When we woke on Thursday morning it was raining and there was a strong westerly wind. Apparently, there had been gusts up to 100km per hour overnight and they were still reaching over 40km per hour. After breakfast, we both set our route for La Rochelle into Komoot and headed north, following the voice instructions. La Rochelle was 48 miles away so it would be a short day’s riding, or so we thought.
We had already decided that Eurovelo 1 would add too many miles, meandering as it does around every little nook and cranny of the coast, so we were relying on Komoot’s ‘touring cycling’ route to provide a more direct line of travel. In this instance, it turned out to be a mistake because we were taken onto the main road our of Royan and the traffic was horrendous. Trucks and buses buzzed within a few feet of us every few seconds so we pulled over and decided to plot a longer route to the West to avoid the worst of the traffic. It worked well at first and we found ourselves on quiet roads running through pretty French villages. It was an altogether more interesting experience than endless miles of forest tracks. However, progress was slower than we expected, particularly as we accidentally went off-route a number of times due to confusion with directions. This invariably led to numerous stops and a 10-minute discussion at each about how to get back on track. In the course of the day, these cost us about two hours of lost cycling time. At least the rain had eased during the day. We even had 5 minutes of sunshine.
These delays were nothing compared to those caused by trying to get across the Charente river into Rochefort. The main bridge had the narrowest of lanes painted on it that were possibly cycleways but we couldn’t be sure. Traffic was heavy across the bridge, the Martrou viaduct, which appeared to be about a mile long, and while Andy was happy to give it a try, I was more cautious. The mapping software showed another crossing just a few miles to the East, so we headed in that direction. When we arrived at the right spot at about 3:30pm, it turned out to be a ferry crossing. The next ferry was not due until 6:30pm. On the basis that there was bound to be another bridge somewhere, we cycled East.
At one point, we thought we could see a way across but it was an ancient construction from 1900, Le Pont Transbordeur. The so-called transporter bridge is an engineering monument spanning the Charente and it is supposed to be possible to cross by foot or with a bicycle from April until October but we could not find any kind of entrance to it.
Eventually, we found a small pedestrian bridge and crossed the river but by the time we then cycled back West into Rochefort, we had already covered 50 miles and we were tired, not least because of many frustrating diversions of the day, some of which were caused by contradictions in the instructions that Andy was receiving from his phone with those that I was receiving from mine. We made two decisions. First, we would stay in Rochefort for the night, rather than push on to La Rochelle. Second, one of us would take sole responsibility for navigation each day, the other would choose the hotels.
Andy found a great value hotel in Rochefort, just half a mile from where we were sat at bar doing the research, and we checked in. Dinner in a restaurant in the centre of town was good but unremarkable, and we looked forward to better day’s riding the following day.