The hotel, right in the centre of Ales is only 2 star (what I always aim for) but excellent. Most importantly I’m able to relax in a hot bath! – so much better than a shower after cycling almost 70 miles.
After an “eat as much as you like” breakfast I venture out into the morning sunshine.
The first thing I notice on leaving the town are the relics of its mining history; is it a volcano, or a slag heap?
A decision to be made: south, towards Montpelliar and the Mediterranean … or west, back up into the Haute Cevennes? A no-brainer really; I’m well ahead of schedule, having covered so many miles over the last two days. Up the D50 westward towards St Jean du Pin!
This is another green-lined “scenic” route, so I know what to expect. Noticing that the temperature is 23C, I peel off two layers, and enjoy the ride.
I cheerily greet two touring cyclists, clearly a couple, coming down the hill towards me, fully loaded with panniers front and aft. The man, leading the descent looks like something out a Tintin cartoon – elderly, wearing a beret and sporting an impressive moustache. His wife (?) 50m or so behind, is more demure. I wonder where they’ve come from, and where they’re going. They certainly have enough gear for the long haul.
I stop to photograph a small bunch of roadside poppies, absolutely my favourite wild flower. While I do so, I listen to a nightingale singing his heart out (only the males sing) on the other side of the road. This perfectly illustrates the heightened sense of “being” from which I derive such pleasure when solo cycling.
On the long climb from Anduse towards St Hippolyte-de-Fort I perfect my technique of cycling absolutely as slowly as I can: “Zen and the Art of ultra-slow speed Maintenance”. At one point I foolishly change up to second gear. C’est trop! Back down to first.
It occurs to me that my philosophy of cycling may be derived from Pirsig’s iconic book. Perhaps I’ll re-read it (birthday hint!) and base next year’s cycle blog on it. “Zen and the Art of folding bicycle blogging”. You’ve been warned!
I had thought of perhaps stopping at St Hippolyte – but no, its too early and the village looks too dull. So on towards Ganges. Serendipidy strikes. Attracted by a sign for Grotte des Demoiselles, I detour towards St Bauzil-de-Putois. It’s a dream: a beautiful almost deserted lane through Languedoc vineyards, with nightingales singing from every thicket
Arriving at St Bauzil, I discover, perhaps not surprisingly, that the Grotte is 2 miles up the steepest hill I’ve encountered all week. Do I venture forth? You bet I do.
Arriving, I decide not to go in. Why not? I had been seeking a moment of “spiritual” solitude. What did I find? A consumerist honeypot. Oh well – c’est la vie. I return downhill, and make my way to the beautifully situated town of Gange. I book into a reasonable but excellent hotel.
As a change from my normal ramblings, a couple of mathematical/logical teasers
1. Three men are captured by canibals. They are given one chance to escape the pot. After being tied to stakes, one behind the other and all facing the same way, they are shown five hats, three black and two white. They are then blindfolded whilst one of the hats is placed on each head. The blindfolds are removed and they are told that if anyone correctly identifies the colour of hat on his own head, they will all be released.
Any mistake will result in immediate death.
After a few moments, the man at the front shouts “I know”
Assuming he’s not a fool, what is the colour of hat on his head? And why?
2. How many steps are required to break an mxn bar of chocolates into single pieces. No tricks (one bit on top of another etc. allowed).
Answers will appear tomorrow – though I’m sure you won’t need them.
Distance travelled 42.7 miles
Average speed 8.1 mph (too fast!)
Elevation gain 3,272 ft
Maximum speed 25.7 mph