We left Lyon in the middle of the afternoon and one more time we have no idea where we gonna sleep. After 75 km of a relax ride the sun is getting down, today is special day as we reached 7000km on the speed counter.
We are now in a small village it is called Crottet and decide to find a shelter for the night. Confident as usual, we enter a small road where are some lovely houses waiting for us to knock on their doors. The first try is the good one, it is a beautiful farm where a family is having dinner as we can see trough the window. Denis open the door and quickly all the family is there to welcome us. Usually it takes a few minutes for people to trust us but this time before finishing our icebreaker pitch Denis said :”Sure come and join us!” Everybody looks exicted about this friday night surprise. After having a soup and some delicious cheese, we started to talk about our journey around a bottle of wine. It is nice to hear Denis telling us he was hoping that one day he would see some cyclist like us knocking on his door as he likes to read books about people who travelled the globe.
While talking came up the idea that Denis and his son Léo would maybe plan a trip like ours but first they would lead us to one of the longest cycling path in europe on the way to Beaune the day after. As they say it is a very nice ride through the vineyards where we can also enjoy to pass by old castels. Before we went to sleep we agreed we would take the 7000 km milestone picture in the farm court on the morning.
The day after the weather wasn’t that good but they still wanted to cycle with us, after taking some pictures we said good bye to Mel (Léo’s girlfriend from Australia) , Monique and Lila we started cycling to Macon where we would get to the path. Once we got there we proposed to Léo and Denis to try our bicycles to see how it is. They liked it and did it for the next 30 km where we had to say good bye. So, thank you very much for the good time we spent together and all the best for your future trip !
The weather is now much better and reveal the beauty of the country side all around. Just after we crossed a very long tunnel we met a german who was cycling from Germany to the south of France. He also told us he was training for a much bigger journey next year in south America. He even looked surprised while we where giving him advices from our experience that we like to go and knock on doors and ask for a place to sleep. He didn’t think about doing that because it is not in his culture but then he said he would try. Obviously it is easy for us after spending 5 month on the road.
In the end of the afternoon we decided to leave the path and go back on bigger roads with cars as we felt like getting away from the right direction. We wanted to get to Beaune which was the target of the day. After 115km we entered the city of the “grands crus” If you want to spend 500 euros for a bottle of wine this is the place to go. After a quick tour of the city at night we found a campground where we met some cool guys they were there to collect the grappes for the Vendanges saison. With them we discovered how to open a bottle with a shoe when you have no opener. Here is the trick : Put the botton of the bottle in the shoe and find a wall to hit with that shoe, after maybe 50 times you’ll be able to remove the bottle cap. We had a plaisant stay at the camping as we didn’t pay and had some good fun with the campers. that’s what we’ll remember from Beaune
La Côte d’Azur is a nice region. Too developed, from a touristic point of view, though. It was hard to find places to camp easily, as every square meter belongs to someone, and most beaches are not wild at all. The roads were good, the weather as well, so we couldn’t complain too much. Also, we could get to the sea at all time. And there is nothing better than having a swim to wake up! We had a quick stop in Nice, where we met art teaching of Nico’s high school, whom we visited the old town with, and ate some of the delicacies, including salade niçoise.
Nice, old town
We said goodbye to the sea and started our ascension towards the north, cycling through vineyards. Vineyards, everywhere. And at the right time : it is vandanges time, meaning that the grapes are ready to be picked up and start the wine making process. We spent a couple of night sleeping among the grapes, and found friendly winemaker who, beside letting us sleep on their land, always gave us bottles of wine from their production, as well as some of their local products : tomatoes, dry meat or pâté have been our daily meals.
We found out about a small music festival in Aix-en-Provence, Zik Zac, and decided to go there…which allowed us to have a relaxed day in Provence. We cycled by the Sainte Victoire mountain, and observed locals playing ‘petanque’ in remote villages.
Camping in the wineyards
am I closer???
We arrived in the late afternoon at the festival, where we found very friendly atmosphere. Musical discoveries of the day included Isaya, the -local- band of 2 twin sisters singing folk ballads, and Dabi Toure, a Mauritanian singer.
We gave one of our Kyrgyz hat to a bar tender, and got free drinks all night. Talking about hats, we gave one as well to a friendly cap collector who was hanging out with us, and he was so happy about the story that he started crying of joy when we gave him! Unbelievable. We ended up with the organizers at the ‘VIP party’ -where there weren’t that many VIP’s-, and enjoyed this warm night of late summer until the early morning. We got to sleep at some random place in the area, under the big bridge of Aix en Provence.
Making Zig Zag at Zik Zac Festival
We weren’t too fresh the next day, but had to get to Carpentras to meet Nico’s family, which was taking some days off. A slight downhill lasted for dozens of kilometers, which made it hard to not fall asleep on the road. Coffee breaks and music in the ears helped us getting there still awake
We took a morning swim in the pool of the fancy, 18 rooms house we stayed in Bishkek. After packing our luggage and saying goodbye to our hosts, we took a cab to go to the shop where we left our bikes few days earlier. On the way, we had a crash with a marchoutka, and we had to leave the cab in the middle of the traffic, with all our stuff, as it didn’t ride anymore. Not a good start for our last day in central asia! We managed to jump in a bus and reach the bike shop, where we happily found our bikes back.
Our next mission was to go to Osh bazaar, to buy a hundred Kyrgyz caps.We had the brilliant (?) idea to buy them in order to sell them in Europe, and it was the place where we could find the best prices. It was indeed cheap : a hundred caps for a hundred euros…after a lot of negociation! When we left the bazaar, 3 cops stopped us to check our passport, and then started emptying our pockets, checking out the money. They obviously wanted to transfer some in their own pockets, and we had to take the money back by force from their hands. Kyrgyz cops are most corrupted we’ve seen and those are the only guys you should be afraid of travelling Kyrgysztan. With our money in our pockets and our caps in our bag, we could rest and eat. Our last meal was not shashliks, but chinese dishes
We struggled to put all our gear in the taxi, but somehow managed to do it. We spent the night in the airport, as we were taking off early in the morning. After a night with no sleep, we had to fight with the crew of the company, who wanted to make us pay for the bike by kilo, asking for 400 dollars each…while it was supposed to be 30 euros for the bike! My internet connection helped us big time, as I could show the manager the terms and conditions of his company, where it says that it is indeed 30 euros for a bike going to Budapest. It still needed half an hour of arguing to make him agree for the amount. It the end, it worked. After that, we went through other issues : woman at the customs saying our visa is expired -while we dont need visa for Kyrgysztan anymore-, and few items taken from luggages : scissors and camping gas, and we struggled to keep our knife and locker. All those guys in the airport were the biggest concentration of stupid people we’ve seen in 4 months, and getting into the plane was a huge relief. As we still did not sleep at all, we fell asleep before taking off, and woke up after landing. Europe, here we come, for more cycling adventures
From the lake Paravani, we reached the maximum altitude we would get to in the area. Day 55 was therefore mostly downhill. We did a pit stop in the first village for some breakfast, went down to the “center” next to the lake, and managed to find the owner of the shop, who opened it for us. She had some cake, yogurt and dried apricots, that would be enough for us to pedal few dozens of kilometers. After some ups and downs, we reached the edge of Tsalka region, and weren’t aware of what was going next : a pretty steep downhill for about 20 km on a great new road, where both of us reached 70km per hour, for the first time of the trip. Riding at such a speed with strong lateral wind is quite of an experience!
Arrived at the bottom, we were speechless with a big smile on our faces. Those 20 minutes were orgasmic and a big reward for the last three climbing days.
We had another climb after lunch, then some flat in altitude…then surprisingly another extra downhill that would last for another 20 km! Awesomeness!
The third bit was made of medium sized hills ; the ones that you can climb pretty easily if you gain enough speed on the way down ; the ones that make you feel like being in a roller coaster. We were eating kilometers like greedy pigs, and after 90km, we faced a steep wall that got us back to reality : what goes down must go up…
After 90km, we had to climb that mountain in the background…
It needed lots of sweat to get to the top, and once there we had to think about a place to sleep, as it was already 7.30 in the evening. We were not on the road we were supposed to -don’t know why ; and after 110km we stopped in a small village and ask if there was any place we could stay.
We need a place to sleep!
The answers were all the same : ‘The hotels are in Tbilisi, it’s 40km away!’…fortunately, Davit showed up to act as a translator, as he was one of the only person in the village who could speak english. His answer was the same, but then started saying that Georgians were hospitality people…and that he could host us fore the night. We were very glad to hear that, and got ready for a new georgian experience
Davit, our amazing host, on the left
We struggled to pay for the beers, got home, met the parents and the friends, and ate various dishes, all of them being homemade with products of the garden. We tried georgian wine for the first time, made out of the grapes that were growing above our heads, then toasted some chacha. Davit’s friend from georgian army was very interested in our original Opinel, so we gave it to him. He then gave us his bandana from georgian army, and a georgian knife so that we’d still have something to cut our tomatoes.
After food, we headed up to the neighbour, as he was the guy with a television, and watched England vs Italy all together. Viva Italia! (Nico says).