Les Carrieres de LumieresSeptember 4, 2019 in France ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C
We always expected that today was going to be a hard day at the office, and that is exactly how it turned out to be. Ever since we arrived in Provence about 12 days ago, we have been subjected to an unbroken run of hot weather. Considering we had arrived directly from the middle of a cold Melbourne winter, the weather has certainly been our biggest challenge.
To make matters even worse, the forecast keeps changing every day. After our hot stay in Caumont Sur Durance, we were led to believe that the hot weather would cease as soon as we begun the bike and boat section. It didn't. In fact the sequence keeps being extended every time we read a new forecast. It is now appearing that we will not get any real relief until we travel up to Nevers next Monday.
Today's ride was not only going to be the longest day so far, but it also had the toughest climb of the entire week. Our cycling guide had tried to encourage us by telling us that he once had a 92 year old complete the climb, however he failed to mention what sort of weather conditions the cycling Methuselah had completed his epic ride in. He also did not say exactly how long it took them,
Of course, before we reached the climb we stopped at the town of St Remy de Provence. To our delight, we arrived right in the middle of an enormous market. The women in particular squealed with delight at the prospect of being able to buy even more stuff that they didn't need. I bought a leather belt for 5 Euro. The vendor truthfully told me that it "was not made in France". "Ce n'est pas possible" he explained.
The market spread out over a huge area, and we never did manage to fully explore it. I managed to lose Maggie in the first 3 minutes, but I was happy to find an ice cream seller and a fruit vendor selling punnets of wonderful raspberries and blackberries. That meant that lunch was taken care of.
Although it was only shortly after noon, the sun was already beating down relentlessly and the temperature was soaring back into the 30s. I should also be honest in pointing out that I am not a climber. In fact I am not precisely sure of exactly what I am, but climbing does not come naturally for me. It may be due to the fact that I am a rolly polly sort of guy who has to work about 60% harder that the tiny fly weight riders like Russell, Vicki and Kay.
As we began the much anticipated climb I could feel the sun beating on my face. I slid the gear selector down to the lowest ratio and hoped I could find some lower ones. The sweat started flowing and my breath started huffing. I tried not to look at the road ahead and to just keep the pedals turning.
I thought I was doing all right until a tiny shadow flew past on my left. At first I thought that it might have been just a speck on my glasses or a little dragonfly, but that would not have explained where the singing was coming from. It turned out to be Russell - apparently a tiny puff of wind had collected him and blown him straight to the top of the mountain,
At the half way point the group assembled to decide whether or not to take the option of a lift to the summit. I am sure that several were sorely tempted, but the Ghostriders are built of exceptional stuff and the entire group decided to keep pedalling. The expectant van driver had to leave without a single fare. We later were told by the guide that this was the first time that had happened.
About a kilometre further on I became aware that my nose had started bleeding. This is something that I have suffered intermittently from for over 40 years, but the timing could not have been worse. I had no choice but to pull over and wait for the bleeding to stop. The rest of the group left me haemorrhaging and continued their slow grind to the top.
I won't labour over the rest of the details of the climb, suffice to say that I did finally make the top. The crest of the mountain is marked by the medieval village of Les Beaux de Provence. This has now become a huge tourist mecca, complete with a succession of tour buses and thousands of tourists. Not exactly my type of place.
The main reason we had chosen to ride to this spot was not to see the thousands of tourists cramming in the village, but to experience Les Carrieres de Lumieres. This is an amazing sound and light display that has been set up in an unused Bauxite mine. I was just glad that it was cool inside. I took a seat and pressed my back against the cold rock. It turned out to be a bad idea. The sudden change of temperature caused my back to spasm and left me in agony. It took all my resolve to hobble to the cafetaria to get a coffee (actually two). The young assistant took pity on me and filled my drink bottle with ice and water. There are some advantages to looking about 92 years of age after all.
We still had a long and hot ride of around 30 km to get to our boat at Arles. The final few km through the busy centre of the city were particularly stressful. By the time we arrived, we were all exhausted and spent the first twenty minutes rehydrating and trying to recover from the heat. Fortunately the evening meal was easily the best of the cruise so far. That was a popular end to a very tiring day.Read more