23 June, 2011

Riding the Rhone

Malua has always had a pair of mountain bikes on her deck since we left Australia.  While sailing I store then in the stern sugar scoop.  Very convenient for sailing but not great if one wants to dive off the back into the water for a swim.  We have lived with this inconvenience here in the Mediterranean for five years but the joy we get when we take them ashore makes up for the time we have to climb out of the water.
When Malua is at anchor we have had to load the bikes into the RIB and ferry them shore, not great if the landing is not good but usually it is at some dock so getting ashore is not a great hassle.  You get a smile or two from people on the shore as they see these two bikes dominating the RIB but that soon turn to understand when we ride off down the road.
I have used the bike to just go down to the shop in the morning for the breakfast bread or to go further afield to the larger supermarket but the greatest trips have been the whole day affairs when we set off in one direction to see a particular place and find we land up at a completely different destination having followd a different route.
Apollo Mountain Bike
The drivers of the Mediterranean countries respect cyclist and give you a wide birth, they even let you ride down the middle of a narrow road ahead of them and they will wait.  We have even had then stop and wait for us to cross at any point in the town or country.  The only near miss was in Manorca when we were riding down a minor side highway when a minibus passed close by.  The wind caused me to swerve then just as I was recovering the next one sped by and almost clipped my handlebar.  It was so out of the ordinary I noted the type and number of the van.  When we arrived at our resting point – some point of interest, there were the two minibuses and rounded around the bus British bird watchers out for the day.  They should learn to drive Med style when they come over here.
Rusted Bike
The original mountain bikes after four years of salt water became so rusted the chain would hardly go round the cogs.  The spokes were stripes of rust.  They were not to be see on the French Riviera or the Cote d’Azure so in Corsica we sent them to the depth.
Current bike shed
Now you know all about these set of wheels we now have so I wont need to describe them but they are defiantly not Apollo mountain bikes.  Not that you need them in this area of the Rhone.  The authorities have created many flat wide tarred bike paths all along the Rhone.  When it is convenient it follows the canal but when not they snake through the fields and towns within the Rhone valley.
The bike paths are well used on the weekend with families including little kids cycling along.  The more serious group speed by, heads down trying to cover the kilometres.  We on the other hand, amble along at a slow pace enjoying the view.  We don’t always take the designated route so the other day we landed up at the end of a field with only a river bed to cross.  Undaunted we continued through the bush to pop out in the next field with our destination in sight.  Have faith I will find you Stanley.
Yesterday we set out from the Marina at Les Roches de Condrieu.  The bikes are now stored on the foredeck where the mast should be.  No RIB ride to the shore just pass them over the side onto the dock and ride away.  The route in this part of the world led us through a nature sanctuary including bird watching hides and camouflaged resting spots.  Our destination is the town of Ampuis and the famous vineyards of syrah and viognier in particular the Maugiron Chateau which has made this type of wine since the C13.  The chateau is now the centre of the organisation and doesn’t sell at the cellar door particularly to travelling sailors on bikes.

We had to return to the town of Condrieu to purchase a bottle of their lesser brand of the local.

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