This is the end, beautiful friends

We’d zigged from Bordeaux to Switzerland and now it was time to zag our way back across the wonderfully French countryside to Paris.

We said goodbye to the Swedish Cookies (Adeline & Sandra) and took a train back across the border to Dolé where we set up camp and waited for Steve (our Aussie friend now living in London) to join us.

Our route took us along a similar path towards Decize. Riding through quaint country villages, flower-lined fields and along winding canals never gets old; I could ride this country for the rest of my life. I think I’ve said it before but it’s no wonder they have the Tour de France, it’s such a beautiful country to cycle.

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Our tour was going well until Steve’s bike decided it had had enough and it was time for a rest. While we struggled to fix his broken chain a group of French cyclist stopped and offered a hand. They luckily had the parts we needed and Steve gladly accepted.

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At the campground in Nevers we met another Aussie by the name of Brian. He had taken 3 months off to cycle through France, Belgium and the Czech Republic and, as luck would have it, he happened to stop at the same campground. We talked for a bit and in the morning decided to ride together for a while. The four of us peddled along the canal, stopped in at Sully-sur-Loire to check out the Chateau, and then continued to Orleans for the night.

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Summer was in full swing and I was revelling in the heat. As the temperature hovered around the mid 30’s we peddled along, what seemed like, a repurposed railway line. We kept a close formation with our mouths tightly closed trying to avoid breathing in hundreds of bugs that flew from the long grasses lining the trail. Throughout the day I would look down and see dozens of black bugs stuck to my arms. “What a way to go” I thought, one minute you’re flying along, the next you’re being whisk away, stuck to some guy’s hairy, sweaty arms.

After 4 days of cycling camaraderie we parted ways with Brian and Steve and headed to Versailles on the outskirts of Paris. Camping on the fringes of large cities means finding a campsite and it seemed our choices were limited to one called Huttopia; the most expensive campground in the entire world. Our patch of unpowered dirt cost us about AUS$90 for the two nights. But I guess it made up for all the cheap accommodation and free camping we found along the way. Versailles was amazing. We spent a full day wandering the palace and gardens and were totally exhausted by the end.

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We had trouble finding a Warmshowers host in Paris. I don’t know why but everyone I contacted was either too busy doing their own cycling thing or only had room for one person. But finally we found Celine and Vincent, a lovely couple who took us in for 6 days and showed us the best of Paris; Night parties, the Louvre, food & coffee and of course the people made the experience one of the highlights of the trip. Thank you so much Celine and Vincent for your wonderful hospitality.

The UK was everything I remembered. We wandered the streets, drank beer with Aussie friends, rode the tube a lot and generally enjoyed the awesomeness of London. We said goodbye to our bikes too. Unfortunately it was the end of our cycling tour, as Trace was heading to Glasgow to shoot the Commonwealth Games, we couldn’t take them any further so we packed and shipped them back to Australia.

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Then it was time for Ireland; our last stop on our world adventure. We flew in late and were welcomed by Denise and Oliver. I had worked, many years ago, with Denise in Kalgoorlie when she lived in Australia. It was great to see Denise again and finally meet Oliver. We spent 2 weeks travelling around the countryside with the guys showing us all the good stuff; Art galleries, quaint pubs serving tasty Guinness and castles… Lots of castles.

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We drove the Ring of Kerry and explored some amazing coastlines. And if that wasn’t enough we still had Bray and Dublin on the cards. Thanks so much Denise and Oliver. Now, get your asses back to Australia so we can return the favour.

While we enjoyed Ireland there was the ever present knowledge that our trip was coming to an end and that soon we would be back to the eat-work-sleep life of a big city. Now we live with the longing to do it all again, to go back and retrace our paths. We miss so many people that we met along the way, people who opened their hearts to us, people who we will always call friends. Travel is like that, so bitter sweet. Memories do not suffice, there wil have to be another trip, oh yes, there will.

By Dave

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