It is with great sadness that the time has come to say goodbye to our trusty steed, Jean Claude tan Damme. He has faithfully carried us through the peaks and troughs of the journey. From the valleys, rivers, plains, forests to the mountains, through cities, towns, villages and farms, always surviving and thriving on the day to day challenges of being on the road. As we take to foot and head over the Pyrenees into Spain we know we will look back fondly on the last 3 weeks. We will no doubt miss the speed of Jean, the attention he seeks, the cosiness of our tent, old people in caravans, scribbling over maps, coffees in church squares, pain au chocolat, watching our legs becoming tree trunks and squatting over non-existent toilet seats. But as with all good things, there comes a time for it to end. Thankfully we can rest assured that Jean will be in safe hands on his return journey to England and there is a distant glimmer of hope that in 18 months from now we will be reunited in Istanbul. But before we leave it all behind us, here is a quick snapshot of the highs and lows of our first stage.
Total distance covered: 1478km/ 918 miles
Cadence: 80 – 90
Steepest hill: 18%, on the penultimate day in The Pyrenees
Top speed: 59.4km/hr
Average Speed: 21km/hr
Longest day: 131km from Mer to Chinon
Shortest day: 0.4km downhill (from one hostel to another in St Jean Pied de Port)
Whizzing down back roads of beautiful sun drenched valleys in Northern France with friends and family ringing to congratulate us about getting engaged. Trangia feasts and church square lunches, cote d'boeuf au feu, Aubeterre's monolithic church and wonderful hosts at Chinon and Doug's place.
Struggling and arguing our way around Angouleme's smoggy and hectic ring roads whilst starving and being rammed by unforgiving buses and trucks. Eating too many apricots and enduring the bitter smelling consequences, numb hands putting the tent away every morning, quick cook pasta with cows cheese and the hunger pangs as a result of French shops closing for the majority of the day.
Rillette, cheese, saucisson, baguettes, nutella, bananas, caram-chocs, rice, pasta, canned chilli, lardons and apricots.
42 coffees, 2 ciders, 2 beds, 3 bottles of wine with nibbles, 4 magnum ice creams, 2 pizzas and 10 million pain au chocolat.
Drink of the stage:
V.R.P. – vin rose and pamplemousse syrup on ice.
1 bust knee, 2 saggy panniers, 1 buckled back wheel, 1 blown out front tyre, 1 broken speedo
2 bruised shins, 1 burnt nose, 2 holes in tent (created by eager helping hands before we'd even left), 1 punctured thermarest, 1 singed arm from trangia explosion, 1 expanded stomach, 1 shrunk stomach and 1 ratty beard
Despite forecasts of rain for our first couple of days pilgrimaging our way across The Pyrenees, spirits are high as we now shrug off the lycra and pull on our walking boots!