Harry Watler is an ex Wiggle mechanic who has set off in search of adventure. In part 2 of this blog series, Harry reflects on some of the challenges of touring on a bike; it's not all glamour and beautiful scenery, but a route to Switzerland seems to get him back on track and focused - check out his travel diary below.
Breakfast is served
A week in and I'm sat in the tent a 10:00am hoping it will stop raining. Still, at least it gives me a chance to write. Breakfast today was coffee/ biscuits and pain au chocolate x3 (courtesy of a multi bag from Lidl) with jam and saucissant ( long haul salami great for fat an protein).
After a week, I'm getting better at this. Forget the glamour, traveling this way is arduous - without interesting scenery, it's all about hitting the mileage. On a tough day, snapshots of encouragement come in different forms without warning; it could anything from seeing a fellow cycle tourer coming the other way with a thumbs up, or a youth shouting a perceived 'hurry up mate'.
400m up and round the corner I'm sure I heard a gun shot. Being on the bike is a great way of taking in the sounds of place. During my second night in sleeping in a midge ridden den, I woke to the sound of what I assumed were stags fighting. The barking noise permeating through the quite buzz of the forest was intense. Shrieking, barking and butting had me on edge. I passed though hundreds of kilometres of wheat farm land and a whole lot of deserted ghost towns ending in 'ville' in a south easterly sweep below Paris.
Water here costs 17 cents for 2 litres, I had been determined not to pay for water having gone to the extremes of getting a water filter; but for that price It's no worries. I have yet to use a lot of my cycle gear; bike lights, swimming stuff, fuel bottle for stove, tea ( I'm into coffee now, big bag mixed with sugar), bike spares as few examples. I'm in a state of constant rearrangement of kit; the ortlieb handle bar bag is great to use especially when it's raining.
On route to Switzerland
I seem to spend all my time sitting down, whether it be on the bike or the floor, grass verge, bus shelter or concrete block. I'm currently on route to Switzerland to see my sister who is working out there, it'll be a nice opportunity for some rest after this first stage. I'm looking forward to the territory I'll be getting into a few days from now. I've just slept by a railway station for the second time and as I pass through towns, the stations are a constant taunt. 4 days bike or six hours train? But, that being said, part of what's great about travelling this way is seeing the emergence of communities and subtle changes along the way. One things for sure, there's a palpable increase in energy when you get to a bigger town. This may be different next week as all villages have signs up for celebration; I should really find out why. Probably a historic anniversary or maybe the harvest which is in full swing (many insects get kicked up when cycling).
Into the wild
The wild camping has been 50/50 in the sense that right now I'm camped in a field that's uncultivated hidden from the road behind some thick brash where there's a good bed of long grass and a verge to sit on. I can stand and walk around without being seen, and don't have to worry about an early wake up call from a tractor.
The kit I have is holding up well. The ortlieb roller plus panniers have been flawless but the bar bag took in water via soaking around the lid due to being a material and not solid plastic. A note book at the top of the bag continued taking on the water reminding me to write with waterproof ink. I solved this issue with a plastic sheet bridging the permeating area. On the rear panniers I found I had to re-tighten the vertical fixing swing arm which had moved; this was to be expected considering the clips on the horizontal rails aren't fixed. I've got a couple of dhb omnicrom freeride jerseys for cycling, they have a great loose fit with a wipe panel for my sunglasses. No punctures yet; fantastic. I'm loving my Schwalbe Marathon Tour plus tyres. I've even heaved the bike through brambles to get to camping spots; probably pushing my luck a bit.
Oh, there's a crack in my frame which I think may have been there before, I'm monitoring it closely. French car garages seem reluctant to weld it. Another word on the bar bag; magnetism prevents use of a compass, although bikes in general create slight distortion. And yes I did nearly do a loop in Northern France figuring this out. The picture below shows a nice trick to save the lower headset cup from the water and grit coming of the road. Just a slice of old inner tube; bit of a squeeze getting it over the forks though. I'm rolling with no speedo, but from the map, my average distance per day is 90km. Yesterday as I began to exit wheat land, there was a tourist attraction that noted its providence, I may skip that one. Cheers for reading and roll on Suisse.