Cycling, rafting, and camping in the French alps is a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Today was my first camping wake up, as mentioned yesterday I got my camping gear from decathlon, one of these sport shops that you enter thinking you’ve got everything and once in you realize how much you are missing. I got an Italian 1kg tent, the lightest of their range, a 1kg Queshua (decathlon brand) sleeping bag, and a really good inflatable irish 360gr mat (the most expensive item of the three).
I had a great night, I could feel it was cold once I pulled an arm out of the sleeping bag but did not feel like 4degC inside the tent as it was outside. So the sleeping bag worked pretty good and I still discover hidden internal pockets for passport and wallet, etc. the mat was excellent in isolating the heat and was very comfortable too.
Ok, enough of the rosy side and let me get to more of the real experience. As said, the gear is great to actually sleep or lay down, the problem comes when you pretend to do stupid things like taking a pee in the middle of the night. The single act of sitting, needs to be done by crunching your back and keeping your head down to avoid having your head touching the inner with the outer layer of the tent, so that condensed water (very cold in the alps) do not find a path to your head. Doing this movement requires advanced yoga postures which I don’t master, particularly when I happen to be asleep.
Around 8am I decided it was time to wake up and demobilize my circus. I started by letting the air out of the mat I was laying on. First mistake. Now I could feel on my back a very cold and stony floor. I got myself out of the sleeping bag, or rather the other way around, I pulled the sleeping bag out of my body cause I had nowhere to go, and tried different technics to put it back in its cylindrical bag. The most recommended one by camping experts is not to fold it but simply push it in the bag, but about a third of it was still hanging out by the time the bag was full. I tried the technique of folding it nicely and it took me long time to make it fit ending up with a ginger shape instead of a perfect cylinder. I gave myself a break stretching my back and head and had some more cold drops gravitating down from the condensed ceiling. Lesson learnt, I had plenty of cylindrical shape bags on my panniers and needed something to fill in the gaps. The sleeping bag is the perfect candidate, it will not go in its own bag, instead it will be pushed in the pannier once the other cylinder bags are in. I give kudos to the designer of the tent for selecting the right materials and size to make it 1kg weight. But I wonder if he or she actually camped on it, forget the idea of whether that person travelled by bike.
I feared the tent wouldn’t fit in its bag either, but the bag was quite forgiving and allowed for some non perfect folding. If the process of traveling in 4 panniers was challenging the camping aspect made the whole thing way more interesting. I remember the days when this process was reduced to handing the key at the lobby and wishing the person at the counter a nice day.
The weather was perfect, blue sky, not too windy, not too cold. The blue lake, the alps, some rivers along the way, and the rather clear roads. I stopped for lunch around km 30 contemplating the river and the alps and then kept going until I saw people rafting at the river. I needed to do that. I kept cycling until I found the business who did that, I saw a couple waiting outside and wondered if there was space. I stopped, asked and was just in time to join the next group to go rafting. We got a bit of water battles with the other boat but then everyone got in the water by jumping from a rock next to the river. The taste of the water wasn’t bad, at the end this is supposed to be the evian water, right? Finished with a sauna, a shower and back on salsa to Barcelonnetta for dinner and camping.
My second camping site was much better than the first one, great views, nice flat grass, toilets clean, etc. I learned that non of the toilets will have a seat nor toilet paper, it wasn’t just the previous one.