The trailer, the bicycle and the rest of my luggage are in the trunk of the car. It is time to say one last goodbye. I am sad to leave the Bueno family and at the same time I’m happy to have had such a great time with them in Cabrils. Also, I am looking forward to finally reaching Marseille on my bicycle!
But before that, I need to drive to Valence, in France, to bring the car back to its owner. After about 1 hour and a half of driving, the engine of the car strangely loses power. I manage to reach a petrol station a couple of kilometres further. Unfortunately, there is no mechanic that can help me out.
I drive through small towns and villages, as I don’t want to take the risk of being stranded on the side of a highway. I enjoy the beautiful evening lights. The colours of the vineyards shift from green to light brown with red, orange and yellow in between. However enjoyable during daylight, the road starts to feel long, repetitive and boring as it gets dark. I stop every now and then to stretch my legs and take some fresh air, until I can’t take it anymore. Too tired to continue, I decide to search for a field away from the main road and stop to spend the night, at only two hours from my destination.
In the morning, I drive to Roynac where I unload the bicycle and the trailer before resuming my journey towards the Valence TGV parking where I am to leave the car, hiding its key in the rear bumper, so that the owner may pick it up later.
Meanwhile, the weather has shifted. Dark and heavy clouds have taken over the sky and the branches of trees, resisting the strength of the wind, are moving back and forth. Luckily, it takes less than five minutes and only a few heavy drops, before someone stops to pick me up at the roundabout near the train station where I posted myself to hitchhike back to Roynac.
The next morning, I am to meet with Gilles-Ivan Frankignoul, director of the crowdfunding video published in September 2017, as it happens he is about to move to the village next to Roynac the following week.
I was put in contact with Gilles-Ivan and met him for the first time in Brussels around February 2017, while I was trying to find out how to shoot a short video which would present Bike with Diabetes to the public. Instead of explaining to me how I should proceed, Gilles-Ivan decided to help me make that video as he not only liked my project, but also thought that I would learn more if we were to work together.
As you may imagine, the result went beyond my expectations and the video has had an immense impact on the crowdfunding campaign. That video also confirmed something I already knew: Acting is not my thing !
I am still rearranging my luggage in my trailer and panniers, making sure that the load is balanced when Gilles-Ivan arrives in the morning. We breakfast together and he follows me with his car during a few kilometres, until Cléon d’Andran, where we stop to take a picture of the elephant statues on the roundabout of the village, in reference to the elephant of the crowdfunding video and the one at place Flagey, in Brussels.
Despite the drop of temperature, the change of weather is to my advantage, as I benefit from a strong tail wind once I reach the River Rhône which I follow southwards, until Avignon.
In Avignon, on an empty square in front of the Palais des Pâpes, I unexpectedly meet Henri, a 19 year old German cyclist. We automatically cycle towards each other, as if our bicycles were magnets for each other. We discuss our respective cycling experiences and decide to team up for the evening as we are both heading in the same direction.
Henri left Germany a few weeks earlier and is on his way to Spain. He is a bit of a dreamer enjoying the moment. He usually starts cycling around lunch time as he likes to read and write for at least two hours every morning, before packing up. He is thinking about going to Morocco, and asks me what he could tell his mother to reassure her about that project…
Finding a place to spend the night proves to be more complicated than expected. The touristic season is over and official camping places are closed down. The region is very urbanised and finding a field to camp in will not be easy without the help of locals to indicate us where we could wild camp. We knock on doors to enquire, but unlike other parts of France, people seem to be reticent to answer a pair of foreign cyclists. House gates have «Danger!», «Beware of the dog!», «Dangerous dog!», or «Community surveillance» signs, with pictures of big dogs and cameras, fixed on the gate or the fence. A house with a «I bite without warning!» sign, has a little yelping pug that isn’t aware of its size and, obviously, doesn’t know how to read… However funny, the ambiance feels a bit strange.
I wonder why this is and put it on politics as the region we are in is known to be one of the most sympathetic with extreme right political programs. Indeed, the few remaining posters from the presidential electoral campaign that took place in France earlier this year, seem to mostly be the ones of Marine Le Pen, candidate of the Front National, an extreme right political party. Fortunately, Jacqueline and André, a retired couple, invite us to stay in their garage.
While we are settling down, André brings us two beers for us to drink. Once we are settled, Jacqueline brings us soup to accompany the dinner we were about to prepare. Both apologise about the fact that they have to leave as they are expected for dinner elsewhere. The contrast between the barking dog signs and their welcoming invitation is reassuring. The next morning, Henri and I part ways as he is to head south-east, whereas I am to head south.
Two days later, while cycling through the suburbs of Marseille, I finally get my first view on the Mediterranean sea: between two buildings, while waiting for a red light to turn green in a busy urban traffic. This, obviously, isn’t how I had pictured it. Luckily, I am only a few kilometres away from the old port of Marseille, where I am to meet with my father and my uncle Philippe. They have come over to greet me goodbye and help me reach the harbour facilities with a rental van, after the weekend. That help is very useful as the port facilities are at about 70 kilometres away from Marseille and its access could not be described as bicycle friendly!
But before that, I have to make sure I have provided all the needed documents and information requested to access the port and to embark Gisele A, the container ship that will bring me to Alexandria, in Egypt.