Right, we’re nearly done.
Day 04 dawned early if not bright as I’d decided that I was going to get up at 05:00 and set off at 06:30 – a couple of hours before the others.
This would allow me to ride the first big climb of the day at my own pace and give my back the best chance of remaining fully functioning.
So…..after a hearty breakfast, some stretches and the packing up of some very wet camping gear, I set off into the dawn gloom.
The road went straight up from the campsite before turning into a forest road and continuing up for about 1000m of overall alt. gain which wasn’t particularly enticing that early in the morning!
Here’s the sunrise as seen on the trail:
…and here’s a nice silhouetted set of mountains in the distance:
Luckily I didn’t have to ride long at all as it turned out as an hour into the days riding I got a (now all too familiar) shooting pain running down a nerve through my bum and into the top of my leg.
This is a something I’ve come to dread as it is a certain and absolute sign that my L3 disc is bulging and that if I don’t rest and take extreme care I’ll soon be laid up in bed for two months of inactivity and boredom (not to mention the unreasonable demands I’d be laying at Nikki’s feet of having to run things at the house, look after Amelie and grow a baby in her belly – not really fair!) with a herniated disc.
It was only a few minutes after first noticing the pain (and it failing to go after some more stretching) that I made the decision to return to the campsite to inform the others that my trip was over and that I’d not be continuing with them any further.
Here’s the view I had when I made the (infinitely more sensible than usual) decision to quit:
The others were just finishing up packing up their kit when I rode back into camp and told them my news.
We said our goodbyes and I wished them good luck for their ongoing adventure and before 09:00 I was on my way into town to see about my next move.
It was certainly sad to have failed at the challenge I’d set myself but I was also weirdly ok as I began to plan what to do next.
Before the trip I knew that my recent injuries had meant that I was in terrible shape for the trip and that this increased the likelihood that I’d encounter problems along the way but the trip had been so long in the planning that I at least wanted to give it a go (better to try and fail than not try at all and all that…).
I’ve also come to accept that as a father and husband I can no longer just bugger off for weeks at a time without really REALLY missing my ladies and having that impact my happiness doing whatever it is that’s separating me form them.
Finally, the trails and accommodation on this trip were nothing like I’d had in my mind when dreaming about this trip which helped lessen the blow of being unable to carry on.
It was a confused and both disappointed and yet relieved Gairy that sat in a random little internet cafe trying to figure out what to do next!
I thought about travelling to a later point in the route and hoping that my back eased enough to rejoin the group but in the end (rightly it turned out at my back is only now feeling better) I read that Nikki had had a nasty ear infection and that settled matters and I set about getting back to the UK as soon as possible.
The next 48 hours saw me take a bus up and over the Pyrenees to the French border, ride to a nearby(ish) train station, take a train to Toulouse, spend the night in a crappy hotel, get the TGV to Paris, navigate my way across Paris using only a compass (the Gare du Nord is in the North of Paris after all!), take an insanely expensive Eurostar train to London, get VERY annoyed that my bike didn’t arrive with me (I eventually picked it up three days later) and finally arrive in West Sussex at a little cottage Nikki and some friends had rented for the weekend where I showered and sat myself down with a beer or three!
Below is a photo taken which shows my weird biking tan line, lack of suitable sun hat (and taste) and contentment with a nice bottle of real ale:
So…..all’s well that ends well!
The others have continued and should (with a little luck and a lot of blood, sweat and gears) be finishing the route at the Atlantic sometime tomorrow.
It’s a hell of an achievement and one I’d like to go back and complete at some point but with baby number II on it’s way later this year I’m thinking that it might be a while before I have a spare two weeks again (like a decade or two!!!).
But keep an eye out for more two wheel tom-foolery as it’ll not be the last daft bikepacking adventure I undertake.
My back will heal and I will return!