- Barcelona – Cagliari
- 1,736 kilometres
- 8 February 2016 – 5 March 2016
- 6 Crossfit gyms
- 2 punctures
- 1 encounter with a bull
- 1 fight with a pig
- Max wind speeds – 70 km per hour
- Most kilometres in one day – 142
- Highest mountain pass – 1,250 metres, Sardinia
- Pulled over by the police – 3 times
After almost seven awesome weeks off the bike in Barcelona I was really eager to get going again…the bike seemed heavier than ever as I headed North East out of Sant Quirze Del Valles but after a few kilometres it felt as though I’d never been off it! Rather embarrassingly I was completely lost within about five km after taking a series of wrong turns and it was a fairly slow start…but it wasn’t long until I found my way back to the familiar national road, guided to the French border by an ever increasing amount of prostitutes sitting on the road side on their white patio chairs listening to their iPods! I spent my first night in the city of Girona with an English couple (one of which was from Brampton…small world 🌍) who had moved to Girona to pursue their passion for road cycling! This area is extremely popular for road cycling with the great weather and mix of flat coastal roads and big climbs in the Pyrenees just a few kilometres away…made ever more popular by Lance Armstrong who lived here at the height of his cycling career…before the drugs I guess!
I was happy the next day to reach the French border after a few months in Spain…I was excited to get back to France as I’d loved my previous experience cycling in the North. Pretty much as soon as I hit the border the prostitutes disappeared, the amount of trash significantly decreased, as did the staring, and the well maintained buildings and gardens returned. The elderly French men are the best…so cheerful and nice…every village I went through the old men would give me a wave, a big smile and take their hats off as I passed by 😂👴🏻 and I visited my first crossfit gym again back on the road in Narbonne at Crossfit Tessellate!
After 3 fairly ‘normal’ days cycling…things started to become fairly eventful as I left Narbonne in the pouring rain followinga my stupid iPhone app down a series of ever increasingly smaller and narrower roads which eventually turned into gravel tracks and then into mud tracks until finally disappearing over a cattle grid into a muddy field full of cows with big horns and calfs! 3 choices…over the cattle grid and try to go through the field, turn and go back 15km or carry along the mud track and see whether I can get to a road…I went for the latter option! The mud track eventually came to an end at a gate with a big ‘⛔️…toros’ sign 😱…I am fucking scared of Bulls if I’m honest but after a 10 minute deliberation the thought of going back in the pouring rain about 18km seemed worse so I opened the gate and pushed and skidded with my bike about 400m through the muddy track to the gate on the other side in my red raincoat whilst being watched from about 30 metres very closely by what seemed to me like the biggest, muscleiest bull I’ve ever seen in my life. It did not move a muscle or make a sound but by the time I got to the other side my heart was about beating out of my chest 😱😱😱🚴🐂 After later weasling my way out of a fine from the French traffic police for being on the highway on my bicycle I eventually turned up in the dark, soaking wet and covered in mud at a really cool French couples house in Montpelier, Mylene and David…after a shower, food, great laughs and a couple bottles of wine and some shots of Chartreuse (which I didn’t realise was 55%) later I felt much better ✌️
The rain continued as I headed towards Nimes and I met a very eccentric British man in his 70’s who said he had been cycle touring in France for the past two years…he told me he had jumped out of the window of an old peoples home and escaped on his bicycle to France, so if anybody has lost a grandpa from an old peoples home in Cornwall…I’ve found him! After a great night at Crossfit Muira and being taken in for the night by coach Marc and his family I met a keen cyclist in Nime and where I had lunch and too much wine and was a bit drunk when I got back on the bike and ended up taking a wrong turn and going 12km in the wrong direction!
It was nice to get back to the coast as I headed towards Marseille and the beaches and sea made for some nice riding! Marseille was a nightmare to cycle into, with busy ring roads surrounding the city! The road from Marseille is a very popular cycle route for road cyclists and there were many hill climbs but the landscape was really incredible…although the 15 February marked the day of my first defeat by a hill😢🖕..I decided to take a ‘short cut’ out of the village Cassis in what turned out to be the steepest gradient I have yet to cycle and I fell off and had to push the bike up the rest of the hill as I could not get back on…it was so steep I had to zig zag my way to the top taking breaks every few hundred metres!
On my way to Cannes I got another puncture and two wrong navigational decisions led me to dead ends…one of which I had to push my bike through a shallow river which left my feet soaking ! Just outside the city of Frejus I was pulled over by a police car and an officer who could not speak one word of English had a picture of me on his mobile phone someone had posted on Facebook and he just wanted a quick selfie with me 😂🚔🚲 After a visit to Crossfit Cannes and Crossfit Villeneuve Loubet I met a very freindly couple who offered to let me stay in there apartment for two nights in Nice where I needed to catch the ferry to Corsica! One night I was awoken by something walking over my chest…I looked down to see a cute little bunny rabbit looking down at me 🐰… I didn’t want to scare it so let it hop off in its own time and then realised that it had shit and pissed all over me 💩🐰😂
After a day off the bike in Nice I headed to the port to catch the 7 hour ferry to Corsica. I didn’t get there until 7:30 pm and it was dark and I had no accommodation sorted so I got the cheapest hotel I could find…50 euros (I’m still fuming about it now 😢) and tbf it was shit! The first thing I noticed in Corsica was the terrible driving and the drivers annoyance at my presence on the road as the cars gave me a birth of about 3cm and honked their horns and shook their heads at me 🖕 although this eased as I got clear of the city and headed inland towards the sparsely populated west coast. The weather was perfect and the landscape really was beautiful!
The cycling was pretty tough but well worth the hard work down the west coast of Corsica as I was rewarded with amazing roads and wildlife. The mountainous island is an amazing mix of sandy and pebble beaches, small coastal towns, thick forests, craggy mountains and perfect blue sea…and the bonus of visiting in February means that there is very few people around and absolutely no tourists, much of the time I had the roads completely to myself for the majority of the day and I was the only person on the beaches!
The island is fairly sparsely populated with only around 330,000 people and is mostly populated now on the coast but there are many old, small villages built into the side of the mountain as the Corsicans were afraid of being invaded so built their homes on the mountain sides…this provided for a tough climb on my second night on the island as I climbed to the small village of Ville di Paraso with only 100 inhabitants to stay the night with my host Charlotte. Most of the nights on the island I spent wild camping and I really got to camp in some amazing places and saw many wild boars and mountain goats!
Generally, apart from a few impatient drivers, the people of Corsica had been very friendly to me…apart from one dick who thought it would be hilarious to chuck a bottle of water over me as he passed me in his van…you pretty much missed…idiot 🖕For the most part though the big truck drivers were really friendly and were honking their horns and waving at me as they passed…they couldn’t believe I was cycling up and down the mountains with all that gear 🐌 the roads are so windy that truck drivers are beeping their horns continuously to warn that they are coming and it’s all you can hear on some parts of the road!
The week on Corsica was probably one of my favourite weeks of the trip so far in terms of cycling and the weather was perfect to cycle in…Corsica is a really cool place and anyone up for an outdoors style
holiday I’d definitely recommend…especially out of season…I think it’s a different Island during the summer tourist season and I’m grateful I got to experience the island outside of this! My last day in Corsica was topped off in Bonifacio when I was picked up off the street whilst sitting on the curb leaning against my panniers eating a flanby, contemplating my camping options, when a British lady called Francesca approached me and invited me back to her apartment where she let me use the shower, wash my clothes, use the wifi, made my tea and let me stay the night…she even made me a packed lunch for the next day! I really have met some amazingly kind and welcoming people so far on my way…I’m massively thankful ☺️
The people of Corsica told me that the most beautiful part of Sardinia is the ugliest part of Corsica…now this is definitely not true…both islands are beautiful but I would say Corsica gets the nod and the two islands are easy to hop between with three ferris per day taking less than an hour!
The landscape in Sardinia was flatter than in Corsica and it felt good to spin my legs along the flat surface and get some quick kilometres done without much effort…id started to feel slow and unfit in Corsica but the first day on Sardinia I felt on top of my game 💪
The first couple of days cycling in Sardinia were pretty boring really…I mean the landscape was nice but it was just a bunch of dead holiday resorts closed for winter…places like Porto Cervo which are completely uninspiring to me!
After a week with no Crossfit on Corsica I was happy to make a visit to Crossfit Olbia which was a really welcoming place and I even got to spend the night at coach Jose’s house on the top bunk 😂 The next day the weather took a turn for the worse as the island had tornado warnings and it rained heavily for the next three days and the cycling was not much fun…although one night when taking shelter in a restaurant some people took pity on me…I was like a drowned rat and after asking permission from the restaurant to pitch my tent on their land a bunch of people said I could stay with them on a spare foam mattress in their living room…I was so grateful not to be outside again in that weather 🙏 I even got bought tea and pudding…strangers generosity really is overwhelming at times! The next day I set off in the pouring rain down the east coast of Sardinia and bumped into an Aussie cycle tourist taking shelter in a roadside building and ended up cycling for the next four days to Cagliari with him! Was great to have company again but interesting to see how people’s behaviour changes towards you when you are two instead of one!
We decided to take a detour off the coast and cycle up Sardinia’s highest mountain, Puntar La Marmora, at over 1,800 metres elevation…it took us a full day to cycle to the nearest town to the mountain and we camped at nearly 1,000 metres but the weather was pretty bad and it was pretty cold at a degree or two above freezing and the next day we decided the mountain wasn’t really a good idea in the weather…it was raining and the mountain was covered in cloud and the top was covered in snow and I was already soaked and freezing…we just wanted to drop back down to the coast and warm up…we got to about 1,250 metres elevation but decided to not try and get to the top!
I said goodbye to my Aussie pal in Cagliari as I was catching the ferry the next day to mainland Italy! Sardinia was a really great place to cycle…with very quiet, well maintained roads and pretty amazing landscapes, spoiled slightly by the bad weather I got in the middle few days I was on the island! Also it’s the place I’ve felt the most noticibely different looking…other than my Aussie pal I never saw one other blonde person the entire time I was on the island and I felt pretty uncomfortable at times like everybody was staring at me as I stood out like a sore thumb with my overloaded bike, three wheels, blonde hair, vampire pale skin and farmer red cheeks!
After a pretty shitty ferry ride and an equally shitty cycle to Rome, I arrived pretty pissed off and fed up with one issue in particular, which I wasn’t going to write about as the subject seems to be a little taboo and also slightly cringeworthy but fuck it…I have decided 1- it’s part of the trip, the annoying part, not everyday is rainbows and sunshine coming out of my ass cycling beside butterflies and unicorns 2 – any other female solo cyclist (traveller) should not be put off by this but should know it seems to be part of life…wherever you are, whatever you’re doing and 3 – if your a creepy, misogynistic ass hole maybe you could have a rethink about your behaviour yeahhhhh! Ok so the issue I’m referring to is unwanted attention (specifically male…I’m yet to be hollered at or whistled at by a female…but if this happens they too will get the same treatment 🖕) and I will try my best not to sound like some crazy ass, man hating psycho neo feminist but…fuck…it’s so frustrating and honestly, quite tiring and sad to be honest! Staring, hollering, whistling and this weird tongue to the back of the teeth kissing sound thing seems to be a daily occurrence and whilst pointless and annoying it’s not really worthy of talking about but I’ve also had some more frustrating and personal incidents so if we can all just chill the fuck out and stop acting like such dicks and just show respect for every peoples 😃 that would be sweet 👍 I’ve got a few examples but I will share my welcome to Italy story…
Whilst cycling to Rome on a pretty busy dual carriageway I noticed a car following me…slowing down and staring at me when passing and then pulling into a lay by a few hundred yards ahead and repeating the process 5 or 6 times…I tried my best to just pretend I hadn’t noticed but I took a note of the registration plate on my phone and continued on towards Rome…anyways to get to the point…the final time of passing this dick (literally) he was on the side of the road jacking off! At first I was going to report this to the police as I had his registration plate but really it’s just pointless! I don’t know if it’s some weird intimidation, power thing and 99% of people I meet are completely respectful and no problems but there is for sure a collective issue going on with the way people treat and view others and this really has an effect on people’s day…so let’s all be better yessssssss!
Anyways that’s enough of that and I’ll finish off on a more postive note after a visit from my friend Jules from back home and a few sweet ass days off in Rome to explore the city which really is a culturally amazing place!