October 19, 2010

13| Camping on the farm

I soon left the D999, turning north again towards the Gorges de la Dourbie. When I reached the Dourbie River, I turned east, and headed down the river canyon towards Nant. Upriver is for the next trip: it would lead me to Mont Aigoual, famous for the Tour de France. Close  to Nant I rode past  a Castlenau, a “camping on the ferme.” One of the things I aimed to do on this trip was experience camping on farms… I saw several camping cars, some bikes, and it looked like the place for me. It wasn’t late, but my day had started early, and the  riding had been glorious, full of climbs and descents. It was time to stop.
I doubled back, set up my tent under a tree, near a tiny stream that feeds the Dourbie River, and immediately took a nap in the sun. Woke up and ate some of the food left from lunch, took another nap. Later nearby campers invited me for dinner. They turned out to be a retired German couple; he was fluent in French but she more comfortable in English and since I know no German, English it was. He had returned from riding late in the afternoon, and soon after that I saw him lifting weights, lying on his back in the grass, doing some kind of shoulder lifts. A dedicated athlete, I thought. Their ratttatouille and potatos, along with the glass of red wine, were very welcome; and saved me from pretending to myself  that my leftovers  made an adequate dinner.  It was fun trading riding stories. He was 80 and she 71 and they spend much of the year camping and cycling using their simple camping car as a base. It turned out that the weight lifting I saw him doing was to keep his shoulders strong, as he had recently had some kind of shoulder surgery.
I slept well and the morning brought an invitation for tea with my other neighbors. They were also retired, and also cyclists, who live in Perpignan, west of Montpellier on the Mediterranean near the Spanish border.  The tea was hot, and I added sugar to make it sweet; our conversation was in French only, and, as we shared environmental concerns, we quickly discovered that our countries face many similar issues and challenges.   I have wanted to visit their hometown, mostly because anchovies are one of my favorite foods, and the best anchovies in the world are found there. I appreciated the breakfast and  conversation. When I started to leave, he hefted my bike to check its weight, oiled my chain and off I headed for Nant, which turned out to be very close, with no hills involved.  

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