

Both waking up and having the same emotional pull to just want to keep going. Even after we had decided to call it and not visit Dorian’s part of the country and be entertained some before making our way off the continent towards the UK. Just goes to show we are addicts after all. To follow our hearts and passion. Or does that make us human?

Bugger it, might as well keep journalling too. After announcing yesterdays blog writing climax finale, look as it being similar to a live stage performance oncore until the curtain does come down. In our case, the riding has really really stopped.

We knew we had until the Oct 12 to change borders to fulful our Schengen Visa obligations so decided a visit to the Tourist Information Centre was warranted to help us with our habit. Go north over the Saint Nazaire bridge and tiki tour that coast line or, go south and tiki tour its coast line.

And we weren’t dissappointed. The assistant just kept bringing our maps. I love maps. Another half a kilograms worth of maps to add to the collection I now carry. Whether this way or that way, they were colourful and descriptive and the print smelt wonderful.

After scrolling map legends and calculating distances and checking that our manky bike clothes were both drying and airing and where would be a good destination to catch public transport, we agreed La Rochelle to the south was doable.

Perhaps the main thrust is our “do what you love and love what you do” and hence lets keep biking to make the most of what we are doing and explore more of the landscape we had arrived at. The feeling became stronger as we wandered Saint-Brevin-Les-Pins to arrive at the beach and be absolutely blown away with how far out the tide had receded.

There were dots of people way off at the waters edge and an old fella who crossed our path was carrying a basket full of shell fish. We just had to understand what they were and endeavoured to ask him using charades. He placed the basket on the ground, took a switchblade knife from his pocket and with his other hand, wiggled the blade into the closed shell to force it open. It exposed the shell fish, like a cockle back home. Another scrape of the blade and it dettached and he put it in his mouth, did three chews and swallowed. He handed me the knife and I followed his process twice. One for me and one for BClaire. Not bad at all.

By now, a little group had formed and when they found out we were from New Zealand, charades were in play with holding a rugby ball and what ever was spoken just nodded to. We did make a comment after departing with appreciation that seeing what we have coming out of the Loire and how the sea was a dirty stain when we arrived at Saint Brevins, was eating shell fish the right thing to do? A coca cola drink was bought and gulped shortly after.

The skeletal sea serpeant sculpture was also high and dry and looked impressive. Whether from above looking down on it or looking out from within it. A Chinese artist is credited for it and has been a photographed landscape feature since it was positioned during 2012. We did see some of it’s back bone above the waves yestereday when we rounded the bend after having gone as far west as we could, our attention was more tuned into the mass of water of the Atlantic itself.

And then when the accommodation we had booked for tomorrow night emailed that it was being cancelled, it sent us into a little panic not having experienced that before. Their cock up versus ours so it was all hands to the keyboard to find somewhere else to rest our heads. Pleeeeaaaaasssssseeeeee not the tent! We wanted it to be brand new still when we return home!

We’ve booked most of our accommodation through and have been happy with our lodings todate. Luckily we found another still within Saint-Brevins heading south.

We believe there is a mental transition from having finished the cycling to then begin cycling again and the five or so kilometres would get us back in the frame of mind, body and arse hole gentleness so it gets on board. Again. The bike seat that is.

Until La Rochelle, those following addicts read at your own will.

28/9/23 Nantes to Saint-Brevin-le-Pins 66.5 kms – Sea Spray in Our Faces

We had two options to exit Nantes.

After we retrace the 6 kms ride back into the city. We’d been here before after indecision and adding some 5 extra kms to the exit strategy when leaving Angers! And learnt the lesson.

As we rode into its heart, we watched city life come alive. The smell of fresh bread from the Boulangerie and roasting rotisserie chooks from cabinets on shop front pavements were terrible. Terribly divine that is.

Council workers were blowing fallen foilage onto the roadway and we had to swing out and around the sweeper truck sucking up the carnage. City folk were scurrying where ever they were needing to be, others were seated supping on their morning expresso and munching a croissant. A menu item that is a happy marriage.

We pulled up outside of the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes Cathedral. It was a monster towering up and made BClaire look antish as she posed out front. We were too early to take a look inside and agreed that this was perhaps the second largest one we observed, second to Ulm’s monstrosity. We carried on through streets following our mate google maps.

A water fountain caught our eye. It has survived the war and billboards in a semi-circle telling the story of Nantes’s destruction from bombing with pictures told a 1,000 words. None of which we could read, they were in French!

“Let’s do the north side at the junction and cross over further down the Loire” was suggested. All those in favour say “Aye.” Carried. But not before crossing a bridge and by accident, came across hordes of bystanders congealed standing looking up at this mechanical elephant. It had our attention. How it walked, blinked, raised it’s trunk and blew out water for it’s snooze – it was absolutely amazing. It was part of the Machines of the Island features.

Here we met a couple from Canada cycling on a tandem, Doug and Lois. They wore their Canadian maple leaf tops with pride and a flag flapped hanging of the back. They too were heading in our direction and were taking the south side so us meeting up with them again was highly likely, the race was on!

The north side had us ride under a skyway bridge and this was a Holy F..k view from the bike seat. It too was massive and the traffic crisscrossing in either direction was manic. Sadly, we past another area of poverty where people were living in caravans and shacks with squalor. Surely there can still be some pride in keeping your environment surrounding much better than crap strewn where you threw it? Hmmmm.

We happened upon a ferry crossing to get to the other side where we needed to be. A little closer then the bridge we needed to ensure we took further along and though stuff, lets cross not so walked up onto the car/passenger ferry. Was free too, bonus. However, for some reason, the damn mosquitos were the worst they’ve been the whole trip and having to walk up an incline on gravel meant the little bastards swooped in, landed and left love bites by the dozen. It felt like this being our last day, everything that we’d experienced was playing out along the route.

And the bridge that we thought we were to cross, didn’t exist. It was another ferry crossing that wasn’t going anywhere because of the low tide and the side of the river were muddy embankments. That was lucky!

And our last ten kms ride was along the Loire on gravel into a strong coastal head wind. The river had opened up and questioned “when does the river become the bay of the sea?” The bridge that crosses over from Saint-Brevin-le-Pins to Saint Nazaire was another awe of construction that grew and grew and cripes, it was unbelievable. Little walkways out into the water to shacks with fishing nets chaperoned us as we kept heads down and pushed into the breeze.
Heads lifted as we reached the city boundary of Saint-Brevin and keeping an eye out for the EV6 signs came to an end when we reached a larger sign that was the start of the ride heading east, or the end of the ride heading west. We posed for photo’s asking a passer by to press the camera button.

Another 100-150 metres or so of riding west, there was no more west to ride. Swinging south to ride along the waves crashing into the sea wall, every now and then, one was large enough to have the sea spray on our faces. Perhaps that was why our eyes welled up. Just a little bit.

A spot we stood and stared outwards. And where sadness (it was over) and happiness (we’d done it) collided.

From Budapest to the Atlantic Ocean completed.

Kms ridden = 2,918

Number of punctures = 1

Days taken = 72 days

Number of blog words – 47, 281

Number of photos = a shit load!

This is the final blog post narrated how it has been.

It’s been a blast to write a daily journal as a record of what has been. Something to be looked back on and have all the emotions regenerated on reflection.

Dream it, design it, do it, and feel good – no more words necessary to be added.

« Older posts

© 2023 The Ruru's

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑