2019/10/14-15: In Millau and 89 km to Bedarieux
After a quiet day hiding from rain, we met Belgians Karel and Yvette for a relaxed dinner. The following morning, we slogged uphill in mist, to emerge on top of one of the causses that makes up the southwestern part of the Massif. We were in Parc Naturel Régional des Grands Causses. These raised chalky plateaux are cut by rivers to form canyons.
The wind helped us make progress across the top, an open moorland grazed by sheep. Before we began our descent off the plateau, there was a group of modern windmills. “Stop les éoliennes” had been spray painted into the tarmac nearby. We need to read and explore further to try to understand the basis of this protest movement against what one would think is a move toward a renewable energy source. We fell into a basic hotel, and rode to find dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
2019/10/16: 80 km to Mazamet
As planned, we followed another voie verte on old rail bed. The day took us very gradually up to a 750 m long tunnel at the top, and a very gradual descent across Parc Naturel Régional du Haut Languedoc. The only surprise of the day was when Chris ran over a fairly large (60 cm?) garter snake. Judging by how quickly it dove into long grass, I don’t think he seriously injured it.
We rolled up fairly early to a two star Logis to find it unattended. After making a phone call to the posted number, we were cheerfully instructed how to check ourselves in, where to park our bicycles, and which key to take from a hook so as to let ourselves into our room.
2019/10/17: 90 km to Lauragais
The early part of the ride put us in heavier traffic than we’d have liked, but from Revel, we were on a suggested cycle route on small roads. We soon found ourselves on the distinctly off road cycle path that follows the Rigole du Canal du Midi. This is the feeder channel which brings water, collected in the relatively rainy high area to the east, to fill the canal at its highest point and allow the locks to operate.
Having ridden along the Canal du Midi in 2014, we found it interesting to now follow the rigole or supply channel, and to arrive at the partage des eaux or watershed boundary, the highest point in the canal.
Having followed the rigole on 40 km of path more suitable for mountain bikes, it was pleasant to ride along the familiar canal to Lauragais. This was our final night before arriving in Toulouse, and we marked the occasion by having hearty cassoulet for dinner.
2019/10/18: 40 km to Toulouse
We started early, gliding along the familiar canal toward Toulouse. Ducks still slept, heads tucked under wings as they floated. A territorial goose challenged us. Were we taking photos of the same bridges we’d passed in 2014?
Our intent was to take the train north to Dieppe from Toulouse. This was to be a slow few days of overland travel, and a test of the bike-friendliness of France’s regional trains. At the station, we bought tickets for what we thought would be a northward departure the next morning. We settled ourselves in the nearby Ibis hotel, and made an outing to the laverie, or laundromat. This was the first such outing since Norway, and much needed.
2019/10/19-20: Still in Toulouse
The next morning, we loaded our bikes and rolled to the station. Our departure wasn’t shown on the board. In fact, there were very few departures shown.
The trains are on strike. Welcome to France.