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I woke up early the next morning at first light I packed up. I noticed that the tent next to mine was still unoccupied, taking a quick peek inside one and noticed some rotting food and half drunken bottles of alcohol. I took off as quickly as I could, my quotient for creepy shit had been met. I walked my bike up the giant hill that was right next to the camp ground, and took of on for Bordeaux. When it came to walking the ankle was a mess, thankfully once it got warmed up on the bike the joint didn’t have to move very much. There was nothing to wrap it with either, It was left in England. The vineyards where slowly turning into wheat fields again and very slowly everything started to turn into a very swampy wetland type area. The humidity rose to a point just below unbearable. I took my lunch in the shade of a little abandoned farm building whose stone was crumbling on one corner. My ankle had unfortunately swollen again and I knew I was going to need to rest for a couple of nights in Bordeaux. I hopped on my phone and decided to give Airbnb another try. After a few minutes of searching I found a place to stay, the cheapest option ended up being the one right in the center of the city. My respite ended and I hopped back in the saddle on my way to Bordeaux. Elated I made it to the Dore river with its bridge spanning over the 500 meters of water, Only a few more miles I thought.
My elation was soon dispelled when I found out that there was construction happening and they where only letting one side go over at a time because one lane was closed. I had encountered this before and it was not fun, most drivers are irritated to begin with that they are being slowed down. The last thing that they care about was a bike in their way. There was also a very narrow side walk area that was just skinny enough for me to cycle on. When the Light turned green I put the pedal down and got a good half way through the construction before it was time to mount the curb. The last half was spend slowly cycling on this narrow walkway until the full lane was cleared. I waited for one more waive of traffic to go through on my side and hopped back onto the street to clear the bridge. Soon after this debacle I made my way to through the city on the east side of the river Cenon.
I was happy to be back in the land of bike paths and sidewalks. Before long I was crossing over the Pont du Pierre bridge. The view from the bridge is absolutely fantastic, the only way I can describe it is that it is like a smaller version of Paris. It has a very similar ascetic feeling but is much more relaxed.
Right as I crossed the bridge my phone died, just my luck. I locked my bike up at a little mini market and went in to see a charger strip laying on the floor. I purchased a coke and asked if I could charge my phone. The Store keeper had no problems, my phone charged enough after 10 min to make my way to the AirBnb which was right around the corner. I covered 62 miles to Bordeaux. I buzzed the door and was let into a small square that allowed entrance into the flats. My host, thank the gods was on the ground floor. Gabriel had a very angular face with long greasy hair that was pushed back over his head, he greeted me with a sly smile and showed me where I could stow my bags and where I would be sleeping, a small Japanese style room with 4 sleeping mats. My nerves from my previous experience where immediately put at ease when I started noticing anime posters and fantasy books. Some packed others strewn about the flat. I walked down stairs with my host and noticed some board games. This guy was cool I thought to myself, he asked me about my travels and was surprised to learn about my cycling adventure. Gabriel was gracious enough to offer me a beer which I gladly accepted. I found out that he was a teacher and had just returned a few months ago from Japan where he was teaching French and English. He was my kind of people, we soon got into talking about board games and he was more then happy to look at some of my miniature art. By this point I was extremely tired, I thanked him again for the beer and made my way to up to rest. Right as I was about to lay down to get some sleep my two other room mates arrived, they where both Chinese. A guy and a girl. The guy was a physics student at the local university and the girl was just on vacation from Paris where she was a student . The girl was packing as her flight was in the morning. I made small talk getting to know them both a little bit before getting some sleep.
I slept in the next day got up and went directly to the hammock that was in the lounge area of the second floor in the flat. My Ipad was put to work that day. All I did was chat with friends back home and watch Netflix. I wanted to stay off of my foot as much as possible. around noon I returned to my room, ate and then went back to the hammock for a siesta. I woke up and called home to consult with my main trip adviser my dad. After a lengthy discussion I came to the conclusion to cut the tour short and only do 3-4 more days to San Sebastian. Later that evening A middle aged Hungarian guy with a incredibly strong north English accent showed up. I think he would have been easier to communicate if he just stuck with Hungarian. This dude was loud, all he wanted to do was get drunk and party, and he wanted me to join him. I showed him my swollen ankle and he stopped asking. Thankfully his crazy energy and pension for telling stories of his alcohol induced adventures was pure comedy. Soon after he arrived a English lad from London showed up, he quickly became the focus of the Hungarian, after about a hour of pestering convinced him to go out. They took off and I went to bed, 4 hours later they showed up and the Hungarian was fireman carrying the poor Englishman up the stairs of our cramped flat. He was still barely conscious. They both where actually very polite despite their drunkenness, the Hungarian regaled me with the tale of how they snuck into a club, got thrown out, went to another bar where upon the Hungarian challenged the Brit to a drinking game which obviously he lost. The whole time he kept switching into Hungarian and I had to remind him that I didn’t speak any Hungarian to which he would chuckle. The British kid just was laughing the whole time the Hungarian told me his tail occasionally hiccuping. Almost on Que after finishing his story they both passed out and slept like babies The Chung just sat in his corner of the room wide eyed with a look of shock and awe that two humans could be so drunk.
The Next morning My ankle was still not doing so hot. I asked Gabriel If i could stay one more night as the Airbnb room was booked and he agreed that as long as I could pay him the nightly rate he was more then happy to have me. I threw my shoes on and made my way onto the rainy streets of Bordeaux. There was a market going on near the church I explored it on my way to check out the beautiful Basilica of Saint Michael.
The 15th century church was stunning inside and out with beautiful paintings and architecture. These places are like small museums.
money in hand I headed back to the flat, after paying Gabriel I relocated to the couch on the second floor which was in all honesty much more comfortable then the Japanese sleeping mats. That night I crashed early.
The next day I woke up and thanked Gabriel before packing and making my way to my bike. My ankle was feeling a good bit better. It wasn’t quite as swollen but was still quite painful. I took a couple of ibuprofen and started to make my way to the coast. It didn’t take me long to get out of the city due to the amount of bike lanes and eventually I was back on the country roads. Again my surroundings where changing in front of me, the deciduous trees where giving way to pines.
There was less and less dirt and more and more sand. Some how my GPS put me on a sandy road, more then once I had to hop off the bike and walk it through a particularly sandy patch. Before long I made it to Arcachon I found the municipal campground but there was no attendant. I checked my Gps and discovered that I had only cycled 39 miles. I remembered Matt Cexwich recommending a stay at the Dune De Pilat. which happened to only be 16 miles away. Why the hell not, my ankle was doing ok. Eventually I made my way onto a path system that fallowed the coast line and I made it to the camp in no time at all.
The Camp was literally at the base of the sand dune, It took me back to memories as a child camping with my family near lake Michigan. It made me homesick but it also brought forth those childhood memories of a time before my family began the chaotic life of constant travel which was to become the norm of my life. 56 Miles down! It was still early in the day and I decided that I was going to climb that sand dune. Even without my ankle being sore this would have been a challenging climb. At 110 meters above sea level it is Europe’s largest sand dune. I climbed and climbed, occasionally on my hands and knees because of how steep it was. For those familiar with the area you might be thinking “why didn’t you take the stairs?” They where covered with sand. The last 10 feet I couldn’t look up unless I wanted to be blinded by falling sand. Winds whipped the sand over the crest of the dune.
The last 3 feet I had to keep my eyes shut crawling blindly grasping with my hands until I felt the summit. When I fully crossed over and stood up I witnessed one of the most magnificent sights of my life. Light had barely broken through the clouds and was skittering over the Atlantic coast. I leaned into the violent winds as they battered sand across my body and face, slowly covering my feet. The winds howled and I could hear the sound of sand being picked up and then rustling all around me. I started crying at the beauty around me, I have no shame saying this. I just stood there bracing myself against nature and for the first time in a long time I felt very alive. Is this a cliche? Yes but there’s no other way I can describe how I felt
I made my way back down the hill to my camp, I showered and went for a little dinner at the camp ground restaurant. I had Pizza and a coffee, having no warm food after a few days it was delicious. A Eurocup game was on and France was playing, more and more people came to the restaurant and before halftime the joint was packed. Thankfully I had a cozy little corner with a plug to charge my phone. A black Lab was walking around, He an I quickly became best friends for the rest of the match.
With the match ended every one made their way back to their campsites. The sand and the sleeping mat made for absolute camping comfort I snuggled up in my sleeping bag and fell asleep to the whipping wind, crashing waves and rain softly falling on my tent.
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