Posted by Nina. Updated from the Rennes Cybercafe.
95 kilometres, two boats and nine punctures later, we have finally arrived in sunny France. We left South Avenue, Exeter at precisely 14:39, having been promised a tour of my dad's old house when we get back by the current owner. We eagerly cycled the route that my dad took fifty years ago with both excitement and anticipation. However he miraculously had had only three punctures over the whole 2286 miles - my bike had had four before Axminster!
Night closed in, and we had a sinking feeling that we were going to miss our booked seats on the 07:15 sailing from Weymouth docks the next day. Two Brummies ran to hail the last bus for us to Bridport and our fate was sealed. Dougie the driver was a dear and put his foot down to 23 miles an hour so to try and catch a second bus onto Weymouth despite having been kindly offered a bed and a lift the next morning by an insistant drunk-and-over-enthusiastic lady who was on the bus. "You'll never make it otherwise - the offer's there you know". But I doubted her enthusiasm and ability to wake up at six am the next morning to do so.
Bridport, all 30 seconds of it, was lovely. The bus to Weymouth docks was there! Regretfully (but probably realistically) we realised that to try to attempt to push our bikes along the lanes through the night would have been foolish. Even if it would have been in keeping with tradition. The bus it was, and new tyres soon for me!
We breathed a sigh of relief to arrive in Weymouth. We bought food in a curious chip shop in the company of two drunk 16-year-old girls, three Russians and a sozzled moustached man with a freshly-drawn tattoo. We ate chips on the beach watching the contents of the pubs, clubs and chip shop empty - very messy. I felt some allegiance with the local people, as I put on more warm clothes, and as they took theirs off.
The night was spent resting, face down and dribbling on the cafe tables in the ferry terminal. We woke to the noise of freight, and were pleased when the time came to walk onto the luxurious high-speed Condor ferry to the Channel Islands. Our trip took only 3 hours, my dad's took seven-and-three-quarters.
I recognised St. Peter's Port, Guernsey, and the cloudy harbour we arrived in in St. Helier, Jersey from my dad's photos. We watched volleyball on the beach and then fell asleep on the top of the sea wall - I couldn't quite work out if we were abroad or not yet. Jersey is not part of the EU.
We cycled to the peninsula of Le Corbieres, without cycling licences, and enjoyed two further punctures. We considered offering "Guess how many punctures" bets with the spare inner tube as the prize. We met a photographer who smilingly and unrealisingly told a very sad story of islands which had been pushed and pulled by the countries surrounding it. The Channel Islands consumed many hours of Nazi action, struggled as many do these days with farming, and he was now losing frients to the fluctuations of the finance industry. The inventor of the famous workmate continues to live on here though.
More carbo-loading with chips and as the sun set, I pushed my yet-another-punctured-tyred bike up the eastern rocky outcrop of Mount Bingham. It was quite moving to know that my dad was precisely here exactly fifty years ago to the hour. I can pin my dad's whereabouts on only two days in my life - my day of birth and his day of death. The next 42 days of his trip I can have a jolly good guess at.
The sight of a police car at the top of hill made me think twice about the seriousness of sleeping out under the stars. But bed and breakfasts would blow our ten shillings a day budget, and besides, it was probably the fear of the unknown anyway.
We sneaked our way to the ramparts at the top and watched the perfectly-half-crescent moon stud the setting sunset over a lovely island. I was so pleased to lie there, and to have learnt the my dad must have been strong and brave, like a superhero, and that actually bivvy bags are surprisingly comfy.
The heat of the sun in the morning stirred me, and I then awoke a soundly-snoring Simon who must have scared all those stray cats away. I pushed my sorry bike down the hill while Simon freewheeled and we met in the shadow of the bronze Union Jack in Liberation Square. I repaired the inner tube before the ferry's stern doors shut (well, it was the ferry's staff who were the stern ones really; we were late). We relished for the last time paying with oh-so-many English coins for just one of those long loaves known as baguettes before arriving at sunny St. Malo.