Vienne.

Day 4: Morthemer (N-F-P-H-T-R-E-R-E-R) to Rochechouart.

Distance: 104.30km
Trip total: 547.54km
Average: 15.7kph
Max: 49.8kph
Time: 06:38:09

Cuckoos: lost count
Bright green lizards crossing the road: 3
Bright green lizards who died trying: 1
Bad Polish lorry drivers: 1

Anna and I left Morthemer early, leaving her house at 7:10 so that she could get to work in time. Almost as soon as we left the village I noticed the front end of my bike wasn’t handling as it should going down hill, then when we climbed the next hill I heard the tell-tale sound of a totally flat tyre, and realised why I’d been struggling to go at a decent speed. Anna had to get to work, so we said goodbye and I set about repairing the puncture, which should have been a 10 minute job.

40 minutes later I was still there, and had only managed to locate the offending nail tip, replace the inner tube, and put the wheel back together, as when I got the pump off the bike and tried to inflate the wheel, as much air was coming out as I was putting in, and I was getting nowhere. I checked the wheel, which was all as it should be, and realised that the pump was broken.

I was miles from any town that might have a pump, and had no other options, so I had to persevere with the pump, eventually working out that if I held it in a certain position and went slowly (yes, I know…) I could get just enough air into the wheel to get me to the next big town.

Anna had texted to find out whether I’d got on ok with fixing the flat, and while I was struggling with sorting it out, she googled where the nearest bike shop south of Morthemer was, and came up with a motorbike/cycle shop on the road into Lussac, 15km or so from where I was, and on my intended route anyway.

I found the shop as soon as I cycled into the town, but they didn’t sell pumps, and only had a track pump, so I used that to get both wheels up to the right pressure, then found a supermarket round the corner and bought a new pump.

Although today was far shorter in distance terms, it was probably the most physically gruelling of the trip so far, due to relentless hills far more severe than anything I’d climbed already) and searing heat. By 9am it was already climbing into the mid-20s, and the afternoon was far too hot for comfort, peaking at 42C in the sun at around 2pm.

The route generally followed the river Vienne heading south, but not through the river valley itself. Instead, it took me through the hills above the valley, and as a result cut across every single one of the rivers flowing down off the hills and into the Vienne from the east. This was a bad bit of route planning, and I’ll have to compare it to the google route I’d planned at home.

The result of crossing all these small rivers was an interminable succession of short, fast descents into the river valleys, and then tedious, hard, steep climbs back out again, which by early afternoon, in 40+ degree heat, was starting to test my patience and stamina.

In the end, I just accepted that it was going to be a hard slog of a day, and short of changing the route and adding tens of km, I couldn’t do anything about the route, or the heat, so I took it very slowly (hence the painfully slow 15kph average), and rested in the shade every half hour or so.

Eventually I got within a few km of Rochechouart, and La Vienne gave me one final kick in the teeth as I crossed it and had to climb back out of the valley for a final time today.

I arrived at the campsite completely exhausted and with nothing left in my legs, and have done very little since, apart from stuffing my face with omelette at the campsite’s restaurant.

The moment I got to the site, inevitably, a cuckoo started cuckooing in the woods nearby, and it’s still at it now. I’ve reached the conclusion that the majority of France is made out of cuckoo.

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