Rob Ennals > Travel > Simon and Rob Invade and Conquer France

Day 5: Coypu!

Mifages -> Barages


  • 1st half of Tourmalet: 690m

Simon awoke with tales of strange animal noises through the night, and queried what it might have been. Thus prompted, Simon's mysterious powers caused me to immediately see the source of the noises. It was a large, beaver-like creature that seemed to like waddling up and down the bank of the lake. After watching the waddling for a while, we went and asked the campsite owners what it was, and were informed that it was a Coypu. Simon said something about Coypus supposedly being native to South America, and this one being most definitely in the wrong place.

Having worn itself out the previous day, the weather seemed to have calmed down, and we were able to enjoy a sedate cruise down to Lourdes. Lourdes greeted us, as I assume it greets most people, with a display of neon signs, and resplendent tackiness. I commented that we seemed to have somehow ended up in Las Vegas.

Having been assured by our guidebook that Lourdes would be full of pilgrims in wheelchairs, I was somewhat surprised to find the city dominated by small shaven-legged men riding obscenely expensive bicycles. Servicing the needs of these people was a wonderful bike shop, from which I was able to purchase a new set of brake blocks - my previous ones having been largely worn out by earlier descents. Standing outside this shop was one of the small shaven people. Simon used some bicycle flattery [simon - the guy was on a Merlin titanium bike, a sure four grands worth] to get a conversation started, and we were able to extract from him that he was part of the Etape du Tour, the band of ultra-hard cyclists who do all the Tour de France stages ahead of the Tour, and which is apparently based at Lourdes. I exchanged some inaccurate statistics with him, and then we made our exit.

It had long been decided that one of our key stops was to be the Col Du Tourmalet, on the top of which we intended to watch the Tour de France on the 22nd of July. Our intention was to camp at the bottom of the climb, have a rest day there, and then climb up to the top on the morning of the Tour. However, by the time we actually found a camp site, we were half-way up the Tourmalet, in Barages.

We found that we had run out of clean underwear, and so were relieved to find that the campsite had a washing machine. Previous campsites hadn't had washing facilities, so this was a well timed change, which we attributed to Simon's psychic powers. The eccentric campsite owner urged us to come to campsite-breakfast and try his proper French Coffee "none of your Rosbif coffee, French coffee like this [points at exceeding black thing]. Will give you energy for all the day.". We told him that we definitely would, and then didn't.