We were both very tired last night but woke up ready to go even though the prospect of more climbing was a topic we decided to ban at breakfast. We set off at a steady pace and climbed for 4 miles but at a 'doable' incline rather than the cliff faces we had crawled up last night.
Deeply superstitious now about saying anything prophetic like ' ah I think it's levelling out' we seemed to level out and then, behold, there was a sign showing that we had reached the watershed between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Emma interviewed me on her iPad to celebrate and then we began the descent hoping that this time it was for real. It was and we flew down the mountain wondering how on earth we had managed to climb so high. It's a beautiful route and we were both buzzing by the time we got down to the valley. Half way down, I was buzzing, with flies...
We reached the outskirts of Aubenas and were daunted by endless roads saying no bicycles and were extremely fortunate that another cyclist, clearly local as no Lycra, seeing me looking lost, asked us where we were headed. She then very kindly let us follow her around the North of the city and pointed us in the right direction. Without her, I think we would have completed a detailed tour of the town. I probably did not show sufficient gratitude as she kept saying things like, 'I should zay zat I ave a problem wiz cartes' and I wasn't certain she wasn't the local practical joker. She proved to be sound and I should be less cynical.
My advice to all tourers into avoid big towns where ever you possibly can; there be problems.
The afternoon was flat, hot and noisy as we followed the yellow D 579 road. Caravans, trucks and lots of cars raced past celebrating the first day of the holidays. We took a short diversion to Vogue, a pretty riverside and rather touristy village for lunch and then carried on down the busy road to Vallon-Pont D'Arc.
To liven up an otherwise uneventful afternoon, Emma was stung by an insect but I had some cream and my left pedal fell to bits and I didn't have a spare. It's ok to ride but it would be good to get it repaired if we ever see a bike shop. Please note that we have passed one bike shop in all our hundreds of miles, in Valencay, and that was shut.
Some local councillors have decided that they will not have velos on the road and insist that they ride on the cycle paths. This led to a wonderfully French moment when we were riding on the fairly rough path when it turned into a pebble and grass track, inaccessible by bike. Getting back onto the smooth road, we were shouted at for not being on the cycle path. Alors!
The Gorge D'Ardeche is very, very touristy with thousands of people enjoying the wilderness in kayaks or sitting on the river beaches. I'm rather hoping that as we go further down the gorge tomorrow we will lose some of the caravans and mass holidaying populous. We have been very spoilt having had France largely to ourselves so far and rather resent other people being around. Mind you, we will at least find open cafés, restaurants and perhaps even a bike shop.