Sunstroke

After I was sure that Oscar would not return, I continued cycling north in the blistering French midday sun. It was in the low 30’s, not a cloud in the sky, and with minimal breeze. I was riding through flat, shade-less fields for what felt like an eternity. The sun had a right good go at burning my skin, but eventually I found some reprieve. It was almost as if I had stumbled across someones back garden, but with no house. There was the typical white picket fence, hedges, a shed, pruned green grass and flowerbeds. Most importantly, there was a tree. Shade, beautiful shade! Of course I wanted to ask permission before trespassing on someones land, but there was no one in sight – I even knocked on the shed.

I pulled out my camping chair and slumped down under the tree; my skin relieved. I sat there for almost three hours, slowly shifting my chair to follow the shadow. I wanted the sun to move lower in the sky before continuing my ride. The land owner did come by and he asked nothing more of me then to shut the gate when I left, I think. He spoke very fast, thick French; but he had a smile on his face.

After another small stop later in the day for some food, I cycled all evening to the sunset. What a wonderful experience that was. The temperature let up and the breeze off the water was refreshing. I didn’t want that ride to end.

I awoke with a pounding headache. Despite drinking over 3L of water and hiding in the shade as much as possible, the sun had done a number on me.

I cycled a short distance to Royan – the most northerly point of my ”Train-Shame” redemption route. Here I was waiting to catch a ferry across the water to begin a different route back south. I had just missed the boat and there was over an hour to wait for it to return. My headache was unrelenting and I also began to feel nauseous. I couldn’t handle it and headed to the nearest campsite to hide.

The campsite was full of trees and I strung up my hammock to lay under the dense canopy. A nap and some fluids helped me feel somewhat better, so I took a walk to the beach to do some more relaxing with a handful of fruit. Peaches on the beaches.

The next day was Friday. Once again I missed the ferry… I was too eager to head south so I just turned around and started cycling. I took a different route for a change of scenery. But after almost 100 kilometres I ended up right back at the citadel where I’d spent the night with Oscar. I decided to stay again for the nostalgia.

Tomorrow will mark three weeks since beginning this trip. I’ve cycled 625 miles (1005 kilometres), befriended five cyclists and rescued a baby bird. There really is never a dull day on the bike!

The next four days would take me back past Bordeaux and further south into new territory. I didn’t plan on visiting the city again but after finding a purse with some I.D inside I used the power of the internet to contact the owner and deliver it back. I would also suffer sunstroke the day after riding shirtless, believing that the sun couldn’t burn me through the clouds. I was wrong, so so wrong.

That evening I just felt sore and hot from the sunburn. A long cold shower helped take the heat away, but going out for beers with a couple of English guys I met at the campground probably wasn’t the smartest idea. At the time I thought nothing of it.

The next morning was rough, the heat of the day awoke me early and I began packing things down in the usual routine. I had just collapsed my tent when I stopped; ”I only had two beers, why do I feel so awful?” He said moments before his stomach turned upside down and inside out. From there things went from bad to worse. My headache became overwhelming, my vision was blurred and I couldn’t think straight. As much as I wanted to crawl back inside my tent and lay down, I could not muster the strength to do so. I threw my things on and over the bike and began walking. I needed to escape the heat and the sun.

After the 10 minute struggle that felt like an hour, I ‘walked’ into the first bed and breakfast en route. Approaching reception in a daze, I was hunched over, red as ripe tomato and unable to string a sentence together. The landlord handed me a key, a glass of water and ordered me upstairs.

I had escaped the sun and the heat, but I would not feel human again for 24 hours. The shower, the toilet and the bed would become good friends of mine that day as I could do little else. I had nothing with me to eat and felt completely incapacitated to do anything about it.

The conclusion: Sunstroke is not fun, I do not recommend.

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