Traverse 06 - Page 82

on the other side which looked like they’d been flung against the cliff. A mountain town had a gite to stay in and I felt like an eagle perched on an eyrie. Next day I marvelled from a distance at the impressive Millau Via- duct. Stopping to post a letter at Florac, a young Englishman ran up to me, rolled up his sleeve and showed me the most splendid tattoo I have ever seen and, as a nurse, I’ve seen a fair few. He had an Enfield Bullet forever marked on his arm complete with the “Made like a gun” slogan. We two Enfield devotees spent a happy hour standing round my bike, me telling him where I’d been and him telling me where he wanted to go when he had enough money to buy his. In Florac I stood on the brake when I saw another Enfield parked in a side street. The owner came rushing out when he heard mine. He thought someone was riding off with his! A couple of beers later, having done an internet search for an Enfield me- chanic in Lyon, I decided to stay in Florac’s communal gite and had a cof- fee with him the next day. He was one of the French journalists who start- ed the Reporters Without Borders organisation in war-torn Rwanda and had now retired to a more peaceful, rural environment. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes” about this lovely region and sure enough, you can hire a don- key and guide and do it yourself 132 years after he did. He was a pioneer hiker/camper in the days before lightweight equipment. But the book wouldn’t be the same without Modes- tine the donkey he needed to carry all that Victorian kapok bedding. At the ascent of a gorgeous moun- tain road which had been signed as being dangerous (Pah! Not for me and my bike.) the clutch cable snapped. The narrow road did not yet have enough downhill gradient for free- wheeling and it was hard work push- ing. Unwilling to do any damage to the gearbox by forcing gears without a clutch, I set about doing the job I’d asked my mechanic (who was fast los- ing his place in my favourites) to do. TRAVERSE 82 All was going well until I couldn’t pull the new cable through the hole by the clutch lever. “What I need is some needle-nosed pliers” I mused wishfully. With not a soul about I sat on the road by the bike, fishing fruitlessly in my tool-bag and pondering how to solve the problem with what I had. Hairgrips or string might work. Then up the hill rode a cy- clist. Not only did he speak fluent En- glish but he had a tool kit containing some nice little pliers. He gripped the end of the cable from the outside as I pushed it through from the inside. He lost his grip and I was whacked heavi- ly in the eye with the pliers! Job completed, I thanked him in my best French and bidding each other ‘Au revoir’, away he went leaving me staring after him and feeling I’d had an encounter with the Lone Ranger or Superman. My eye throbbing, I made my way down the valley marvelling at yet another fortuitous encounter. Explaining a black eye in my limited French wasn’t easy when I stopped for the night in Firminy at a smart hotel. The town is famous for its church de- signed by the architect Le Corbusier.