Fri 21st June.
The heat of the south and an invite to Geneva.
I received an invite from a friend to join him in Geneva. He had spent a week in Cannes on work and was heading up to Geneva to chill-out after an intense workload for a few days. He rented a flat there from AirB’n’B and would be happy to see me and catch up. Straight away I was keen to go, but he was there for a short time from 22nd-25th, meaning I would have to get a train up and miss parts of France I planned to see.
Marseille was near the next stop and realistically I could get a train from there, so that was a suitable pit-stop. I would miss, Cannes, Nice and Monaco, but given the way things had worked out in the south, that didn’t bother me. None of the hosts in the area had responded at this point, so a shortcut to Switzerland with a friend was becoming more and more appealing.
With this in mind, I had something to look forward to and finally I would be leaving France to see Switzerland, a country I had wanted to visit so desperately for a long time.
The first significant sight of the day was the lake ‘Étang de Lavalduc’. I stopped there to take in the panoramic view over the lake of the cliff-faces and buildings. I ate, took my shoes off, dipped my feet in the water and lay in the sun for a while.
Making sure I didn’t overheat or dehydrate, I headed off to Martigues where I had another amazing view of the sea and the coast for miles. This part of France was special and had a lot to offer for holiday makers. I was beginning to see the upside of the south, but it didn’t outweigh the negatives.
The sun was strong and the sea was glistening for miles around. Soon after, the terrain changed in a big way, it became rocky, hilly and very difficult. The sun was stifling, making things worse on the bike, particularly as it was at its peak during the climbs.
I took a break, bought a coke in a shop and wished there was a way around it. The steepness of the hills made it difficult, but like in the mountains all I could do was take my time and keep moving. I got by, but the heat meant that I could only go for short bits at a time before having to find shade and replenish liquids, otherwise becoming dehydrated.
The maze of roads, shared with traffic and the heat was a nightmare. After some confusion and an off-road alternative, I found a route out that took me downhill providing a much-needed breeze.
Everything else became blurry at this point as the rocks, roads and heat had started to merge in my mind. I entered a long dark tunnel and when I shot out the other end I passed under a viaduct and within seconds everything changed. Instead of the claustrophobic rocks and heat, I was rewarded with views of Marseille, framed by the aqua blues of the Mediterranean, removing all anxieties I’d built up so far. I was immensely relieved to be out of the hills and floating towards France’s third biggest city, that seemed to go on forever from what I could see.
The place I’d been advised to go to if visiting Marseille was a community project called ‘Yes We Camp’. I booked myself in for ‘a room’ for the night. You could camp in the space, or take a bed in accommodation they had built from disused palettes.
I stayed for two nights and for the second time in almost four weeks, I would have a day off to recuperate and look into getting a train to Geneva.
Never had I ever had such a physical output over this period of time. I was exhausted and extremely tired, but by this stage I had mentally acclimatised to being this tired and learnt how to get on with things. Cycling burns calories to create energy and I think when this happens, it creates a boost that you can really feel. Much healthier then a lifetime on coffee.
If I went to Geneva I would have at least another day off, with a friend, with four walls, a ceiling and a bed, which is just what I needed.
I had a lot to look forward too, but a lot to do before I could.