After many delays I have finally made it to France. I was so anxious about missing the ferry again that I just woke up at 6am, half an hour before my alarm. I’ve done so few miles in the last two days that my body must be raring to go. Unfortunately I awoke to the sound of rain and I had slept in a dry mud area, so not only did I have to pack up a wet tent, it also picked up a muddy residue whilst I was rolling it up. One thing I’ve noticed is that wet days and nights are never quite done with you once the rain has stopped. today I unrolled my sleeping bag and found it all damp because i kept it next to the tent in my panniers. That wetness also works its way inside the tent through contact, so when you climb in you sit on a wet surface. It’s not exactly as cold as it was in Scotland, but being wet is never fun.
There were quite a few tourers heading to France, but none were good looking females so I couldn’t be bothered to start a conversation, so I just settled into the four hour ferry journey. There weren’t any good maps on the ferry so it looks like I’ll have to make do with my wet one which is still very fragile and I have to fold it so it fits in my handlebar bag. I’m hoping it will last the trip. I’ve had to remove the binding in order to fold it, so you know at some point I’m going to lose grip and the wind is going to blow the pages away. I’ll make sure you know when it happens.
There have been two challenges today. Firstly, the rain, which hasn’t stopped all day, and is not what I wanted my first day in France to be like. The second is the road signs. It’s almost identical to the UK system except that the signs before a road junction don’t give you advanced warning of the road numbers, the road number appear on the sign at the junction, so it’s only once you’ve gone passed the junction that you realise you were meant to take that turning. I’ve had to do a few U-turns today as a result, but I’m getting the hang of it. You never can count on the French to get it right. Today was also the first time I could test out my French language skills which I had been practicing in my head for a while now. The problem was that even though I was talking French, I already knew the translation, and when the first person spoke to me my only response was “err..”. I think the chit chat over the next month will be minimal.
The first class delivery actually worked and I now have a fully fit bicycle which should now last the distance, and if it doesn’t, I have spares and the knowledge to deal with it. I’m feeling much better about everything now. I’ve still got to do 3000 miles in 35 days which won’t be easy, but it’s better than it could have been. Of course it would have been 36 days but I managed to miss the only ferry on a Saturday from Newhaven, so now I’ve got to do even more hanging about. I wanted to go and see the seven sister country park which are some amazingly pristine white cliffs on the coast of the south of England and only a few miles down the road. By the time I was done, the boat had sailed. I began my hanging around, as usual, with lunch. A nice big salad bowl and a cheesecake, which seems like a balanced meal to me. There 2500 calories in that cheesecake and I just couldn’t quite finish it, which made me feel ashamed. The place I had sat was on a busy cycle and quite a few tourers were passing by, the south coast is a popular destination. One of them walked by with a flat tyre and I offered to help. he was an Icelandic guy called Christian and he had only decided to go last night, packed up this morning and took his friends bike. He was woefully under prepared and had no pump or spare tubes and only managed about ten miles. We sat and chatted for a bit trying to fix his bike, but there wasn’t enough time for the glue to dry, so he decided to walk on and get some tubes when the shops opened on Monday. Good luck to him, I gave him some advice so he should be better off next time. Aside from it being the kind thing to do, I think I stopped him just so I had someone to talk to and help me pass the time. however, the next thing I did was a stroke of genius.
I may have mentioned that my map of France got wet when my water sacks leaked. It was a rooky mistake to put my maps and water in the same bag and it won’t happen again. But this afternoon I spent my time gleefully separating 300 pages of wet paper so I could use it again. A few pages have ripped, but all 300 of them are now separated and I have a map I can now use. I’m hoping I can buy a new one on the ferry tomorrow, but if I can’t then at least I’m in France with a map of France. Time excellently spent I think. I’ve just got to get up in the morning to catch the 8am ferry and there isn’t another one until 10pm so I’m really hoping I don’t sleep through my alarm. I’m now waiting for it to get dark in a field and happen to have attracted the attention of some cows in the next field, so I think I’ll go and say hello. That’s how desperate I am for someone to talk to.
I tried to get up early this morning because I wasn’t happy with the place I had slept and was too at risk from an irate farmer who might have a genuine appeal for foul play. The problem was that all the fields in the area were too well locked up or in view of passersby, making each field the wrong choice. It was the case of choosing the least bad option and hoping no one would notice. I got off scott free, but I still had to endure the anxiety of feeling like you might get caught.
It wasn’t long before I was in Brighton and started my search of Rayment Cycles. I had phoned ahead on Wednesday to order a spare axle just in case my new one broke again and needed to pick it up. It wasn’t too difficult to find as I had the address and there were plenty of postmen out on delivery to ask for directions. I did feel a bit guilty going into a bike shop and asking for directions to another bike shop, but they are most likely to know where the other shops are. Whilst I was there I asked them to look at my rear wheel again, they said they would squeeze me into their schedule but I’d have to hang around in Brighton for a few hours. Hanging about is not my forte, all I did was go and sit in a square and eat lunch for two hours. I’ve got to try and make a list of things to do in a city when you’re bored and without a bike, as it seems to be happening quite often.
I got the phone call that my bike was ready for pick up and was told that there was a left over problem with my free hub body. They had managed to patch it up if I wanted to continue, and the mechanic could speak to a guy he knew in Chamonix, France where I could get a replacement, or I could place an order today and hope the postman could deliver by tomorrow morning. I’ve decided not to risk it and have put my life in the hands of the postal service, probably not a good idea. Brighton is really too big to be able to walk out of and find a field for the night, so I’ve stopped in a Premier Inn, had a long shower, washed my clothes in the sink and have watched TV all day. There are worse things than being stuck in Brighton, like being stuck in Weymouth.