First off: apologies for how long it has been since the last blog post. The Britain chapter was lovely and restful and full of fun family catch-ups and long walks with Ray.
We probably could’ve gone there a month later to continue in the vein of “a year of summer,” but remembering what the cold is like was probably a good little reality check for pampered old us. As we left Devon for Cornwall, it was still cold and windy enough for us to decide to store our bikes in Plymouth for a couple of weeks and leave for France from there, instead of biking from Cornwall to the ferry like we had initially planned. The tight and busy roads of the UK were also less than inspiring and we had my darling parents to help us out, so why not avoid the 80 kilometres and just get a ride?
Our final days in the UK were spent in a caravan park perched on the hillside overlooking the quaint Cornish resort town of Perranporth.
It was a bit tight for four people and a dog, but good incentive to get back on the road, onto the bikes and into the tent. We had managed to gather an additional 2 or 3 kilos somehow in Indonesia and New Zealand, and it was time to minimize the load. This involved going through absolutely every item in our panniers and asking some very difficult questions: have we used this once since the beginning of the trip? If not, do we bin it, send it or donate it? There are excellent facilities throughout the UK for donating “gently used” items to various charities with drop-off boxes in every town and grocery store parking lot, so it was easy to do this with a lot of our un-needed stuff. A lot of our clothing at this point -underwear and bike shirts particularly- fit more into the category of “disgustingly overworn,” and so had to be discarded of elsewhere. We sent a 1.8 kg package back to Christian’s parents in Markham (and it only cost us 20 pounds), however, we then proceeded to add an extra 5 kilos to our bags in the form of food…
We had been told that many French villages didn’t really do grocery stores; those that existed were few and far between, and if we missed the weekly market, we would starve and have to beg on doorsteps using our inadequate French language skills. On top of that, we would be arriving on Easter Sunday which inevitably meant that not a shop would be open for miles around. So, we decided to become more self-sufficient than we had ever been on this trip (usually buying and carrying two or three meals maximum in advance and keeping our trusty MEC freeze-dried, just-add-water daal mirkani from 2009 at the ready in case of serious emergency). I decided to do some extensive research on light hiking/trekking meals and ended up getting a little carried away DIY’ing a whole weeks worth of one-ziploc/one pot meals worthy of a king. With names like “Thai coconut peanut noodle curry,” “Sweet curry couscous” and “Quinoa Surprise,” these meals have a complete range of the carbs, proteins and fats we crave on the bike, and are a great alternative to buying those expensive dehydrated hiking food packs that are rarely even vegetarian. I’d like to write a better post on this (with recipes) later because I’m really happy with the meals I’ve come up with so far and think there is a definite lack of good veggie-friendly hiking/cycling food available. So stay tuned for that one…
Anyway. Our gear is marginally lighter (or at least will be once we’ve eaten all that food), the weather is marginally better than when we arrived in England on March 12th to a 6 degree celsius welcome, and we are marginally weaker (and softer) than we were when last on the bikes back in New Zealand. (I’m ashamed to say just how long it has been since we’ve been off the bikes, beloved reader, but you can work it out if you want to and keep it to yourself.)
But France beckons us, and before we know it, we are pulling up to the storage unit in Plymouth. My wonderful, sweet and very technically-adroit father quickly takes up his role as supervisor (one which he has maintained throughout our trip on a consultancy-basis via facetime) helping us with bungee cords, stuck brakes and packing up the panniers. Ray watches us uneasily from the car seat and my mum shouts out questions to me as she sits in the driver seat going through her own process of saying goodbye. It is a cold day, and I had been wearing her jacket over my own since we took Ray for a walk in the park. I haven’t taken it off yet, and as I pack up the last of my things, she insists that I keep it. It still feels a bit too risky to me (and most certainly my risk-averse mum) to be sleeping outside, and I am a bit afraid of getting a chill (and then getting pneumonia and then never waking up in my sleeping bag on a cold and frosty night…these are the thoughts that keep us both up at night, I’m sure). So I accept the blue puffy jacket graciously and have taken it off very little since then.
It was hard to say goodbye again to my parents and to Ray, but it won’t be as long this time until we next see them, as they will be heading to the south of France and we hope to meet them down there at some point in June. So, we wave them off as they head to their next destination in Dorset, and we are left alone, back on the bikes, in the cold. We now have to wait around in Plymouth for the next 6 hours until our 10pm overnight ferry to France, so we are pretty cold and tired by the time we board the Armorique at nightfall.
We had originally planned on finding a place on the floor somewhere to sleep to save money, but my headache, the cold and our exhaustion easily convinced Christian that we should just spend the extra money on the cabin (it was an additional $70 total). It turned out to be totally worth it. The ferry was shining and brand new and felt just like a floating hotel. It was quite the luxury to be able to get onto a ferry and essentially check in to your room, have a shower and go to sleep for 9 hours in a comfortable bed. We slept soundly and were woken up 45 minutes before arriving in Roscoff by some gentle folk tune. Already, things felt special, and just like that, we were arriving in France!
Musician, teacher, traveller. Currently on a year-long journey around the world. Bronwyn is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com.