The wind doesn’t care. It doesn’t care if you’re essentially benign and charitable and do wonderful things for other people. It doesn’t care how tired you are or what direction you are going in. The wind just is, and when it just is and it’s heading your way, you’d be best advised to make alternative travel arrangements.
My eve of stage peek at the weather forecast made for uncomfortable reading: 30mph gusts and a steady blow all the way, but especially when tracking west. Sometimes, when it rains, I feel a sense of joy. When it’s really windy and I’m on the bike I feel savagely depressed and angry. The relentless fury and the futility of forwards motion wipes out very quickly any bonhomie I had saved up for the occasion.
I opted for a different route, heading to Narbonne instead, at which point I could review and decide to make up the difference on the train to Carcassonne, or ride directly into the mad lens of the mistral like a crazed idiot, full of sound and fury.
The opening bits were a combination of amazing Voie Verte and utterly filthy, sandy lanes. I’m all for the off road car free option, except when I have to find a twig with just enough bend and structural integrity in order to scrape the plasticene out from under the mudguard and avoid the swelling corpse of a wild boar.
It was scenic riding, with the majestic Pyrenees looking over my shoulder.
I ran along the coast. The nearer and straighter I got, the more violent the headwind. It was really horrible stuff. I turned a corner onto a strange spit of land existing between a canal and a lagoon, and was reduced to 4mph. It became a battle of wills, although it’s not like there was any other option.
I saw flamingos, lots of them, and egrets and eagles and herons. I saw a great egret lift off, slowly and with immense effort. Once it emerged above the bank it hurtled backwards into and away on the wind as though yanked backwards on an invisible leash, woomph. The wind didn’t care. Even the flamingos copped a load of abuse.
Things became harder the closer I got to Narbonne. I stopped at fifty miles, it’s not a competition to see if I can ride every millimetre of the way. I ate my first omelette of the trip and it was a good one. It only took one abortive cafe visit, and the first round of the great “what is meat?” existential game I like to play in France:”sans viande SVP”, no that doesn’t mean “seulement un petit peu de jambon” makes it ok. I then pegged it to get the train. I was reassured that two other cyclo-tourists had the same idea, they were Americans called Doug and Gen and they had battered themselves into submission fighting against the claws of the invisible beast. They also had their cat with them (very much a visible best), which is possibly the most exciting and unreal thing I’ve seen for a while. I can’t retell it, there is a link.
France doesn’t do lifts at stations. No good for cats in trailers or disabled people.
Carcassonne is beautiful. It’s also very touristy, which is a bit frustrating when you also happen to be a tourist. There is no way to not be a tourist when you are one. It’s like being a dad. You dance funny. Children laugh at you. There’s no escape. I walked round like a tourist then got really really hungry so went back to the new town and ate all the food in the departement, including the flamingos.