Epilogue: Montpellier to Avignon (101km)

Today was the first day after the official tour and I cycled to Avignon to meet my wife and confidant Carolin.

She always wanted to see Avignon because she somehow has a special connection to this place and it’s history. And I could not wait to see her again after 20 days. So meeting in Avignon was the perfect idea since it is “around the corner” from Montpellier.

The route was beautiful with little villages and great landscapes but a bit rough in terms of gravel. Maybe it was because of this that Rosinante had her first puncture after 2.600km.

However, this was quickly fixed and by 4pm I was in Avignon. What a pittoresque place this is with it’s overarching Palais des Papes and it’s rich history.

Carolin arrived a little later and we celebrated our reunion with an Aperol Spritz in front of the Palais.

Insight of the day: Experiencing adventures makes you enjoy your day-to-day life even more.

Day 19: Montpellier (10km)

Today was a special day – the 18th birthday of my daughter Hannah (left). How quickly time has passed. I am a very proud and happy dad.

After a late breakfast, I cycled into town to meet Nadine Gruner, the directrice of the Maison de Heidelberg in Montpellier, an institution of the University of Heidelberg founded in 1966.

During my last trip to Montpellier, a meeting had not worked out. For one because I simply had not known about this institution and hence had not prepared well. The other simple reason was, that in 2018 I had arrived on a Saturday. Bad timing.

Talking to Nadine Gruner, I learned a lot about the changing nature of the partnership between the two cities. Very interesting.

Afterwards, I did something that I was looking forward to for three weeks now: I went to a barber and got a proper haircut including a head massage. That felt so good!

Then I returned to the Maison de Heidelberg and met Dr. Rolf Friedrich Krause, the German Consul General in Marseille (last row middle) and other members of the partnership between Heidelberg and Montpellier. We talked about zis and the French counterpart Zellidja and it turned out that in fact Prof. Maurice Godé, member of the board (2nd from left) had a Zellidja scholarship when he was young. Small world. To the right: Dr. Wolfgang Meyer, Vice President, and Mrs. Rohre, employee of the German Consulate General in Marseille. To the left: Nadine Gruner, Directrice Maison de Heidelberg.

From there I went to the Hôtel de Ville and met the City Council Mustapha Majdoul for a handshake appointment. He is in charge for the energy change in Montpellier.

After all these official appointments, I had arranged for a sauna and massage in my hotel. Life is tough, you know. It was soooo good!

Insight of the day: Life is good!

Day 18: Salses-le-Château to Montpellier (166km)

Je suis arrivé! The day started on nasty roads that I had to share with a lot of trucks. It took me quite a while to finally find the Eurovelo 8.

Around noon, I reached a landscape that was very comparable to the Camargue. A lot of water, swamps, little rivers and small roads without much traffic. Really beautiful.

It reminded me of the first day of this trip, when I cycled through a beautiful and totally empty national park which begins South of Lisbon.

Because of the many detours the route was a little longer than expected. However, I was pretty determined to make it to Montpellier today.

Despite of the weather forecast, it did not rain and I had a also a little bit of tailwind.

Since I am now 1,000km more North than Gibraltar, the sunset is about an hour later. Isn’t that amazing? I arrived by 8pm with daylight feeling a little tired but very content.

There were times on this trip when I doubted that I would make it. My left ankle caused problems at one point and I was surprised how quickly it healed. The level of donations was below my expectations which was and is a little frustrating for me. Around midway of this tour, my mental and physical energy felt pretty much depleted. It was not always fun.

There were times, when I even secretly hoped that someone could have stolen my bike forcing me to rest and fly home comfortably.

But another part in me was always determined to just hang in there and carry on. Little steps, hour after hour, one day after the other. It is amazing that if you carry on for enough days in a row you can actually cover huge distances.

Insight of the day: We are capable of so much more than we believe!

Day 17: Palamós to Salses-le-Château (145 km)

I got up later than wanted. My hotel had very thin walls and my neighbors were very active working their way to the Kamasutra. So I had a little less sleep than needed.

I had about 80km to go until the French border. The route was nice and uneventful and without major towns.

I passed through a couple of Catalonian villages which had the yellow independence ribbon on the roads and buildings. Signs of the huge tensions in this province with rest of the country.

The last couple of kilometers before the border I saw half-naked young women posing at the side of the road. A very bizarre sight in the middle of nowhere. It took me a while to figure out what they were up to. Sometimes I am very naive. However, I had not seen this kind of public “offering” in the rest of Spain.

It was a great feeling to finally cross the border. A couple of days ago I had seriously doubted to ever make it.

After the border a couple of things changed. All of a sudden the long-distance cycling-route Eurovelo 8 was there and in exchange the respect of car drivers for cyclists on roads had pretty much vanished.

Also there were mosquitoes in France. I was bitten directly after the border. The first time two weeks. Maybe Spain uses substances to keep this plague in check.

It felt good to speak French again. My level is quite basic but still much better than my non-existing Spanish.

When I arrived at my hostel the restaurant was closed. However, the host Jeremy simply handed me the keys for his car instead. That was a first for me. How cool! So I drove into the next village and had a great pizza for dinner.

Insight of the day: Always be ready for miracles.

Day 16: Barcelona to Palamós (116km)

After a day like yesterday and it’s frustrations (and potentially because of two beers), I had slept in. 10 hours of sleep felt very good though.

Leaving Barcelona was almost as bad as coming in but with much less traffic – and much more cyclists.

I had lunch in the famous little tourist hotspot Lloret de Mar – and was not very impressed. However, the little bay is nice.

Since long, my weather app had predicted rain for today. Cycling in the rain at this temperature is no fun. I still have a trauma from my cycling trip through Scotland 30 years ago – my first zis travel – where it had rained almost every single day.

However, miraculously it did not rain. Actually, the weather turned out to be quite nice.

Also, in the afternoon I cycled a very beautiful coastal road with a lot of climbs but with amazing views. And the best: there were practically no cars.

My hotel as a heating – so I could wash my clothes – and can be sure that they will be try tomorrow. Pure luxury.

After all, a bad day turned out to be a good one at the end. 270km still to go until Montpellier.

Insight of the day: Don’t complain about the rain before the drops are falling.

For donations: www.betterplace.org/p67064

Day 15: L’Ametlla de Mar to Barcelona (155km)

Today was tough. I was feeling exhausted and was lacking energy. After 60km, I crossed the 2,000km mark, so I should have felt enthusiastic and motivated but I was just flat.

The route had been pretty much straightforward for the first couple of hours with a lot of steep little climbs. I had an early lunch near Sitges.

When I approached Barcelona, I was forced onto a narrow and crowded coastal road which was winding up and down through the cliffs. For cars this is a scenic drive. For cyclists it is hell because it’s so narrow you can’t even stop and rest. I caused a huge traffic jam because cars could hardly overtake. Cycling there is legal but cars would still honk or drivers would throw swear words at me. This went on for 20km or so. Not a very nice experience.

After that it did not get better. The road led directly onto an Autobahn which was definitely illegal for me to drive on. I took an emergency exit because I did not want to end like the roadkill I am seeing almost every day.

After that I decided to take the train for the remaining 20km into Barcelona. It was simply too risky and I don’t want to do stupid things at least not if I can avoid them.

However, it felt like cheating to take the train.

I arrived in a pretty good hotel for school classes and travelers like me with a very good service. The price is the triple from some places I have staid on my tour so far. But hey, it’s Barcelona!

Later that evening, I learned that my plans for returning home from Montpellier would not work out which was very disappointing. I will need to find another way home.

Insight of the day: The higher the load you carry the smaller your steps should be.

Day 14: Chilches to L’Ametlla (172 km)

Today was another great day with sun and without headwind. And a lot of people were thinking of me and sending me warm and heartily messages which was good for my soul.

It is notably getting colder now and I reckon it is because I am cycling North now for a week or so. Amazing how you can cycle from one climate to another one with the power of just your legs.

The route today was pretty unspectacular. There were several times when I had to cycle on roads together with many trucks. But somehow you get used to it. Also, I was listening to a very interesting audio book which made it less boring to cycle alongside the coastline without actually seeing the sea at most times

I had a late lunch in Benicarló, directly by the harbor where I had found a Kebap shop. It tasted like home. I know this sounds funny. Tapas are great – but not for every day.

At sunset, I arrived in my little hotel directly by the harbor of L”Ametlla de Mar. The guy at the reception was also a cyclist and he was the first one on this trip to ask me about some background of where I come from and where I am going to. He also told some of his cycling stories and we shook hands. A meeting of minds.

Since I was tired and not very hungry, he kindly invited me for dinner (and breakfast, too) which means that he opened the kitchen for me and allowed me to eat and drink whatever I could find. A very nice gesture that was!

I have estimated that I will need another four days to reach Montpellier – if nothing major happens. That means I am very much on schedule or even ahead. A week ago with all this headwind, I felt that I will never be able to reach this goal.

Insight of the day: Don’t lose faith and look out for people who believe in you.

For donations: www.betterplace.org/p67064