September 12, 2015Riding in France: Missing home between Noyon and Reims
Last night I feared I maybe really couldn’t do this. Well, couldn’t do the wild camping – that particularly worried me. But here I am. Not wild camping as in set up in some shrubbery on the side of the road but behind the Timor Community Centre with no one knowing I am here. And I feel fine, safe. There is a little mouse scurrying around out there and the usual moths beating their wings against the wall of my tent as it is the only light source for some distance around.
The crickets are loud; the air outside the tent cool enough for me to see my breath. Tonight I am under the flight path – just the distant hum of JetStar and Qantas flights making their approaches into Sydney. I was on one of those flights just a couple of weeks ago.
I had anticipated that today would be hard and it lived up to my expectations in every way. My bike is too heavy, it was raining off and on, I started late, most of the ride was on gravel road (good gravel, but still) and the terrain was undulating.
(It’s just small animals going about their businesses … don’t let it freak you out.)
My friends were behind me; I could feel their support and encouragement. And I knew that none would think lesser of me if I changed my mind, if I did decide I couldn’t do it.
There is a pure mindfulness in the riding, in the struggle. There is just this moment here, this pedal push, this 100 metres to the top of the hill. But with it a real keen attention to detail – watching the road, looking for the hardest smoothest gravel; seeing and hearing the grass parrots burst from the bush, crimson rosellas chasing one another across the paddocks and the cockies whinging and moaning as they rise and whirl from their business of taking advantage of the cattle feed. Noticing that all those calves are watching me in wonder, ready to spook and gallop away. Not so the bulls: they just watch, silent unimpressed witnesses.
(Yup a pair of little tiny mice checking things out. The food is hung – if they can get in there good on them.)
So the day went … up and down, dry and wet, moving more slowly than I had hoped and the rising concerns about where I might camp. Properties lined the road and cars passed regularly so I knew I couldn’t get into real trouble – I could ask for help.
I wasn’t going to get to Nundle – that was always a long shot; as the day wore it became clear I wouldn’t get to Timor Caves or the campsite at the base of the Crawney Pass either. It had gotten darker, I felt I was riding in a cloud. I hoped that Timor, being worthy of a dot and name on the map, might provide something: a churchyard, a school, a rural firefighting station. It was with utter joy and delight that when I came over what proved the last crest of the day I saw what looked to be a church with a tennis court and small building besides. I was downright giddy to find the gate open, a covered area behind the community centre all but invisible to what little traffic passes, a table and benches and – the piece de resistance – a toilet. Fabulous.
Now if only my air mattress hadn’t sprung a leak. Tomorrow I expect to be at the Peel Inn at Nundle so just one more night of pretty hard sleeping – a fix or replacement is just around the corner. Or at the end of this 100 metres. Or the next. Or the next.