Day 3: Carolles to Cancale (86km)
I discovered previously in life (while pottering alone around Siberia) that I require at least one conversation per day to keep sane.
A conversation for this purpose is defined as a verbal dialogue with both parties speaking in turn. It must contain another person (not just the voices in your head) and preferably be in person rather than on the phone. It must contain an exchange of opinions rather than merely an exchange of facts. This is to differentiate it from a formulaic exchange such as “please can I have a fish and a beer” (which one day in deepest Russia is the only thing I said to another living being).
Having only spoken briefly to the man in the tourist information yesterday and uttered “bonjour” to some passing cyclists then by mid morning I was bordering on the edge.
Down the road I spied two touring bicycles neatly packed with Ortliebs and, across the road, a couple of cyclists sipping coffee.
“You’re German aren’t you?” I offered by way of greeting.
They nodded. Yes! I congratulate myself on having been able to identify the cyclists’ nationality simply from the look of their bikes. I grasped, in a combination of bad English and worse French, that the two Germans had spent the last fortnight cycling from Amsterdam and were now headed to Nantes along Veloroute 4. With enough enthusiasm anyone can talk to anyone. I recall a long conversation I had with my cabin-mate on the ferry to Japan. She spoke no English. I spoke very, very limited Japanese and yet we chatted somehow for an hour, learning about each other’s lives. The German tourers were not such conversationalists and, having realised that my school girl French had disintegrated into a stuttering mess, I pedalled off the wrong side of my definition of conversational sanity.
From the edge of the poppy field this morning, Le Mont St Michel was only a grey outline of a jagged triangle. I headed south along the coast of the the Baie de St Michel, before hopping over a bridge to a cross the estuary and continuing west along Veloroute 4.
Though my legs felt strong and were pedalling well it was slow going on account of having to navigate so much. The path cut in and out of crop fields, past verges of thick wild flowers, under skylarks, along a river and over crumbling bridges. The further west I pedalled the clearer the view of Le Mont became: first a shadow, then a line of wall, the details of St Michel were gradually sketched in as I approached.
Two hours later and Le Mont was only a grey shadow behind me when I pull up on the side of the road to swap my drink bottles around. It is late afternoon and the water in my bottle had warmed under the sun.
On the other side of the road another cycle tourer pulled up. He wore a small beard and John Lennon glasses. Definitely French, I thought, eyeing up his panniers. He waved from across the main road.
“Where ‘ve you cycled…” Zoom. A car whips by.
“I started in…” Zoom. Another car. “Er..” Zoom. A van. “And now…” Zoom.
A tractor rolls by. We stare blankly at each other across the road.
After five minutes of hearing ever other word he rolls across the road. (Why didn’t I think of that?) The Frenchman’s bike is neatly packed with panniers full to the brim. Stuffed inside his bottle cages are white school-boy sport socks.
“Does that work?” I ask, nodding at the sock covered bottles.
“Yes, it works,” he beamed. “You need metal bottles and you need to put the socks in water. But it works.” I make a mental note to try it out one time. I reckon that it could be handy if/when I cycle across Australia.
We discuss important cycling topics: kit, the respectively weight of our panniers, the kilometres travelled, the weather. Before he turns to go he pauses and adds one more thing:
“Brittany. It is more…” He waves his hand up and down like a diving fish.
My sanity has been restored.