Saddle sores


1140 km in 16 hours. Let me say that again. One thousand, one hundred and forty kilometres, in sixteen hours. That’s what it took me to ride to my holiday destination from Rotterdam right across France diagonally to the south west. Four fuel stops and a lunch break. Time of departure from Holland 3 am. Just call me crazy. I was past Paris by 9 am, enjoying the view of the Loire river and many chateaus by 1 pm (I stopped at a little town called Amboise for lunch), and I was in Parentis-en-Born by 7 pm.

Talk about traffic though, it seems the whole of Europe was on the road heading on holiday. Lucky I was on a motorbike and could pass everyone. The courteousness was a pleasant surprise; most cars would see me coming up in their mirror and would move over to let me pass. What’s more, pretty much everyone on a motorbike waved at each other, no matter if you were leaning right over in a hard corner or accelerating past a line of traffic. Very friendly, I think the holiday fever has finally gripped everyone. Even scooter riders waved, but that’s just wrong.

Parentis-en-Born itself is situated on a medium sized lake which has half a dozen oil rigs on it. Quite fascinating to see and I don’t think it affects the water quality. The whole area is covered in pine forests planted by Napoleon to stop the very sandy area turning back into marsh. It makes the area relatively new as far as Europe is concerned and there’s a marked difference in style.

Beautiful weather abides here, except for the occasional lightening storm but only at night thankfully. Quite relaxing indeed and I managed to go for a run, swim, and cycle almost every day. It’s great to spend time with my Dutch relatives here otherwise I’d be by myself in the deep and dirty southwest of France.

I don’t wish to always be dwelling on this subject but us kiwis really must work on our vowels, at least while we’re travelling, it’s just creating too much confusion.

As Matthijs and I were setting up the tent he said “so we can now put the…ah…nails in…what do you call them?”
“Oh, pegs”
A smirk comes across his face, “you call them like the swine…”
“No pegs, not pigs.” I really had to say ‘pags’ to make it sound English.

Speaking of language, I was stopped once again while out cycling and asked by a Frenchman which way to a certain town. I actually knew the way and I pointed it out. So what does he do? He goes the complete opposite way. It leaves me asking myself, did he really not want to take directions from someone speaking French in an English accent? Either way he loses I guess. He can follow my directions and suffer the shame, nay the dishonour, of getting directions from an English speaker or he can go the wrong way and get lost. Like I said before though, I’ve never personally come across any prejudice or mockery towards English speakers so I’m probably doing him a great injustice. It’s highly likely he needed a place to turn around but that doesn’t make for good writing.

This may sound unpatriotic and it’s much to my chagrin that I say it but I’ve never actually tried surfing in NZ. No, in fact I first tried it on the other side of the world, Biscarosse plage in France to be exact. Not only did I try it in France but I was taught by a Dutchman – Matthijs. It was fun though and I’ll certainly be trying it when I get back.

One thing I have done plenty of, and managed to introduce to my relatives and tourists alike, is boogie boarding down sand dunes. I got a few funny looks walking up Dune du Pilat, the highest sand dune in Europe, with a boogie board. To be honest I thought I’d see heaps of people doing it but apparently throwing yourself off the top and hurtling at breakneck speed towards lethally sharp pine trees isn’t that appealing to the French. They’re just content to sit at the top and paint pictures of the beautiful views over the Basin de Arcachon or whatever it is they do. I soon changed that.

The sand was really light tan and had the consistency of hourglass sand. Perfect. I even drew a small crowd of tourists and one Dutchman said to me “are you sure you’re not going too fast?” What! Clearly he doesn’t grasp the point of the exercise.

During the holiday we also went horse riding and made a day trip to Bordeaux. Then came the ride back. I decided to do it in one day again. Apart from the intermittent chateaus, curves, and rivers the rest of the trip was mind, and bum, numbing. It was made worse by the fact that both my mp3 players ran out of battery shortly into the trip so I had to resort to singing to myself, mainly opera because that’s all I can hear over the wind rushing past my helmet. Oh, and the two Michaels featured strongly as well. Michael Jackson because that’s all they’ve been playing over here for the past few weeks, and Michael W. Smith because for some reason ‘Live the life’ was the only song in my mental playlist that I could remember all the words to, and the guitar solo. Awesome, it was like my very own live concert inside my helmet.

1090 km (I don’t know where I lost the 50 km on the return trip, I thought I went the same way) and 15 hours 45 minutes later I was back in Holland sweating from the memory of the 37 degree heat during the day and with a gear lever threatening to fall off through Belgium. Epic.