As we left town I noticed my fingers were wrinkly and my pee had been Tango so I set out to drink as much as possible. The hotel had refilled my bidons and I drank them. We got to Diou after taking a very wrong turn and ending up in a bar that supported Marseilles. My glass was chipped and in the loo a shower was available for €1.50 – we worried it was ‘pay-per-view’. We went back on a cycleway. Diou was another place described in our guide as busy and hazardous, although we didn’t see a soul as we rode through.
From here we were promised ‘no facilities’ for 40km, although the next town had a tobacconist and mini-mart where we bought stamps, and Beaulon had a supermarket where we bought water. From there on there was nothing, just miles of farmland. We stopped at the Abbey of Seven Fonts, after several attempts to go in the wrong entrances, but they wouldn’t let us see even one font, they just tried to sell us cereal products in their farm shop.
On the road out I pee’d in the wilderness, twice, the water was definitely working. A cricket hopped on my food, which ruined my aim a little.
We approached Gamay Sur Loire and I spotted the sign for the Gite d’Etape. We could hear kids playing and it sounded busy. It was. There were people everywhere, along with tents and caravans. We walked towards a reception and a chap by the swimming pool – luxury – called to us. I asked him for a room for the night and he said no. He asked if I spoke English – he was Dutch – like his guests. The place was full, and there was nothing else in town. There may be another Gite 12km up the road by Feuillatte (sadly not home to Nicholas’ Champagne), but he didn’t have a phone number. Otherwise Digoin was our best bet.
Lou was desperate to pee so we rode into the only bar in town and ordered two Oranginas and asked for cigarettes. They didn’t sell them and Lou was down to her last three. She came back from the Lou in record time. It was a pissour – foot spaces with a hole in the floor. She flat refused to pee in the wilderness and there were no other choices so she had to go back in. We agreed never to speak of it again.
The restaurant and Tabac place over the road that looked like it may have had a flushing toilet was long since boarded up. We cycled on at a speedy pace, determined to get to a destination in daylight. After about five miles my legs felt like pudding and I had to stop for food. We had French chipsticks. I shovelled them in a handful at a time. They hurt my lips which were sunburned, but I kept shovelling. It gave me the carbs I needed to get going again.
After miles of nothingness and massive agricultural co-ops we spotted the Gite – it was a mile down an un-cycle-able stony path. There was no phone number and there would be no food. We stood like the dopey cattle that surrounded us for a while before agreeing to go on the 10k to the next town.
We cycled on with grim determination, it was cooling quickly and starting to rain. We reached the busy junction which our guidebook told us to avoid, but were too tired for the detour. We turned right onto a bridge with a sharp incline over the canal. My chain came off, firing me forwards onto the bars and then into the road. Wah! I fixed it and we limped into the grim little town.