Every day I fear of having nothing of any great interest to write about. Today was no different. I don’t like to litter the blog with images of cathedrals and so forth. It’s a couple-out. Today’s blog was slightly different, given the fact it was going to be my last day of touring for a couple of weeks.
I mentioned earlier, only a twenty nine miles cycle today and the first twenty were covered in less than ninety minutes. I had nine miles to go. The GPS showed, make the next right turn. As I was approaching I could see the surface was loose, sand and small stone. This makes for great cycling. The wheels slip and slide, when the rear wheel slides out, you turn out, when the front slides out, you turn out. Effectively turning into the slide to create a level of balance again and keeping momentum whilst doing so. It takes an element of a natural ability and a lot of concentration. On occasions, it would appear the sensible option would be to brake and stop, this can lead to disaster, generally causing an ‘off’. The bike falls to the floor with you underneath it. The only option in this instance is to power through, keep pedalling. There are occasions where you can brake lightly but then power again. This maintains an adequate momentum as to not fall off. It also serves as safety mechanism so as not to increase speed beyond the riders ability. We have to remember, we are not in a race, nor I we professional riders. We are touring cyclists and our main purpose is to get from A to B as comfortable as possible.
I turn on to the loose surface, it’s passed dusk, but it’s not black. I can see the road as far ahead as my eyes will take me. I pondered momentarily how I would feel if the road turned into a dead end. I’d accept it and turn around. This was now sport, travelling at pace and keeping the bike in an upright position. I was in my element. The light started to fade quickly and my wheels started to take a bit of hammering when I hit pot holes because I couldn’t see in front of me too far ahead.
I was at a point where, you might say I was at a roundabout, there wasn’t a roundabout but I was looking at four potential routes, plus the route I was already on, made five. I’d already come to the dead end some time ago and was searching for a route to get me back on course. I didn’t want to turn around just yet. The light is fading quickly and I need my lights on. So, back to my position. My five point position. I could see a route I wanted to attempt. Before I could do so, I had to consider, how I could be certain to make the right turn when I arrived back at this point, should I have to turn around. There was a light in the distance, a long way away. I got off my bike and stood with my back to the direct light. I then looked at the path I would need to take should I have to return. I was confident I could make my way back with relative safety.
What was making this stretch of the journey more interesting, was that the paths I was cycling were breaking up fields. There were no street lights, I could only see the road because of the colour of the surface, sand. I took my turn, hoping to get back on track. Another dead end. It was apparent what was happening. These paths were clearly marked on the GPS mapping system, it showed no dead ends. It was the farmers in my opinion who had made a blockade with fencing and posts.
By now, I should have been at my destination. I turned around and made my way back to the five point position. I stopped, looked over my shoulder at the light, looked at the road I wanted, checked back over my shoulder and continued confidently. At this point I got the GPS to reroute. Now I had twenty four miles to go, on a pitch black, country lane sided by a wall of high trees. The light on my bicycle wasn’t adequate. The road was marked with a broken, white central line. I could only see ahead of me, to the distance of, half a length of a white line. I had a very powerful head light in my luggage, but I couldn’t be sure where. I couldn’t take the luggage off the bike, it was pitch black. I had to make do. On the very rare occasion I met with a car, I would see its lights, maybe up to half of one mile away. This gave me time to get off the road and into the verge to safety. I waited whilst the cars passed. I had no danger from the cars. I followed the tops of the trees, this identified the the bends and the severity of them.
Thankfully, the road surface couldn’t have been newer. Had it been old and uneven, I’d have had no choice but to walk. It sounds more dangerous than it was. My only fear was coming head to head with deer. If you imagine driving through any unlit forest at night, this was where I was. I remained cautious but also knowingly, the chance of encountering dear was slim. It’s a rare occasion an accident happens between a vehicle and deer.
Surprisingly I was still making good time. I’d plenty of energy and the bike was at its lightest. My host, the owner of the farm was expecting me around 7.00pm. I detest being late, but I thought if I could make it no later than 7.30pm, this would be acceptable. I wasn’t frantic, I hadn’t panicked, I got on with the job in hand. To get from A to B. Of course there are going to be misadventures. How can there not be, when travelling thousands of miles? You do learn though, it’s what’s known as experience. My headlight from now on, will travel up front with me.
I got to the sleepy village, the nearest village to the farm. Quite remarkably I stumbled across the public phone Gonçalo had told me about. ‘What happened’, he said? I’ll tell you later’. He picked me up, we went to the farm. A beautiful house in a beautiful location. The downside, I’d got two weeks ahead of me being in s freezing cold house. I was shivering and my breath was showing.
He made dinner by putting a pan in the wood burning stove. We had very burnt veg. It wasn’t adequate for me, I had a freshly made fruit smoothie. The stove was set inside an inglenook fireplace. We sat almost inside the fireplace, on the smallest of chairs, not much bigger than you’d get in a Wendy House, and still freezing cold. We chatted until late, getting to know each other. We got on well. I went to my living quarters to sleep. Sleep, how could I? I was in a fridge and with every small movement I made, I was fighting off cramp. I wasn’t working tomorrow, I’d already told him. Tomorrow was a day of rest and a venture out to the supermarket. I couldn’t eat the way Gonçalo did, I would be as Ill as he was.
He stood ringing wet at 55kg, with cheek bones at attention, sunken cheeks. suffering with mineral deficiency, anaemia, and, having to have blood transfusions prior to the age forty.
Things had to change and they would tomorrow. I’d have to bring normality back into my daily routine. Eating properly, just normally, that would do it. As for the extremist, anarchist, attempting world changer, all to his own chronic detriment, he was never going to change. If being hospitalised had’nt changed his ways, nothing would. The poor guy is a wreck.