Day 21 Thursday 21 June
Alban – Height 614m 80km total 1,200km 3 punctures, 1 tyre change.
Thunder woke me during the night, seeming to circle around time and again. Also strange owl like birds with a breathy tense voice call continuously close by. And in the morning I found that I had slept on a large oak gall all night. It was still raining at 6a.m. – alarm time. The first puncture was quite early on, road side repairs ensued. Why do they always happen before breakfast? – Starving. A few miles late my tyre goes flat. We are within a kilometre of a small town, and I am so hungry that I pump it up and ride it to the boulangerie. By the time I get there I’m riding on the rim. A friendly lady in the only café in town makes coffee and asks about our travels. When all the punctures are mended we find that the tyre is now useless and liable to blow out – something has been wearing it away from the inside, and now it bulges. So the tyre has to come off again and a new one fitted. A short way along the road from lunch stop at Baillac, I think I must be mistaken when I notice my tyre is flabby. But it’s true. The inner tube is leaking. The reason is that by merciless co-incidence the puncture hole was just on the edge of an earlier repair patch so my patch today did not stick properly. I felt sick with setbacks and continued to cycle lethargically to the big town of Albi, where we spent an hour trying to find the road out to the higher hills of the Tarn. We are following the Tarn river- have been all day. The road rose steeply but well graded, so that soon we had views on either side, further than ever before on this trip. Spirits rose with the road, and I felt it to be one of my favourite places already. In small one-horse Villfranche, where we were intending to camp, we found that the site was a grotty strip of land with waterless and fouled lavatories. The town seemed dingy and unloved. Reluctantly we moved on to Alban, climbing nearly all the way. Beautiful long distance views of river gorges from way above them, land sloping away all around us. Nearby steep but gentle-looking valleys roll away –reminding me of Cornwall (red soil and eggs-in-a-basket hills). A strong wind blows at our backs. As we approach Alban, our destination, I am singing and in high spirits. At the beginning of the town is a sign telling us how far to the campsite. A short downhill swoop, down into the view I’ve been looking at to find a deserted beautiful site. It is my favourite so far, it has views all around, of ridges and fields and lines of trees. Pleased that we will spend our rest day tomorrow here. The toilet block is clean, with hot water and showers, and views. I prepare our feast, – it is quite special as our suppers go, and as we eat a great thunderstorm first blots out the view and then drops tons of hard rain.
Day 21 Thursday 21 June