October 19, 2010

24| Rain

I had an extra day before I needed to be back in Toulouse for my return plane and decided to spend it visiting Ambialet and Albi. I had read in my guidebook that in Ambialet travelers can listen to the monks chant the masses in their medieval monastery. I’ve never heard any mass live, but love medieval music and Gregorian chant, and imagine an experience related to that, in one of the simple old churches that I am so entranced by. I’ve also read in the guide that there are good campgrounds at Ambialet, and my night in the chambre d’hote has recuperated me enough for more camping. Also, my Routard guide mentions an excellent restaurant in town.

It had started raining during the night and continued after breakfast, so I put on my rainpants, zipped up my rain jacket, pulled up my hood and rode. It wasn’t as bad as I anticipated and soon I started feeling more human again. And hungry. It rained and rained, but the riding was gradually downhill and not hard. Partly because of the rain, partly because of the post-food poising fatigue, I continued past Brousse-le-Chateau, not making the detour to see the town. After crossing the Tarn at Trebas (following the sign, not my map) I met 4 other cyclists at a road junction and we chatted a bit. Unloaded, they went by me, and I followed, happy for the exchange. But after a while, I realized that I was climbing far too much. (And, did I mention that French road numbers have sometimes changed and no longer reliably match the Michelin maps?) The steady incline away from the river told me that I was on the wrong road and finally I turned around, retraced my steps and saw that I missed a  necessary right-hand turn, instead continuing straight. This was at the intersection where I was talking with the four cyclists and had let myself be distracted. Although the detour has added a good 750 feet and several miles of unnecessary climbing, it has also added to my understanding of how isolated and remote this part of France is – at least before the summer season and on a bicycle, when distances are greater than in a car. The farms seemed similar to those in northern Vermont, often small with a few animals and a difficult, rocky soil.
As I put this journal together with photos, I remembered something I used to know: when I just want to keep going because I’m soaked and it’s raining, or I’m flying downhill and loving every minute, or there are a billion, sheep, mosquitos, reindeers, or some such around me, I forget the camera and neglect to take photos; and sometimes these times are just when I need photos.  

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