Well, I slept like a log. Whether because of the carafe of red wine, or the arduous cycling I don’t know ….. or care. At breakfast (yes, unusually I booked it) I realise I’m not the only guest. A group of Australian walkers are on the adjacent table. When they struggle to ask for jam, I conjure the word “confiture” from Form 1G French, back in 1958 – don’t ask me how. A conversation ensues mainly about how dangerous Australians believe cycling to be. I’m aware that many Australian car drivers have a deep hatred of any unpowered two-wheeled vehicle. Strange!
Emerging onto the empty street, I shiver with cold. Descending to Langogne, the exposed tips of my fingers start freezing. Glancing at a roadside thermometer I see that it reads 3C!
Ahead of me lies the Ardeches
I know from the map that the whole day will be spent on the D906, a winding yellow road fringed all the way with ….. green. Now, we all know what that means ; scenic? yes; not too busy? yes; but also HILLY! Looking on the bright side, however, the sun comes out. The road from Langogne to La Bastide is, pleasantly and surprisingly, mainly downhill. Can this last? No! The climb up to the col, at 1200m, through a pine forest, with its evocative scents brings me back down to earth. For the first time this trip, I take off my waterproof; I’ve been wearing it not for rain (there’s not been a drop) but to stave off the cold NE wind.
From the col, a long descent brings me to the delightful village of Prevencheres, sitting at 845m (a vertical descent of 355m!) Braking before entering, I still trigger the speed sensor, recording 35km/h in a 30 limit.
Heading towards the medieval village of Garde Guerin I enter the Cevennes
Fleetingly, I spot a red-backed shrike at the roadside.
It’s now getting warm; I take off my gillet. At Villefort, I have a decision to make: there is a hotel here, but the next one will be at Ales, another 35 miles. Hang it! It’s only 1.15, much too early to stop.
Following a short brutal ascent, the road confounds my expectations by remaining carved to the contour – winding, yes; extremely beautiful, yes; but hilly? No. This continues for at least 10 miles. Detouring uphill through the hamlet of Concoules I have a brief conversation with a woman at the village well (sounds a bit biblical!) On to Ginolhac and then downhill to Chamborigaud, where I enjoy a giant sausage roll and an Iced Tea. This seems too good to be true. It is!
A long, long ascent follows to the Col de Portes, guarded by its medieval castle.
From here, the journey to Ales is uneventful …. apart from the fact that it’s getting hot. I started out this morning, up in the mountains with the temperature at a distinctly chilly 3C. I note here that it’s now 23C! Who knows – perhaps, moving towards the Mediterranean I’ve now entered a different weather zone. Here’s hoping!
Back to the universe: it’s amazing how well it turned out for us. So many variable factors ….. exactly right.
Gravity – not so strong as to collapse the universe; not so weak as to leave it a scattered void
The conversion of H into He: 0.07% of its mass is converted into energy: a fraction less and no heavy elements would have been produced. A fraction more and prolific bonding would have exhausted the supply of Hydrogen.
And so it goes on.
And what about Planet Earth? Once again, it’s perfect.
Neither too hot nor too cold
Protected by an atmosphere fine-tuned for the job it has to do. And only 190km deep. Compare that to earth’s 8000 mile diameter. It’s a mere veneer. The lowest layer, the troposphere contains enough warmth and oxygen to allow us to function. Its 10km or so is all that separates us from oblivion.
And what about beauty?
The relative size and distance of the moon and the sun allow us to experience the wonder of a total eclipse. Perfect!
The variety and richness of our flora and fauna: the beauty of the red-backed shrike on the road this afternoon. Do you know there are over 10,000 different species of moss?!
I could go on. The earth is a wonderful, wonderful place to inhabit.
We are very lucky.
Distance travelled 68 miles
Average speed 9.8 mph
Elevation gain 4170 ft
Maximum speed 34 mph With loaded planners on a folding bike!