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Geotag Icon A small milestone in Aquitaine

Blog posted by on Apr 3rd, 2009
Huw at 1000 kilometres, Aquitaine, France. © Listen to Africa.

Huw at 1000 kilometres, Aquitaine, France. © Listen to Africa.

Yesterday, somewhere along the Canal de Garonne in Aquitaine, we pedalled our one thousandth kilometre. It amazes me that all those little turns of the pedal really do add up, and suddenly you find you’ve nearly crossed a country. We booked ourselves into a hotel to celebrate, and Huw cooked a meal by firing up our stove in the bathtub.

We’re in vineyard country: the hillsides are covered with rows of stumpy vines and white-flowering plum orchards. We’ve seen bats and heard owls and woodpeckers. While we’ve had occasional glimmers of southern European warmth – dry-grassed and humming with insects – it’s mostly been cold and misty. Our efforts to enjoy the cold while it lasts collapsed when it dipped to minus five one night; we lay in our one season sleeping bags, watching ice form on the tent and willing Africa closer.

Frozen tap. © Listen to Africa

Frozen tap

Mostly, we’ve been making fair progress. This is partly thanks to the occasional ex-cycle tourer keen to pedal with us, show us the local sights and chat about past tours. They’re invariably lean, weathered men in their 60s or 70s, and they’re all far fitter than we are. We fly along at their pace, too embarrassed to take our usual breaks every hour or so, and collapse on the verge as soon as they’re out of sight.

Our progress has been hindered by two things: a mild knee injury and an abundance of tractor museums in this part of France. The knee injury was the result of a 93-kilometre day, and gave us an excellent excuse to take a couple of days off to drink wine rest with a friend who was in France for a few days. We took a train to meet her, leaving the bikes in the care of a generous Yorkshire couple running a campsite. (They bought it five years ago and moved over here shortly after that, when they realised their campsite managers were sitting in the sun while they were working 13 hour days in coal plants back in Yorkshire. “It just weren’t right,” said Gary, with a big grin on his suntanned face, looking delighted with the way life had turned out.)

The tractor museums: Huw is an agricultural engineer by training, and I’ll just say I now know more about soil engaging implements than I could ever have hoped.

Plum trees and vineyards. © Listen to Africa

Plum trees and vineyards

The quest for calories continues. Huw has a higher embarrassment threshold and worse French than I do: a bad combination, for me. I often find myself having to ask for extra calories served up in bizarre ways (two bowls of pasta carbonara with extra bowls of plain pasta on the side, say), eliciting withering stares of disdain for the deep ignorance of the English for all things food-related.

So here we are, in a McDonalds’ (we succombed to the call of free wi-fi) in Aquitaine, heading east – first to stay with old friends to catch up, rest a bit and generally sort ourselves and the website out (we’ll be putting up our first galleries and, hopefully, sound recordings from there), and then onwards to the Mediterranean coast and the boat that will take us to Morocco.

This little milestone is the first of 24, according to our not-very-thorough route planning. Now that we’ve done one thousand kilometres – albeit on tarmac roads with more than our fair share of tailwinds – reaching two thousand, somewhere in Morocco, seems a little more probable. And if we can do two thousand, we can do three thousand, somewhere in the Sahara. The world seems a little smaller, in a good way.

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  1. Hello Bex and Huw,
    Such a treat to get so much news during Huw’s globe-trotting. Excellent blog Bex – nice picture, too, but I wish Huw would lose the hat! Looking forward to hearing from you again when you reach Toulouse, if not before then. Hope the knee injury soon clears up.
    Love to you both.

  2. Congrats on 1000KM! well done, So only 23 more of those? It’ll be a doddle.

    I love the stories of the ex-cycle tourers, and collapsing on the grass as soon as they’ve gone. Bet they don’t pop into macdonalds either.

    All the fruit blossom is out in Stoke Newington, woodpeckers can be heard in the park and even on New River Walk on the way to the office. Obama flew over the garden yesterday in a whole formation of chenooks and other helicopters.

    love from london xxx

  3. Congrats on the milestone, very impressive! Have you got odometers on your bikes?

    Don’t feel guilty about using McDonald’s. I’ve been having a ‘discussion’ with members of the Stokey Transition Town group about Google Groups and how apparently they’re ‘not transition enough’. Use the tools you have to get the job done, I reckon. Just don’t give them any money.

    As Daphne says, London is indeed blooming and it was beer garden weather today. Bex – you were missed at the E-campaigning Forum this week, lots of people asking after you.

  4. Dear Rebecca,

    Congratulations on the 1.000 miles covered.

    It was nice “meeting” Huw. Excellent picture too. Would love to see you in the picture as well. The one with the beer by your side did not show you very well. You wrote “the hillsides are covered with rows of stumpy vines and white-flowering plum orchards. We’ve seen bats and heard owls and woodpeckers”. Do you realize how wonderful is your writing? Your mother must be very proud.

    Your Brazilian friend,

    Maria Helena

  5. Becca & Huw

    I have not been good at following you so far but am getting into it now! You already sound as if you are
    having fun and a laugh at the expense of the locals – or not so locals. We look forward to much more
    of this….. life at Ravenswing continues in a sort of normal way…kids are on holidays but emma studying
    hard (apparently!) for her GCSE’s rest of us up to our usual hectic lifestyle. we have the family here on easter
    sunday so if you can call or give us a number to call you that would be great!

    Love to you both,

    Mo Dave Emma & Chris

  6. Thanks folks!

    Val, thanks and I know what you mean about the hat! The knee’s fine now, and enjoying our very lazy time here at Salvagnac (Huw’s right at home here – surrounded by sheep and chickens).

    Daf, ooh lovely. Good to hear news of London. And that was nice of Obama to fly over your garden ;-)

    Jamie, yep we have odometres (although we’re thinking of making covers for them – you can get a bit obsessed with watching the kilometres click by instead of noticing what’s going on around you)… I know it’s sad but I was actually thinking of you all at the e-campaigning forum and wondering how it was all going. Good luck with the TT site :)

    Maria Helena, obrigada! Hmm, you may find that pictures of me start appearing in about two months’ time (if I keep losing 6 kilos a month)…!

    Mo, glad you’ve found your way to the website! Love to you all and speak on Sunday.

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