Gourdon to Rocamadour

The day dawns bright and sunny with a typical crispness that belies the coming heat ! It’s breakfast and I am the only cock crowing in the hen house – 3 Canadian women I guess in their late 60s are about to set out on much the same tour whilst about 6 Austrian woman who appear to also start a cycle adventure are all set up with brand new ebikes and cycle clothes that suggest they have travelled to Gourdon via Milan.

I am fascinated by the lack of obesity in the French population, given their enjoyment of food and wine! Then the penny dropped – the vast majority still smoke.

However we passed several fields of literally thousands of ducks. I think ducks are to France what lambs are to New Zealand. Around the bend in the country road was a huge factory that manufactured Pate de Fois and every other known way to butcher, press, grind or extrude duck meat into edible offerings. I suspect from the almost snow like appearance of the fields, that a duck down Doona factory would supplement their income…nor to mention fertiliser.

So the point of this preamble is that the factory, much like a wine cellar in the Adelaide Hills was open for tastings, so in I went, to be confronted by a customer who was one of the most obese humans I have even seen and who was adding to his gigantic shopping bag all manner of things “ducky” which cost him at the Check-out out about Euro 100.

This was a delightful ride, which the notes suggested was the shortest of the week but made up by it being the most hilly! It was dead easy! A pleasant cycle less taxing than the ride to Norton Summit and certainly not as arduous as the freeway path . It’s all downhill literally from tomorrow.

The Dordogne seems to specialise food wise in duck and walnuts.

“Canard de Duo” with Chips! The “two” refers to a ducks drumstick and half a breast.

A few pictures of several quaint villages on this first day which turned out to be cloudy with occasional warm spitting rain – a pleasant relief

A separate blog on Rocamadour to follow.

Gourdon -the Dordogne

I arrived from Toulouse by fast SNFC train at 9:30 and met up with Simon who set up the road bike ( new!)

Then Cliff who went through the cycle itinerary- which looks fabulous and I think relatively easy over the week.

Gourdon is a delightful bustling town perched on a hill with castle and church as are all towns and villages. It was also the day of an agricultural show with shiny new machines along the main road

As always, photography is so much better than words and so here are a few pictures of the township

Toulouse

It is precisely 24 hours since the Emirates B777 departed Adelaide and I am now sitting in the Nice airport, for a 5 hour wait till the flight to Toulouse with EasyJet. The universal aviation rule is that the flight opens 2 hours before departure, including bag drop, so I sit forlornly in the domestic terminal with my luggage tightly held between my legs – no such thing as an airline lounge in Nice.

The A380 that flew me from Dubai to Nice

Clearing customs and immigration was a true French farce. The immigration gendarme opened my passport at a blank page, stamped it and passed it back – taking less than 10 seconds whilst eyeing off the attractive young Emirates stewardess in the adjacent queue.

It’s 5 am in Toulouse waking up in a very basic but clean Airbnb, whose only redeeming attraction is that it’s 340m walk to the railway station. I slept well for 7 hours.

The taxi ride from the Toulouse airport to the city gave me a brief look at the old town and I hope to explore it a little on the way back

The Glacier Park Lodge

All of the amazing hotels of the National Parks in which we stayed, were built by the Great Northern Railway a century or so ago in an effort to open up the regions and hopefully lead to a huge influx of tourists and adventurers who it was hoped would obviously travel by train. Sadly great in principle but in practice it was a loss making investment. Almost all of the hotels were not financially successful.

The most exquisite was the Prince of Wales, refer previous blog. Last night stayed at the Glacier Park Lodge.

The more astute of you will notice that there is a day of cycling missing. The observation is correct, at least as far as I was concerned. It was a day of extreme wind, blustery and for a significant part of the planned route, uphill and into a headwind. Finally to convince me to stay in the support vehicle, a goodly part of the route involved cycling a major highway! I am too old to die!

I had more than sufficient exertion the day before on the trek to the Crypt Lake.

The. General Store of Glacier Park, which if you are short of Kodak 32mm. Slide film, is apparently still available

The Crypt Lake and Hike

This hike has been judged amongst the Top 10 hikes in the world and amongst the top hikes in Canada. It is an extreme outdoor adventure climbing almost 1000m and 10km one way or 20 bone crunching km in and out. About 1 km away from the lake (a glacial lake) are two Indiana Jones heart stopping encounters with ones fear of heights, not to mention death, paramount in the experience. The first is a ledge climb with the width being about a metre for 25 metres then crawling or bending through a tunnel in the rocks – which I must admit I could not work out if it was a natural walk way or man made, to access this one climbs a metal ladder up about 2 meters. At the end of the tunnel, one is confronted by a precipitous gorge and another ledge crawl, the width of which is such that to minimise the chance of missing one’s footing and plunging a thousand metres into the ravine, there is a steel cable drilled into the rock face every few metres.

Once negotiated, there is a further 1km track to a breathtaking glacial lake. The only way to do it justice is with photographs.

Having eaten lunch, sitting with bare feet in the deliciously icy water, teaming with trout, one repeats the whole adventure.

It was, to add to the sense of masochism, 32 degrees in a burning sun despite being at more than 3000m .

Have just had dinner in the dining room of the Prince of Wales hotel! It has a Scottish theme! The staff are in kilts and at 8pm in the lounge is a talk on the history of Waterton and the Prince of Wales hotel, given by a young Asian man in a kilt!

Glacier and Waterton Lakes

Again for the last 3 days, we have been electronically “stranded”, no “cell phone connection ” is the way it is bemoaned and what a joy to see families and friends actually chatting, playing cards and generally making their own entertainment.

The cycle trip is demanding, but the rewards in terms of exquisite scenery and exhilarating descents is worth it.

A few representative photographs