Barcelona Day 6 from Nîmes to Béziers
Day number six! With 150 km (93 mi) I have again set myself a good course. Fortunately, everything was very flat and without any significant increases throughout the whole stage. But today, the sixth day, it’s supposed to happen: I’ll reach the Mediterranean after about a third of the day’s distance! This is an important interim goal for me.
The breakfast has worked out well for me. Until Barcelona I spend the night every day in an IBIS hotel and breakfast is the same in each of these hotels. My breakfast looks the same every day without having to think long and hard. Two pieces of bread, one with jam and one with chocolate cream, add orange juice and yogurt. It doesn’t have much more choice, but € 6.60 is okay (at IBIS in Switzerland the same breakfast cost astronomical CHF 18.00). Such a breakfast is not exactly a luxury now, but first of all I can’t eat early in the morning anymore and secondly, it’s enough until lunch. Usually also longer, because I often do without an extensive lunch and prefer to eat tasty in the evening.
So, breakfast ready, pack everything and off to the road! The day begins like yesterday, with a lot of sun and tailwind. So it’s fantastic to drive! But after about 15 km my enthusiasm gets a little damper: I land on a mogul slope. Although this is not the right expression: It looks as if the road had been exposed to a violent bombardment. No asphalt, just sand. Potholes, so deep that I can’t see over the edge when driving through. That was quite a drag and I was happy to reach a place again after a few kilometers, where there are reasonable asphalted roads.
The place is called Vauvert. From here on, the quality of the road turned into the exact opposite. Here begins an exemplary cycle path with asphalted surface and one lane per driving direction quite flat along the Canal Philippe-Lamour. Of course still with a tailwind! When a bench came, my luck was perfect and I took the opportunity for a break for refreshments. As I quickly noticed, this was a good decision, because after not quite three kilometers I had to leave this beautiful path along the canal and continue on a road.
But after only six kilometers I reached a canal, the Canal du Rhône à Sète. Here I went straight on for about 10 km (6 mi). No curve. Although I made rapid progress, it felt as if I was crawling. In the distance I can already see a lighthouse, there must be the sea, but it simply does not want to come closer. That is the disadvantage of dead straight sections. Just when the canal made its first bend, I had to go straight on. But the lighthouse was close enough to touch, I must almost be at the sea! Driving towards the lighthouse I came to Aigues-Mortes.
Surprise! The lighthouse did not stand at the sea, but in the harbor of Aigues-Mortes, which is connected to the sea by another, straight as a die, seven kilometers long channel. So not yet at the sea, let’s go on. I don’t take a break in front of the sea anymore! After an admittedly psychologically somewhat laborious journey of altogether 47 km (29 mi), I arrived in Le Grau-du-Roi for the first time on this journey at the Mediterranean Sea! Unfortunately, the lighthouse there and the whole pier were closed for renovation, so that I drove on and bought some cold drinks and ice cream at a shop. Out of the village, I went, separated by a dune, along the sea. At the first opportunity, I pushed my vehicle through the dune to the sea and then enjoyed a moment of triumph with ice cream and cold drinks!
But I couldn’t stand for too long, it was over 30 degrees and there was no shade on the beach. I renewed my sun protection and set off again, after all, I still had about 100 km (62 mi) ahead of me! The next 70 km (43 mi) were directly at the sea, mostly separated from the water only by the dune and the beach. The cycle paths are also very good here on this section and not so busy yet. The places here on the coast are all holiday resorts with holiday apartments and hotels. The season has not started yet and it is not a weekend. The places make an abandoned and sometimes even neglected impression with dirt and faded, peeling paint on signs and buildings.
Although the wind is now turning and after a few hundred kilometers of tailwind it’s coming pretty much from the front, I enjoy the ride. Here at the Mediterranean, nature is completely different again. Instead of farmland and fertile soil, there is mostly this dry, beach-like sand and the typical vegetation. Again and again, there is something new to discover and look at. Along the coast, many monuments remind of the Second World War and old bunkers, some of which are accessible. I just take one or two pictures and go on without going inside. My journey and today’s destination are more important to me. So I hold it during my journey at all sights.
The gusty headwind wants to wear me down. But my spirit is strong and does not allow it. The triumph of having reached the Mediterranean and the new, interesting environment gives me the necessary mental strength, cool drinks and snacks the physical. I found a very good trick how to keep the cold drinks cold for several hours: I use my thermal jacket, which served me well during the cold and wet stages on the edge of the Alps, like insulation and wrap it around the cold drinks I bought. So they stay a good two to three hours really cold, after four hours they get warm. So my Ortlieb Backroller becomes a cooling bag without transporting additional weight. Awesome!
When it threatens to get monotonous after a good 70 km (43 mi), my route leads away from the sea at Agde. After crossing the place there is supposed to be an oval lock, which was marked as a sight. Unfortunately, I was apparently distracted by something (and it is also hidden behind trees), so I drove by unnoticed. Too bad, I really would have liked to have had a look at it. But when I noticed it, I didn’t want to drive back. Especially since I was now on a really extremely bad sand road at the Canal du Midi, with regular two meter deep incisions, where it then went down two height meters steeply, ten meters straight out and then again two height meters steeply up. Not particularly demanding, but always very annoying and with big, loose stones and murderous ruts of tractors, because I could only drive at walking speed and therefore only made very slow progress. The sun began to cast long shadows.
What was I glad when I reached a road again at Vias. Unfortunately a big main road with a lot of fast traffic, but better than the mogul track and I was able to drive quite good and fast on a narrow side strip and make kilometers. About eight kilometers before my day’s destination I went back to the Canal du Midi, but on a relatively good cycle path. So I reached my hotel in Béziers with the sunset. But then the fun started.
Fortunately, I only have to drive about a kilometer through the city to my hotel. Almost there! But apparently, I was a bit over motivated and cut a curve too much, so that my trailer with the inner wheel used the curb as a ski jump and lay down 180 degrees on his head! Shit! The trailer was attached to the bicycle, the trailer hitch was totally twisted and blocked the disc brake. The trailer bag suffered a lot and got some holes while sliding over the asphalt. Less than one kilometer before the hotel I actually had to do a repair session. I managed to uncouple the turned trailer and put it back on the wheels. As far as I could see, the contents of the trailer itself had remained intact except for a broken clamp of a plastic box. So far so good. Now to the bicycle. With some effort, I was able to remove the trailer coupling from the disc brake with my small tools and bring it millimeter by millimeter back into its original position. The disc brake got a rather big groove but was not distorted as far as visible. It took almost half an hour to get everything back in the right place and to fix it. But then it was done, everything was fine again (except for the – luckily small – holes in the trailer bag) and I was able to make the last few meters to the hotel.
Near the center, I had reserved a room at the IBIS Hotel. This was not easy to find and the entrance was very hidden next to another hotel. I had to search for a while until I found it. The registration at the reception was then still problem-free. I should drive my bike into the garage. Therefore I got a separate badge for the garage entrance. Lucky to have arrived, I made my way around the building to the underground garage. At the entrance the first gate. I held the badge in front of the reader: Gate opens. Works, I thought. So I went in, one floor down. Then another floor down, the second gate in front of the area for the hotel guests. Badge held in front of the reader. No reaction. Tried again. And again. And again. No reaction. So with the whole vehicle, I had to go back up everything, around the block back to the reception. The badge must be corrupted, they said, and gave me a new one. So off we go again. Around the building, the first gate can be opened, then two floors down to the second gate. Nothing. And again nothing. The second gate doesn’t move a millimeter. I was a little annoyed when I had to drive everything up again, around the block to the reception. There disbelief. I was given the third badge. I’m sure it’ll work with that one, she said. Then I asked back: Really? Are you sure? So for the third time around the building, the first gate opened again without any problems and then down the two floors again. I’m beginning to feel at home here. Everything is so familiar. Even when I tried to open the second gate, it showed its now too familiar behavior and did – nothing! Now I was really pissed! But it didn’t help, I didn’t want to spend the night in the underground garage in front of the gate after all, so I had to go back up everything again a third time, around the block to the reception. There I expressed my feelings very clearly. I got the fourth badge for the underground car park and she promised that she would check on the monitor if I could drive in and if not, that she would open the gate from the reception. Why not just like that? So I went a fourth time around the building to the first gate. That opened by itself, hardly that I arrived there. Okay, she must have seen me on the monitor. So inside, two floors down. The second gate didn’t open by itself. Okay, tried the badge. Not working. Tried again. And again. Then I searched for the camera through which she wanted to watch me. There was none! No camera at the second gate, only at the first one! I became quite aggro. But then the unbelievable happened: The gate opened! A hotel guest drove out, so apparently, the driving out worked. I took the opportunity and scampered through. Finally, I could park my bike, pack my things and go from there to my room. What was I done after this action!
But my adventure was not over yet. After an extensive shower, I am out of the hotel since they offer dinner only until 8 pm. Really? Yes! But only a little further a Moroccan restaurant caught my eye. Also good. I like the Tajine. That will be mine. Unfortunately a small problem: The language! I can only speak German and English, the owner only French and Arabic. He called his daughter, fresh from school. But, although learned, she did not like to speak English and has been adorned. Too shy. The owner only wanted to ask which meat I would like to have in my tajine. But, as a businessman, he didn’t want to lose me as a customer. So he came up with the idea of imitating animal sounds. He asked me: “Moo” (cow) or “baa” (lamb)? After a short consideration, I answered convincingly with “baa”. Problem solved. The other guests were puzzled, but nobody here knows me and I got my food. What a day!
Wow, I wrote a lot today! And have you read everything up to here? Respect! :-)
Today it was 150 km (93 mi), for which I needed 8h 02m. I climbed 470 m (1’542 ft) of altitude.