Away from the funky gite by 9:15, 1st stop 40 meters from the gites at the little shop in the canal boat (I had seen it on TV!) where we picked up more water and bread, cheese, tomatoes and olives for lunch.
Unbelievably, the guy at the gite had said that the trail was better between Le Somail and Béziers. We certainly did not find that to be the case. The entire day we could do nothing but watch the trail rolling under our tires and try to swerve in time to avoid the roots and ruts that were part of the path. Taxing, not relaxing.
At one point the trail was once again a single trail goat track with only about a foot of space between the track and the canal on one side and a steep bank on the other. If someone came from the opposite direction one party had to stop and step aside in order to avoid landing in the canal.
When we finally reached the tunnel at Malpas it was time to stop for lunch and Vera found a breezy, if somewhat ugly spot where she could try to gather some cooler air about her. She has a real problem with the heat and has to just stop and be inactive for an hour or so. Although riding in the heat of the day is not my favorite thing, I’m very fortunate that it doesn’t bother me as much as her.
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While Vera was trying to rest and recover I busied myself with the hotel search and read though our materials for a likely candidate for our night’s rest. We decided to make Villeneuves les Béziers our destination for the night, as it gave us a respectable 50km distance for the day, got us to a place early enough to have a relaxing late afternoon and evening and leaves us with 50-60km for our last real day of riding.
The 8-10km between the tunnel at Malpas and Béziers were some of the worst ever! First of all it was mid-afternoon and surely 95 degrees. Then we had headwind which didn’t make the going any easier. The trail was wide enough (mostly) but either there were tree roots to avoid or big huge rutted, wet, muddy puddles (who knows where they came from-it certainly hasn’t rained here in the past couple of days!) that stretched from one side of the path to the other (the canal!). Now keep in mind, I am not riding a mountain bike, but a fully-packed trekking bike with tires largely meant for pavement. Black Beauty has performed marvelously, but she draws the line at mud slime – she just rolls in and stops. So in a relatively short stretch I had to stop, get off and skirt the puddle – without losing the bike in the canal – no less than 8 times. That will slow you down!