Last year, at approximately this stage of our first VF journey to Rome, it was poor Gwendolyn (one of our two horses) who suffered the injury that would finally force us to continue without her. Now it is me, though the options in terms of how we continue our journey are probably are not quite so clear.
At the risk of entering areas that are best left well alone, if only for my well known (for those who know me well) hypersensitivity with regard to anything involving bodily functions, I will admit that I have a kidney infection. Me, of all people. A broken leg with a heroic plaster or an obvious wound from a traumatic fall I can deal with, but the mention of anything internal and urinal sends me into total paralysis. And then, as if the irony were not already sufficient, I only begin to suspect that something might not be quite right after our two days rest and recuperation in Langres. If this is what resting does, I will keep on cycling through till midnight.
Morning, and as we prepare to leave, I tell Paul that I feel slightly feverish. Nevertheless, in spite of a mild ache in my back, we have a memorably good day’s cycling on small country roads with more downs than ups and, according to the GPS, an occasional average speed of 25kms per hour. It is only as we are entering Champlitte-et-le-Prelot (a pleasant town that features nothing more remarkable than a huge sculptor of green Wellington boots) that I begin to feel really ill. Still, in my usual state of denial where these kinds of things are concerned, I drink enough beer to ensure immediate sleep, ensure Paul that I am just suffering from a 24 hour flu, probably a consequence of getting soaked in the previous storm, and then try to convince myself that I am right.
Wrong! Malaria’s cousin has prepared a night of wild entertainment for me; a crashing ride at breakneck speed through a range of bodily temperatures that are off any scale I have ever experienced. In the morning I am wrecked and extend the 24-hour flu to 48.
Of the two of us I guess I am better known for being the more taciturn, with the lifelong conviction that most of the thoughts that bang around in my head are of no interest to rest of the world. Occasionally a goodly dose of red wine will correct this misapprehension and the world has a fleeting opportunity to hear my wisdom. However, if I describe myself as tight lipped, Babette can be the veritable clam when things are going wrong and in particular where her health is concerned. As a consequence I judge her well-being or should it be ill-being by how hard it is to coax a response from her.
Today it was difficult and not only during the fewer, but still painful, ups. Babette has skated over a few details of the routing including being nearly 10 km off course after convincing ourselves that we had come across another mapping error. In this case the error was all mine. Our general dictum has been to try to follow the recommended route provided by the IAVF. This in general parallels the historic route, but endeavours to avoid the main highways using minor roads and a good number of chemins blancs (the communal farm tracks) and the formal (such as the GR) and informal pathways. Today we had repeated experience of the informal paths being absorbed into cultivated land, blocked by fencing or simply overgrown and not sensibly passable. Luckily the alternative routes that we were able to find were on quiet country roads having the added benefit of faster progress and the comforting back-up of signs telling you where you are and where you are heading. As we evolve our recommendations for those that follow in the future, we are both convinced that we must be very careful in recommending the use of unadopted paths as even if they are passable today, then there is no certainty that they will be there next year.
In Champlitte we stayed in the 2 star Hotel Donjon. They can’t have yet joined the 2 star cartel as their room prices start at just 38 Euros for a double. Just a few doors away an auberge is undergoing renovation with a suggestion that it too might offer accommodation in the future. Keep your windows shut as heavy lorries from all corners of the continent seem to use the road through Champlitte as they dodge the autoroute tolls.