After several weeks of being uncharacteristically social, I yearned back to the life of sleeping outdoors as a vagrant with a bicycle. So before Christmas we spent a couple nights in a tent. On the second evening the wind was so strong that we had to take refuge in a half-built garage beside an empty house. Three walls and a roof protected us perfectly from the storm raging outside.
Stomachs full with a delicious sausage and pasta dinner, we settled down to watch a documentary. Halfway through the film our concrete cave was suddenly filled by car headlights. Crap. The house wasn’t so empty after all. I exited my sleeping bag nervously. My French vocabulary was wildly insufficient for explaining why there were suddenly two people, a Cocker Spaniel, and a tent with Christmas lights in whoever’s garage it was.
Outside there was a woman who looked scared enough to call the police, but fortunately she wasn’t alone. Neither she nor the man she was with spoke English, but he just laughed it off and wished us a good night. Our luck held up once again. This scene certainly could’ve played out much worse.
The next morning was December 24th. While having breakfast, I was wondering why the dog trailer looked strangely tilted. Then I realised one of the tires was flat. Presumably due to me digging out some sharp rocks and spikes from the rubber the previous day. Merry Christmas.
After changing the tube, we continued a couple hours to near Orange where we had rented an Airbnb cabin for the night. We spent the evening drinking champagne in a sauna and a jacuzzi. Not exactly a traditional way to celebrate Christmas, nor the type of life I’m looking for most of the time. But sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a little luxury, just for a change.
A few days later we passed Avignon and its famous half bridge. I gained a sudden appreciation for old architecture, and decided to make a detour. Isabelle found a place to stay and I continued at night towards Pont du Gard, a famous Roman aqueduct. I arrived at midnight to find the gates closed and a guard’s voice in the radio phone telling me to come back at 9am. I wanted a photo of the landmark at night, so that was unacceptable.
Google Maps offered an alternative way in, via the forest nearby. I pushed my bike through footpaths, trying to be discreet and unnoticed with my headlight. When I found the aqueduct, I discovered it was lit by brightly coloured lights. The colours changed slowly, and I took a time-lapse of the show while looking around.
There was no-one else there, so I had the whole aqueduct to myself. For a 2000-year-old building, it was extremely impressive. The massive size, and the fact that it was still standing two millennia later. All that with the tools and materials that had been available so long ago. The Roman empire accomplished some magnificent things in its time. And yet it fell down, just like the aqueduct eventually will.
Everything is impermanent. This bike trip, our lives, and all the nations and empires around us. So it’s better to spend our limited time focusing on things that matter. Whatever that may be. Or at least to relax and enjoy the ride.