Day 5: Rochechouart to Camping Le Roc de Levandre, near Saint-Felix-De-Raillac-Et-Mortemart.
Trip total: 669.68km
Squashed adders: 1
Squashed subtracters: 0
Moments of utter desperation: 1
Moments of sheer elation: 1
Storms overnight took the heat out of the air, and I woke to an overcast sky and a cool morning. I’d had vague thoughts of taking a tactical rest day at Rochechouart, but the cool morning made the choice to carry on an easy one. Also, I’d checked my emails and had one from the family I’m due to stay with tomorrow night in Luzech, confirming our plans, so I felt obliged to keep going and rest once I’d kept to our arrangement.
I set off at around 8:30, the air cool and a cloudy sky keeping the sun at bay for a few hours. The first half of the day was so much easier than yesterday had been, and by early afternoon I’d covered about 80km, crossing the Perigord Limousin national park,and still felt fresh.
The route took me through Oradour-Sur-Vayres and Chalus, then followed a railway line (flat) to Thiviers, which announced itself as ‘The fois gras capital of France!’. I didn’t stop for a taste.
After Thiviers the route met the river L’isle at Corgnac-Sur-L’isle, and I enjoyed more flat, fast riding along the river valley until Savignac-Les-Eglises, where it veered off and I started to climb and climb and climb, through remote countryside and forests.
The climbing was as tough as yesterday, and the temperature peaked at 40C in the sun, but I was within 20km of my intended campsite and pushed on, eventually closing to within a couple of km of the supposed location.
Which is where it all went horribly wrong. What had been listed as a campsite on the GPS (I hadn’t managed to find a site for today at home, so decided to rely on the GPS finding one for me, which I’ve done successfully before, but was a big mistake today), turned out to be a few derelict and deserted farm buildings, with no sign of anyone to ask. Annoyingly, I’d passed a Gite/campsite place about 5km back, but since that point had climbed countless steep hills and couldn’t face turning back.
I checked the GPS again, and the nearest campsite south of me was a further 20km away, and I’d run out of water. My heart sank at the thought of another 20km of the same kind of hills I’d been climbing all afternoon, with the temperature still about 30 degrees.
I pushed on over a few more hills, and suddenly turned onto the D47, where in the space of three or four km I descended probably all of what I’d climbed during the day. There didn’t seem to be an end to the descent, which gave me hope that I could cover the 20km to the campsite on the GPS in good time, rather than crawling along at walking speed through the hills as I’d been doing for hours. I’d enjoyed a smooth, fast 5km descent in no time when suddenly, as I came round a corner, I saw a huge sign saying ‘CAMPING’ on my right, and to my left an idyllic looking campsite.
Having prepared myself mentally for another 20km slog through the hills, the combination of such an amazing descent and a campsite waiting for me at the bottom instantly lifted me from the depths of gloom to sheer jubilation.
I rolled into the campsite and was greeted by an English speaking owner and a bar, and within two minutes had an ice cold beer and a place to stay for the night.
For once, when I say tomorrow will be a shorter day, I can say it with a degree of certainty. I’ve just plotted a new route file on the GPS, and double checked the distance, which comes in at 94km. Also, I know where I’m staying, and there won’t be any nasty surprises with campsites.
If I end tomorrow on anything approaching 130km I’m giving up through sheer frustration.