40 degrees in the shadow

When we were packing up the bike in Chartres there were two little Irish kids strapped into their car seats next to us, while their parents did who knows what. (I think mum thought dad was minding them, while dad had obviously decided we were trustworthy and left them there while he went and had a coffee or something.) The little boy was 5 and very chatty, asking us lots of questions, some easy to answer (“how did you get the bike to France?”) and others not so easy (“what do elephants eat?”). The parents returned eventually and as they started to drive off, the little boy stuck his head out the window and yelled back at us, “What happens if it rains?”

What happens indeed, little Irish man. In one question he managed to sum up the biggest problem with a motorbike – your vulnerability to the elements. But this trip it hasn’t been the rain that’s bothered us as much as the heat. Particularly the day after Chateauroux.

After our mosey through the Loire Valley we continued south, deep into the Dordogne region. If we thought summer had hit us in Chartres we had another thought coming. We stayed off the motorway, meaning a pleasant meander through little villages and proper winding roads, but also meaning a lower speed limit. The sun turns riding gear into a sauna suit, and not the kind that will help you lose some croissant weight but the kind that makes you feel like you might die of heatstroke, especially at low speeds.

Toby’s phone, also our GPS, got super hot. Here it is trying to cool down so it can get us where we need to go without melting.

We had a lunchtime stop at Hautefort chateau, but it wasn’t as spectacular as Chambord and there was nowhere to eat and it cost 8.50 just to see the garden. Plus, it was freaking hot. So we walked a little way into town and found a nice restaurant with air conditioning which didn’t really seem to work. The view didn’t quite make up for it.

View from Hautefort restaurant at lunchtime

We left Hautefort, wishing we didn’t have accommodation booked and we could just stop at the next hotel and hide from the heat. But we couldn’t so we kept going. The ride was magnificent, the kind where I enjoy the scenery while Toby enjoys the corners, and the scenery was unlike anything we’ve seen before. But the heat was relentless and it was hard to keep misery at bay. We finally pulled into Moissac at 6.30pm, passing a sign that told us it was still 31 degrees. I hate to think what temperatures we’d been riding through. If only we’d had the TV on to warn us of what was to come we might have stuck to the motorway and been less ambitious with our distance. But most small French hotels don’t have any English-speaking channels like BBC or CNN so we just don’t bother putting them on. A shame and quite silly of us – I’m quite sure we could have understood a weather map.

We had some issues with the hotel room’s air conditioning but luckily got it sorted before bedtime and had a delicious salad dinner near the hotel – much better than the buttery omelettes we’d had to eat at lunchtime which made me feel ill. We also drank 1.5 litres of water between us – we were super dehydrated thanks to the fact that both our camel baks have given up on being sources of water and are now just packs. Moissac is known for its 12th century cloister which we saw from the outside since we arrived so late, but other than that the hotel was in a carpark and I guess the young people are bored there. Felt kind of like a carpark in Western Sydney.

In the morning when we were packing up the bike to leave the woman from the hotel cheerfully told me they were expecting 40 degrees “in the shadow” that day, and yes it was quite normal for June. We were glad we were heading for the coast and decided to follow the motorway to cut down on time and get more air flow. It’s amazing the difference 130 km/h can make. The lady asked about air conditioning (on the bike?) and I had to say “the wind” which she thought was hilarious. Not so hilarious when it’s you.

So unfortunately our best day scenery-wise will mostly be remembered for the sweat and headaches that kind of heat brings on. And this kind of crankiness:

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