There is no sorrow like the murmur of their wings
There is no choir like their song
There is no power like the freedom of their flight
While the swallows roam alone …
And will the silence strike confusion from your soul
And will the swallows come again?
J.Baez, Swallow Song
The next village after the gorges was Rennes-les-Bains, and I sat down there on the sunny terrace of a bakery to have a cup of tea. A strange bulletin catched my eye: „it is not permitted to smoke anything else than tobacco here!“. I wondered until I saw a group of bearded young man with guitars and slacks like skirts coming around the corner.
The road followed green valleys up and down through cosy villages which all came up with at least one castle or church from the 12th century. But even the houses did not look more recent. The streets were crowded with mobil homes driven around by Germans, Dutch, but mostly by French people, and the price level was accordingly touristic: no meal below 12€ and the French restaurant plates are not of the right size for cyclists anyway. So I decided to stop bothering and never entered a restaurant anymore after the chocolate cake experience.
The landscape was more lovely than spectacular, the people were more polite than friendly, and as a scrubby cyclist, I clearly felt to not belong to this region. I just kept going, immersed in some melodies which kept turning in my head. I probably had not more encounters these days than in the desert of Bolivia, but once I got stopped in the middle of the road by a man in his car. The short talk with him turned into an interrogation, he asked without a single smile and took leave saying „À bientôt“. I got suspicious when I indeed met him two more times that day, I don’t know what he wanted but since I knew what I did not want I made him lose my track in the one-way streets of some medieval village.
Finding camp spots was no easy exercise in this densely populated area, but I had always a bunch of luck. Only one morning, at 5.30, I woke up by gun shots. Glimpsing into the dawn, I saw a ranger about 100m from my tent on the glade. He was away when I woke up again.
My destination was a village close to Aix-en-Provence where good friends of mine from my home town Musberg happened to spend their holidays: Marijke and Wolfgang had prepared me a cordial welcome. We passed these two days in profound conversations about world politics and cultural discoverings, about the past and the future, exchanging experience and ideas, and they conveyed me the feeling that coming home one time was the right decision. With refreshed energies, I settled for the next stage: the beautiful cœur de France.
Since Lourdes, I had cycled for 1.028km and 12.515 height meters.