Monday, 3 August 2009

He says – Viva La France!! All Over Again ..again

The Clicking sound now has a life of its own. It comes and goes. It is there on some turns and not on others. It is there sometimes when I am on the throttle and not others. It is there with the clutch engaged and not. Only time it is not there is when we are at the campsites and Anubis is on the centre-stand. There is no obvious cause. I am stressed, and a little embarrassed every time we go near people. It is a constant worry for me.

Once we were actually in France, we passed though Chamonix, under Mont Blanc a tourist town in the Alps that we spent some time in 10 years ago. It has changed little, and what changes there have been have not been for the better. Tam commented on how during that trip a decade ago we went Britain, France (including Chamonix), Spain.. Oddly simular to how we are going now.

We continued on the smaller roads, to avoid the tolls, until we hit St-Nazaire-en-Royans, a little village that was very pretty and was dominated by a huge aqueduct. Instead of looking around, I decided to tighten spokes, as I could not figure out what was happening and the rear tyre was not running true. During this process I discovered a second broken spoke. I seemed to be a bit over zealous at tightening the spokes, as in the process I popped the tyre (inner tube). I then had to spend the better part of 4 hours re-re-truing wheels and changing the tyre. All under the scornful gaze of a Dutch woman in a campervan. I was however all for naught, at the end the clicking was still steadily becoming worse.

Defeated we went in to town to look around and see if we can get some nice shots of the aqueduct. The village was very cute, but like much of rural France, it was a bit run down. Not in that quaint dilapidate old way, but in the neglected looks like an abandoned house way. After walking though much of the little town we watch the sun set over the lake and mountains, before heading home to the campsite.

At this point in the trip I am having flashbacks to our Romania trip. The people of France are great, friendly, and helpful (completely against their reputation). Perhaps it is because we both are making a effort to speak French. Although it is closer to destroying it then actually speaking it. Out of my mouth French sounds like a Brummy speaking gibberish with a mouth full of frogs. However we are mostly understood, well mostly. The rural towns have not been the picture post cards I have been hoping for.

At this point I had narrowed down the soul destroying, nerve shattering clicking sound down to drive train? But where? The chain and sprockets are good, the cutch is not dragging or slipping. The out put spline was good (yes I pulled it apart and looked).

We decided to head to the home of the werewolf ledgend, Gevaudan. Although it is no longer refered to as a wolf but the more PC name of the beast. La bete of Gevaudan. This was the inspiration behind one of our favourite films The Brotherhood Of The Wolf (“La Pacte des Luope”).

About 13k out of our destination of Monistrol du Allier, in Gevaudan we got flat number two in two days. This time not in a nice shady campground but on the side of the road, under the hottest sun I have seen in years. (The UK is not a good place to acclimate for a Saharan trip). It was only about 35°C but I was melting. Eventually a farmer came to stand around and watch. Not sure if he was there to make sure we left or just to make sure we are okay.. either way.. I repatched the inner tube and we were on our way, clicking was still bad.

Eventually we made it to our destination village, where we found a nice little campsite with a river a few metres away and a swimming section only about 500m away. And it was good.

I adjusted chian more and clutch cable some more,,, and really really really want to change oil. I think that I will do a roadside environmental terrorist act soon.

Frustrated but not really fussed we went for a swim in the lake, it was nice but chilled me to the bone, so I did not stay in very long, Tam was a bit disappointed in the duration but was bored on her own, so with in half an hour we were out and heading back to camp. Later that evening a man cam up to me and asked me in French where we are from, I answered in French as best I could. To have him reply in a cheeky voice.. “Don’t tell anyone but we are Kiwis.” We chatted for a while as you do, only to find out that their daughter is a Prof of environmental statistics at Canterbury Uni in NZ. It really is a small world. Daughter aside, they are an impressive pair that walk up to 15 k in a day just for the fun of it. Meeting them made me realise that for the first time travelling anywhere we have not run in to any Aussies. Where are you all?

Part of the reason we came to this little town of all places was that they have a metal statue of La Bete that is supposedly huge, and from the picture I have seen incredibly cool. Well as Murphy would have it, this statue was move for an exhibition. LAST WEEK!!! Oh well. We headed for Saugues, for the day. Saugues is the big “city” in the area and was reputed to have a museum dedicated to the legend of Le bete. Well it was a nice enough place but, not even a city by Tasmania standards. The museum was a little more then a side show exhibit, with an entrée fee to match. Saving our €6.50 each we looked a round town a bit and decided to head back to camp for a swim.
We found a petrol station that sold the oil we wanted, where the nice woman thought I was nuts for wanting diesel oil for a bike. We stoped for a road side environmental terrorism outside Saugues. We had seen a pullout that was the local fly tip, and changed the oil there. I am not proud of this, but feel that I must admit it. Instantly, Anubis is running cooler and smoother but clicking still there…not out put shaft. Not clutch as far as I can tell. Not cam chain, not anything obvious. Tyre still not perfect. but strait and close. Chain has one bad link will consider new chain sooner then planed. Another nice relaxing day, but we are not seeing much of Gevaudan.

On a completely random note: What is with the French and squat toilettes? I have only ever seen these in Asia. Did the French bring them there or vise versa?

The following day we road all over the valley. The little villages of France still continue to surprise me they are all so run down, I always imagined these little un-touristed places to be a slice of heaven out of a movie, but they continue to be shabby. The sad part is that you can see how nice they once were and how easily it would be to make then truly beautiful again. I have also noted one more thing which is what it most likely the cause of the degradation. There is almost no young adults anywhere. The majority of towns are inhabited by the elderly, even working in the shops. Presumably, like everywhere else in the world, there is little opportunity for the young career wise, so they leave for the bigger cities, the elderly then either do not have the health and/or money to worry about things like cracks in the plaster, or a new coat of paint.

Although Anubis is running smoother the clicking is still very bad. not sure what to do? So at the next big city we will have to find place to change chain. This leaves me debating whether to do sprockets, as well.. yes I know you should d them together, but that will be expensive then they look okay, besides the rear tyre has worn far faster then anticipated and Tam has talked me in to new rear tyre as well.

After our ride about the valley I slept the sleep of the mentally and physically exhausted but woke up with the sun but feeling well. Amazingly, we made it out of camp by 930. I think this may be a new record. We would be leaving out little valley today and heading Auvers, the place where La bete was killed (or at least injured by a young woman). A man some how got the credit for the kill shot, but it is admitted only after she stabbed it. It was a quiet little 5 house town whose museum was only open weekends so our visit was a short one.

From there we headed to Montpellier, with the plan to find a new tyre and chain. It was not a long ride but I was getting tense. Once in town we stopped at a service station and were given directions to the motorcycle area. Although I did not quite understand, “the area” comment, once there is was obvious every single dealer and accessory shop was contained within a couple of miles. Biker heaven!

The dealers that we stopped at were, as I have found in all countries, completely useless. Honda did not do servicing; the Yamaha mechanic was away on holiday, Suzuki: well they did not even try to communicate with me. The nice guy at the original service station told us about a place called Moto-expert, so we tried them, they had a chain and sprocket kit and tyre for me. Unfortunately the tyre was a Bridgestone Battle-Wing road tyre, less then ideal but good enough for now. It cost a packet, and to make it worse they had to do the work, but in little over an hour we were back on the road. The best part is that the click is gone it was a bad chain! At first I did not think it was necessary to change the sprockets but it was a complete kit, so same price either way so why not. When all was completed I looked again at the front and it was hooked worse then when I had looked only a few days before. So it was both. A bad chain a bum sprocket. I feel like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and not only because I am now 300€ lighter.. Now we are in a 28€ a night campground hell. Expensive days but I am a happy camper!

We headed to Carcasonne, a walled city that has been completely rebuilt. It was a rather attractive place, and we spent the day wandering the narrow streets and alleys. Although it was rebuilt we found out that that was two hundred years ago. By Aussie standards this is still old. We both really like the place and despite the touristy slant to the to it had a very nice feel.

Very early that morning we headed to the Pyrenees, we spent two nights in a camp just above Ax-les-Therm, The views were fantastic. The first day we took our first opportunity to sit around and do absolutely nothing, well I went to Ax to get groceries (but we did nothing else!). Riding unloaded and no pillion was very nice, but the 38°C temperature and traffic jam quickly ruined that. I got to a groceries store called simply Ed. It was the typical Saturday rush and was typically unpleasant. Somehow I did the typical tourist thing and lost the ability to do maths, and was over charged for several things and charged for another expensive item that I did not even buy. Ed is bad. I bet the clerk pocketed the difference. And people are warning us about cons in Africa! At the camp we befriended an Dutch couple and really do hope that we will meet up one day. We spent some time talking about the trip and other things over a beer, it was really nice to make a friend.

Shortly after that I MacGuyvered an air valve for (strangely enough) another Dutch woman’s air bed. She in return (un-required) gave us a packet of Dutch biscuits as payment, and there-by made another friend. The next day already tired of being sedentary we purchased a walking guidebook and tried to go for a walk. But in French style (and the most frustrating thing in France) the road signs just stopped and we found our selves driving around with no clue as to where we are. We ended up walking a route we had no intention of doing. It was really nice to get off the bike and in to the hills where we spent some time exploring a cool little village and a little old church.

It was now time to leave France, we headed to Andorra. We both knew nothing about this country and so just had to see it. What to say about Andorra? The entire country is a shopping centre. It is a sales-tax free EU country, so people flock to it to grab a bargain. From what I noticed, the prices were okay but nothing that you could not find in the comfort of your own living room on the net. I saw little in the way of walking or tourist entertainment other then some ski slopes (which obviously did not help us in the middle of the summer). The original plan was to stay a night so we can claim a pannier sticker. The weather was looking bad and it was like camping in a shopping centre. We both agreed that there was no point and left although we did buy a sticker. Four hours order to border, including a walk around town and getting lunch. This says something about a country. (What I am not sure but something, this was the best view I could find).