When I woke this morning (well, ‘woke’ is used to refer to the time of the day that people generally wake rather than the actual physical activity of stopping sleeping which happened many hours earlier), the pitter patter of raindrops got me thinking about my plans for the day. Above all I needed to avoid a repeat of the day when I cycled to Arcachon with a wet tent and arrived at my destination when it was raining. It made camping an impossibility. I needed to be guaranteed of either departing with a dry(ish) tent or arriving in sunny(ish) weather. The forecast was hopeful for the afternoon but the morning and evening was down as rainy. I sat and waited…
Actually I didn’t just sit. I sat in the tent and packed everything up in the expectation that the rain would at some point stop and I would be able to wrap up a dry(ish) tent. Much to my delight that’s just what happened and by the time I was ready to dismantle the tent the sun was shining just a little and the tent itself was more or less dry. All I needed now was to arrive at my destination before the rain returned. Where would that be? Well, there was a municipal site at a place called Le Porge-Océan, 60km from Gujan-Mestras. I chatted with the French guy on the pitch next to mine and he did mention the ferry that I could catch from Arcachon to Cap Ferret but that would mean cycling back in the direction that I had come. I was happy to keep following the Velodyssée around the bay. Off I set.
The cycle can be split into three parts; a shortish ride east to the corner of the Arcachon Bay, a longer section north along the eastern side of the bay and then back into the forests for a cycle near the coast to Le Porge-Océan. Nothing to report about part 1. Nope. Nothing comes to mind apart from overshooting slightly the corner of the bay and having to compensate slightly. Part 2 was along a disused railway track that has now been converted into a cycle track. It was long and straight. Long and straight to the point of boredom setting in. On a couple of occasions I turned left away from the cycle track to have a look at what I was missing along the strip of development by the bay but didn’t venture too far as I was keen to ensure that I didn’t lose the route I was following. Drops of rain occasionally fell but I kept cycling. Part 3 would have been a relief simply because it was not so straight; back to the winding forest paths that I had become accustomed to on the cycle to Arcachon on Friday. Alas the quality of the paths was very different; for much of the time it was up and down stuff over roots that had embedded themselves below the Tarmac, at other times concrete had been used and the joins between each section – every few metres – had, over the years opened into ridges that made for uncomfortable riding. For some stretches the path was simply in bad condition. Not so much Velodyssée as Mountain Bike Odyssée and alas, I was not cycling a mountain bike. Reggie was being shaken like he has rarely been shaken since leaving Albania back in 2013.
The highlight of the day was seeing the magnificent sea when I again moved away from the cycle track to the west. I ignored the ‘no cycling’ signs and trundled along the wooden walkway in the direction of the coast for a couple of hundred metres. The size of the ocean was immense; much taller than it looks in a ‘normal’ setting and the crashing of the waves against the beach as impressive as it was loud. I sat and stared…
When I located the municipal campsite at Le Porge-Océan is was quiet, too quiet. None of the facilities were open and there were few, if any, campers. Even the woman on reception said that if I wanted to find food I would be better continuing to Lacanau-Océan about 15km along the coast (although she thought it was just 6km). That is what I did along an increasingly poor quality track. I’m having serious thoughts about continuing to cycle north on the ordinary roads; I do, after all, have a bike that needs to be able to cycle all the way to Nordkapp.
Lacanau-Océan seemed like a metropolis upon arrival albeit a surfers one. I found the sandy Camping Airotel l’Océan just outside the town and after a lengthy wait at the reception – the first campsite to be remotely busy – I booked in and erected the tent… in the dry. It hasn’t rained yet. Once again I feel as though I’m doing them a favour by staying. The woman on reception was off hand and wasn’t in the least bit happy when I pointed out that her colleague had quoted me a price of €15 for the night only a few moments earlier compared to her €23. The guy in the supermarket when asked how much I owed him for the toilet tissues (non-provided in the loos) simply pointed at the display. I should have just pointed at my wallet in return and waited for a response. That, alas, is what the French call ‘l’esprit de l’escalier’; the things you should have said and done at the time if you’d thought about them. Those two members of staff aside it’s not a bad place to be spending the night. Unless, that is, the heavens open and turn the nice sandy pitch into a swamp. I have everything crossed.