My flight had been delayed by one hour because, as the pilot nonchalantly informed us, “The Plane had been hit by lightning”! Oh, what a fuss over such a trivial matter I thought…REALLY? I believed it too, because we had driven to the airport in thunder, lightning and monsoon-type rain. So I was bundled into the back of the support vehicle, which was already bursting at the seams with camera, sound and riding equipment and I still hadn’t got my bags in!
It was now off to meet the bikes at the hotel rendezvous. I had only been in the company of Chesca Miles for about five minutes and I knew this wasn’t going to be a normal ride. She was very confident and could be as ‘toilet humoured’ as any plastered student. When we had stopped for lunch at a service station, I came outside after eating to find her and Steve Keys larking around in the kids’ playground like Hansel And Gretel; giggling, falling around like a couple of big kids. What’s worse is that I actually joined in with it.
Finally it was time to meet my new bike and gear up. We were riding the Yamaha XT660R. Alpinestars riding apparel, Arai helmets. Givi Luggage, Continental Tyres and a week’s supply of Pussy natural energy drink. Carole Nash of course were giving us ‘The Care We Deserve’ so our confidence was high…well, at least with the motorcycling; the mountain climbing would have to be thought about nearer the time.
It had now started to rain…heavily. Every ride that I have been on where we start in France it has pissed with rain. Now on the bikes we were only 10 minutes into the ride when my tail light went out. We stopped, and luckily it was only a blown bulb. Overjoyed that it wasn’t serious as we were pulling off I decided to mount the curb onto a grassy knoll shouting out, “time for a bit of off-roading!” What I had failed to notice was that, under that grass was a bog! The bike virtually stopped dead as I wasn’t gassing it. My foot went down like a petulant nursery child. BOOM! I had saved myself the embarrassment of nearly falling off at the starting line. The ice from that moment on was broken beyond repair.
By the time we got to the hotel it was cold, dark and late. We were late meeting our instuctor Mark, who had been hanging around for hours. We hatched out the plan for the next day’s schedule and went to look for somewhere to eat. Only one restaurant was prepared to stay late and feed us, and of course the couple were bikers. The food and wine was great. Just what we needed. The only thing left was to sort the bags and sleep, which we finally got to do at about 2.30am.
We were up by 6.30am and after breakfast we were ready to start. First up was our climbing equipment initiation. Mark gave us each a helmet, a harness complete with ‘carabananas’ and a pair of gloves. We were taken through the process of clipping on and off from the safety wire. It was the most important thing to remember, but no matter how hard you concentrate you still forget. Whilst we were in the middle of the lesson a helicopter flew overhead. We all looked up excitedly as it flew with the mountains as a backdrop. I noticed there was a cable hanging from the back and didn’t think any more about it. It was time to ride to the first mountain.
The ride was not a very smooth one. We were behind time and Mark was overtaking anything that moved. The only problem was, the bikes could follow but not the support vehicle. We ended up actually going slower because we were caught behind a coach.
Finally we could see the bad boy we had to climb. We were approaching on a dirt road, a real bit of off-roading. Again excitement; again I jest. I decided to pull onto the grass…you’ll have to wait and watch the programme to see what happens.
We were dressed and ready to go. With Go Pros at the ready we headed towards the rocky beast. In order we went up thus; cameraman Reece, followed by Mark, Steve, Chesca and me bringing up the rear. Which should have been a joyous occasion, following behind Chesca’s butt…but I’m afraid I had more pressing things to ogle, like the next place my hand is going to grab.
We got a little way up and all of a sudden we stopped. You’ll have to watch the show to see why. We were told when resting to make sure your arms are not bent as you waste arm power. My arms were at right angles; possibly the worst position they could be in. It was now about five minutes and muscles are starting to twitch. We are on a vertical wall and all I can hear is the wind whistling around my ears and flapping my clothes. All of a sudden I hear a helicopter. I turn around and realise why that cable was hanging off of it….. IT’S TAKING PEOPLE OFF OF THE MOUNTAIN!! Was it coming for us?