Sunday, 2 June 2013

Stage 4 - Orphin to Etampes. 1 Jun 2013

I felt a bit or bits of cramp as I lay in the sleeping bag at night and I had to get up and massage my legs, calves and toes for quite a while before I could settle properly. The cramps were signs of dehydration so I had a big drink of water which had the added benefit of preventing me staying in bed too long in the morning. That must have done the trick although I could never say I slept well. I must have had about 20 sleeps each of half hour duration and eventually emerged from the tent in the morning feeling a bit fuzzy. I wanted to get going as soon as I could so I didn't bother with breakfast. I didn't need an angry farmer giving me grief. I wasn't in the mood at all. I packed up the camp and set off under virtually cloud-free skies. It was pleasantly warm and there was little or no breeze.

I passed through Sonchamp and countless other little rural villages, St this and St that, and arrived at the town of Dourdan at about 1030. I was feeling weak and needed fuel so I stopped and had some breakfast on a bench just outside of the town. The going was tough for the next hour or so which was a shame. I rode down very quiet lanes through some beautiful wooded areas. The scenery and countryside were amazing but I couldn't enjoy it. I was struggling and my twisted logic convinced me that I hadn't eaten enough. I bought some sandwiches and orange juice from the Carrefour just before Etampes and found a nice quiet park near the centre of the town. I ate the sandwiches but felt something wasn't right so I decided to just sit there until I felt better. I passed a bit of the time writing up notes of the previous days progress until about twenty minutes after eating I was, let's just say, quite ill. I had unwittingly got rid of all of the day's intake of fuel and probably a bit of yesterday's too.

I sat there feeling sorry for myself and considered the options. I certainly didn't want to continue that day. I could find a hotel there in Etampes and rest for a day or two and see how it went. It would be unwise for me to eat again that day and I probably wouldn't really be capable of doing a decent ride for a day or so after I felt straight. I looked at two hotels and they were 75 and 80 euros per night. I could maybe take a train to a town further along my route and rest there for a couple of days but there was no guarantee I would be feeling better even after that time and also I would be further from home. I then heard a train slowing down and realised the station was quite close. That swung it. I made the short ride and checked at the station and found there was a service to Paris. From there the Eurostar to London or a flight to Manchester were the options. A flight would require packing the bike in a box so the train was favourite.

I took the train to Austerlitz station in Paris and rode to Gare Du Nord. It was surreal riding my bike through such a busy cosmopolitan city, across the Seine and past the Bastille Monument and through the Place de la Republique, after the quietness of where I had been earlier that day. Apart from anything else, there was a big Rugby Union match on and hundreds of supporters with flags and banners and tooty tooty things.

I asked at the station and found that the Eurostar to London would cost 279 euros - there was only first class available - and I was prepared to pay it. I mentioned the bike and the girl disappeared. She returned and told me I would have to put my bike in a box. I felt like putting her in a box but instead I went outside and asked a few people on bikes if there was a bike shop nearby. Nobody knew of one. My remaining phone battery was quite low so I had sent messages home requesting details of flights and trains. I couldn't check on my own phone. There was a cheapish flight to Liverpool the next day from Charles De Gaulle which became an option but the box would still be needed. I thought about staying in Paris and asked at a few hotels but they were all full, probably because of the rugby Union game. Then the skies darkened and rain began to fall. I made my way back to Gare du Nord and saw Calais on the destination board. Voila! I bought the ticket at an automatic machine, with a cheeky 25% senior discount, and set off for Calais at about 4.15pm with changes at Amiens and Boulogne. The changes were a bit awkward with a bike and bags on and off. The journey took four and a half hours and I slept most of the way.

I rode, thankfully, downhill from the station at Calais and managed to get my ferry ticket at the Terminal for the 11pm crossing and was first on the ferry before all of the cars. As I sat down I received a message from home that there would be a train from Dover at 7am next morning to Manchester with three changes. In one of the lounges I watched the end of the big French Rugby game and fell asleep again. I had an idea about offering money to any lorry driver who was going up north. Near me was a French chap and I gestured for him to look after my bags while I went and asked in the Trucker's Lounge. I couldn't go through with it so went back to my seat. The French chap then gestured to me to look after his bag and I nodded. When he returned he was puffing and panting and sighing and trying to get comfortable. I asked him if he was driving in England. He said "Yes, Liverpool." I was amazed at the coincidence and obviously asked if he could help me out. He said he only had a small car but he would give me a lift if the bike could fit in. He then said " I hope yer don't mind me driving fast. I wanna get there quick ter see me kids". When the boat docked at Dover we were the first ones down and we somehow squeezed the bike into his Citroen 206.

The boat landed at Dover at 11.30pm English time and Eric, the French Scouser, dropped me off on the East Lancs Rd near Kirkby at about 3.45am and I gave him a decent chunk towards the petrol. Young Tom came and picked me up and I was in bed fast asleep at 4.30. I woke about 1pm this afternoon feeling a bit better and I have improved sufficiently throughout the day to allow me complete the story, a little earlier than I would have liked.....or is it?

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