The Irish Interlude Part 1

I was up and outside of my tent at 8:00 a.m, a little while before the rest of our make-shift cycle camp. The morning started cool and clear, it was shaping up to be another beautiful day in north-western France.

Sam, Eddie and I didn’t set off on the bikes until 11:30 a.m. We made use of the bright warm morning by having a cooked breakfast, taking our time packing down, then chatting and exchanging contact details with Dean and Jane. The English and The Irish said goodbye to the Welsh and we began our day cycling the sunny canals.

Sam and Eddie kept a fast pace on their lighter bikes. If I remember correctly I think neither of them had a sleeping bag and only Eddie had a mat. They were travelling very light. Except of course for the guitar and melodica.

Our day took us 46 miles (75km) from Pontivy, through Rohan and into Josselin. We were cycling waterways the whole way there and it was stunning.

Josselin greeted us with blue skies and a huge castle overlooking the river. We arrived with tired legs, high spirits and we were looking forward to a cold beer in the early evening sun.

Our campsite had rabbits, sheep and some very playful goats. It was great outdoor entertainment. We sat around until midnight enjoying dinner, drinking beer with some good conversation and admiring the night sky. Day one of the Irish interlude was a total success.

Day two was much of the same. Great weather, great cycling and a great laugh. We did make a detour to a camping store so that the guys could acquire some sleeping bags. A few chilly and uncomfortable nights was a short but steep learning curve, I was told.

Later that afternoon, just shy of the next town down the river, we stopped at a split in the waterway. On that split was a well shaded area with open space and picnic benches. A perfect spot to ‘wild-camp’. We sat down and made ourselves comfortable.

Dinner, drinks and music filled the evening until sundown when we pitched the tents. Here is a poorly choreographed snippet of Sam and Eddies jam, featuring the red wine I almost enjoyed:

Wild camping was great. It was peaceful enough that you could hear the river flowing, the leaves rustle and the crickets chirp.

It was now Friday. Day six of the trip, and the first clouds had appeared on the French horizon. We continued our merry way along the waterways of the Brest – Nantes canal and I was almost keeping pace. Halfway through the day we ran out of water, which is a downside of wild camping. But we found salvation at a drinking fountain along the cycle way! A few more kilometers down stream we poked our heads into a campsite to ask about a shower, but the reception was closed for lunch. We wandered on through to the shower block in hopes of a cheeky free shower, but they required tokens. A strip off and scrub down by the outdoor sinks felt just as good and I for one was revitalised. It was good timing too, briefly afterwards the wind picked up and those clouds on the horizon loomed closer overhead, the temperate dropped and we decided to be on our way.

That night we wild camped again, we pitched our tents next to the canal in front of an abandoned lock house. We had just enough time to get our tents up and have dinner before the inevitable rainfall.

Tomorrow was Sams 24th birthday and we weren’t going to let a little precipitation get in the way of some early celebration. We moved our private party into the abandoned house, laughed and joked our way into the early hours with a fair amount of alcohol and a battery powered lantern. According to my journal we talked about aliens, a lot.

Feeling surprisingly chipper the following morning we were awake, fed and on the bikes by 10:30 a.m. Today was the final push to our first city – Nantes.

After some necessary campsite chores it was time to venture into the city for some more birthday drinks. We found a spot by the water where some of the locals were hanging out, then didn’t move until the sun went down and we couldn’t walk straight.

The fun didn’t stop there though! We began our walk back and stumbled across a reggae bar. We decided to go in for one drink and ended up staying until closing time, obviously. The live music was great and we conversed with some locals for quite a time. They ‘taught’ us loads of French phrases, but confined the boundaries of our mental capacity at the time, it was in one ear and out the other…

We returned to the campsite approaching 3 a.m, the gate was locked and we couldn’t get in. Climbing the fence in a drunken stupor while giggling like children created quite the ruckus and a security guard appeared out of the darkness. He left us alone to stagger back to our tents as he could probably sense we meant no harm, or were incapable of it.

Happy 24th Sam!

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