The Cantal: Nasbinals to beyond Murat. - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

April 9, 2014

The Cantal: Nasbinals to beyond Murat.

Just as expected, the tent is stiff and whitened with frost first thing this morning. Though how would I expect it is a few degrees below zero when I was warmly cocooned in my sleeping-bag. It is a pity to leave such a comfortable place, but get out I must. I boil water inside the tent, then leave the Trangia to burn away, giving a nice glow of heat while eating my muesli.

I waited until nine when the tent had thawed and dried.
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I'm rapped up warmly with a second jersey, rain-jacket and wearing my thick gloves as I ride onwards. The narrow road meanders across pale green upland pastureland dotted with rock-outcrops and divided here and there into large rectangles by stone walls. As I descend towards a stone bridge, I see someone in orange walking ahead. First I think a workman. Then see a second one and they're weighted down with backpacks. The one in front crests the humpback of the bridge and turns and holds up a camera to take a picture of the view. They are short in statue and dressed like polar explorers, complete with wide brim sunhat and sunglasses. They are two Japanese women and the younger of the two asks me in broken hard to understand English the way to somewhere I've never heard of. I just reply, sorry, I don't know. Then the middle-aged woman following behind asks the younger, supposedly what I said; then grunts in dissatisfaction on hearing the reply. Both trudge off along a stone-walled laneway. I do hope they found their way.

My camera battery was flat, so I resort to my ancillary camera which had got a bit wet in my non-too-watertight pannier, so there's a bit of condensation in these shots.
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A few kilometres further I stop at a crossroads to look at the map. Its by the gateway to a farm where a tractor with a loading fork attachment is loading a wagon-feeder with silage, the fermenting smell of which and the smell of cattle slurry is thick in the air. Turning left here is D52. A road not on my map. There is an electronic sign at the start with "Col Du ..... Ouvert" The road goes off towards distant hills still white with snow, putting me off taking it, so I decide to continue straight on.

I descend to Nasbinals, a village like you may see in northern England. All grey stone houses with steep streets. Climbing up through the centre I pass a boulangerie, then double back as it may be a long way to the next chance to eat. I buy and sit eating a cheese and bacon pizza slice across the street on the steps by the water-tap. Down the hill is the Marie's house. He is stood on his doorstep chatting with a stooped elderly woman; while, up the hill is a school and a little girl with thick rimmed glasses pauses to look at me before saying "bonjour" and continuing on to school.

Nasbinals.
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Onwards the D12 becomes D13 as I pass into the Department Cantal. Indicated with a stitch line on the map. The countryside remains the same. Spring is slow in coming at this altitude. In fields clusters of brown cows with long horns congregate around feeding troughs and daffodils are out in front gardens of roadside houses.

At some point there are more trees as I cycle along with a pine plantation upon rising ground on the right of the road and off to the left is a snowy white mountain range. Shortly the road spirals sharply down into a gorge and into the street of Chaudes Aigues. There's an old town square with fruit and veg shop and a boulangerie. It is just after twelve and after a look at the map, decide to hold off until the next town. The road onwards descends deeper to a aqua marine river filled bottom of gorge, over a bridge and then up the inevitable lengthy climb.

Climbing back up upon high plateau again, the road is straight rolling up and down short steep hills. There's a blustery cross wind and draught from regular oncoming trucks almost blow me to a standstill. I'm famish and wish I'd bought something in Chaudes Aigues. Eventually, there's a killer long climb into Saint Flour. I'm so hungry, I stop at the first boulangerie on the main walking street, where after buying a slice of pizza, and blackberry and vanilla flan, I picnic on a bench in the street.

Superstores line the N122 out of town towards Aurillac and here I stop at a Carrefour to replemish supplies. Then the traffic is steady onwards along a valley with pine forest slopes either side. Then begins to spiral up through the pine forest. I've only turned up round two switch-backs when, I come to a wide gravelled apron to the side edged with grass; and, as its after five, decide to stop and camp.

Today's ride: 93 km (58 miles)
Total: 13,774 km (8,554 miles)

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