A day for integrated travel! 70km from Ponts de Cé to Ancenis, and then 10km by kayak, our bikes carried to the downstream dock in a van, then cycling up the final 2km out of the valley and into our warm-showers accommodation in Champtoceaux.
I remember a forward to a Department for Transport report in which John Prescott set out his vision for ‘integrated transport’, journeys made possible by joining together different modes of travel. I’ve always liked this idea, but I try to mix it with a bit of the spirit of adventure of Jules Vernes and Around the World in 80 Days. Mixing cycling and kayaking definitely fits into this category.
We ate breakfast at a riverside market at Bouchedemaine, where the Maine river joins the Loire. We’ve skirted Angers, but all the surrounding places we’ve visited have been so friendly that I imagine I’d like the city too.
We really had to get the kilometres in early today to get to the kayak in time. This is the first time we’ve really had to cycle in tight convoy to keep the pace up and stay motivated that we are covering the ground.
At Saint Florient, I saw this plaque showing distances measured from the bridge. It was created at the start of a period of measuring and controlling the Loire after devastating floods. Measure it, control it, exert power over it. Except compared to other big rivers I’ve seen in France, the Loire still feels quite wild. Not the freight transport artery I was expecting.
At Ancenis we see our first major suspension bridge across the river. This is where M & I crossed the Loire on our first cycle trip in France from Saint Malo to Agen in 2008.
We rendezvous with the kayaks and head downstream. Wonderful to be in and on the water, travelling with the flow. The current is strong but it is safe to moor up behind the groynes that reach out into the river and create little beaches behind. We climb out on a beach and swim for the first time in the warm river water.
A stop at a guinguette, recover our bikes, then do the final climb to our hosts for the evening, a lovely couple who welcomed us to their self-built home, where we camped next to their guinea pigs. We stayed up talking about their travels with a trailer and a tandem through Sardinia, Scilly, Greece and the Adriatic, and then about how they built their house.