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Via Francigena, Days 10 and 11: From Langres to Gy and Besançon

Day 10, 8th Aug (Monday): From Langres to Gy (94.86 Km)

Day started slow, with me having breakfast in the hostel with the items I had bought the day before. Coffee, sugar and the basics were all available in the kitchen already. Was a beautiful day outside and from the kitchen window I could see the tower of the cathedral. I also took the time to photograph every page of the guest book for later reading as I did in previous hostels. Some of the messages are really nice

I had to cross the town which gave me plenty of last minute photo opportunities, so it took me a bit longer than usual to leave.

The first destination of the day was Torcenay, stage 35 in the Lightfoot guide. As per the road route given by Google Maps I would have to go back several kilometres and then turn to Torcenay only to have to ride it all back!to get to Champlitte (Stage 36) after arriving in Torcenay. I am sure the walking route makes a lot more sense than the road one I took.

The ride to Torcenay was pretty uneventful and flat. Few small hills to climb on the last 2 or 3 kilometres before the town. Torcenay is a small village and as I expected there was nothing open to get my pilgrim’s credentials stamped… except the post office 🙂

So, I got my stamp from the local post office, no complains.

There wasn’t anything really worth looking at, to be honest, so I headed out of town just to find that the water fountain I had seen as I rode into town wasn’t potable. What a shame! Thankfully I still had a full bottle, but it would have been nice to be able to refill.

Next destination was Champlitte as mentioned before. The route traced by Google Maps had about 80% road and 20% dirt tracks. Most of the dirt tracks were OK, but some 5 Km of them were really challenging with a lot of stones / rocks on the ground and sand, which made me have to dismount and push the bike several times as there was no traction in places.

Champlitte is a lovely small town and as I arrived one of the 1st things I saw was the impressive museum of the town (no sure what the museum is for). Unfortunately the tourist information office was closed, but I managed to get a stamp from a Bar/Hotel/Restaurant over the road.

I did a little break in the town to eat an apple and drink some water before leaving to Dampierre-sur-Salon.

It was about 3 Km after Champlitte, that something quite unexpected happened. I was riding downhill, doing perhaps 40 Km/h and gaining speed to tackle a big climb I could see ahead in the road, when I felt something biting me on the inner right leg. In one of those split second moment reactions I just tapped the insect away without even looking at it properly, I was afterall riding down quite fast on a busy French D road. Could have been a bee or a wasp. The event almost knocked me out of balance. Thankfully, perhaps due to my quick reaction, whatever stung me apparently did not have time to do a proper job, so it did hurt for about 5 min and then was OK.

Upon arriving in Dampierre-sur-Salon I went straight to the tourism information office, which thankfully was open, got my stamp and continue to pedal. I did take a few pictures, but I did not find a lot of pictures worthy things to capture.

The next destination was a town called Gy (yes, that is no type, simply Gy), stage 38 in the Lightfoot guide. The route Google Maps traced took me to some small single roads that , although narrow, had good tarmac. The route had also an unexpected surprise though. At some point Google instructed me to leave the road and take some dirt tracks following alongside a little river. At some point the dirt tracks simple ended and there was also a big barrier which made it impossible to cross even of the tracks continued. I analysed the map and could not see any alternative other than going many kilometres back the way I came, however I decided to stop at a impressive property I had seen just before leaving the road to ask for directions. The (presumably) care takers of the property were very nice and told me there was an alternative way to get to Gy. They also said that it wasn’t the 1st time this had happened as 2 years earlier some people on horses were also attempting to get to Gy and made he same mistake. If I understood them correctly apparently these horse riders were also doing the Via Francigena.

After the detour I was finally able to reach Gy, with my Garmin Edge 810 freezing up on the last 2 Km before reaching Gy and making me lose all statistics for the day (thankfully the GPS track was capture by my backup GPS watch).

I had ridden almost 95 Km at that point and was pretty tired, so I decided to give myself a treat and stay in the lovely Hotel Pinocchio, which was apparently was the best hotel in the town. If you have to blow the budget, do it in style, so the dinner that followed was also great 🙂

Day 11, 9th Aug (Tuesday): From Gy to Besançon (38.85 Km)

After a wonderful night at the Hotel Pinocchio, the day was a bit cloudy with a light rain shower as I left. I first went to the Tourist Information Office to collect my stamp, as it was closed when I arrived the day before.

I then left in the direction of Cussey-sur-l’Ognon, stage 39 of the Lightfoot guide. Like in days before Google Maps traced me a route that included some dirt tracks within forests. The difference with these though was that it:

  • 1st, it had been raining, so there was mud on the tracks making it quite challenging to pedal on a 50 Kg bike.
  • 2nd and most difficult, the tracks started to thin out and being taken over by the forest until they eventually disappeared altogether. At that point I had ridden far too much into the forest and wasn’t willing to give up and go back to the muddy tracks I had just ridden through. I could see the faint traces of what possibly was a track before, so I just followed that in the midst of some quite dense forest. I thought to myself, this is supposed to be an adventure after all, but I would have preferred not to have go through that experience. I eventually landed on some proper tracks and then back on a minor road. I was relieved when I saw the road. Riding through the forest on a loaded touring bike was a bit stressful.

After the adventure of going through a trackless forest on a heavy touring bike, I was happy to arrive in Cussey-sur-l’Ognon. I took a few pictures of the village, but could not find a single place to get a stamp from, so no stamp from Cussey-sur-l’Ognon on my pilgrim’s credentials.

So I continued to Besançon, stage 40 and the last stage of Volume I of the Lightfoot guide. The closer I got to Besançon, the greater the traffic on the road was. I also took a wrong turn somewhere and ended on a busy dual carriage way for a while, until I found a way to leave it.

As I arrived closer to the city centre I started looking for the Tourist Information Office and Google made me do a few unnecessary rounds and turns as it was following the directions appropriate for motor vehicles. As I finally arrived at the tourist information office and got my stamp I felt pretty tired from the stress in the middle of the forest earlier on and Besancon looked like a very interesting place, so I asked them for cheap accommodation and they suggested the city’s youth hostel, which was a different concept of a hostel for me. The first I stayed that offered me a single room with a private bathroom, a luxury in terms of hostels and with breakfast included for just €29 I thought it was a bargain for what it was.

An interesting story that developed as I arrived in Besancon, was that as I was leaving the tourist information office another cycling tourer was arriving. I tried chatting with her, but she just said she didn’t understand English and I left in the direction of the hostel. As I was checking in the hostel, she also arrived, so she obviously received the same advice I did. We smiled and said “hi” to each and I left to lock the bike in the hostel’s spacious bike garage and take my stuff to my room. After a shower and some rest and with the info provided by the friendly reception guy I went to the bus stop closest to the hostel to catch the bus to the city centre and as I was there waiting for the bus, there she came also. That was Nathalie and with all these coincidences it was just right that we became friends and explored the city together. Nathalie lives in Basel, Switzerland, and works as a nurse. She told me she cycled every day to work, but that this was the 1st time she was trying long distance cycling. Her destination was Nantes in the south of France, a trip of over 1,000 Km by bicycle. Not bad for someone’s first cycle-touring experience. It was a  wonderful night in an interesting city and in the company of a new friend, perfect!

This concludes the post about days 9 and 10 of my Via Francigena experience. Although, as I write this, I have already arrived in Rome a week ago, I will continue to write as time (and WiFi availability) allows.

To conclude, as usual, have you made your donation to my chosen charity, Mind UK, one of the UK’s leading mental health charities? If not, why not? It wold be a good way to pay forward the effort I am putting here in reporting my experiences and you will probably not miss £10 or £20 in a month, right?

Thank you for your contributions, your support and your patience as I get through these posts.

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