The Rhône

Leaving Lyon wasn’t the easiest departure we had. Getting out of the city by just following the river seemed like a good idea, but we ended up passing through industrial areas. We stayed East of the river which was hemmed in by high ground, so there was a rail line and motorway, too.

At Givors we were able to cross the river but with high ground both sides, there was little room for the cycle path that hugged the river, hemmed in by a main road.

South of Lyon, after crossing the river. High ground on both sides hemmed in the roads and rail lines.
Out of the towns the riverside path quite often ran along the top of a leveé, though the surfaces varied.
Many of the flatter areas near the river are used for fruit and vegetables and we meandered our way past greenhouses and fruit trees.
North of Condrieu we passed through a nature reserve but there were regular barriers across the path that made things tricky at times.

After camping overnight at St. Pierre de Boeuf we continued south. Unlike the Loire, where we could cut across some of the meanders to reduce mileage, the river remained hemmed in on both sides by high ground, so for much of the time we had to stick close to the river.

At Andecette we searched for an open café and after asking found one – and met up with another pair of tandemists. They were Dutch and had been staying with friends.

Our next campsite was a little way from the river, and a little tricky to get to. When we arrived though, it was full and despite our pleas and pointing out that we only had a little tent and a bike, not a motohome, they refused to let us stay, so we refilled our water bottles and headed for Valence, as it was only five miles away, whereas the nearest campsite was about 10 miles. We found an apartment in Valence and in the evening walked to a nearby restaurant then went for a short walk to a point that overlooked the river.

The pedestrian area in the middle of Valence overlooking Parc Jouvet, the river and the ruins of Chateau de Crussol silhouetted against the evening light.

After leaving Valence the next morning, our route was a little indirect as we made our way between fields and orchards. It was a few miles before we could get ourselves back, next to the river. The west bank had high ground that came close to the river and to the east, the A7 motorway formed a barrier. It was near lunchtime as we neared Le Pouzin on the opposite bank, so we crossed the river to enter the town and try to find some food. The first ‘restaurant’ was only serving drinks but less than 50m away we bagged a table for the ‘Menu de Jour’. Having been fed and watered, we decided to stay on this side of the river, as not far south was a long island that had a good road the whole length that would be quiet. It proved a good decision and we made pretty good progress, only seeing a few cars. At the far end however, we had to cross the barrage back onto the east bank, and here, there was little choice but to take the N7. Still, it had a nice wide margin, so what traffic there was could pass by safely.

The N7 delivered us pretty close to the campsite at Ancône we had earmarked, and we arrived pretty early. The site was pretty laid back and the chap suggested we go find a pitch then go back and pay him later. There was a small lake beside the site, with a pool which proved popular with a lot of teenagers. We could a pitch that was part shaded – most of the shaded areas near the toilet block was already occupied – it seemed some residents were there for the summer. Later, after pitching and changing, we went back to the bar area and then had food. There was no nearby town to explore on foot and we really didn’t fancy riding any more that day.

Next morning we crossed the adjacent Canal de Châteauneuf du Rhône to ride another ‘island’ and in doing so skirted Montélimar. This was another large island, with the natural Rhône flowing one side, and a barraged canal the other.

The bridge over the Canal de Châteauneuf du Rhône near Ancône, looking south.

At the far end of the island we crossed the barrage onto the east bank but as the way ahead was blocked by a high, steep ridge that came to the river’s edge, we only rode a mile or so before crossing the river back to the west bank.

The town of Viviers, seen from the east bank not long before we crossed to that side.
The river is hemmed in by high ground on both sides, so route choice is limited, but the views made up for it.
About 11:30 Karon’s blood sugar dipped, so we stopped for an early lunch. We had a couple of hard-boiled eggs and some cold meats and I had some fruit. Unfortunately (as I would find out later) the egg I had was bad, even though I didn’t know it.
At Bourg Saint Andéol we climbed into the town for a drink and break. There was a big group of cyclists, who gave Karon a peach/wine mixer while I enjoyed a cold beer.
Bourg Saint Andéol.
By now we could see Mont Ventoux in the distance. This had been our original target, but had become secondary once we decided to ride to the International Tandem Rally. I had left time for a week near the mountain, so we could strip the bike and have a go at getting to the top, but our previous delays meant we no longer had the time.

The campsite we were aiming for was about 5 miles from the river, near the town of Bagnols sur Ceze. Avoiding the main road meant crossing a couple of ridges, probably only 2-250 feet and our campsite was just over the second ridge. As we started the climb a queasiness came over me pretty quickly, and within a few minutes, I was on my hands and knees, throwing up. This left me feeling a bit weak, so I had to push the bike, as Karon walked ahead. I threw up again, and again, each time feeling weaker. We got to the top of the first ridge and a laid in some shade for a while, before looking at the map to see if there was a way around the second ridge. We decided to head downhill, for the village of Saint Nazaire where we could pick up the main road and skirt the second ridge. We were only about three miles from the campsite, but after coasting as far as we could, on the outskirts of the village, I realised I couldn’t continue, got off the bike and laid in some shade and told Karon to get help.

She headed towards a nearby bungalow and a little while later came back with an elderly lady in tow, who was on a mobile to an English speaking doctor. She passed the phone to me and I explained what had happened. I was severely dehydrated and, as I mentioned I had a pacemaker, he decided an ambulance was needed. Half an hour or so later we were in A&E after getting a dressing down from the paramedic in charge – for riding at the hottest part of the day. She was convinced it was heat stroke. I was convinced it was a dodgy egg! After four hours on a drip, asleep, I felt much better and the doctor was happy for us to leave. But now we had a problem. The bike was where we’re left it at the bungalow and our campsite was near the town but we had no way of getting there – doctor’s orders were no riding for three days, so we could not go to retrieve the bike anyway. After an aborted attempt to get a taxi, we were wondering what to do when a van showed up outside A&E and a chap came up to us asking how I was. He had our bike and trailer in the back of the van and would take us to the campsite. It turned out he was the son-in-law of the couple who had rescued us by calling the doctor. So we were delivered to the campsite, who were expecting us as we’d phone earlier in the day (before the sickness). The Dutch owner, a lady who spoke very good English explained she had a nice, shady spot for us.

We spent a couple of full days resting at the campsite. Fortunately it was one of the better ones we stayed at on our trip and though the bar had limited opening times, the evening meals were good.

We stayed in the campsite for a couple of days before heading for Avignon, our next stop – fortunately only about 15 miles away. Someone had recommended drinking a Dioralyte every day, to replace the salts and minerals we were sweating out. Luckily, pharmacies are common in France, even in small villages, so there was a ready supply of the French brand. We decided to reduce the mileage we were covering each day, to reduce the amount of time we were working in the heat.

Avingon was really busy, as the French holiday was now in full swing. All the eateries in the main tourist area were busy and, frankly not that appealing. A search on Google gave us a small restaurant where we could book a table for later.
We wandered the centre of Avignon and found a place to sit and sketch, while we waited for the restaurant we had booked to open, then had a really nice meal. It was only a small place, so they would not take customers without a booking and then only four or less to a group.
Karon enjoying fresh sardines as a starter in the restaurant Fou de Fafa, Avignon.

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