|Distance||83.87 kms||52.20 miles|
|Climbed||1,655 meters||5,430 feet|
|Ride time (hours)||6.21||-|
|Avg speed||13.51 kph||-|
|Distance||622.57 kms||387.11 miles|
|Climbed||5,269 meters||17,287 feet|
|Ride time (hours)||39.36||-|
Thursday, March 16th, 2017
The climbing gets serious today, although not as serious as Strava would have you believe. A day of picturesque riverside towns and surprisingly tall mountains, ending with a brilliant stealth campsite and a close encounter with my now nightly visitors the wild boars.
This morning I have food but no water. I'm always missing something. I've got two apples though, which at least will provide some hydration until I can get to a store or find a fountain (which I suspect will take some time, I'm not close to any towns). The tent is sopping wet again and it's cold in this valley. I can see the clear sky above so I know it will warm up quickly once the sun gets over the hills. I start off wearing the heavy gloves, neck warmer, leg warmers, and two jackets.
It is indeed warmer on the hill but I quickly come to another deep valley that has to be negotiated. The temperature difference between the top and the bottom is impressive; the fields 50 meters below the crest of the hills are covered in a frost, 100 meters down I'm shivering despite wearing everything I've got. Then I'm stripping it all off as I sweat up the steep climb out the other end of the valley. Back on top of the plateau the sun is at last high enough to make things comfortable. I come to a cliff overlooking the Tarn river, beautiful view of an almost-island hill formed by an oxbow bend in the river, topped with a medieval-looking chateau. Quintessentially French vista.
Ambialet is a pretty village but I come away with no water. Another 10k down the road I find a village with a store for food and water; and even better: a cafe! The locals at the bar are watching football highlights and gossipping about the neighbors. Another couple of kms out of town I stop by the riverside for late breakfast picnic. I'm following the "Le Rance" river now, climbing up and down hills that line the fairly steep gorge. Pretty towns come and go; I stop in St. Sernin-sur-Rance for a coffee. The woman working the bar lets me charge my phone.
The road gets serious after Saint Sernin-sur-Rance. From the town's edge heading south on D33 there is something 25 kilometers of almost uninterrupted climbing. I get up over 1,000 meters altitude -- much to my surprise -- I didn't expect to be getting to these altitudes on this trip.
Then a long descent down to the city of Lacaune where I pick up supplies from dinner. I'm pretty tired from that climb. I check out a campground and briefly debate just quitting for the day and getting a campsite, but it's still only 4pm and I'm determined to camp for free in these parts where it is relatively easy. I head back south out of town, only to be greeted by another stiff climb that takes me back up to 1,000 meters. I'm regretting my decision on the way up, but not at the top... I find a nice secluded campsite in a forêt domaniale (state-owned forest), complete with soft bed of pine needles and flat ground. I can see that the wild boars have been rooting in the area next to my campsite but that's not an uncommon sight in this part of France so I set up and forget about it. I make a huge dinner and walk around a bit.
Back at the tent it's dark, I'm getting ready to get inside... and I hear something heavy coming my way. It's wild boars again, three of them this time, coming back to root in that exact same spot next to my campsite where I saw the marks. They are literally just 20 feet away from me. I try to get pictures but the camera won't focus on them even though the flash is lighting them up. They aren't bothered by the flash at all. They must be used to headlights from cars shining through the trees. After about 10 minutes I clear my throat to let them know I'm there. They take off crashing through the bushes. No fear this time, I've learned that these animals aren't agressive. I just wouldn't want to startle one of them when cornered. That makes three nights in a row with sanglier encounters: the wild boar trifecta. Fitting that there are three of them to see me off on my last night of camping.