A Travellerspoint blog

2018 NOV 11 - 15 MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Kota Kinabalu

Back to the capital for our final stay

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**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

So, I have obviously fallen a little behind in writing this blog, so I am just going to try and fill in the gaps. Not going to bother to write up about days when we did very little (there were a few) just give you the highlights on the days we ventured out.

Sunday 11th November – day 136

Our last day in Kuching and we had a nice little sleep in, (as usual), heading out at about 11am to have ‘brunch’ in a café we had spotted earlier in the week that promised PORK bacon and eggs. Much to our disappointment after walking the 10 minutes through Chinatown to reach the café we were advised they did not open until 12 noon. Bugger! We did not have time to wait around another 45 minutes and then wait longer for our order to be taken and cooked, so we returned to Wind Meal Café, where we had stopped for a cold drink a few days ago. Any food now would be a disappointment after what we all had imagined we would have been eating this morning. Although I am sure what we read and imagined the menu to be would not be what we would have received, it would have been an Asian version of a Western menu, which my now we should know better, but the dream was there.

Our late checkout was for 1pm and I managed to stretch this out until 1.15 and then it took 10 minutes to get the lift to the ground floor. This hotel seems to be quite busy during the weekend and there is lots of toing and froing between floors by the other occupants.
Todays flight from Kuching back to Kota Kinabalu is at 3.50pm so we don’t need to leave for the nearby airport until about 2pm. We thought we could just loll around the foyer using the hotel internet, but they turned off our connection with our check out.

When the time came I just called a GRAB that took us to Kuching Airport for 20 myr. Check in, wait for flight, short flight and then land in Kota Kinabalu late afternoon. We all decided it would be a good idea to eat something at one of the airport food outlets as we really had no idea what would be available at our next accommodation which I knew was about an hours drive out of KK so we would get there later than dinner time.

After we had eaten some crappy fast food at the airport, I called a GRAB and we loaded our luggage and climbed in. The ride from airport to Borneo Treehouses was about an hour and costs just 42MYR = $14. It was dark by the time we arrived at the accommodation and there was no one there to greet us even though I had sent a text message advising of our late-ish arrival time. The taxi driver ended up going looking for someone and we were finally given a key and the way pointed to our 'tree house". Yes it definitely was a tree house as there was a tree growing up the middle of the 2 rooms of the accommodation. The rooms were one on top of the others so it was the same tree.

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Lucky we had eaten at the airport as the restaurant was long closed, if it was open at all as it looked like we were the only guests. We settled into our 2 rooms, Dolly & Robyn sharing the double bed in the main room and April & I climbing up the steep stairway to the 2 single beds upstairs. At least the place was clean, we would reassess in the morning when it was light.

Monday 12th November – day 137

Breakfast was a shambles! The 4 or 5 women who were hanging around the restaurant and kitchen spoke exactly zero words of English so it was very difficult for us to order anything to eat. Everything on the menu was rice or noodles and we soon realized this was a place that mostly / only Malaysians came to. Some guy was found who did speak a little English and we managed to get a bit of bread and some eggs to eat, but we realized that this would not be a good place for us to stay with regards to food. Actually this was the last time we even saw anyone in the restaurant, and it was decided we would cut short our 4 nights here and try to extend our stay at our next accommodation back in KK.

We spent the morning by the pool which I must admit was very nice. The sun was out and the water was lovely cooling and clean. In the afternoon we caught a GRAB to the local shopping mall which contained about 5 shops in total so not much to look at and it was raining. We had lunch and bought some snacks to have back at the tree house for dinner.

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Tuesday 13th November – day 138

I called a GRAB which took us back into KK and to the apartment I had managed to extend for a few extra days. We were better off being down here in the capital with food options and a roomy comfortable apartment to hang out in.

Relaxing day, out to eat.

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Wednesday 14th November – day 139

Weather is not very good, grey, rainy, we are not doing much.

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We went to a shopping mall today and went to the movies to see Bohemian Rhapsody - which we found out later had been cut 20 minutes short due to Malaysian laws about showing anything in movies relating to homosexuality. Wow, in this day and age do you believe that. Anyway good excuse for me to see a great movie again. Cinema tickets are really cheap here we paid 10myr = $3.33 and half of that again for drinks and popcorn each. Why they have to be so expensive in Australia I don't know, and the cinema here was as modern as the ones at home.

Thursday 15th November – day 140

Another relax day. We went out to plan a day trip for tomorrow as it will be our last full day in Borneo.

Dinner was seafood from across the street.

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Friday 16th November – day 141

Day trip to Kinabalu Park, Botanical Gardens, Canopy Walk & Hot springs.

Our first stop was at a village with a lookout to view Mt Kinabalu, but the clouds had other ideas as they provided a white hat so we could not see the top the mountain.

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After a quick bit of shopping, we moved on to the botanical gardens which are part of the protected Mt Kinabalu National Park. Our guide took us for a walk through the gardens and was pretty knowledgeable about the local flora. He showed us the smallest orchid in the world.large_DSCN1606.JPG
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Just before lunch our next stop was at a RAFFELSIA GARDEN to see the biggest flower in the world. From the smallest to the largest - Borneo has them all. These very large blooms that flower from a huge bulb on vine were so big that they almost did not look real. Of course we were not able to touch the flowers as any contact on them kills them instantly - apparently. The largest one we saw was approximately 80cm in diameter and it really did look fake to me, but apparently it was real and alive. The giant petals are very thick and waxy looking so I guess that is why my mind did not want to believe it. Anyway they were amazing and the ones that grow in the jungle on the Indonesian side of Borneo have been know to grow up to almost 20 meters in diameter.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 21:06 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kinabalu kota Comments (0)

2018 NOV 5 - 10 MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Kuching

REST IN A HIGH RISE IN KUCHING

**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Monday 5th November 2018 – day 130 Kuching

We woke up after a dry night, no rain at all during the night. Once we had walked up to breakfast we could see the ocean was flat also. It still didn’t look very inviting with its grey colour matching the grey sky, but it was a lot calmer than past days. Ironically, it’s starting to become swimmable on the day we are departing.

After our non-descript breakfast, they ran out of bread today and we had to attempt to toast cut up baguette sticks that have been sitting in the bread box as decoration all week, we returned to the cabin to finish packing our suitcases. The luggage is being collected at 11.30am, hopefully, after Dolly’s request to reception this morning. Our driver is due at 12 noon to drive us back into Kuching.

Luggage collected we walked to reception, I paid the bill and we loaded ourselves into our GRAB car who was a little early. He had already loaded our bags, so we sat back and enjoyed the hour-long ride to Kuching.

We drove up to Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites, our home for the next 6 nights. I had managed to book an extra night since we left the jungle a day earlier. First impressions were good, the foyer of this hotel is huge and impressive. But I have been fooled before by showy foyers, usually the rooms behind them are a lot different to what the façade displays. However, this time the room, or I should say rooms, did not disappoint. We are in a 2-bedroom suite, with a lounge room and a dining room and a mini kitchenette with absolutely nothing inside except a hot water jug and a microwave oven. Not a plate or a bowl or a fork to use in the kitchen. Little matter, we have no intention on cooking anyway.

We are on the 16th floor, with a corner suite and a great view overlooking downtown Kuching and its waterfront. The view would be even better if they had washed the outside of the windows in the last 20 years, but that’s just my opinion. This is a great location and confirmed it was a good decision when I changed our Kuching hotel booking last week.

We settled into and relaxed in our spacious surroundings before heading out to the Plaza Merdeka to find some food for a late lunch. The big flash shopping mall was just 5 minutes’ walk across the park and we found the food court to have lunch in. After we ate we walked around having a look at the shops.

A TV channel showing crappy shows, but in English, caught our attention for the afternoon and evening until we headed out for dinner after 8.30pm. Pizza Hut in the mall was handy so that’s where we headed.

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Tuesday 6th November 2018 – day 131 day out from Kuching

We organized a day trip with our GRAB driver from yesterday. This is the easiest way for us to organize transport rather than pay for seats on a tour. This way we have the time to ourselves and can come and go as we please. And it works out a hell of a lot cheaper.

Our excursion today was to the SEMONGGOH NATURE RESERVE, where we were again able to see the magnificent orangutans. We were pretty lucky with our sightings here as they are a lot more wild and don't always show themselves for food, preferring to forage in the jungle for themselves. At the start there was just one young male hanging around, but by the end of the 2 hours we had seen a couple more and a great finale by the giant alfa male who came very close and posed while we all took photos. It's just amazing to see these animals so close up - a real privilege.

SEMONGGOH NATURE RESERVE
For over 20 years, the wardens at Semenggoh Nature Reserve have been training young orangutans, who had been orphaned or rescued from captivity, how to survive in the wild. The success of this programme has left the surrounding forest reserve with a thriving population of healthy adolescent and young adult orangutans, who are now breeding in the wild. The programme has since been transferred to Matang Wildlife Centre, but Semenggoh Nature Reserve is still home to its successful graduates, semi-wild orangutans and their babies. They spend most of their time roaming the forest but frequently come back to the Centre for a free meal. If it is the fruiting season in the forest, some or even all of them may not come to feed. This in itself is a good sign and another step on the way to full rehabilitation.

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Next stop after about an hours drive through the jungle was the ANNAH RAIS LONGHOUSE. It was good to actually see just jungle and not any palm plantations like we had seen in Sabah. I'm not saying they don't have palm plantations down here in Sarawak, but they do have a lot more visible jungle.
There are not many long houses left anymore, and the few that remain seem to have been turned into tourists attractions I guess to create income for the villages. A long house is basically houses which are all joined together with a common veranda where families or tribes lived together.
We were lucky enough to see some tribal women who had come in from a more remote village dressed in traditional dress. They were happy enough to smile with their betel nut stained teeth and have photos taken of their colourful costumes.

Annah Rais Longhouse is a Bidayuh settlement about 100km south of Kuching, at the foothill of Borneo Highlands near the mountains marking the border to Kalimantan. Kampung Annah Rais is a large Bidayuh village centred around a centuries-old bamboo longhouse, one of the finest still in existence. The Bidayuh make up about 8% of Sarawak’s population and were formerly known as Land Dayaks. They are gracious hosts and village is the perfect place to discover Bidayuh culture and learn about their fascinating way of life.

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Our final 2 stops were at FAIRY CAVE and WIND CAVE. The fairy cave was massive inside, after we walked up 4 flights of steps to the entrance, then scrambled in the semi darkness up a ladder to get to the main chamber. You can see by the pic's below the sheer size by the staircases that led to the top in several places. The last photo shows 2 small people (April & Dolly) standing at the base of chamber, I took the photo from a great height.

Wind cave was less impressive as it was dark, dank and stank of bat shit, which was not surprising considering the cave was inhabited by hundreds of bats which we could see when I shone the torch up high. We got out of there as quickly as possible and our driver was surprised to see us back so soon.

Fairy Cave (also known as Gua Pari) is an impressive show cave near the former gold mining settlement of Bau and about 40km from Kuching, Sarawak. It is just a few minutes drive from another show cave, Wind Cave, and most tourists would combine both on a half-day trip from Kuching.

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We were dropped back at the Merdeka after a great day out. Dinner over at the food court.

Wednesday 7th November 2018 – day 133 Kuching / Thursday 8th November - day 133 / Friday 9th November – day 134

The next few days we just spent around Kuching town. We walked around exploring or just relaxing at the hotel. There was a bit of rain during the days so we did not venture too far.
We saw the street art on the walls in China Town and visited the Cat Museum - apt considering Kuching means cat in Malay language.

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Made it down to the waterfront to watch the bridge light up and the fountain water show that they put on two times at night.

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Saturday 10th November – day 135

Weather does not look better today at all, but its today or never so we are going to Bako National Park regardless. Robyn has decided to sit today out, so it was just the 3 of us: Dolly, April & I who met Mr Yeo outside the hotel at 8am. He had quoted us 54 myr = $18 each way for the ride to the ferry dock. The only way to get to Bako NP is by water, there are no roads that lead up to the park.

The drive was much shorter than the drive up to Permai, taking about 35 minutes. Arriving in the car park just before 9am. Not sure if it was because it was Saturday, or every day is like this, but the car park was already crowded.

We were directed to a ticket counter where we had to purchase boat tickets 40 myr = $13.50 each return and a guy hung around hassling us for a guide. We had no idea whether we needed a guide or not so shunned him away and hoped we could decide on arrival. Next, we were directed to the National Park entry counter where we had to pay 20 myr = $6.70 each.

We shared the small wooden motor boat with just 2 other tourists and their guide (oops) and of course the boat captain, so luckily it was not overcrowded. And it was compulsory to put on the sticky, stained and tatty life jackets, which I would be very surprised if they would save a life in the condition they were in. But we donned them anyway and were soon motoring up the small river out into the sea and around to the beach where the NP office was.
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We had to scramble out of the boat into knee deep water and walk up the beach about 200m to the park buildings. No jetty here and due to the tide times we would not be able to leave until after 2pm when there is enough water for the boats to get across the sea back to the river mouth to take us back. I'm sure we would be able to kill a few hours here.

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First stop was the one and only restaurant to have some breakfast that we did not have time to have before our pick up this morning. The food is not worth mentioning so I will just advise about our breakfast companions - a couple of bearded pigs. Yes there is such an animal and here are some pictures to prove it.
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After we had eaten we decided to attempt at least a short jungle trek. This seemed to be the most popular option even for the other people we saw who had guides. So we took off on the marked path coming to a boardwalk which lead us over the mangroves. Looking down to the mud there were lots of tiny crabs with one huge claw and also lots of mud skippers. And we were lucky enough to see the resident proboscis monkey. A fine looking specimen, a male who had a noticeably short tail. I overheard a guide advise that this had been amputated as the monkey had been injured and the tail was damaged beyond repair. At the same spot there was also a green viper snake basking in the sun on a tree branch- only snake we had seen in Borneo.

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The boardwalk led us into the jungle track where we walked for about an hour and led us out onto the beach. The jungle track was in parts quite difficult to transverse and there was a bit of climbing and struggling over tree roots and rocks. Not helping was the fact that it was so hot and the humidity under the tree cover was just making us all walking waterfalls of sweat. It was a relief when the track opened out to the beach where we saw monkeys and some more bearded pigs roaming around on the beach. We were even more relieved when we were told by someone else's guide that we did not have to walk back through the jungle track but could pay a few dollars to be transported back by boat. And there were a couple of boats waiting just off shore for this very reason. Of course we took up this offer which also included a quick ride around to some rock formations before returning us to the NP office beach. Unfortunately our boat captain managed to get the motor caught up in a fishing net and we had to bob around in the water for about 30 minutes as he cut the entangled net away from the prop of the motor.

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The boat returned us to the NP beach where we walked up and had some lunch while we waited for the tide to be right for our return up the river to the start jetty. Mr Yeo was waiting for us to take us back to Kuching. Another great day out.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 00:26 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuching bako Comments (3)

2018 OCT 29 - 31 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Sandakan

OUT OF THE JUNGLE, INTO THE TOWN.

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**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Monday 29th October 2018 – day 123 River Kinabatangan to Sandakan

We had breakfast and then our luggage was loaded for the trip back to Sepilok. We did have a stop on the way back in a jungle area where there are supposed to be orangutans for a last-ditch effort to see them in the wild. This was an easy walk as it was along the road that leads to the big caves where all the swiftlets making bird nests are. We did see evidence of orangutan presence in the way of old used sleeping nests high up in the trees. But none of these were fresh and we saw exactly zip again. The most exciting part of the walk was when Robyn was attacked by a wild animal in the way of a bee or wasp that bit her on the face. This was the closest any of us came to seeing any animal. Although on the way out at the entrance gate we saw a Borneo Baboon and another monkey with a cute little baby.

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Mr Aji had to so to the airport to pick up the next load of clients and he offered the services of his son to drop us at our accommodation in Sandakan rather that dropping us back in Sepilok. This was good for us as we would have to find maybe 2 separate GRAB cars to get us and luggage into the town. He dropped us at the door and we paid him 20myr = $6.60 which was the same as we would have paid a GRAB.

I phoned the agent for the apartment and was advised our check-in was not until 3pm, it was now 12. We opted to pay the 30myr = $10 for early check-in rather than waiting outside for 3 hours. The agent showed up 15 minutes later and showed us to the 15th floor 3-bedroom apartment, which is home for the next 3 nights. The apartment block seemed a little out of town and when I asked about the closest supermarket he advised not far and next thing we know he had wangled a lift with him if we could leave now.

Turns out the supermarket was not that far away, and we would be able to walk home with the small amount of groceries we had purchased mainly for breakfasts at the apartment. Lunch was at KFC – bad choice really, but that was all there was at the mall beside pizza hut.

On our return, we decided a swim in the enormous pool was in order, all except Robyn who opted to stay inside. The pool was lovely and for half an hour we were the only ones using it. We decided we’d had enough when a group of kids came down and broke our peace.

None of us could be bothered heading out anywhere for dinner, so we made do with a few of the breakfast supplies to throw together a bit of a meal.

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Tuesday 30th October 2018 – day 124 Sandakan

Dolly & Robyn shared the main bedroom with ensuite and April and I each had a single room each. The aircon in my room kept turning itself off so I was constantly waking up during the night and turning it back on. It was obviously hot enough that I was waking up.

Robyn was not feeling the best this morning, so she stayed in while the rest of us caught a GRAB into town. I was surprised at the distance we were from the centre and made note to check distances next time before booking accommodation. The GRAB was only 10 myr - $3.30, which is so cheap to get around making the distance out not too bad. We were dropped off at Agnes Keith House, which is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Sandakan besides the animal sanctuaries which we had already visited. Agnes Keith was an American woman who was living in Borneo before World War 2 and wrote books about her life there. She was married to an English man, Harry, who was sent to Sandakan with his work. Agnes, Harry and their young son George were taken prisoner by the Japanese during the war and she wrote books about their experiences during this time as well. She is obviously the most famous white woman to have lived in Sandakan, so they have restored her home and turned it into an attraction. We visited the house and it was actually very interesting. Next door there is an ‘English Tea House’ that we visited next to sample the high tea. There was a nice view from where we sat under the pergola in the garden and considering where we were the high tea was ok. We sat there relaxed for awhile then took the 100 stair steps down into the centre of town. This was all part of a Heritage Trail they have set up in the town. We did walk the whole trail as the other sites were not that interesting. At the bottom of the hill was the museum, which we did enter. It was just a couple of rooms, but had some great old photos of what the town looked like before and after the war.

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We walked a bit around the town, it’s nothing spectacular. The seafront is nothing. We sat in a waterfront restaurant to have a cool drink before looking for a supermarket to buy water and something for dinner to take back to the apartment as I knew no one would want to venture out again.
Dolly was keen to cook some potatoes on our one burner supplied in the kitchen and I suggest a roast chicken would be easy if we could find one. As luck would have it we found a mall that had a Kenny Rogers Roasters Restaurant and we were able to purchase a whole cooked chicken. We found some ladies selling vegetables on the footpath, so we managed to procure some potatoes to go with the chicken.

With dinner sorted I googled for a GRAB to take us back to the apartment. We had stopped right next to a taxi rank and the taxi driver came over to try and steal the ride, but they were not going to do the trip for the same price as the GRAB, so happily stepped aside.

I think Robyn was happy to see us back with some food for dinner. She asked if we got caught in the rain while we were out as it had come down here at the apartment. We did not have any rain in town at all. We ate in the apartment, could not find anything in English to watch on the telly.

Wednesday 31st October 2018 – day 125 Sandakan

Sleep in day today, it was looking a little grey outside and it was raining when we finally decided it was time to head out. I called a GRAB and we were taken to Agnes Keith House again so that Robyn could have a visit. Of course, Dolly, April & I headed straight for the tea house which we noticed yesterday was serving cocktails. It was well after 12 noon so we thought a cocktail would be nice. All excited we ordered and where shortly after told there was no coconut ingredient available so the house cocktail and the pina coladas were off. Not happy, we opted for tea instead, not a very good substitute, but I had already ordered a scone and needed something to wash it down with.

Sitting disappointed, we were soon joined by Robyn who had finished her visit of Keith house and also ordered tea and scone.

We sat for about 2 hours enjoying the peace full atmosphere of the gardens, it had not rained here so it was pleasant to sit outside under a different pergola to yesterday. The English owner came over to greet us and we complained about the lack of coconut ingredients for cocktails and he apologized but still did nothing about it. A little later we saw him drive off and thought he might be out to buy coconuts, but no such luck. He came back empty handed. Still, we remained until it was dark, we had planned on heading to a rooftop bar to watch the sunset, but time got away from us and it was lucky that the 100 steps were lit up so we could walk down to the town.

We found the roof top bar at the top of the Naka Hotel. It probably would have been a nice stop to watch the sunset, if there was any kind of sunset with the clouds and all.

The bar and staff were all decorated for Halloween, can’t believe this American holiday get celebrated here in the far reaches of Borneo, but there you go. We ordered overpriced cocktails, these were the most expensive I have had in Asia. 25 myr = $8.50 – I had an Expressotini – which was also the most yucky cocktail I have ever had. The other ladies ordered White Russian which they said were not too bad, but too expensive I say. Take me back to Kampot, Cambodia!!

After just one drink we headed back to the waterfront restaurants, near where we had stopped for drink yesterday, to have something to eat. There were a few locals out and about, but this is definitely not a tourist town. I guess the tourists stay out in Sepilok near where the animals can be seen. If there are any in town, they are definitely not out and about in this area.

I called a GRAB and soon we were back in the lift going up the 15 stories to our apartment.

Bags needed to be packed as we are flying to Sarawak tomorrow.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 01:26 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo sandakan Comments (1)

2018 NOV 1 - 5 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Santubong

SARAWAK - UP TO THE JUNGLE IN SANTUBONG PENINSULA

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**********28 DAYS IN SABAH AND SARAWAK**********

Thursday 1st November – day 126

Big travel day today. We are leaving Sabah and flying down to Sarawak – the southern part of Malaysian Borneo. This involves a flight back to Kota Kinabalu from Sandakan, then another flight from KK to Kuching.

The apartment manager knocked on our door at 7.30am to return the 200 myr bond we had to pay. A nice young girl who was not even interested in looking around to see if we had damaged anything – of course we had not anyway. I called a GRAB and we were in the elevator heading down to meet it by 8am. Our flight was not until 10am but we were not sure if we would need to call 2 GRAB cars to take us and luggage to airport. Luckily, we all fit in the one car and the GRAB price of 6myr = $2 (I gave him 10 myr = $3.30 as he assisted with loading and unloading our bags) was a bargain to take us the 10-minute drive to the airport. Loving these cheap GRAB rides.

So, we were very early for our flight, but were able to check our bags in and then just sat around until it was time to board. All smooth, the flight was about 50 minutes and we were given a meal – hardly enough time to eat it before landing – as I had purchased the flight with luggage and meal deal. The chicken rice meal was quite nice, and I ate most of mine, the others said theirs was very dry and awful looking so did not.

The flight managed to get us into Kota Kinabalu 20 minutes ahead of schedule before 11am, which was not much good for us as our next flight was not until 3.35pm. This time we were too early to be able to check in our luggage, so we sat in Maccas waiting until the 3-hour mark before our flight. Finally, bags dropped in, we still had 3 hours to wait for the flight. We found a seat after going through security check and waited until it was time to go to our boarding gate. Thought it was a good idea to have some lunch before boarding the 2nd plane which was due to land in Kuching at 5pm, and I had not purchased the meal deal on this flight. We had some very ordinary food from Marry Brown, a Malaysian fast food chain. I have eaten at Marry Brown before and it was ok, but here everything was cold and soggy so not very enjoyable at all.

Our flight to Kuching left a little late, and I slept most of the 1 ½ hours it took to get there. On the ground we collected our luggage and had to line up and go through immigration again. This was odd considering we came in on a domestic flight, within Borneo even. They did not stamp our passports but did take photos and finger prints again.

I called for a GRAB car, luckily finding one that would take us all. The fare come up as 78 myr = $26, which was about right compared to an old Lonely Bastard book I am carrying. Our accommodation is a fair way out of Kuching – more than 1 hours drive so this price is pretty good and divided by 4 a real bargain.

We managed to get a nice friendly driver, who played good music we all knew and didn’t flinch when we all sang along.

It was dark by the time we reached our accommodation PERMAI FOREST RETREAT. It’s costing us about $120 per night for the 4 of us with breakfast and dinner included. After checking in, we were given a mud map to show us the way to our cabin, which was about 200 metres away. So, we had to drag our luggage in the dark, although the path was lit up, and granted the path was cemented but there were a few slight inclines which made it quite difficult to struggle with our luggage. Finally, we found the cabin and I must say it was a bit of a surprise. 2 bedrooms with 3 single beds in each room, and a sitting area with limited furnishings and a little mini fridge. No air con, but ceiling fans and open screened windows. And a nice big veranda at the front – it was better than what I had expected.

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Friday 2nd November – day 127

April woke me this morning with ‘Cindy, its 20 to 9, best get up if we want to go to breakfast’. I sat up and dug the breakfast vouchers out of my bag – breakfast finished at 10am, but it was time to get up anyway.

Our cabin is about 100m from the restaurant and we walked the same path that we had dragged our luggage over last night. I looked a little different in the daylight. We could see the ocean, that we could only hear last night, through the trees, it was about 10 meters away. The little bit of sky we could see was unfortunately grey, which meant it was cloudy, and it was hard to tell where the water met the sky on the horizon as they were the same shade.

Breakfast was semi buffet, a help yourself local noodle dish and local bean dish. A couple of cereals, coffee, tea, toast and a guy standing cooking egg omelettes. Bread and a toaster were help yourself and there was an empty plate that was labelled pancakes. The others had toast and eggs, I waited another 10mins for some fresh pancakes to come out. They were ok, a bit stodgy but ok. Breakfast in included in our room rate.

We sat around chatting and admitting the view from the dinning room. Then April suggested we try the jungle ‘walk’ to the waterfall. Everyone was keen, so April and I walked over the wooden boardwalk to the reception as it was a requirement to register when you did a walk.

The beginning of the track was not far from our cabin, just past the jungle pool, which we thought would be nice for a dip on our return. The map from reception claimed the walk was 2km round trip. It was fairly easy walking, although we were steadily climbing up. About an hour in, we came across 2 Dutch guys (in their 60’s) who had started the track from the other side and said it was pretty hard going and did not think we could make it. They had already been walking for almost 2 hours. We were less than half way so when we walked a little further and came to a part of the track that was climbing over huge boulders with the aid of a rope, we all agreed it would be best for us to turn back an go the way we come.

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We had walked for almost 2 hours by the time we returned to the jungle pool. Dolly and I were the only ones who braved the cool water. Dolly already had her swimmers on and I just took off my shorts and went in knickers and t shirt, I was dripping wet with sweat anyway. April decided to walk back to reception to advise them we were back, to avoid a search party being sent out and Robyn returned to the cabin for a shower.
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After our swim, Dolly & I returned to the cabin for a shower and we all had a bit of a relax after our strenuous effort for today. Shame about the waterfall, however when I asked the Dutch men about the waterfall, they just said it was a trickle of water, so we did not miss much I am guessing.
Worst part is, my camera has died! Yes, the new one that Robyn brought over for me from Australia. I too some photos during the walk and it just stopped working. I don’t seem to have much luck with cameras at all, hopefully it will come good.

After showers and a rest, we headed out to find some lunch. April decided to stay in and rest some more so just the 3 of us headed out to see what we could find. The restaurant here does do lunch but after a look at the menu it seemed a little pricy for local food. We walked into the village and found a big food court in a type of shopping centre. Here there was a lot to choose from, all at good local prices. There was also a 711 store and a couple of other shops selling assorted goods and souvenirs. We had a browse through them all to kill some time then strolled back to our bungalow. The sun was out, and it was still hot, nice blue sky.

Our included dinner was nothing exciting, they served the good old chicken curry again, but tonight was corn soup which I filled up on as I thought it was very tasty.

Saturday 3rd November – day 128

I was woken up by a clap of thunder at about 1am. It sounded like it was going to rain so I got up out of bed and went outside and took in my washing which I had left out to dry overnight. Good thing I did too, as I’m not sure how much later but it did rain for the rest of the night. It sounded like quite hard rain but it’s a little hard to tell as we are surrounded by trees and perhaps it was the sound of the rain coming through them that made it sound so loud. In any case, it did rain and was still pouring down when we woke in the morning.

At around 9.30am we headed up for breakfast and there was hardly a spit of rain falling by then, but the day looked like it was going to stay grey for the duration. It’s a little cooler but still you can feel the humidity. Not much we can do when the weather is like this, hardly the beach weather we were hoping to at this location.

Breakfast was the same, fried or omelette eggs cooked on demand, with tea, coffee and stodgy pancakes. Sorry I cannot get excited about the food here, am so over ‘Asian’ everyday food so will not dwell on it.

So, looks like a reading books, catching up on blog sort of day today, as although the rain has stopped its gloomy.
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The activities advertised here by our accommodation are very expensive, and we cannot do them anyway as they involve going in a boat on the sea and we have been advised it is too rough for the boats to go out. A 3 in 1 trip which is snorkelling from an island, attempting dolphin watching and a mangrove tour is 250 myr = $83 per person. I thought it might have been 250 myr per boat but no it was confirmed per person. This is a very expensive excursion, but it’s irrelevant anyway because the boats are not going.

And my camera is still cactus! I was kinda hoping it was spring back into life after it cooled down a bit, but it’s still as dead, refusing to do anything.
The sky had cleared a little by 2.30pm when we ventured out to the village to get some lunch. On the way passing through reception I stopped to ask if it was possible to change our reservation from 5 nights to 4 nights. The young girl asked by me why and I said because of the weather is not so nice we have nothing to do here. Luckily, they were able to change the Booking.com reservation without any problems because we had not yet paid. I will have to look and see if I can change the booking for our hotel in Kuching town for an extra night. At least if we are in the town we might be able to do something.

We returned to the same food hall we visited yesterday, today I had a chicken chop with chips and a coffee milkshake, all for 15 myr = $5 – so food is cheap enough that’s for sure.
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After we had eaten we did another lap of the same shops as yesterday, however April was not with us yesterday and we had nothing better to do anyway.

Returning to our accommodation, we had tried to take a look at the flash resort next to ours, but you cannot go in without paying a 10 myr day pass. Weren’t that interested to see inside so we decided against it. Back in our reception I managed to get onto the interest to try and change our booking for Kuching. Booking could not be changed, but I was able to just book another night in the same hotel, same type of room so all good there.

I then contacted the GRAB guy who took us from the airport up to here to collect us on Monday and drive us to Kuching. He had a nice big car that fit us all and luggage comfortably. He responded and will be here on Monday at 12 to collect us.

With not much else to do we relaxed until it was time for sunset where we took a seat on the restaurant balcony. There was not much of a sunset view due to trees, but there was cloud cover as well so it was not a great sunset anyway. As the restaurant did not serve any alcohol, we ordered mocktails and took our own Malibu to add to it. That was not very successful either as most of the mocktails were not available either. I ended up with an orange juice with a scoop of ice cream, which tasted ok with a dash of Malibu splashed in (on the sly). Dolly and Robyn had a coconut with a scoop of ice cream and a good splash of Malibu – April decided on nothing. There was no pineapple available, so the choice was very limited.
We sat and watched what we could see of the sunset and then went to dinner. Returning to our cabin it had not rained all afternoon or evening, but I’m sure there was more rain to come.

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Sunday 4th November – day 129

The rain first woke me at about 12.30am. I guess it was heavy as it was loud enough to wake me. It was still showering when we woke up later in the morning. Being under tree cover its often hard to tell if its actual rain or tree drops that are falling on the roof of our cabin.

Walking up to breakfast didn’t even warrant a rain cape but the rain looks like it has set in for the day. We had a long leisurely breakfast, not in a hurry to go or do anything again today. The breakfast is ok as they serve help yourself toast, and someone is there to cook an egg omelette or fried egg, so at least breakfast is hot. Not the usual luke warm food served at dinner.

As I sit in our cabin typing this it sounds like the rain has set in for the day. On other days it has usually stopped and started to clear by nearly midday. We don’t mind lazing around, but how much relaxing can one do?

2.45pm we decided it was dry enough to wander into town to the food court for dinner. Yes, the rain was finished, and it was a muggy as anything. Everything feels slightly wet, washing that has been hanging for 2 days refuses to dry and even clothing that has not touched water since the last machine was even feels damp. Things could easily go very mouldy here very fast.

Being Sunday, the food court was busy, even at this late time of 3pm. I had the same meal of chicken chop and chips as I had yesterday as it was so tasty, and I’m done with rice and noodles if there is a choice. We did not linger around after lunch as the local karaoke was starting to make our ears bleed. I was about to grab the mike and have a go as it was obvious singing talent was not needed in this entertainment. Instead we walked back to the cabin and waited for dinner time to click around.

Our last dinner was not memorable so nothing to advise there. It had not rained at all during the afternoon, although the sea still looked choppy and uninviting.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 23:24 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo kuching Comments (0)

2018 OCT 27 - 28 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - River Kinabatangan

Down by the river!

semi-overcast

**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Saturday 27th October 2018 – day 121 River Kinabatangan

As we had all packed last night, it was up, get dressed and drag luggage to reception (all except Dolly of course, who got one of the young fellows to go and collect her bag and cart it up to reception) to have breakfast before the 9am shuttle to Sepilok. Turns out as there were other guests that also wanted the shuttle to go see the orangutans, we had to wait for it to come back and collect us. No matter, as our pick up was not until 10.30am so we had lots of time to have an iced coffee before we noticed Mr Aji in the café also having a morning beverage.

After a quick briefing and payment of 1980myr (495myr = $168) we were loading the luggage into 2 cars, as there was us 4 and 2 others – a couple from Wales. The $168 is the total price for our 3day 2nights inclusive. This covers 2-night accommodation in air con twin room x 2, a couple of boat trips up the river to see wild life and a couple of jungle walks – hopefully to see the same. Dinner x 2, lunch x 1 & breakfast x 2. Mr Aji had great reviews on TripAdvisor, so I hope he lives up to the comments left by previous clients. The young couple were taken in one car and we 4 ladies were driven by Mr Aji himself in another car, the interior of which was covered in photos of Borneo’s wild life. There was also a photo of Mr Aji and Mr Wildlife himself – David Attenborough – adorning the back-interior wall of the vehicle.

It was just over a 2-hour drive to the river village and we stopped about an hour in at a town where we could buy socks if needed and snacks for the boat tours and lunch. It was only 12 noon, but he advised dinner would not be until after 6 so best we eat. Dolly bought some sexy stripped socks and Robyn bought socks and shoes as she did not bring any closed in shoes with her from home. We then went to a restaurant selling Indian food for the cheapest lunch we have had in Borneo. Here we paid local prices and the food was ok.

Back in the car, up until now Mr Aji had not said much at all, but one mention of the palm plantations that were lining both sides of the road was enough to set him off. He is very passionate about wildlife and preserving the forest – or at least what remains of it. There was a KFC where we had stopped for lunch and I stupidly joked we could have gone there for lunch. This is what started Mr Aji off, he says it’s all the ‘fast food’ places of the world that demand the palm oil that is being grown here in not only Borneo but the whole of Malaysia. He advised we should always boycott the likes of KFC, Maccas, Burger King and the like to cut down on the demand for palm oil. He also advised we discontinue the use of any cosmetics etc that use palm oil. He said we should stop eating chocolate!! He also threw in the plight for single use plastic bottles while he was at it. When I asked ‘didn’t the restaurant we just all ate in use palm oil’ he was quick to answer that locals use a very small percentage of the oil that is produced in Borneo – and yes that is true, but they are still using it also. Anyway, interestingly he advised that most of – like 95% - of the palm plantations are Chinese owned. The land sold off or leased to them by Malaysian politicians who fill their own pockets and the coffers. But this means that all the money from these plantations in Borneo goes straight to China! None of it stays in Malaysia. And to make things worse the Chinese bring in their own laborers from China, so there are not even jobs for the local people. He told us there was a law passed in 1997 that no more jungle in Borneo could be logged and cleared for any more palm plantations. Unfortunately, a lot of the damage is done and so many animal numbers are down. Numbers cannot be increased even now because there is nowhere for them to live.

When we arrived at Sukah village and our accommodation for the next 2 nights we were shown to our rooms and advised to meet back at 2.30pm for the first afternoon boat trip.

No rain today, and the sun was shining out of a blue sky. Although our boat had seats with backs – thank goodness – there was no cover as this would obscure any viewing, so it was very hot out on the river. We did catch a little breeze from the movement which was a bonus. Just before we took off, Mr Aji advised he’d had a phone call that the pigmy elephants were upstream and if we were willing to pay an extra 20myr = $6.80 each for extra fuel we could take us up there to see if we could find them. Of course, we all agreed and of course we did not see them. They are still wild animals, not in a cage or enclosure and they are not controlled where they go. We still had a great boat tour and saw 3 out of the 8 different hornbill birds of Borneo and 3 different types of monkeys. 2 crocodiles – 1 large and one baby. A few other different birds and loads of boats filled to the brim with tourists, most of which headed out in the direction of the elephant sightings more than an hour after us. We were out from 2.30 to 6pm and arrived back just as our accommodation and surrounding buildings lost power.

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A generator was connected, and we had power again for dinner at 6.30pm. Rice, soy chicken and pumpkin in coconut milk was the dinner we were served, pretty good, certainly as good as the meals we had been having at our last accommodation. After dinner at 7.30pm we did an hour’s night walk through the jungle which was a hot and sweat torch walk through the trees not seeing much at all. A few hornbills up in the trees asleep, a common old rat in a tree trying to escape our torch light and at the very end a skunk being stalked by a local black cat. Yes, who knew Borneo had skunks? We only knew before this because there was one squashed dead on the road near our accommodation that we saw a few days ago.
The restaurant where we ate dinner sold us a few cold cokes to have with the last of our rum, then showers and bed.

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We have to be up early tomorrow for a jungle walk at 7am before breakfast.

Sunday 28th October 2018 – day 122 River Kinabatangan

We assembled in reception at 7am, all kitted up for our early morning walk in the jungle. We pretty much walked the same path we did on the night walk and pretty much saw the same things = nothing, as we did last night. Mr Aji did point out a few plants that had local municipal value, but he lost my respect when he left a chocolate bar wrapper shoved into a tree trunk after our brief stop. He seemed so passionate about preserving the jungle yet couldn’t be bothered taking out his own litter. Just seemed very weird to me.
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Back before 9am and we all opted for showers before having breakfast. Our time was free for the rest of the day until 2.30 pm when we went out on the river again. Most of us went back and had a nap then hung around, Dolly went for a walk into the village but did not discover anything interesting enough to warrant the rest of us walk up there. She just wanted to get her step count up.

From 2.30 until just before dark we were on the river. Saw lots of monkeys – mostly long tail macaques. Mr Aji was able to take the boat up really close to them, so we got lots of good photos. It was funny to watch them cross a monkey bridge, which was a rope swung high above the river for them to cross. We also so a numerous proboscis monkeys, great to see these in the wild as well has having seen them close in the feeding sanctuary.

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Mr Aji did have a pretty good eye at spotting the wildlife, he managed to see a bearded pig and zoomed the boat in towards the shore line with just enough time for us to see the pig before it bolted off into the jungle. I managed to get a quick snap and saw there were 2 little piglets hot on the mother’s tail when she retreated into the bushes.

Dinner was from the menu tonight, we could choose what we wanted.

These 2 days on the Kinabatangan River have been good. I’m also glad that we went to the sanctuaries and saw the animals up close. However, it was great seeing the ones we did see in the wild. Unfortunately, we did not manage to see the pigmy elephants, which the only place to see them and we did not see any orangutans in the wild. But, the animals are in such low numbers that you really have to be very lucky to see them in the wild. I personally, am a little disappointed but also understand that its pot luck to see anything in the wild so I guess we were lucky to see as much as we did. One bonus was we spotted 4 of the 8 species of hornbill birds so that was a privilege.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 00:28 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

2018 OCT 23 - 26 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Sepilok

ORANGUTANS, SUN BEARS & FUNNY NOSE MONKEYS!

semi-overcast

**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Tuesday 23rd October 2018 – day 117 KK to Sandakan to Sepilok

KK to Sandakan

Today the alarm went off at 6am, I don’t know about the others, but I sure as hell did not like being awake at this time of day. But we needed to get up and be ready to call a GRAB at 7am to take us to the airport for our 8.45am flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan, which is on the east coast, less than an hour’s flight away.

Stupidly, I had not packed my suitcase last night so after getting dressed this of course was my urgent task. The other ladies seemed to be much more organized than be, but there you go.

I called the condo people to advise we were leaving, and they said just to leave the keys on the dining table, so that is what we did before locking and pulling the door closed behind us. Amazingly, we were at the front gate at 7am and I called a GRAB car to take us to the airport. 15 myr = $5.00, which was a much better price than the 30 myr we paid from the airport. This sim card and credit has almost paid for itself already on the money we saved on a taxi. Luckily, the car was big enough for all 4 of us and luggage.

The short drive to the airport got us there in plenty of time to check-in, drop our bags, have breakfast at Maccas and make our way to the departure gate.
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The Air Asia flight was just about full and took less than the time it took for the hosties to serve us our meals and we eat them. We were still finishing up our 2nd breakfast for the day when the plane started its decent for landing.

Sandakan Airport was a lot flasher than what I was expecting. I thought we would unload into a tin shed, but this was a proper fancy airport. We collected our bags and I again called for a GRAB to take us to our accommodation for the next 4 nights. Unfortunately, the car that turned up was not big enough for all our luggage and us, so he stopped another GRAB car and talked the guy into taking me and some of our luggage. Dolly had asked in at the airport taxi stand and they quoted 42 myr for our destination. We managed to get 2 cars for 15 myr each and I gave them both a 2 myr tip for helping with the baggage, so total cost was 34 myr – big saving of 8 myr! But we may have had to take 2 airport taxis also, and that would have cost 42 x 2!

Paganakan Dii Retreat was about 20km from the airport and took about 30mins to drive there. We were shown to our bungalow in the jungle, which has a set of bunk beds (guess who got the top bunk) and a double bed. Air conditioning, ceiling fan, ensuite bathroom with hot shower and toilet. The small balcony gives us a fabulous view of the jungle around us. This is the area where we are hopefully going to start to see some Borneo wildlife. We are here for 4 nights @ 1040my = $347 or $87 per night including breakfast and free transfers to the nearby conservation sanctuaries.

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Mid-morning until just before 2, when we took the van to the Rainforest Discovery Centre, we just hung around the bungalow and relaxed. I think some needed a bit of time to adjust to our basic? Surroundings.

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The RDC cost 15myr each to get in and was basically an aerial canopy walk through the forest. Some of the trees were just amazing – so tall and straight. Apparently, this is a great bird watching place, but to tell the truth besides one eagle that Robyn spied in a tree we did not see many birds at all. We did also see a couple of long tailed brown squirrels, which we managed to photograph before they scurried away, but other than those it was just the magnificent trees and giant leafed plants that we able to admire.

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Our accommodation van took us back to our accommodation at 4pm, after we had a walk through the very sad flower garden, which did not have hardly any flowers at all.

We ventured up to the restaurant from our bungalow at around 6pm. The menu is very limited, and although the prices are a little more expensive they are not too bad. We ordered meals and the food was not fantastic, but we are a bit of a captive audience here as there is nowhere else around for us to go to eat.

Not long after dinner and before we got up to return to the bungalow we were hit by a fantastic thunder and lightening storm. I’m pretty sure the building we were sheltered under was hit by a lightening strike as the power went off, sparks lit up the darkness like fireworks and the whole place shook. No one was hurt, although one of the girls had a fall in the kitchen due to being scared by the lightening strike and hurt her back a little. The downpour of rain prevented us from returning to our room. The power came back on minutes later, but we hung around for about half an hour waiting for the rain to easy.

And ease it did to a spit and we returned to our bungalow which had no power and halfway through my shower no water. Robyn braved the spitting rain to return to reception to advise the staff and soon we were rescued by a guy flicking the fuse back on and getting the water going again.

We are all now in bed and the storm seems to have died off. The rain has shopped and there is no sound of thunder. The only noise I hear now is the air con blowing next to me – remember I’m on the top bunk, and the sounds of frogs and insects outside in the jungle. Ok guys, time to shut up as we need to get to sleep – fat chance, nature seems to be rejoicing in the coolness of the cleansing storm.

Tomorrow we visit the orangutans!

Wednesday 24th October 2018 – day 118 Sepilok

Robyn sounded the wake-up call at 8am, we had to have breakfast before the 9am van took us into Sepilok for the day. It’s only about 5km away, but too far to walk in the heat here if we can get a free ride.

Breakfast is included in our room rate and we were served a fried egg (as in deep fried egg – the way the Asians love to cook their fried eggs) a sausage (which was some kind of over-over processed chicken, I think) and toast. Tea and something they were calling coffee was included too. It was enough to give us a start to the day, although I was the only one who braved eating the sausage.

The van dropped us off at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre at about 9.15am. We purchased entry tickets 30 myr each and 3 of us paid for camera/phone to be able to take photos 10 myr each. You are not allowed to take any bags into the area, so we had to check them into the free lockers. On entering we were directed along the boardwalk through the jungle to the nursery area. This is where they have the first feeding and supposedly only the younger orangutans come to this platform.

We were already on a high before even getting to the nursery as we had already seen an orangutan in the trees and a mother with baby ahead of us on the boardwalk railing. The viewing at the nursery was not the best as the people are all behind glass to it was difficult to take photos, it was a bit like a zoo situation, although the animals were not in cages, the humans were. But it was the same feeling.

Soon we were all ushered back onto the boardwalk and told to head towards the feeding platform. This is where we saw magnificence. We saw lots of different orangutans that came to feed from the bananas that were thrown onto the platform. At the feedings they are only given a monotonous diet of bananas which they get bored with, forcing them to forage in the jungle for a variety of foods. This is all part of the rehabilitation program which seems to be working as they have released a few back into the wild.

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Anyway, we managed to see lots of the orange primates including mother with tiny babies hanging onto their mothers’ fur for dear life as they swung on the ropes or from the tree branches. They were amazing.

As the bananas dwindled away, so did the orangutans. We wandered back to the nursery to check out if any had returned to there. We had all day to kill as our van back was at 4pm.

Just across the road from the orangutan centre is the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, so of course we had to visit there as well. Entry fee was again 30myr each. The Sun Bears in this sanctuary are all bears that have been rescued from people who purchased them as cute little cubs, or from private zoos. It is illegal to keep Sun Bears in Malaysia and now there are hefty fines imposed. The Asians also used to kill these beautiful calm little bears to collect their bile ducts for some medical use. There is one man who has established this centre to save these bears and release them back into the wild once they are fit and healthy again. Most of them were received in terrible condition and all were very stress and have childhood trauma from being kept in small cages for most of their life.

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We were lucky enough to see one of these agile little bears climb up a tree to get some leaves and slide back down like a fireman on a greased pole. Credit to these wonderful people who are out there trying to save the amazing animals of their country. Unfortunately, both the orangutans and sun bears are losing their natural habitat to the clearing of forests for palm tree farms. This is a whole other subject of which I can understand both sides of the coin but won’t go into it here.

After visiting the sun bears we crossed back over the road and went for lunch at the café/restaurant at the orangutan centre. The room was air conditioned and the food was priced ok, so we spent about an hour there in the cool and had some food. This brought us up to the time for the afternoon orangutan feeding at 3pm.

Walking back to the feeding platform, a guy already there pointed up to tree as we arrived. There was a mother and baby who climbed along a rope over to the platform just as the big male orangutan arrived at the platform too. Wow, this was a great family photo opportunity! Mum, Dad and baby – amazing. They were the only animals that we saw at the afternoon feeding, apparently the other orangutans and monkeys will not appear when this giant male is present. We didn’t mind because we enjoyed a great experience with just the 3 of them.

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What a great day we had today. This is what we come to Borneo for to see these amazing creatures and we were definitely not disappointed.
Before joining the van, we grabbed a cold drink from the café and some takeaways to have with our rum back at the bungalow.

The sky today, although full of fluffy white clouds, was mostly a brilliant blue. It was hot and humid, so we all needed a shower to wash off the days sweat, but what a great day!

First up showers for everyone, then dinner at the accommodation.

Thursday 25th October 2018 – day 119 Sepilok

I was awoken several times during the night by the sound of rain falling on the roof. Not a problem, I went back to sleep thinking it’s ok if it rains in the night, then the days will be clear. Wishful dreaming on my part, when we woke it was still raining, but only lightly. We managed to walk up to the restaurant for breakfast without getting wet.

Wasn’t long before the rain became heavier and we decided to hang out to see if it would easy off. Our plan for today was to catch a GRAB car to Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, which is about 25km from our accommodation. The sanctuary has 4 feedings per day at 2 different platforms, 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. No animal is going to come out in the pouring rain even if they are getting easy food, so we decided to wait until the afternoon hoping the weather would clear a little.

Seems the sun gods were shining on us as the rain eased by about 11am and the sun started to peek through. The afternoon feeds were at 2.30 and 4.30 so we decided to call a car and drive over and have lunch at the sanctuary then go to these 2 afternoon feeds. By the time we arrived at the ticket gate the sun was out and there was lots of blue sky, so we had made the correct decision.

What we didn’t know was that the feeding platforms were 3km from the ticket gate and then they were 1km apart from each other. Luckily our car had not driven off in a hurry as it was obvious that we were going to need him for the entire visit. What started off as a cheap 20 myr = $7 GRAB ride, turned into a 135myr = $46 charter for the day. This was still very cheap for just $11.50 per person, we had a car and driver to take us there and back and then wait around for 5 hours and drive us back and forth between the 2 view platforms. There was no way we could have walked this as the day had turned very hot very quick with no shade along the roadside.

Entry was a hefty 60 myr = $20 per person (double the price of the orangutans and sun bears) plus 10 myr for cameras. But by the end of the day, we all agreed the entry fee was worth it.

Our driver firstly drove us to the platform B area as this was where the restaurant was. Food was basic and moderately priced and nothing spectacular. We had our first glimpses of the funny nosed monkeys from our lunch room. At 2pm we were driven back to platform A for the 2.30pm feeding.

Wow! What beautiful creatures these proboscis monkeys are! Why they don’t get as much attention as the orangutans of Borneo I don’t know. Perhaps they are not endangered as their fellow red headed primates. We were able to view 2 different families at this first feeding. One of the families had a 20-year-old alfa male, who was just as handsome as they come – a magnificent specimen who was kind enough to spend a lot of time posing for us. He even stayed behind after all the other monkeys had cleared the platforms after the food was all eaten.

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We saw many females with cute little young ones at various ages – these guys were amazing with their little protruding noses just starting to grow.
After about an hour our driver took us back to platform B where we just had enough time to have a cool drink before walking the short boardwalk to the viewing area. Waiting patiently were already a group of silver leaf monkeys who did not seem to be bothered by human presence at all.

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They were all sitting up on the wooden railings and did not make a move as we or anyone came close. They also did not try to jump or grab at us or our bags or cameras. They just seemed to be happy sitting and being photographed waiting for their free meal.

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When the spattering of food was thrown out for the proboscis monkeys they started coming out of the forest in droves. I have not idea how many there were or how many different families there were in this area but there were a lot. And although no giant males like we saw earlier, there were quite a few big males and they were yelling and chasing each other across the roof and into the jungle. Not sure who exactly was the boss in this lot, obviously there must have been a few and they were all trying to keep their patch in order.

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We saw a lot of proboscis monkeys today! What an amazing experience. Like yesterday, I took over 300 photos! Lots of little baby monkeys clinging to their mothers as they sprang from the ground to branches and up onto the platforms. When mum stopped the little ones would try to struggle away from them to explore a little, but mother would always grab them and take flight at the slightest disturbance.

We also saw a couple of hornbills today. One that the feeders called down to be fed and another as we were driving out.

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Returning to our accommodation I was happy to pay the driver the charter amount, he seemed to be happy with the amount he was paid for the day too.

The weather had stayed dry all afternoon for us, again sunny, hot and humid so showers for all of us was the first thing back in the bungalow.

Dinner was a little later than last night, but as I write this at 9.30pm all the ladies are down below (I’m in the top bunk remember) gently snoring.

Friday 26th October 2018 – day 120 Sepilok

Rest day today. We all lazed around in bed until a mad panic at 9.30 when we all had to get up and get dressed to make breakfast which finished at 10am.

Blue sky today, still cloudy, but it does not look like it will rain at all today. We lingered after breakfast, then meandered back to our bungalow where we continued our rest day.

2pm we caught the shuttle into Sepilok to have lunch at the orangutan centre café just for a change of scenery. And it was air conditioned, so we were happy to sit in there and chat until the return shuttle at 4pm. We bought some cokes for mixers, so we could lessen our duty-free rum a little more back at the accommodation.

Due to our late lunch we did not head up for dinner until about 7pm. Quite a few guests here tonight and we sat chatting with an English lady travelling by herself who seemed a little bit too keen in meeting up with us in Kuching next week.

We are all rested and ready for our next destination near the River Kinabatangan.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 22:52 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kinabatangan orangutan sabah probosics Comments (6)

2018 OCT 20 - 22 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Kota Kinabalu

BORNEO HERE WE ARE!

sunny 30 °C

Hello Blog Readers!

Yes, I am still on the same 2018 trip, just have not been writing or keeping a blog for the last few months. My last blog was when Mitch and I were about to fly out of France to Malta at the end of July after our bike ride. If you follow me on Facebook you would have seen we had a fabulous time in Malta and Gozo Islands during August. I never do a blog while in Malta as it is always the part of my travels that is all holiday and relaxation. We met up with Dolly and Trish in Malta and also had a great day with Andreia and Lena who called in for one day off their cruise ship.

After Malta, Mitch and I flew to Portugal mid August. We again met up with Andreia and Lena in Porto and spent a week travelling with them in our hire cars. It had been 20 years since Mitch and I had worked at Lisbon Expo 1998 and this visit to Portugal was a bit of an anniversary trip. We visited old places we had been before and a few new places. Again, if you follow me on Facebook you would have seen all the photos etc. We had a car for 3 weeks, then spent a week in Lisbon re-visiting the city we knew so well many years ago.

We ended our time in Europe with a 4 day stopover in Northern Italy. A few days by Lake Maggoire was amazing - photos on Facebook. These couple of days really gave a taste of how beautiful this part of the country is. I hope to return again and explore the other Italian lakes and the surrounding area one day.

So, that brings us to the last week in September when we flew from Europe to Asia. We again met up with Dolly and spent just over 3 weeks travelling through Cambodia, another favourite of mine and if you did follow on Facebook you would have seen a lot of eating and drinking was the time consumer in this county.

I did not keep a blog for these last few months as I was either too lazy, or did not want to write again about places I have previously been and shared. However today a new adventure and a new destination begins which I am happy to share with you all if you are interested in following us. Malaysian Borneo is a destination I have not yet visited, and although it is the wet season and we are sure to have some rainy days, we also hope to discover new and interesting sights.

Thursday 18th October we, Dolly, Mitch & I, flew from Phnom Penh in Cambodia to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Just a quick 2 night stopover before Mitch flying home back to Australia on the 20th and Dolly & I flying to Kota Kinabula to meet up with Miss April and Miss Robyn who flew in from Australia.

**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Saturday 20th October 2018 – day 114 KL to KK

An early morning start, we were in the taxi to the airport from our Chinatown hotel by 7.30am. It's a good hours drive to the airport and as Mitch's flight back to Brisbane departure time was 10.30 am we had to be there by 8.30 am for him to check in. Our flight, Dolly's and mine, to Kota Kinabalu was due to depart at 11.15 am, a little later but we all caught the same taxi (110 myr = aud $37.15). Of course we were leaving from different terminals so we dropped Mitch off first. I hope he had a good time during the last few months of travelling around, but I think he was happy to be on his way home.

Terminal 2 was just 5 minutes further and the driver dropped Dolly and I off and requested an additional payment to the 100 myr he quoted. I passed him an extra 10 myr and he seemed to be happy with that. We had a little time to kill but were able to check in our bags straight away, which we did then headed to Maccas for some breakfast. We chose Maccas as we'd had a request from Robyn to collect some salt sachets which we may need later to remove any leeches which may attach themselves to us while in Borneo. Ok, good handful of salt sachets later and we were ready for our flight.

Air Asia flight from KL to KK was just under 3 hours long. We landed about 10 minutes ahead of schedule at about 1.45pm. It was hot, with a cloudy blue sky - a lovely welcome to Borneo for us.
Immigration added to our Malaysian entry stamp with 'Sabah entered 20-10-2018'. We collected our bags, and purchased a taxi voucher (30 myr = aud $10.13) flat rate out of airport, no meters are used, so I was advised. Our pre-booked apartment was about 15 minute drive from the airport. Lucky there was a guy there to meet us and give the keys and show the 2 bedroom apartment. All good, home of next 3 nights - 747.10 myr = aud $252.34.
I sent a message to April & Robyn (who arrived last night and spent the night in a nearby hotel) that we had arrived and to come on over. They caught a taxi and soon we were all sitting around chatting, catching up.
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The Marina Court Condo has a washing machine and I was already putting that to use as we sat around talking. Just before it got dark we decided to head out to find a supermarket to get some supplies. After a little walking around we were finally given directions to a supermarket where we were able to purchase breakfast supplies (tray of 30 eggs which Dolly will be turning into poached eggs over the next 3 mornings), bread, milk etc.

And of course some much needed mixer for our duty free drinks we all had purchased.
On the way to the market we had passed a seafood restaurant which had tanks full of the sea creatures you could order off the menu. Not going to get any fresher than that. Robyn and I shared 5 mud crabs for 25 myr = aud $8.44, they were a little small by Australia standards but they were yummy, we opted for just boiled, no chilly or ginger or garlic to spoil the taste of the crustaceans. April ordered garlic prawns small and ended up with 1/2 kilo of the freshly cooked buggers for 37 myr = aud $12.50 and Dolly ordered sweet and sour chicken 17 myr = aud $ 5.74 - she doesn't like seafood. But I do, and if this is any indication of the seafood in Borneo then I am going to be very happy eating here.
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We are of course here to see nature and the animals that are only here in Borneo.
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After dinner we returned to the condo to enjoy some duty free drinks.

Sunday 21st October 2018 – day 115 Kota Kinabalu

We woke up to wet streets, so it had obviously rained during the night. None of us heard it and the sun was shining brightly by the time we all got up. Dolly cooked us all poached eggs for breakfast from the massive tray of eggs we purchased last night. One of many an egg meal we will be enjoying over the next couple of days.

There is a market every Sunday in Kota Kinabalu that we walked to this morning. The market sold an assortment of things, from touristy to food to kittens and puppies in tiny cages. There was a few people walking around the markets but it was not too crowded.
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After about an hour of wandering around the market we were hot and exhausted, so headed a few blocks away to a huge shopping mall, an air conditioned shopping mall.
We found a food court and had some lunch, then wandered around inside the cool a little longer.

A few more blocks away was the public jetty where boats leave to visit the nearby islands. We are thinking about doing a day trip tomorrow so walked up there to see what was available. A day trip to 2 islands was ok priced until we were advised about the 'island terminal' which doubled the price of the day trip. I think we are still going to do it as it works out to about $20 each for the day.

It had been raining a little while we were inside the shopping mall, but we managed to walk back to the condo without getting wet. It did not rain again until late in the afternoon, with a good downpour just before 6pm.

We spend the afternoon watching movies on TV and sitting around. Too lazy to head outside in the wet for some dinner, we got Dolly to whip us up some scrambled eggs for dinner, putting a dent in the tray of eggs.

Big walking day today, everyone did over their 10,000 fitbit steps.

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Monday 22nd October 2018 – day 116 Kota Kinabalu nearby islands

We had a great day today, up early to enjoy Dolly's poached eggs for breakfast before embarking on our day of island hopping.

A tout had approached us yesterday trying to sell boat trips, so we advised we would be back in the morning. His deal was as good as the others we had spoken to during our walk up to the boat jetty, but this guy was a lot closer to our condo so we didn't have to walk far. He managed to upsell to us and for just a couple of dollars extra each we could hire a private boat for 200myr = $68 to take us to 2 separate islands of our choice and more or less we could dictate the departure times.
The weather looked a little overcast, but it had not rained this morning as yet, and we hoped it would get brighter as the day grew.
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Our first island of choice was Palau Sapi, April had read about an interisland zip line that she was interested in doing. It was around 10 when we arrived and there were already people on the beach and more in the water mostly snorkelling. This island is the most popular choice for people who are just doing one island, I think it may be the closest one or the fastest to get to one. Anyway, we found our bit of sand for our belongings and headed for the water, which was a nice temperature, not too warm, still refreshing. April did not come in as she wanted to stay dry for her zip line in 30 minutes. After a cool off, we exited the water and promptly returned with our face mask snorkels. Ok, so we may look like aliens in these things, but they are the best to snorkel with and the easiest to use as Dolly soon discovered when giving Aprils a try for the first time. She has now added this item to her xmas wish list (hope you're reading this Sarina!).
There were lots of fish to been seen just here off the beach.

April went off to do her zip line, she was taken in a boat to the nearby Gaya Island and zipped across the water back to Sapi Island. I walked over to the jetty to see if I could see her, and managed to photograph everyone except April going across. (sorry :-() Below picture is the gap between the two islands with the zip line going across.

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11.30am we returned to the jetty for our boat to take us to the next island, Palau Mamutik. This is the one that many of the touts advised was best for snorkelling as there is lots of coral just off the beach. By the time we left Sapi beach was very crowded and even more people in the water which made snorkelling very difficult trying not to swim into someone. Mamutik was only about 15 minutes away by boat, the sea was a little choppy and we did get a little splashed.
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First things first, we decided to have lunch before we tried the beach here. We were greeted by a small water monitor that was eating a stolen prawn from somewhere and had lunch in the small restaurant that was hiding behind the big dinning area used for the 45 myr buffet. Our lunch was under 15 myr each.
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After lunch we all walked over to the beach for a swim and snorkel. Wow, the fish life here was amazing. So many fish, and lots of different types and colours and shapes. It was great, unfortunately my underwater camera battery was flat so could not take any pictures. Just 2 metres off the beach was lots of coral and swarming with fish. The snorkel masks are great, the fish come right up to the glass and tap on it. Freaked me out at first but then was quite fun. The little buggers like to have a bit of a nibble on us occasionally too, a particular hungry fish biting my arm and drawing blood. All good, nothing too savage, these are not piranha fish.

The afternoon had turned into a beautiful hot sunny day and all of us got a little sun burnt. The water was lovely and so clear.

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We called the boat back in to collect us at about 2.30pm. It is notorious that the weather usually turns bad around 3-4 and we did not want to be on the water when that happened as the waves would get quite big which would mean a rough ride back.

The washing machine got a good workout on our return to the condo. Everything as in towels, sarongs, clothing and togs needed to be laundered and hung up to dry before tomorrow when we check out of here. With the machine going we realized we had not used the condo swimming pool as yet and it was now or never. Caught the lift back down and spent about an hour down by the pool. It was huge and very clean. We naughtily used it to rinse the salty water from our bodies.
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After the 2nd load of washing was washed and hung out to dry, we headed out to find some dinner. First off we needed to get a local sim card for my phone so we would be able to use GRAB (same as UBER) to get back to the airport tomorrow and to use for other transport in other locations. Because taxis are very cheap here and distances in towns are very short, the drivers refuse to put on the meter which means we get grossly overcharged for any taxi ride. Well this stops now with using the GRAB app, no more overinflated priced rides. We found a phone shop and I asked the young guy to put the sim into my phone and set it up. We purchased some extra credit and when we returned to the condo I tested out the GRAB app and it all seemed to be working. Lets hope there is someone up early tomorrow to take us to the airport.

We opted for dinner in the food court of the mall where we bought the sim. Dined at Borenos - which is the Borneo equivalent of KFC, but much cheaper and they use loads more garlic. 3 pieces of chicken, coleslaw, mash potato with gravy and drink for 14.75myr = $4.99.DSCN2481.JPG

We were lucky today, it didn't actually rain until after we had dinner and it was only a light shower that we had to walk home in.

So, that was our first few days in Borneo. Tomorrow we take a short flight to Sandakan - to the east coast - to where the wildlife hopefully will present itself.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 07:53 Archived in Malaysia Tagged sabah Comments (3)

2018 JULY 28 - 30 FRANCE

89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

semi-overcast 22 °C

*********33 DAYS IN FRANCE**********

Saturday 28th July 2018 – day 31 – Chartres

Mitch walked to the bakery, so we could have pain de raisin for breakfast, don’t like to break in tradition.

Relaxing day today. We were able to wash all our clothing in the washing machine, so they got a good clean. Sleeping bags and bedding are hanging outside on the line to air and get a bit of sunshine to freshen them up after being squashed in bags and tent for a month.

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Mitch gave the bikes a bit of a clean up and a de-grease and they are good as new, ready for the next adventurers or biking city explorers.
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We walked to the Carrefour supermarket to get some supplies for lunch and dinner and that is about as much as we did today.

It was nice to have a relaxing day where we didn’t have to ride somewhere or be somewhere. Tomorrow is going to be much the same, except we need to get our bags packed and find a way to get to the airport on Monday.

Sunday 29th July 2018 – day 32 – Chartres

We did absolutely nothing today, and I am not ashamed to admit it. It was nice to just be able to hang out, have no where to be or go to.

Ah, I tell a lie, Mitch walked down to the bakery this morning for our usual pain de raisin, omg are we going to miss them when we leave France.

And just after noon we both walked the 10 minutes to the local Carrefour to buy some supplies for lunch and dinner. Other than that, we did bugger all. I finished reading the book I picked up a couple of days ago and we just hung out around the house. Very relaxing.

I did have one other task to execute today and that was to find a way to get us to the airport tomorrow. Due to the train strikes and there was a fire near Paris the other day which has also affected the trains going in and out of Paris I needed to find another way of getting us to the airport.
I sent a request to blabla car rideshare that was rejected and thought about having a little panic attack. Sent off another request to another blabla car but had no idea what type of car was on offer and if our 2 huge bags would fit in. There was no way to contact the driver until after I put through the request and my payment was taken.

In the meantime, I sent a message to the tourist information office here in Chartres asking about any sort of shuttle, they sent back a phone number advising yes there is a shuttle and it costs only 37 euro each. This is a good price and would only be a little more than what we would have to pay on the 2 trains we would need to get to Paris Orly Airport. Our Airbnb host, Valentin, very kindly called up the shuttle company for us (easier for him to speak with them in French than me trying to organize anything) but he was told the shuttle was full as you need to book at least a week in advance and with the train strikes and all. They did however offer a private shuttle at 125 euros and unfortunately this seemed to be our only option. It was a lot more than I wanted to pay to get to the airport, but really, we had no choice. They requested I send an email request with address and pick up time. Ironically, as soon as I sent the email, the 2nd blabla car request I had sent earlier, responded with a yes, but we still didn’t know what kind of car he was driving. Valentin to the rescue again as he called up the guy and negotiated not only for him to pick us up from the door here, but also to drop us off at the airport, not at a service station 5km away with was the advised drop off point. These little extras for a meagre 20 euros extra! This was a bargain, the blabla car was going to cost us a total of 39 euros! Much better than 125 euros for the shuttle and even better than the 2 trains we would have to get if they are even running.

With this task of getting to the airport sorted, my mind was free to stagnate for the rest of the day.

Ah yes, we did also pack up all our stuff into the two big bags that we will be leaving with tomorrow. It seems these bags are still full to bursting even though we are leaving a lot of the bike equipment behind.

So tomorrow we fly from Paris, France to Malta to start the next part of our 89 Days in Europe.

Monday 30th July 2018 – day 33 – Chartres to Orly Airport – fly to Malta

So, for the last time, Mitch walked to the bakery to purchase our last pain de raisin breakfast. We enjoyed the last tasty pastry with a cup of coffee.
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Everything was organized so all we had to do today was wait for our Blabla car pick up to take us to the airport. Our driver arrived a little early, but we were ready so said our thank you and goodbyes to Freyda, Valentin and his wife, our Airbnb hosts, loaded up the car with our bags and ourselves and we were off to the airport.

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Our French driver spoke about as much English as we spoke French, but somehow for the 1 ½ hour journey he and Mitch managed to keep up a conversation. Some people can talk underwater, no matter what the language.

So, we are no at Orly airport, super early, but we are here. I did not fancy taking our chances with public transport so waiting here or waiting at the house makes no difference to us. Airports are always good for people watching also.

Orly airport is very crowded with an assortment of travellers flying all over France and the rest of Europe. There is a very strong police presence and an even stronger military personal presence patrolling up and town the terminal. The ones in fatigue uniforms are carrying big scary looking machine guns, the likes of which we are not used to seeing in the local airport. But I guess over the last couple of years France has experienced a bit too much of their fare share of terrorist attention. Still the sight of these guys and their displayed weapons makes me feel a little more nervous that the threat is actually here. At least these big guns are here ready to jump into action just in case, that should make me feel better.

While I have a few hours to kill guess it’s a good time to sum up our ‘Tour de Frog’ bicycle jaunt through France.

Firstly, I’d like to thank the weather gods, who although on some days cooked us to a frazzle, they only gave us 3 occasions out of 33 days of rain. Our first night of camping, when we received a torrential downpour. Luckily it was only equipment that got wet that round. Secondly, for just 30 minutes during our ride into Alencon, when we decided it was so light that we continued to ride not even donning a raincoat. And thirdly, the thunderstorm we had in Brehemont, but luckily, we were forewarned and managed to secure dry accommodation for the night. So, thank you for the lovely weather supplied to us all of July in France!

Now, in regard to the bike paths – I’m sorry France but you don’t hold a candle to Germany. We still bicycled on a lot of roads, albeit they were secondary roads, there were still a lot of road riding. The first route we tackled, the Veloscenie was the hardest. Worst part was there was nowhere to get water. Even to purchase water the villages were too distanced apart. And then in parks or bike picnic stops there was nowhere to refill thirsty water bottles. On occasion I entered peoples garden to use the yard tap and once I remember sticking my head inside someone kitchen to ask for a tap refill of my water bottle. And the campgrounds were too spaced too far apart. I know we were not fit, but even so, most cyclo tourists would not want to have to ride 50-60 km every day to be able to stay in camping grounds. Even if you are fit, if you want to stop and explore things on the way the distances were too far, in my opinion. Hence, we stayed in a lot more hotels and rode the train more than what was initially planned.

The scenery was ok, nothing spectacular! We saw a lot of wheat fields, a lot of corn fields, lots of hay fields and much to my delight lots of sunflower fields. Some of the river scenes were magical, the reflections magnificent. But I can't say the scenery was spectacular. Riding through little villages that looked asleep was pretty cool, just the age of some things here compared to Australia are amazing in themselves.

As for the bike route along the Loire: here we tripped over camping grounds, so no complaints there. And most were located close to the river in lovely scenic locations. As for the path itself, the planners have done an excellent job of keeping cyclist off busier roads, but this was often done with a 3-5km detour into the hilly countryside. Now, I’m not going to complain too much about this as this is where we experienced most of the sunflower fields. But to call it a river path is not exactly accurate, when compared to the river paths I have ridden in Germany.

At the end of the day, I still really enjoyed the bike trip. I think my cycle partner enjoyed the part about it being over and done with, but perhaps proud of the achievement. Will I do another bike ride in Europe, mmm need to have a think about that one.

As for the French people, honestly, they could not have been any nicer. They try a lot harder to speak English to us than we do to speak their own language to them in their own country. The arrogance of the English-speaking world. The whole trip we only had one bad encounter – that rude bitch in the bike shop in Tours (but that had nothing to do with language, she was just a bitch or having a bad day or something.) Several occasions along the way we had locals stop and ask if we needed assistance while we were looking at a map or phone screen in confusion.

I can honestly say everyday we ate cheese, which was one of the highlights of France I was looking forward to from the start. Everyday we ate pastries for breakfast, an indulgence we cancelled out with the cycling part. At least that’s what we kept telling ourselves. And everyday we had a beverage of wine, cider or beer. So French holiday requirements fulfilled!

Whilst writing this I realize today is one of the few days in France we have not had some kind of alcoholic beverage. Although I have it on very good authority that there is a cold lemon beer waiting for us in Malta!

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 14:29 Archived in France Comments (0)

2018 JULY 25 - 27- CYCLING FRANCE

89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

sunny 35 °C

**********33 DAYS IN FRANCE**********

Wednesday 25th July 2018 – day 28 Amboise to Blois

45km rode today, very hot

It was warm last night, probably one of the warmest nights we have had camping. Slept fairly well.

Today we continue up the Loire, but the track in all its wisdom took us on a lot of back roads away from the sight of the river. The first hour we were already pushing quite a bit and it was getting very warm. The Loire a Velo bike track is very good at keeping the cyclist off the busy or not so busy main roads. But unfortunately, it usually does this with a 3-5km detour on back roads – with hills.

After the first hour of ups and downs we were lulled back to the river with a nice flat path, but it did not last long and soon we were back on the backroads. So today was a hard ride, probably a lot to do with the heat as well. We got a little lost in the afternoon but found the track back again which took straight back to the river and the last kilometre was a nice track with views of Blois and the Loire River.
Suck it up I said to Mitch as this is the last views we will have of the Loire River as we head inland when we leave here and head back towards Chartres.

I had booked a hotel, for the next 2 nights, close to the railway station – always easy to find and of course it was in the high part of town so a bit more pushing we had to do to reach the hotel. By the time we arrived at check-in we were absolutely knackered. We unloaded everything off the bikes what we would need for the next 2 nights, camping gear left on, and stored the bikes in the supplied garage.

Our hotel room is one of the smallest I have ever seen, but it has a huge opening window and a fan! Luxury! And a nice cool shower which was the first thing that I ducked under after entering the room. Mitch cooled off after me and then we just hung around as it was still too hot to go outside for a look around town.

We ventured out at about 6pm but it was still pretty hot and soon stopped for a drink before continuing our look around old town Blois. There is a lovely huge chateau right here in the middle of town, but we are saving our visit for Chateau Chambord tomorrow. This is another of my bucket list tick offs. There is a bus that will take us there from closed to the train station as it's too far to ride there and back in one day. The chateau is 22km from here and we have been told the temp is maybe going to hit 40 tomorrow after todays 35.

Can’t cook as we are in hotel, so just opted for a quick dinner of kebab and chips – it was good too. Biggest meal we have eaten in a long time. Found a supermarket and purchased supplies for our picnic at Chambord tomorrow. Hotel kindly let us put supplies in their fridge, so they will be fresh for us tomorrow.

We walked a few more streets then headed back to the hotel, it was still before 9pm, still light of course and still hot. Will be grateful for the fan in our room tonight.

So, rest of the evening was spent chewing up internet as I catch up on a few days of posting photos.

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Thursday 26th July 2018 – day 29 Blois to Chateau Chambord

Today we are visiting Chateau Chambord, which is about 22km out of Blois.

Mitch went to the bakery a few doors down and purchased the usual pain de raisin and they were delicious as ever. Actually, these ones were probably the yummiest to date. We ate them with a cup of filter coffee in the hotel.

The bus stop is just 100 metres from the hotel, so we walk over there at about 9.30am for the 9.44 bus. There are just a couple of people waiting but by the time the bus rocks up it is just about full. I’m grateful for the bus to the chateau as its already very hot and there is no way we would have been able to ride the 22km there and another 22km back. So, at 6 euro return each on the bus is money well spent. The drive takes about 30 minutes as the big bus passes through some villages that have very narrow roads.

We get off the bus and walk to the ticket office where we were advised by the tourist office yesterday if we flash our bus ticket we get a 2euro reduction on the entry of the chateau. Better 2 euro each in our pocket – we paid 11 euro each for the chateau tickets. All the entry fees for chateaux are around here are this price, that is why we have not been going in any others. Chambord was kept special as to tick off my bucket list.
The sun was very hot today, and the coolness that the chateau should have offered was taken up by the crowds of people trying to squeeze through narrow doorways from room to room. We were able to leave our bags in a cloakroom so there was not the burden of carrying them, but it was still hot and crowded. We pushed our way around the collection of rooms, sure we did not see them all, but after about 2 hours we’d had enough and decided to head out to the gardens and eat our picnic lunch.

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The inside of the chateau was almost a bit disappointing. Definitely, the outside is much more impressive. The rooms inside are vast and most unfurnished, which makes them seem like just a collection of big rooms. And I overheard a tour guide telling someone that the furnishings that are on display are not originally from this chateau, some of them are not even French. They said that a lot of the furniture, tapestries and wall hangings were destroyed in the French Revolution and they have just tried to collect things from the same period to put on display. A lot of the stuff came from Spain, which I’m sure is making the previous owners of the once magnificent chateau roll over in their graves.

Anyway, for future reference, you don’t need to go inside the chateaux if you visit here in France, just admire them from the outside as they are much more enjoyable that way.

We found a bit of shade under a big old tree and had our usual picnic of cheese, pate, salami and baguette. But today we washed this down with a small bottle of Chambord liqueur that I had brought from Australia and had been carrying in my bike pannier this last 3 and a bit weeks. It was intended for this very occasion and went down a treat. However, much to my surprise they were selling bottles of Chambord in the gift shop, 8.25 euro for a tiny shot bottle or 39.95 euro for the 700ml bottle. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring any drinking vessels with us today and I had to resort to stealing a couple of small ice cream cups from which to drink from. Not very posh, but it did the trick.

We caught the 1.10pm bus back to Blois as we had seen enough of the crowds and the sun was still beating down cooking everyone not in the shade.

We returned to our room to escape the heat with our little fan blowing and the curtains drawn against the sunshine. We ventured out at around 6pm to buy a cool drink and some small quiches from the bakery for dinner.

Just wanting to check our train plans for tomorrow we walked across the street to the train station and I had a meltdown when I tried to book the train we want to catch tomorrow to take us back to Chartres. It was only offering tickets for bikes that could be folded up and carried on the train like luggage. Shit this was not good. Plan for tomorrow was to ride about 40km to a regional train station so we could catch a series of regional trains to get us to Chartres without having to go via Paris. Going via Paris is not only time consuming and a big hassle, but the prices of the train tickets are nearly 4 times the price of the regional trains will cost us to get back to Chartres. I started to freak and the ticket office at the train station just closed its doors the minute I walked up to the door. It was still 5 minutes to the closing 7pm by the train station clock. We returned to the room and internet where I frantically searched for any answers about taking non-folding bikes on these regional TER trains. I finally received an answer from a chat back on the French rail site who assured me that roll on bikes are fine to take. My panic is not over, and I won’t sleep very well tonight. Not until we have confirmation in the morning that the bikes can be taken on the trains.

My other option was just to bite the bullet and pay the money and ride the train into Paris and then back out to Chartres at whatever price they want to charge. But of course, there is a train strike on again tomorrow and the lines along the Loire up to Paris are not running at all. Can’t win in this country when it comes to train travel. I’m just getting a bit antsy as we really don’t have enough time left to ride all the way back to Chartres.

So let’s try to get some sleep now and not worry anymore about it, will find out definite in the morning. Ha easier said than done!

Friday 27th July 2018 – day 30 Blois to Vendome to Chartres

Rode 38km today

We were advised the train ticket office opened at 6am, and we were over there at 6.30am just to find a manned information stall, the actual ticket office did not open until 8.10am. The info guys assured us that the regional train would take roll on bikes, but I was not convinced as we could not purchase tickets from the automated machine.

Already pissed off that I was out of bed at this early hour then not being able to get a straight answer did not put me in a better mood. I really needed to have confirmation before we rode 40km inland to the regional station. So, we decided we would wait until the ticket office opened before starting the ride.

We had breakfast of pain de raisin (best we’ve had in France) and a coffee (worst we’ve had in France) at the bakery before returning to the hotel to check out and load up our bikes. All packed and ready to go I stood at the train station ticket office waiting for it to open. Finally, it did, and I was reassured by several staff members that it would be just fine to take a roll-on bike on the train. I purchased tickets for the 7.39pm train that evening, leaving from Vendome which was about 40km away. I kind of under estimated our cycling ability as we since we departed Blois at 8.30am we made the 40km by 12 noon. But I was not sure how we’d go as it was all on roads the whole way.

The road was mostly 2 lane highway sort road, with lots of big trucks and traffic. I’m not even sure if bikes were even allowed to be riding on these roads, I guess not as most of the time the road did not have any shoulder for us to ride on. So, this was the most dangerous and scary riding we did the whole trip, but really, we had no option but to take this way to get to Vendome. We stopped to see a Dolmen on the way and huge sunflower fields but it was too dangerous to stop for photos.

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Everything considered we made really good time and found ourselves hours early for our evening train. We had a little walk around Vendome just as their weekly market was wrapping up, then we found a place to sit and have our picnic lunch.

With the train station was less than 2 km away, so we decided to ride up there and just wait. And wait we did, luckily, we could get on an earlier train which left Vendome at 4.17pm, instead of our booked 7.39pm. However, we had to change trains in the town of Voves and this had only one train going to Chartres and that was at 9.04pm, so we had to wait. And wait, and wait, and wait. I walked to the centre in Voves to find a cold drink to bring back to Mitchell who staying looking after the bikes and gear.
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The train voyage from Vendome to Voves was 1 ½ hours and the voyage from Voves to Chartres was about 20 minutes, so we spent many more hours waiting for the trains today than riding on them. I think we could have ridden the last 20 km from Voves to Chartres faster than the waiting time, but Mitchell was having none of that, he was happy to wait rather than ride.

We arrived in Chartres at 9.30pm and the short ride to our Airbnb got us there just after 10pm and therefore completed our Tour de Frog! (said with a French accent, thanks Paul).

As a room was not available to us for this night, we pitched the tent for the last time in France and spent the night on airbeds. A quick shower and we crawled into the tent for the last time in France.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 06:34 Archived in France Comments (2)

2018 JULY 22 - 24 CYCLING FRANCE

89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

sunny 27 °C

**********33 DAYS IN FRANCE**********

Sunday 22nd July 2018 – day 25 Tours to Blere

Rode 28km today

We packed up the bikes and were getting a bit antsy waiting for the Airbnb host to arrive to take the keys. We decided to leave her a note and be on our way as it was almost 10am. A quick stop at the supermarket to buy a baguette for lunch turned into a 20-minute wait in the checkout line, but we were finally exiting out of town via shared road. The first 40 minutes of the ride was on shared roads, but then the rest of the way went to a dedicated bike track at the side of the road, so it was nice easy enjoyable riding.

The sun was out, it was warm but not too hot. We have now left the Loire River and we are doing a little detour along the Cher River to visit Chateau Chenonceau, which is only about 35 km along the Cher. We have booked a canoe hire to view the chateau from the river. This is something I found on the internet at home and it looked really cool. The plan was tomorrow to ride back and join the Loire and continue north.
All was going well, we were having a nice ride, making good time. Picked a shaded bench by the river outside of the little village of Blere to have some lunch. We had stopped by a campground and I commented on how nice the campsite looked, but our plan was to stay up closer to where we were joining the canoe hire.

Lunch finished, back on bikes when I could feel my back wheel shaking like buggery. This is not right and on closer inspection we saw that I had broken about 6 spokes. Shit! Well that nice campground looked like it was going to get a visit from us. We unloaded Mitch’s bike and he went for a ride into the campground and then the village to see if there was anyone to help.

Mitch returned 20 minutes later to report there was no one at the camp office, but he rode into the centre of the village and found a bike repair shop. Of course, being Sunday, the shop was not open, but that was no problem we would camp here in the nice campground tonight and get my bike sorted in the morning. All sounded good.

We pushed the bikes into the campground and by now there was someone back in the office. The lady in the office was lovely and very helpful and she was very sorry to inform me that the bike shop did not open on a Monday and would not be opening until Tuesday. Shit! She even tried calling the owner but with no reply.

So, we had to decide whether to stay put here in Blere until Tuesday (that would be 2 nights) or take the bikes back to Tours and try to get fixed there. After much discussion, it was decided we would have a rest day here tomorrow and get the bike sorted when the shop opened on Tuesday.
The campsite was quite nice and at 14 euros per night it had hot shower, no toilet seats and no toilet paper but great Wi-Fi, which was good, so I could contact the canoe hire place and advise we would not be showing up for our booking tonight. However, as we will be staying here another night, we could get the train the short distance tomorrow night for the same booking if that worked for them. Luckily, it did, and they even said they would drop us back at the campground afterwards as it was not very far or too much out of their way. Awesome!

So, we set up camp, and as it was a Sunday we had food supplies with us, just as well as the local Carrefour supermarket was already closed.
We walk into the village and have a cold beer at the sports club, which of course was open on a Sunday.
Back at camp we cook our food, shower and hit the airbeds, as usual before dark.

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Monday 23rd July 2018 – day 26 Blere to Chenonceau

Rest day today. I managed to sleep in until just before 9am. Mitch was already chomping at the bit and had already collected our breakfast pastries, which I ordered yesterday, from the reception.

We hung around most of the day, me chewing up internet and we also found a couple of books in English to read, so the day went relatively quickly. Mitch rode up to the Carrefour and got food supplies and we had a cooked lunch as we would be out canoeing at the usual dinner time. Easier to have just some bread and cheese when we returned.

Our canoe booking was for 7.30pm and the train was scheduled at 5.38. It was just a 10-minute walk up to the station and we were there in heaps of time having to sit around and wait. In the end the train was delayed 20 minutes, but we still had heaps of time since the actual train journey time was just 4 minutes. With the waiting time and the delayed time, we could have walked from Blere to Chenonceau faster, but we didn’t.
There is not a great deal of anything except a lot of accommodation in the little village of Chenonceau. I guess people want to stay close if they come for a visit, our intended campground would have been just 300 meters from the Chateau. As there was nothing to see except the chateau and we did not want to go inside, we headed for the Tabac shop and had a cold beer – like you do, or like we do.

After our refreshment, we had about 1 km to walk to the canoe meeting place and we meandered along with lots of time. At the river we lay in the shade under a big tree and waited until just before 7.30pm when our blue van with just one canoe on the roof turned up. Experience Canoe and Kayak is owned by an English couple and the guy who got out of the van introduced himself (but of course I can’t remember his name) and when I asked if we were it he said yes. There was a big group yesterday and a big group tomorrow, but today we would be the only ones on the water for this evenings paddle. Turns out this guy has been a European & World champion kayaker and a really nice guy who didn’t mind having a bit of a chat with us.

It was about 7.45pm when we hit the water and the chateau was about 300 meters down the river. We were told to take as long as we like, there is no time limit and he would be waiting for our return. The river has a barrage on each side of the chateau to really it was like paddling on a lake not a river. There was really no current to contend with.

Mitchell seemed happy enough to paddle the canoe while I took the photos. This worked much better anyway as with both of us paddling we seemed to be heading towards a crash with the bank of the river.

The chateau was magnificent, especially seeing it from the river with the most brilliant reflection. This was a great activity, I was really impressed. It was amazing when we got up close to the building the reflection in the water was so clear it looked like the building extended just as deep into the water. It was a little eerie also, but fantastic.

To top it off about 10 hot air balloons passed overhead while we were floating around in the waters around the chateau. So, Mitch & I will be in almost every photo of the chateau taken from those hot air balloons.

We, I mean Mitch, paddled back at about 9pm, what a great experience. And the fact that we were the only ones on the water, so no one else clogging up our photos or moving the water to blur the reflections. Well worth the 12 euro each for the canoe hire.

Canoe back on roof, we climbed into the van and were driven back to the campground in Blere. We had a bit of a snack of cheese and bread and then went for showers and again it was just about dark when we closed the tent for the night.

Bike shop opens at 9 tomorrow morning, so we want to be there for opening.

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Tuesday 24th July 2018 – day 27 Blere to Tours to Amboise

Mitch wakes me at 8am, we want to be at the bike shop for opening. I go get dressed and we are wheeling the bike into the village. Breakfast is a coffee at the sports club that Mitchell has ordered while I walk a few doors down to get some pastries from the bakery.
Seconds after 9am the shutters on the shop open and the door is opened. Adam Velo is finally open of business. Mitch goes to talk to him while I finish my coffee.

Moments later Mitch returns with a look on his face that I did not want to see. Yep, need to replace the rim as too many spokes broken, and he can have one here on Friday! What? Friday? Today is Tuesday! Is he bloody ordering the new rim from China? I am not happy, so say the very least. Looks like we are going to have to return back to Tours on the train with the bikes and get it fixed there. So much for waiting around for 2 days. Bloody hell! I curse Adam Velo and his unwillingness to work on a Monday and for not having spare rims in stock! I curse you Adam Velo!

We return to the campsite and start to pack up the tent and load the bikes. I get back on the internet to see what time there is a train to Tours. 11.41. ok we have enough time to pack up and be on that train.

We have to load up my bike to be able to carry everything and I don’t really care as the rim is buckled anyway. However, I need to be careful that one of the broken spokes does not puncture my tyre.

We make it to the train station and not a long wait before we are pushing the loaded bikes onto the train. A departing last curse to you Adam Velo.
The train from Blere to Tours only takes 20 minutes. This is the distance it took us half the day to ride on Sunday, but the trains are very fast, and we are very slow. Having been in Tours just a couple of days ago we passed the bike repair shop a few times so knew exactly where to go, and luckily it was only 150 meters from the train station.

Pushed the bikes over the shop is closed with a ‘back in 30mins sign on the door’. Great.

Ok, we can wait another 30 minutes. In the meantime, Mitch walks over to another bike place we had seen the other day, it turns out to not do repairs but does refer him to another shop. I’m still waiting for the 30-minute return, so Mitch unloads his bike and sets off to find the other shop just in case.

Finally, the lady returns, and she refuses to speak or understand any English. This is the first unhelpful person I have encountered in France. Not only is she unhelpful, she is a proper bitch. I start doing a mime of the problem with my bike, pointing at her bike repair sign and dragging her out to see the broken spokes on my back wheel. She touches the spokes, playing them like strings on a guitar, then looks at me and just says NO! Again, I point to the repair sign and again she says NO. Bitch! Take down the bloody repair sign if you are not repairing bikes.

Minutes later Mitchell returns with some good news, the bike repair shop he found is happy to fix, but is closing for lunch soon so we need to get the bike there now. It was only 500 meters away, so we wheel it in and they quote us 50 euros for new rim fitted to back wheel! Brilliant, come back at 4pm to collect.

Feeling much relief, we leave the bike and all our luggage in the repair shop and head out to buy some lunch. The supermarket we went to the other day is just around the corner, I buy a fresh baguette and some serrano ham, and a cold drink and I am happy. We find a bench in the park to have lunch, then go sit in Maccas for the rest of the wait enjoying their air con, free wifi and a cold frappe.

Come 4pm we walk back to the bike repair shop, pay the man 50 euros, load up the bikes and ride the 200 meters to the train station to catch a train from Tours to Amboise. No riding today, too stressed and it already late afternoon.

Again, just a 20-minute ride in the train and a short ride from the train station in Amboise to the camp ground. This is municipal one, 6.25 euros, hot shower, toilet seat, no paper. We set up the tent, dump everything inside and head into town.

Amboise is pretty touristy, so lots of people around. There is a big Chateau right in the middle of the town dominating the skyline so that’s what makes it popular. We find a pub that happened to be owned by an English guy and sit chatting with another English couple on their way home to the South of France after a trip to England. We drink a couple of very expensive beers then have a quick walk around the streets then return to the camp to cook up dinner. We had stopped at Aldi on the way from the train station.

Dinner, shower and airbed. Wow today was a stressful day! I lost it for a little while this morning, but it all worked out in the end and we are back on track. Back on the bikes again tomorrow for our last ride along the Loire to Blois.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 03:01 Archived in France Comments (2)

2018 JULY 18 - 21 CYCLING FRANCE

89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

sunny 28 °C

**********33 DAYS IN FRANCE**********

Wednesday 18th July 2018 – day 21 – Gennes to Saumur

26km rode today

The campsite did not supply breakfast like the others we’d stayed in, instead a van come around at 8.15am tooting its horn to advise breakfast pastries could be purchased. And she was dead on time, when a loud toot was heard I told Mitchell to get out of tent and chase her. The guy at reception advised you need to run as she does not hang around waiting for sleepy tent dwellers to crawl out of tents.

No pain de raisin today, so we had to settle for pain de chocolate and the usual baguette for lunch. The usual routine of breakfast, then packing up everything loading the bikes and hitting the track again today. There was a slight delay in our departure due to a chat with our camp neighbour who was camped next to us last night but was not sure what language we spoke so did not talk to us. He heard us speaking English and can speak this language also so come over to talk to us this morning. He is from Belgium – the part that speaks French and now lives in France with an English partner, cycling with his little dog in a bike trailer doing a test run of the tracks for next month when he wants to cycle with his teenage son. Nice guy, anyway, meant we did not hit the track until 9.50 instead of the usual 9.30am.

Then to top it off we took the wrong route, we took the scenic, hilly country route instead of the flat by the river route. So, the first hour today was hard slog and gave meaning to the word PUSH in push biking. There was a lot of pushing this morning. But one consolation for me was we passed a magnificent field of sunflowers, which by the way does not impress Mitchell every time I want to stop and take photos of said sunflowers. To make things worse he sometimes needs to hold my bike as there is nowhere to lean it while I take said photos. So please, everyone, like the photos of the sunflowers I put on FB so that he can see it’s not just for me but for everyone to enjoy. The sad truth is although we passed many sunflower fields today I was only able to stop at the first one for photos.
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So, after the hilly start, we managed to find the path along the river and it was smooth riding from then on. We only had to back track about 1km along the road to visit the Musee du Champignon which was about half way to Saumur. Now this might sound like a boring uninteresting museum, but in fact it was quite cool place to visit. And I mean cool literally as the mushroom museum displays and in fact the mushrooms are grown inside caves which have been dug out of the soft rock that is in this area. These caves used to be dwellings but now mostly are used for mushroom growing and obviously a lot are used by wine makers as the constant temperature is perfect for storing and aging wine. But back to the mushrooms, there were over 200 types of mushrooms on display, but this area mainly grows the common button mushrooms and is the largest supplier of button mushrooms in France. We did however see an assortment of mushrooms growing – different sizes, colours and shapes. Not only seeing the mushrooms in the caves but actually walking through the caves was a ‘cool’ experience.

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We returned to the bikes and continued our ride towards Saumur.

A nice big downhill before coming into town, after we’d stopped for a bench picnic lunch opposite an old cemetery.
Great weather again today and a reasonable short distance. Once in town we stopped at the information office, which still did not have any maps for the next leg of the Loire ride, but was able to give me a map of Saumur so we could easily find the camping ground which was across one bridge and on a huge island in the middle of the Loire River.

We rode directly to the campground which was another one of the Flower franchises and were allocated a site after payment of 13.10 euros. Hot showers, toilet seats, toilet paper, communal kitchen with gas burners and a little bar fridge which the lady at the reception advised food has being going missing from, so beware. And free WIFI. We were allocated the smallest plot to date, but don’t need much room for the tent and our bikes so all good. This campground is crowded and although there were still spare sites when we arrived, by the time we returned later in the afternoon it was packed out and I saw a sign on the reception door advising they were full. We saw some people riding away from the camp at about 5, surely, they were not turned away? They should always find a bit of grass for bike campers, but maybe not.

We set up the tent and chucked everything inside and headed off back into town for a look around and to find a supermarket for dinner supplies. It was hot and as we parked up the bikes I saw a nice little bar with outdoor seating and we headed over for a cold drink to cool off a little. Sitting in the shade enjoying a cold beer was nice.

Saumur has a big castle that is perched high above the town. Saumur Chateaux is made from the same rock that they dug the caves out of. Lots of chateaux and big houses in this area are made from the rock as it is easy to quarry and obviously local.

We walked up to the castle which afforded us great views over Saumur and the Loire River.
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Time to head back to the supermarket and back to camp. We found a carrefour and purchased food for dinner and a couple of bottles of sangria to have pre and with dinner. With the use of the fridge we just felt like something cool and refreshing. Also purchased a couple of beers and sat by the river having a drink before pedalling back to camp.

Yep it was crowded when we returned, but we managed to get all our stuff in the tiny fridge to cool down and had our turn on the gas burner to cook dinner.
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After dinner Mitch sat talking to the Belgium guy from this morning as he also camped here tonight, while I was looking for some accommodation for Friday and Saturday nights on Tours. Need to have a few indoors nights to do some washing and recharge our electronics and ourselves. I managed to find an Airbnb for 50 euros per night, a little more than what we paid in Rennes, but it was the best I could find, with WIFI and the ever-important washing machine.

So just one more night camping – tomorrow we will ride half way to Tours and then have a comfy couple of nights.

Thursday 19th July 2018 – day 22 – Saumur to Brehemont

38km rode today

Mitchell was restless early this morning and was scratching around making a lot of noise, causing me to wake up with a mood. We packed the up tent and almost everything before breakfast because the pastries were not available until 8.30am. Mitchell rode up to the reception to collect them while I checked the internet to see if our Airbnb reservation had come through. Yes, accepted, so all set for our accommodation in Tours. We had breakfast and by the time we rode out of the camp at 9.30am my mood was fine again.

We had a fairly easy ride today; the path took us through an old troglodyte village / caves which was pretty cool. It was like a little village with housing and a commercial street all cut into the rock. And when we saw the path taking us upwards into the countryside we opted for riding along the road and saying at river level. The Loire a Velo path is good, but sometimes will make you ride 3km up hill and down dale to avoid 1km on a road. The roads are not very busy and the traffic here a very bicycle friendly and we just did not want anymore hills after yesterday pushing day.
The rest of the morning and afternoon was easy riding, sometimes a little boring when you just ride, ride, ride in a straight like for 2-3 kms. But at least it was flat. After stopping for lunch around 1pm I noticed the sky had become very cloudy and dim looking. Not a good sign, we had heard that rain was forecast for Thursday.

We rode past many, many sunflower fields today. Some had their giant heads drooping in half death, others had their heads held high smiling up at the sunshine. I only stopped at the one field to take photos, much to the disgust of you know who.

About 8km from our nights destination, which was Brehemont, we met a French lady at a cross roads and followed her all the way into town. It was still very hot despite the clouds in the sky. When we reached the town, there was a little shop and she suggest we stop for a drink or an ice cream. Good idea, we had a nice cold ice block which helped relieve those last few kilometeres. We chatted with the guy who sold us the ice blocks, he was running a bike stop / bike shop and spoke very good English as he had lived in England for a few years. When I questioned him about the bleak sky and if he thought it would rain, he said look at the sky. I looked up and there was a flurry of swallow type birds going berserk above us. The guy said, look how nervous and agitated the birds are, yes there is going to be a storm. Not exactly what you want to hear when you are about to pitch a tent. We were also advised there was no market in town, the closest store was 6km away. Bugger that, tonight we would be eating our emergency meal.

The campsite was only just down the hill and when we rolled into there it was still stinking hot! I was still concerned about the sky and asked the receptionist what she thought, she seemed confident that it was going to rain and storm later, but she was also very keen to up sell us to an onsite tent. Anyway, she won, and we decided to take an onsite tent – and thank god we did. As I write this at 11pm its still raining outside and we are nice warm and dry in this palace for the night. So, the options for onsite tents were these little wooden boxes with the front side canvas for 30 euro per night. They would keep us dry, but we would be stuck in something the same size as our tent just with 3 wooden sides. Next option was big onsite tent with 2 double beds, cooking facilities, fridge, table and chairs and power – for the price of 60 euros. This was a crazy price, but we took it anyway. We thought maybe if the Belgium guy turned up we could share it with him – he never did show but never mind.

The campground also had a pool, and although we had already been in a few camps with pools we had not yet used any of them. But it was still so hot and there was not a breath of wind, so we decided to go for a dip. Great idea instantly cooled us off. The sky was still looking dark, but with some blue poking through. I thought if it doesn’t storm tonight and we’ve paid a small fortune for this onsite tent, I will be spewing!

After our dip in the pool we had our showers and then went to the bar for a cold drink. Mitch had the usual LARGE beer and I had a rose pampoosa – which turned out to be a glass of white wine with a tiny shot of blood orange syrup. Not bad, just made the wine a rosy colour and sweetened it up I guess. We sat only minutes before the wind started and we took our drinks back to our tent because things were starting to fly through the air. Everyone was packing up their awnings, putting things away and retreating inside their motor homes.

A little while later the rain came and the 60 euros we’d paid for this tent was suddenly worth it, and as its still raining now, hours later it was a good decision.

And we were able to cook our meal inside the tent as well. Lucky for us I insisted on purchasing an emergency meal at the beginning of the trip for such an occasion as this, where we are caught without access to a supermarket. So, for dinner tonight we had tin of tuna in tomato, tin of mixed vegies, mushrooms, tomatoes all tossed in some cooked-up spaghetti pasta. We’ve been carrying the pasta and tuna since day one and thank goodness too.

Let’s hope the rain is gone by the morning as we have to ride to Tours.

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Friday 20th July 2018 – day 23 Brehemont to Tours

38km rode today

Waking up this morning after last nights thunderstorm I though the rip off 60 euro for this tent was worth every penny. The rain had stopped now, and we could load up our bikes with everything, including ourselves, dry. The sky was still completely grey and there was a gloomy feel to the atmosphere, but we were pretty sure the rain had gone.

It seemed to be almost misty/foggy, like the air was thick, but this did not seem to dampen our mood. Must have been the half decent sleep and no stress of being wet that lifted us this morning. We rode out of the camp just after 9.30am.

The ride into Tours was probably he easiest ride we have had the whole trip. No hills, and paved path or backroads the whole way. By the time we had been riding for about an hour the clouds seemed to clear also, and the sun came out to greet us.

Today was the best riding day we have had the whole trip. I think Mitch enjoyed the ride today. He said he is finally starting to get in the rhythm of it all. I said at the beginning that would happen, by week 3 you will be riding with more confidence and your body will be used to the physical activity every day. It has taken this long, and we only have just over one more week to go. Two weeks ago, I was considering this being my last cycling holiday, but after today I feel I might be able to maybe push just one more out next year. Like I said, it takes 3 weeks of riding to get into the rhythm and for your body to be used to the daily push. Mmmm, still thinking about it.

We made great time riding today and were in the town of Tours in plenty of time to meet our Airbnb host at 4pm. In fact, we had loads of time and first up found a bench down by the Loire river to have some lunch. And then we bought a cold drink at the supermarket and sat in the busy parkway to people watch. It was nice to be ahead of schedule and when the time came we strolled down the road to meet our host and home for the next 2 nights.

We are in a small studio apartment for the next two nights. One room which is the bedroom, living and dining all rolled into one, a galley kitchen, bathroom with a bath and toilet. There is also a resident cat, ginger Kiona is 14 years old, fat and very happy and friendly towards us. A little more social than our last feline host. Most importantly there is a washing machine for us to use in the kitchen, so everything is getting a proper wash again.

We load up the washing machine with our first load and ride off to the supermarket to purchase supplies for our 2 days stay. Another luxury is a refrigerator, which means cold drinks for a couple of days. Back with our goodies we spent the rest of the afternoon lazing indoors waiting for our drinks to cool.

Just after 10pm, we went out for a walk back to the centre, to the cathedral to be exact. Here at 10.45pm there was a light show on the façade of the church. Same sort of thing we saw in Chartres, but on a much smaller scale as only on one building here. Of course, the show does not start until so late as it must wait until it’s dark for the light show to be effective. Still light here until about 10.15 -10.30 now.

It was a slow walk back to the apartment, we had not been out this late before. Usually in bed before the sun goes down.

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Saturday 21st July 2018 – day 24 Tours

Mitch went out early and found a bakery for our pastry breakfast fix.

We had a lazy day today. Or at least I should say I had a busy lazy day. Lots to catch up on the internet with posting photos and investigating/planning our last week on the bikes. Needed to make a few bookings and just check out routes we need to take in the time we have left. And as you will see loading pictures and blogs from previous days since we last had internet.

I think we headed out around 1pm to look for a cheap place to have lunch. Hot and sunny outside. Well cheap place to have lunch did not eventuate, ended up going to supermarket and I put together an awesome platter for a quarter of the price we would have paid for lunch out.
Must say we have not eaten in restaurants this trip mainly due to prices, France is expensive to eat out. Self-catering is not so bad as you can buy good stuff at the supermarkets, and I know that is not the same as eating French food as there is no way in hell we can replicate anything on our camp cooker that we would be served at a restaurant. But this is a budget holiday and our budget would have to be 10 times what it is now if we were eating out every day. And anyway, I came to France to eat cheese! And eat cheese we have been!

Strolling around town, there were a few people around for a Saturday. Lots of shops open, lots of designer brand name shops that seemed to be void of customers. Also lots of one of boutique type shops that looked like they had not seen a customer inside their doors for years. The Cathedral, the town hall and the train station were all very ornate and old school buildings.

We returned late afternoon to finish our drinks cooling in the refrigerator and relax some more indoors.

Tomorrow we are back on the bikes and will be veering off the Loire River for the day and heading down the Cher River to visit Chateau Chenoneau!

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 14:31 Archived in France Comments (1)

2018 JULY 15 - 17 CYCLING FRANCE

89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

sunny

**********33 DAYS IN FRANCE**********

Sunday 15th July 2018 – day 18 – Rennes to Nantes by train, then ride to Uodon

Rode 30km today

An easy morning, our train is not until 2.37pm so we have time to kill. After another shower and leisurely breakfast, we packed up the panniers again and have the bikes ready to roll.

Check out time is 11pm but we are just going to hang out as long as we can in the apartment until someone shows up or its time to head to the train station. We were advised to drop the keys in the letterbox.

At 1pm we started to gather our stuff, check the rooms one last time to make sure we packed everything and caught the lift down to the garage where our bikes were waiting. Pannier loaded we rode down the street towards the train station, our train is not until 2.38pm but want to be there in plenty of time to make sure we know how to get the bikes onto the correct platform. With all the work going on at the station not all the platform lifts are working.

About 20 minutes before departure time our platform was announced, and wouldn’t you know it number 10 was the only platform where the lifts were not working from the top hall. So, we had to catch the # 7 lift down and then walk across to our platform where we could wheel the bikes up a ramp. In our haste I forgot to validate our tickets, luckily a nice conductor lady was standing near our train so after we loaded both bikes (roll straight on, thank goodness) I went to her and she validated the tickets for me.

We just stood the bikes up fully loaded, none of this unloading the panniers for us anymore, too hard. The train journey from Rennes to Nantes took only 1 hour 15 minutes and the scenery is was much the same as what we have already seen.

Arrival at Nantes station was chaotic, very busy, but again a roll off and push up the ramp to get out. We walked to the nearest crossroads and found a sign for the Loire a Velo track – a good sign that the signage is good!

The ride out of Nantes was painless, very good paved pathway, we did not go anywhere near the centre. Had enough of big towns and just wanted to get a start on the Loire ride. We stopped just before an hour riding to have lunch, it was about 5pm, yes, we had not had anything to eat since this mornings breakfast so thought it was a good idea to have a quick stop and fuel up on bread, cheese and pate. Washed down with luke warm water – bummer back to non-cooled drinks, lol.

The track did not stay perfect, but it was flat, so we made ok time. I’m hoping Mitch will enjoy this ride along the river a bit more than our last two weeks riding experience.

We rode past a sunflower field that was still to flower, all the green flower buds were still tightly closed. All bar one, one lonely yellow face looking up at the sun. It was beautiful!

We stopped along the track at a house that had a big screen TV set up in the back yard showing the football final between France and Croatia. It must have started at 5! It was about 51 minutes in and the score was 2-1 to France so the crowd watching was happy.

By the time we reached Oudon – which is our stop for the night – there was only about 10 minutes remaining in the game and the score had jumped to 4 -2, still in Frances favour. There was a big crowd at the local pub so we decided to stop, have a beer and enjoy what was going to be France’s victory – winning the World Cup. The game went into overtime, but the outcome was evident and when the final hooter sounded the crowd gave a mighty roar! They were very happy to say the least and there will be a lot of celebrating going on around France tonight! Cool that we got to experience being in the winning country.

The campground was just a couple of hundred meters around the corner, so we rode around, checked in, 9.20 euro for the night. Nice clean municipal campground. Hot showers, toilet seats, no paper, but there is a fridge and microwave for general use.
We put up the tent and then went and had another celebratory drink at the camp drink caravan.

We cooked dinner from supplies purchased at Super U in Rennes – knowing it was Sunday and we would be flat out finding anything open. Good preparation on our behalf.

As I’m typing this at 10.06pm its still light but we are both feeling very tired so will be heading into the tent very shortly. Not sure if we will get much sleep as all you can hear is the sound of car horns as proud country winners are driving around the streets celebrating. Good on them, I think I’m sleepy enough to fall asleep to the sound of victory car horns.

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Monday 16th July 2018 – day 19 – Oudon to Montjean

35 km ride today

We rolled out of the tent at about 8 this morning. Mitch went up to collect out pastries while I went, got dressed and boiled the kettle. We were ready to go on the bikes at 9.35.

The trail was easy again today. After a little hiccup getting out of town, we managed to follow the signs for the rest of the day and not get lost. Mostly on dedicated bike tracks and a little on back roads. We rode through a couple of small villages where again there was no life to be seen. It was warm and sunny today, with about 50% of the track shaded, so 50% ridden in the sun.

We stopped for lunch in a nice shady park at about midday and rolled into the camping La Promenade at about 2.30pm. We’d done approx. 35km, so it was enough for one day. Price here for tent + 2 people is 18 euros for one night. Hot showers, toilet paper, toilet seats, free wifi and a pool – which we didn’t use. There is also a communal cooking tent with a fridge and microwave for everyone to use. (At the moment it’s 7.15pm and we are sitting waiting our turn to use the facilities as a group of boy scouts are cooking microwave pizzas for their dinner – hardly the campfire meal you’d expect from boy scouts! But perhaps this scouting French style.)

After we picked our site and set up the tent we had a little rest then rode into town to pick up supplies for dinner. There is a sunflower field right next to the camp, but they all have there heads down in a death bow. We stopped for a photo and I tried to hold on of the massive flower heads up, but they were a little sad. Still, better than not seeing any sunflowers at all.

We rode to our favourite French supermarket Carrefour and purchased dinner supplies which included 2 bottles of cider as we have the communal fridge to cool them down in time for dinner. We also bought a couple of cold beers and ciders to have down by the river. It’s ok, we sat in the park with the rest of the hobos along the Loire sipping supermarket drinks.

Because it does not get dark until after 10.30pm our days are very long. We relaxed the rest of the afternoon, cooked and ate dinner at about 8pm – of course it was still broad daylight, so we could sit in the communal area outside.

We checked into the campsite early at 2.30pm but since then there have been about 10 or 12 other riding couples/groups. This is the most cyclists we have seen in any of the campgrounds we have stayed in. But I guess here along the Loire is a more popular route as we have passed many cyclists either on day rides or loaded like ourselves.

So, our plan for riding the Loire is to try and ride at least 30km per day. If we can’t manage this for whatever reason (eg rain, stopping longer to see something, laziness) we will just do a jump on a train. So far so good!

Time for a shower now and I guess we will be in bed before the sun!

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Tuesday 17th July 2018 – day 20 – Montjean sur Loire to Gennes

65km ride today

We woke up to an overcast cloudy sky and the air was a lot cooler than yesterday, but the day stayed dry and hopefully so will the night.
We had the usual camp breakfast of pain de raisins and we had cold orange juice that we purchased yesterday and kept in the fridge overnight. Camp packed up and we pushed our first pedal at the usual 9.30am.

Riding through the town, Montjean, we had to cross a bridge and then spent the next hour or so riding on a huge island that is in the Loire River. It was covered in farmland either growing corn or grazing a few cows. And we saw a beautiful field of sunflowers. Made me happy, I had to stop and take some photos. However, by the end of the day we had seen about a dozen fields of beautiful open smiling sunflowers. Made me very happy.
Anyway, the path was a lot of back roads today. We rode through a dozen or so villages showing no life. And we rode through a lot of backroads through farming lands. The farmers seem to be irrigating from the Loire River.

The sun came out a few times during the day to heat us up, but overall it was easy riding and the clouds did keep the temperature a little cooler than previous days. Come midday we stopped for usual lunch of baguette, cheese and some kind of salami meat that we had.

We kept riding cause the track was easy and we were making good time. I wanted to get an extra couple of k’s up today as tomorrow I wanted a short ride to Saumur so we could check in early and look around the town rather than just crashing at the campsite.

We stopped at about 3.30pm at a town called St Mathurin, this was where we originally were going to stop for the night, but the municipal campground looked a little sad and was stuck in the middle of surrounding suburbia. I said to Mitch the next camp is just 9km away, let ride to there. Much to my surprise he agreed, obviously, he is feeling a lot more comfortable and managing the bike riding a lot better than previous days.
The road to the next camp was a bit up and down but mostly in our favour and it was about 5.30 pm when we rolled into the campground at Gennes. Site here is 13.90 euro per night, hot shower, toilet seat, no paper & free wifi.

After setting up the tent we went for a quick walk into the centre to find a supermarket. Only a small one where with no fresh meat, so we purchased a tin of camp surprise which was very tasty. On the way back from the shop we stopped at the local tabac and had a couple of very big radler beers. (5euro each)

Back at the campsite we relaxed, cooked dinner, had showers and were in the tent before the sun had disappeared. Don’t think we will have any problem sleeping tonight, even with the camp disco playing music only 50 meters away. Mitch met a bloke from Wagga Wagga up when he was pumping up the airbeds.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 11:53 Archived in France Comments (0)

2018 JULY 12- 14 CYCLING FRANCE

89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

sunny 28 °C

**********33 DAYS IN FRANCE**********

Thursday 12th July 2018 – day 15 – Dinan to Tinteniac

30km along the Rance Canal

We woke surprisingly early after our late night last night. As we had missed showers we both got up this morning and had a nice hot shower. Packed up the tent etc and had a quick breakfast of pastries and orange juice (bought yesterday in the supermarket).

It was 9.30am when we bid farewell to Suzannah and James and followed the road back down to the canal.

The sun was shining hot, but there was a little bit of a breeze to keep us cool. As we were following the canal, sometimes the breeze was behind us and sometimes it was a head wind. But it was not very strong so did not hinder our progress in any way.
The track today was a very easy ride, not as much traffic as yesterday but we did see a few other bikes – tourers loaded like ours – but travelling at a much faster pace. We stopped near a little town to have lunch, so I was able to ride in and get a fresh baguette. We had stocked up on cheese yesterday, so all was well.

Tinteniac is about half way between Dinan and Rennes so we are stopping for the night here in the municipal campground. We arrived about 1.30pm and the office was closed, sign on the gate reads something in French but we could work out the times between 1pm & 6pm there is no one here. Luckily, the pedestrian side gate was unlocked so we just let ourselves in and found a shady pitch to set up camp. With the tent up it seemed like a good idea to have an afternoon nap, looks like the late night is catching up with us. Anyway, it’s a good chance the supermarket is closed between 1 & 3 so we had a hours rest.

Short ride into town just after 3pm and we found a Netto supermarket where we were able to purchase supplies for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow. We also purchased some local cider and sat down by the canal catching up on blog/diary while we enjoyed a drink. By 6pm it was getting a little cool down by the water, that breeze is still pushing the trees around a little, so we retired back to our camp site.

Dinner, shower, bed – probably in that order. No doubt we will be on the airbeds before dark again tonight. But remember darkness does not fall until about 10.30pm here at the moment so we feel no guilt at our daylight bedtime.

There are a few dark clouds looming on the horizon, so we are hoping they do not come over us during the night and bring rain. We have been very lucky with rain and hope out luck stays with us.

Tomorrow we ride to Rennes where we have 2 nights in an Airbnb – with a much-anticipated washing machine!

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Friday 13th July 2018 – day 16 – Tinteniac to Rennes

52km easy ride along the tow path into Rennes

We made good time and lots of easy kilometres today. Even Mitch was happy with the easy riding and good progress we made.

Traffic was a bit more hectic as we entered the town of Rennes, but that was to be expected. We are two nights in an Airbnb and decided to head straight there. Unfortunately, we had not been able to contact the host over the last few days as we’d had no internet but were hoping to try and phone Jennifer once we had reached the apartment. With the aid of my phone GPS we managed to find the place, even riding past it before we realized and had to turn back.

So, there we were outside the secure apartment block with no idea what time the owner was going to show up. It was about 2.30pm now so we had to do something. Mitchell to the rescue, he said he would just go to nearby shop and ask them to call her. Next door was a Speedy car repair place, but he soon returned saying the phone number we had was not valid. It was the only number we had so he went a little further afield to a nearby pharmacy where the staff were a lot more helpful and managed to get through to our host.

Mitchell returned with a smile on his face, so I knew he’d been successful. Jennifer’s husband would be along in about an hour to let us in. We sat and waited outside, and Yohan turned up within the hour. Showed us were to leave our bikes in the garage, and then took us up in the lift to the 4th floor apartment – home for next 2 nights.

It’s a great little apartment, 2 bedroom and all the facilities you could need. Included much anticipated washing machine, which we straight away put to good use. We wanted to wash everything the few days we are here. Not that we have that much with us, but it’s nice to give all our clothing etc a good wash after 2 weeks of handwashing.

While the machine was washing the first load we walked about 500ml up the street to the Super U supermarket to purchase supplies for the next two days. Top of the list was drinks for the fridge which we would be able to drink cold. When cycling and camping the most missed food item is a cold drink. We bought cider, beer, wine, juice and a bottle of diet coke. We intended to be drinking a lot of cool liquids in these 2 days. We also purchased some food.

The rest of the day/night we relaxed in our indoor surroundings. Unfortunately, the TV only showed French channels, but we didn’t need that stimulus anyway. Everything is being machined washed, everything electronic is being recharged and we are drinking cold drinks! Can’t ask for much more.

I heard some fireworks just before midnight, must be for the Bastile Day celebrations tomorrow. Could hear them but not really see anything from our small balcony at the back of the apartment.

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Saturday 14th July 2018 – day 17 – Rennes

Free day in Rennes today. Saturday there is a famous food market that we rode our bikes into the centre to have a look at. Unfortunately, we can’t really buy anything as we are only here for another night and then back on the bikes. Pretty good market, and the locals seem to be buying up big for there weekly groceries. Lots of fruit & vegies, prices seemed higher than what we saw in the supermarkets, but maybe its fresher here at the market. Lots of fresh flower stalls, we have seen flowers everywhere – all the little villages and towns have had maintained flower beds and flower boxes.

There was a big outdoor area with lots of stalls selling seafood. Mussels, oysters, lobsters and a huge assortment of fish – it all looked very good and if we were staying here a week would have been tempted to purchase some to cook up at home in our Airbnb apartment.
We decided to stop for a beer and try the famous buckwheat crepe. Nothing special, maybe because we purchased it from a hole in the wall rather than an overpriced café/restaurant. It was a savory crepe with cheese, ham and egg, but to me a crepe should be sweet. Guess its just what you are used to.

We walked around the town centre for a little while after the market, took photos of the half timber / stone houses. Seemed to be a lot of people around. I think most of them were locals rather than many tourists, the market day obviously brings them all to the centre on a Saturday.
On our ride back to the apartment we called into the Rennes train station to purchase our tickets to Nantes for tomorrow. There are major renovations going on at the station and it basically was a shit fight. Lots of people travelling today and with all the building going on it was difficult to find the ticket office. I also wanted to be sure we could take our bikes in a lift to get from platform to platform as stairs or escalators are just not an option for us with loaded bikes.

Another trip to the supermarket, duck confit on the menu tonight. Then we returned home and sat relaxing drinking all those cooled liquids we had stacked up in the fridge.

Showered and dressed in our pjs, we did a final load of washing that will dry overnight so tomorrow we depart with everything clean and refreshed – including us!

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 11:07 Archived in France Comments (1)

2018 JULY 9-11 CYCLING FRANCE

89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

sunny 30 °C

**********33 DAYS IN FRANCE**********

Monday 9th July 2018 – day 12 – Pontorson to Mont St Michel

First night back sleeping in the tent for a few days, was ok, I got a little cool during the night but just slipped into my sleep sheet and was ok. Unfortunately, one of our air beds has a leak and so far Mitchell has drawn the random short straw or flat bed so far. Bit of a pain really but my turn will come no doubt until we can replace it at a decathlon or somewhere.

Breakfast was a yummy raisin scroll which we ordered from the reception yesterday. These guys were the biggest ones I have ever seen so real value for money at 1.20 euro each.

We are catching the bus from the village here to Mont St Michel, which is only 9 km away, but did not fancy the idea of riding there, walking around for a few hours and then riding 9km back to camp. Even with the bikes empty and much lighter & easier to ride, the sun is already up and its going to be another wonderful hot day.

We walk the short distance to the bus stop, with a quick stop at Carrefour supermarket to buy some water and fruit as I’m sure the prices of anything at MSM are going to be crazy. We are at the bus stop in plenty of time and soon the bus rolled up and took us 15mins down the road for 2.90 euro each.

The small island, with its massive abbey and buildings was as impressive as I thought it might be. We decided to walk around the base before going inside – easy to do at low tide. It actually looked like the tide had not been anywhere near the island for some time as the water was so far our we could not even see it and the sand felt fairly dry, although it was very compacted.

It took us about an hour to circumnavigate the island stopping for many, many photos as you can see by my FB entry. I took over 200 photos today! Loved it.

By the time we walked inside the village on the island it was obvious that this attraction is the 2nd most visited place in France (after the Eifel Tower) – every man and his dog were there. Yes dogs are allowed to visit also as long as kept on a leash. We walked around inside for a little over an hour, managed to get some photos that were not too crowded with people. Didn’t pay the 10 euro to go inside the Abbey, mainly because is was so crowded and partly because I didn’t want to pay 10 euro to go inside an Abbey.

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We stopped in the shade to have a banana and some water and I read the timetable which advised if we hurried we could catch the next bus back to camp otherwise we would have to wait another 2 ½ hours for the next bus. Since we had seen it all and the crowds were just getting thicker, we decided to walk quickly to the bus stop, which we made just as the bus was doing a uturn to return back to Pontorson.

Back in town we did a lap of the Carrefour supermarket and purchased some pate, cheese, bread & juice for lunch and also scoped out what we would come back for later to buy for dinner. We ate in the shade beside our tent and relaxed a little.

Later in the afternoon we jumped on the bikes and headed to the train station to buy tickets for our journey tomorrow. Yes, we are getting on the train again, no not cheating, just being smart with time and ability.

A little more relaxing back at camp before we returned to the supermarket at 6.30pm to buy dinner supplies. Mussels for entre and pork spare ribs with potato salad for mains. All washed down with a bottle of local rose cider, which I am very partial to. And we did one of our old backpacker camping tricks in the supermarket this morning by putting this bottle of cider off the shelf and hid it in the fridge behind a stack of yoghurt. This way when we come later in the evening to buy it, the cider is nice and cold.
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Good camp meal tonight!
Great day today!

Tuesday 10th July 2018 – day 13 – Pontorson to St Malo by train

Mitch woke me at 7am this morning, we have a 9.11am train to catch and as it has been taking us 2 hours to break camp previously we had to be up early today. Turns out we packed up and loaded the bikes in record time and were in the camp reception by 8am to collect our pastries and have a cup of coffee. Cup of bad coffee as it turned out, but the giant-sized raisin scrolls almost made up for it.

We left for the train station at 8.30am and as it was only 10mins ride away were there in plenty of time. Enough time to dread the thought of having to lift the bikes into the train as for sure there would be a step up for the sandy platform. The train rolled in on time and sure enough there was a step, I loaded my bike first with Mitch lifting the rear wheel into the train, then when I had lent it up against the seats turned and helped him with his bike the same way. This first train ride was only 15 minutes, so we didn’t even think about unloading the panniers. And anyway, this is now impossible for mine as we had to zippy tie them on as the hooks are not holding any more.

It was a roll off at the Dol De Bretagne station where we had almost an hour to wait for our connecting train. We spent more time waiting for trains today than actual time on them. Next leg from Dol to St Malo was just under 20 minutes too, so we just stood holding the bikes on the train and had an easy entry and exit off the second train too.

St Malo municipal campground was just 3 km from the train station and with the aid of GPS on my phone navigated our way there easily. Of course, the campground is at the top of a hill, so the last little bit was a push up. It’s a big camp ground with over 300 sites, when we arrived their computer system was down, so we just picked a random site and set up the tent, chucked everything off the bike inside the tent as we wanted to go out exploring. It was still before 12 noon. Just down the hill a little there was an ‘antiques’ market aka junk market. We took some photos of the surrounding bay and then rode our bikes to the old town. Lots of tourists here today!

The old town was pretty amazing, if you can overlook all the rip off tourists’ restaurants lining the streets. We found a Carrefour supermarket, bought some supplies and had a nice picnic lunch under the shade of a tree. And we were not the only ones with this idea as many people sat sharing our shade and on nearby benches with picnic type lunches. Not everyone can afford or is sucked into the overpriced restaurants.
Best thing about the old town is the city walls are restored and maintained and you can walk almost around the entire city on the walls. This gave us great views of the beaches, bays, rocky outcrops and the streets inside the city walls as well. We walked around the walls for a couple of hours and by the time we had made a complete circle it was time for an ice cream to cool us down a little. There were lots of people on the beaches and I must say the water did look quite nice. Very clean anyway.

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I asked at the tourist office earlier in the day where we can catch the ferry we want tomorrow that will take us over the bay to Dinard and where we will continue to ride heading south towards Rennes. We will be riding for the next 3 days and camping the next 3 nights to get us to Rennes where I have booked an Airbnb for 2 nights.

It was a great day today exploring St Malo – but super crowded just like Mont St Michel was. But I guess we are not the only ones who are holidaying in Northern France this year.

Riding the bikes back to the campground we took a detour to another Carrefour supermarket to pick up supplies for dinner. Food for us is easy to cater for, a bit of meat – usually pork – pork is good in Europe, and then something to accompany it. It’s been too hot to be cooking vegies, so we have been buying a salad – potato salad of sorts – or tonight we are having beetroot and corn. Sometimes it’s a little difficult because we can’t keep anything we don’t eat so need to buy just enough for one meal.

Back at the camp, we had a bit of a relax and then went for a shower. This is our best shower yet in my opinion. Hot and strong. Only problem was you had to hold the button in the whole time otherwise the water flow would stop. Guess it’s a water saving method. But it was hot, that is the main thing. I know when I travelled in the south of France the showers were cold unless you had a token which lasted 2 seconds. Up here all our camp showers have been hot, and the municipal (council) campgrounds have been the best. Toilets are ok, no seats but they do have paper.
We finished off our bottle of red with a dessert of fruit and nut chocolate and were inside the tent by 9pm. It is of course still broad daylight outside, but we are ready to sleep. I’m typing this, but Mitchell is already out like a light, I find it a little more difficult to get to sleep when it’s so light.

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France is playing Belgium in the semi finals of the football tonight I have heard a couple of cheers and car horns but the match is not over yet so not sure of the outcome.

Wednesday 11th July 2018 – day 14 – St Malo to Dinan

30 km ride today, lost at first but then on the voie verte

We broke camp early as we wanted to catch the 9.23am ferry from St Malo across the bay to Dinard. Not an easy feat for us but we did make it in plenty of time and as a reward we stopped and had a real coffee from a coffee shop. While Mitchell was ordering the coffee, I walked up the next block and bought some yummy pastries to go with our coffee and that was breakfast.
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I remember reading that from here in Dinard we can ride along a greenway path all the way to near Dinan and then follow the Rance canal tow path all the way to Rennes, but finding the path is not always the easiest of tasks. Mitch had asked directions from the coffee guy and he gave good detailed directions – but of course all in French. We took off on the bikes in the general direction, but after about 2km when we still did not see any signs or what looked like the path, I suggest we ride back into the centre and ask at the tourist information office how to find the path. Otherwise, we could be riding around looking all morning.

The young girl in the info office was lovely and spoke very good English. She gave me a map and it was funny that we were so close to the entry to the path, but obviously not close enough. So back up the hill we rode the way back we had just come down and low and behold found the voie verte, it was exactly where it should have been.

So, most of the rest of the day was easy riding. There was a short distance in between where we left the greenway and joined the Rance canal that was on backroads and through little villages – where no sign of life was seen.
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We stopped for lunch at some picnic tables next to the Rance just before we started to ride alongside the canal.

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There were a few boats in the water and the bike traffic on the trail for the rest of the day was the most we have encountered anywhere. It was a nice ride, easy ride, flat and mostly shaded.

Early afternoon we rolled into Dinan Port which was packed with tourist restaurants. We again visited the tourist office to get directions to the camp ground. Another very helpful lady who gave us directions and a map. We had a bit of a walk around then rode the short distance to the campground. We are staying at another municipal camp, so the fee was only 10.60 euros, shady plot, hot showers, no toilet paper but toilet seats!
We put up the tent and stashed everything inside then headed up the hill to visit the old town Dinan. There was a nice view of the Port from the old town. In the centre was a market and it did not take long for us to realize it was all the same stalls that were at the old junk antique market we walked through in St Malo. The vendors are obviously doing the rounds of the towns trying to flog their wares.
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Heading back for the camp we stopped at the supermarket Carrefour and met an Australian couple who are also staying at the same campground as us. Funnily enough, Suzannah and James are also from Brisbane – small world. We were finishing up our shopping but said we would come over to their motor home for a drink. A drink turned into several, we all bunged in for dinner that James cooked on the little charcoal BBQ. We also met Camille, their French camp neighbour and had a great night. Actually, it was the first night that Mitch and I were not in the tent tucked up in our sleeping bags before dark. It was very close to midnight by the time we zipped the tent closed for the night.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 16:32 Archived in France Comments (2)

2018 JULY 5-8 CYCLING FRANCE

89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

sunny

**********33 DAYS IN FRANCE**********

Thursday 5th July 2018 – day 8 Mortague to Alencon

Bike day four – 42 km – all greenway except last 6 km with rain.

WORST NIGHT SLEEP TO DATE, wow you would think with a hard roof, soft bed, full bellies and tired bodies we would sleep like the dead. But no, we both woke complaining about the crap night sleep we had, had. Maybe it was because it was too warm, and the lingering stale air did not aid in sleep.

We slowly got up out of bed and after another shower went out looking for breakfast. We chose not to have it at the hotel at a price of 9 euro each. Found a bakery purchased a few yummies and a baguette for lunch later. Stopped in a café for a real cup of coffee – nice it was too. Then back to the hotel to pack up our gear and load the bikes and depart. The hotel owner suddenly seemed pissed off at us after I had paid and just about pushed us with our bikes out of the door. Odd!

Before heading back to the Veloscenie trail, we needed to get a replacement for the tube that was changed yesterday. Mitchell had asked the guy at the hotel and he advised there was a bike hire place 200 metres down the street and they should sell tubes. Of course, we could find no bike hire shop or any kind of bike shop. Mitch again decided to ask in another shop and the guy advised us to go to the Super U – which was a supermarket. There we found a tube and sped down the long hill, that we climbed yesterday, to return to the greenway trail.
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It was 11.20 – our latest start, but we knew we would be on the good greenway path for most of the ride today. The weather was a little cooler as it was overcast, but we still appreciated the shade from the trees.

Lunch stop was beside the track at a conveniently located picnic table near the village of Le Mele sur Sarthe. Continuing along the greenway until we reached an abrupt end at around 3pm. The track literally just ended, joining a little country road with no indication of which way we needed to turn – left or right. To top it all off at that very moment it started to rain. Not pour down, but rain none the less. I brought up the GPS on my phone which showed we still had 6km to get into town. We rode on in the rain and didn’t end up getting drenched because it had stopped by the time we reached the centre.
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So, now to find the camping ground. Having already decided we were going to try and get a cabin as the rain certainly looked like it would be returning, it was disappointing to be advised all they had in the way of onsite cabins was 2 onsite tents. Big tents that just had 2 sets of bunk beds for the price of 102 euro for 2 nights (2night minimum). Wow, that was ridiculous. Back to the tourist information office we rode and asked about a hotel. Yep there was a hotel near the train station, just 10 minutes ride away, that had rooms starting at 33 euro per night. That sounded a much better deal to me, and we booked in for 2 nights because after having ridden around half the town already, it looked like an interesting place to stop for a look around.
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Our bikes were locked in the garage out the back, our luggage carried upstairs to our room and then we went to the bar to have a well-earned drink. A large beer for Mitch and I tried a local cider (from a bottle) – not bad.
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We ended up having scrapes of cheese and bread that we still had in our larder for dinner – funny with all the riding we don’t seem to have big appetites. Although we are drinking lots of water during the day, maybe that is taking away the hunger.

It was after midnight by the time I turned off the French TV and not a drop of rain had fallen since our shower this afternoon, but the room is comfortable and cheap enough, so all is good.

Friday 6th July 2018 – day 9 Alencon

Mitch went across to the Carrefour supermarket to get breakfast – a mixture of mini pain de chocolate and orange juice.

Our first task today was a visit to the train station which is just across the car park from our hotel. We are wanting to catch a train from here to Mont St Michel – hoping to perhaps run into my friends from Spain who are in the same area at the moment on a driving vacation. But of course, due to the train strikes in France at the moment there are no trains running tomorrow, so we had to purchase tickets for Sunday, which means we will miss my friends by a day. Bugger, but can’t be helped. And it means we will have to stay another night here in Alencon.

Free day today, we did a self-guided walking tour around the town with the aid of a map we received from the tourist office yesterday. Alencon is famous for its lace, not that we saw any of it anywhere, just a lot of the buildings were owned by or had something to do with the lace industry way back when. Apparently, they do still make lace here and it is unique to anywhere else in the world and is listed with UNESCO for the art of procedure of making the lace.
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Also, the big round building in the middle of town used to be the wheat auction house, understandable as we have seen a lot of wheat fields ever since we started riding.

We walked around for a couple of hours but it was pretty hot, so we returned to the hotel with a couple of supermarket beers to watch the soccer on our TV.

Saturday 7th July 2018 – day 10 Alencon

Mitch went across to the Carrefour supermarket to get breakfast - a mixture of mini pain de chocolate and orange juice.

Today is another forced free day so we lazed around not in too much of a hurry to do anything. We had to change rooms as we had only originally booked this room for 2 nights and had to move to a smaller room with shared bathroom. Still ok and a little cheaper.

It was close to lunchtime by the time we decided to venture out to the centre. There is a lot of renovations going on to the pedestrian centre with the streets all pulled up and lots of work going on. It was a bit of a maze to walk around and I bet the shop owners were not too happy with all the dust and grime outside there stores. Will be nice when its finished, but we won’t be here to see it.

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Being a Saturday, it was quite busy with lots of shoppers and a couple of tourists, not many tourists, but we did hear some English and German being spoken around us midst the French locals. Lots of the shops had stall set up outside their store fronts as there seemed to be big sales going on. We didn’t really look as can’t buy anything as we have no room to lug any thing extra. The only thing we can buy must be things that can be consumed. So one of the stalls that caught our eye was a bbq offering a giant French sausage and chips for 5 euro! What a bargain, and they smelt wonderful. We had to wait 10 minutes for a table to come available and then ordered a beer, which cost almost as much as the meal, before our food was served to us. The sausage was delicious! And the chips made a nice hot meal that filled our bellies. Funny that our appetites are quite low, even on a riding day when you would think after using all our energy we would feel hungry, but we haven’t really. One thing about staying in a hotel we are not able to cook anything, so this was a nice treat.

Today is hot again, so after lunch we sat on a bench near the river for awhile before returning to our hotel and watching the soccer with a couple of cold beers purchased from the supermarket.

We had just a light dinner in the room after our big lunch and starting thinking about having to move again tomorrow.

Sunday 8th July 2018 – day 11 Alencon to Pontorson by train

It was hot in the room last night, even with the 2 front doors wide open. There was not a breath of wind and the temperature did not seem to drop at all from the day heat.

Mitch went across to the Carrefour supermarket to get breakfast – pain de chocolate and orange juice – while I went and had a shower.

With the panniers all packed we asked for the garage to be opened so we could load up the bikes. We don’t have far to go today, just 100 meters across the carpark to the train station. Not sure if we will have to take off the panniers to hang the bikes so mine were just bungie corded on, instead of using the more permanent zippy clips. We were early so had to wait for the trains arrival time. During this wait the platform started to crowd up and about 4 more bike riders showed up. We stood chatting to an English Father & Son who were no where near as loaded as us and they told us of their problems with the train strikes and trains not showing up at all. These stories did not cheer me as we had just spent 2 days sitting around instead of riding because we were taking this train.

Thankfully the train showed on time and then there was the mad scramble to get on with the bike fully loaded. Of course, there was a step up into the train and a couple of fellow passengers were kind enough to give me a lift with my overweight bike. Mitch managed to get his on with a single guy with his bike pushing in between us and hanging his bike up giving us a disgruntled look. Mitch took off his panniers and managed to hang his bike up by the front wheel, but I was not going to even attempt this, happy to stand holding my loaded bike rather than try to strip and hang it.
The first leg of our journey was Alencon to Caen – about an hour 20 minutes. We took turns standing with my bike and I said to Mitch the next leg we just leave them both loaded. Caen platform was the same step down, but this was an easier operation to perform. We loaded Mitch’s bike back up on the platform. Lucky, we had almost an hour between trains so no need to rush. And ever luckier there was a lift that would take us down to the tunnel to change platforms, otherwise trying to get the bikes down and up stairs would have been a real nightmare.

Our next train from Caen to Pontorson was already waiting on platform B so we boarded and took a seat. This train we could just wheel the bikes on, no step and we left them fully loaded in the bike hanging section as there seemed to be lots of room. Managed to have a picnic lunch on the train before it even left the station at seats with a table, very civilized. This leg was 2 hours, but we were able to sit and relax, not having to hold the bikes.

Pontorson train station is nothing flash, a step out of the carriage onto a dirt platform. The campground was less than 1 km away, so we rode there in less than 10 minutes after checking the GPS for direction. I went to the reception to check us in for 2 nights. 60 euro thank you very much, 30 euro per night for a powered site (no choice) and free wifi. Shit that is only 3 euro less than what we paid for a hotel room last night. Camping certainly isn’t necessarily the cheapest option when travelling in France. But the hotels here in town are over 50 euros so you need to have a car to scout the cheaper indoor accommodation. Anyway, we have all this camping shit with us we may as well use it.

We found our allocated site #12 and Mitchell said go ask her if we can have #13 as it is shadier now and will be for the rest of the afternoon. I returned to the reception and we changed sites and of course when we returned later in the day the tent was in full sun and the site #12 was in complete shade. Mental note: next time don’t listen to Mitchell as he does not know the direction of the sun!

We put up the tent and went for a ride into town (village). Being a Sunday there was not much open, and we had anticipated this and purchased dinner in a can yesterday for us to be able to eat today. There were a few little shops open and we possibly would have been able to scratch up a meal, but it was nice being organized. We did however, purchase a couple of cold cans of beer from one of the shops and sat in the park and had a drink. This is a much cheaper option than having a drink in the campsite bar which was charging 4 euro for a small glass of draught beer. The beer Mitch chose was 11.6% - tasted a bit shit but gave him a buzz for the rest of the evening.
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Before riding back to the campground, I called into the same shop and purchased a bottle of local cider that I saw was in the same fridge as the beer. This was only 1.87 euro and it was pretty good. We sat drinking this back at the campground when I noted our tent was in full sun.
Easy dinner was cooked on the camp stove, lucky it was easy as Mitch was still a little tipsy after the cider top up.

We then went for a shower – all amenities in the campgrounds have been unisex which is a little different to what we are used to back in Australia. This one is really clean, and the water was hot, again you have to keep pressing the button, but at least it was hot. We then did our chores of clothes washing in the allocated area, again very clean, but I guess it should be at the price you pay. We hung our clothes up on the provided line, saying a silent prayer that not only are they dry in the morning but that they are still there in the morning.

I’m typing this in the tent and its 10.23pm and still bright daylight outside. Never mind, if we close our eyes it will be dark in our little tent.
Bucket list tick off tomorrow for me when we visit Mont St Michel.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 16:18 Archived in France Comments (0)

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