Wednesday, 27 July 2011

100 cols - Massif Central

As I was assembling my bike in a hotel room in Dijon I tried not to look through the window to the depressing sight of the dark rainy morning. It was not a very promissing start of the tour. But once you dive into it, the rain is not such a disaster. Besides, it passes eventually, and in the case of this very first day of the tour, it passed before I hit the streets of Dijon.

The first few days were rainy.
The nature of this tour became evident very soon. The cue sheets that I made according to the roadbook of 100 cols tour were leading me through the secondary roads that I would never find if I had navigated by the map. The route was winding among vineyards, forests and quiet little villages and was a pure joy to cycle. There were many climbs, but very nice, with fantastic long descents. Whoever traced this route really deserves a medal. Navigating with cue sheets was easy, and after I got the grip of it, very fast, although I had to check with the locals when the roadsigns were ambiguous or when road numbers had changed, or when there seemed to be a mistake in the cue sheet.

Fountains in the main squares of little villages were my major watering points - even if most of them had the sign "Eau non potable".
First few days were rainy, but that couldn't spoil the great feeling that I had from the start. My strategy was to wait out the heaviest downpours under a tree in a forest, and to cycle through drizzle or light rain and let the wind dry out what the rain had wetted. It worked great and I even enjoyed it as a part of adventure. If I got a midday menu for a reasonable price, the day was made perfect.

Main course of my afternoon menu. You can't cook this on your stove.
Having came from a country where Balkan behavior was not totally forgotten, I was pleased by the cultural manners of the French. From the ubiquitous "bon jour monsieur"'s and "merci monsieur"'s, polite and quiet conduct in public places, non-aggressiveness, gentle driving and respect toward cyclists, down to unobtrusive music in restaurants. I really could love living here.

I went through houndreds of nice little villages like this one.
From my hotel window.
Before the climb to Pas de Peyrol my front light slid from its bracket, fell on the road and cracked open spilling the batteries all over. I could find only three out of four batteries, so I couldn't check if the light was still functional. It didn't matter much for the 100 cols tour, but was essential for the Paris-Brest-Paris. The owner of the hotel where I stayed that night gave me the fourth battery to check the light. It was working, and morover, I could keep the battery for free. I mention this little incident, because it was the worst what happened to me during my five weeks in France.

View from the first serious pass on route - Pas de Peyrol.
Here it is.

After Pas de Peyrol.

Down the Pas de Peyrol.

The second most frequent plant in France - after vine.

Châteaux in every village.

What will become foie gras.
Days 1 to 7: 1032 km (min 131 km, max 166 km, average 147 km per day).  Total: 1032 km.
15 cols: Brancion, Percée, Quatre Vents, Crie, Casse Froide, Nuizières, Croix de l'Orme, Cassettes, Croix de l'Homme Mort, Limites, Pradeaux, Entremont, Eylac, Pas de Peyrol, Bruel.

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