Following our hibernation from the snow we really wanted hot showers and hot food. Instead we had a freezing ride, brought cold paella thinking it was hot and I had a freezing cold shower. And that was before we found the holes in the tent.
We thought we’d had a lot of snow fall on our secluded hilltop camp, but the torrential rain to follow melted it away. With rain easing, we decided to pack up Bessie, our Hilleberg Allak tent, and seek lower ground. As we cycled on we discovered that we hadn’t born the brunt of the storm, just a valley away several feet of snow carpeted the ground.
Cycling uphill into the whiteness (me with shorts on, both with cotton socks), we decided that it would just be the highest reaches of the pass that were blanketed, so we’d be in a valley and out of the cold soon enough. There was tree debris all over the roads and we reached areas where snow ploughs hadn’t cleared properly, leaving only two small paths for us in the middle of the road. The roads were quiet apart from the occasional car, probably surprised to see two cyclists coming towards them. The novelty of snow cycling wore off as the low cloud obscured any view ahead and the descents didn’t reduce the snow cover. We calculated that the nearest town was 30 kilometres from our campsite. Travelling at a snails pace it was three hours before we got out of the snow, fingers and toes freezing.
Back on dry land we put Bessie over a fence to dry in ferocious winds while we ate reheated paella which we’d brought (unknowingly cold) from a market stall in the first town we came to. Over mint tea later in the afternoon I decided finding a campsite was a priority. Unfortunately the one we picked had pretty poor facilities: I managed to stand under a cold shower which felt like being hit by a fire hydrant and Justin wisely decided against having one. We both felt a bit cold, weary and despondent.
Lying down in the tent out of the wind, Justin noticed a glimpse of light through Bessie’s skin. We don’t know how it had happened, but she had been torn. It was hard to deal with our home being broken, and we didn’t know if it had been something caught in the snow and winds or if we had ripped her by trying to dry her out. We came up with worse case scenarios and wondered how much it would cost us, and how long we might have to be without a tent for. Worse still, it was late enough that we couldn’t call the tent manufacturers for advice. After the trials by snow and hard cycling the tent damage somehow assumed a lot more importance than it deserved to, and the day ended with some frazzled tempers and hair pulling.
The next day we made a few calls and sent a few emails to Hilleberg. After asking if we had a sewing machine with us, they looked at photos we had emailed and advised that the tears were minor enough that they could be fixed with seam sealer. We didn’t have that, but no major repairs needed so maybe not such a crisis. At the same time we received an email from Ingrid and Yves offering a place to stay if we were passing their place. With warm showers and not being outside in the cold and wet in mind, we calculated it would be two days ride from where we were and rapidly accepted.
As it was still freezing outside we treated ourselves to a hot lunch in Lamilou les Bains which we paid for with 20 euros from Emma’s leaving work present. Thanks all at Money Advice Trust, we needed a little bit of comfort at the end of a few very cold days.