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DAY 22: from LOURDES to MONTREJEAU, 95 km

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

We start our last day with a nice breakfast. The Italian hotel serves a breakfast with all the trimmings for 6 euros and we enjoy it. We prepare our bikes for the last time and around 9:30 am, a little later than usual, we leave for St Gaudens. First we go to a good bakery to buy Floky's pizzas for the day and then we are back on the road. We thought it would be easy after the two stages in the Pyrenees over the Somport Pass (1640m) and the Col de Pourtalet (1794m ) but we soon realize that it will be a difficult last day. There are many slopes and we have to climb up 600 meters.

Leaving our hotel in Lourdes in the direction of Saint Gaudens across steep slopes

We drive past Lézignan, Loupcrup, Pouzac, Mauvezin, Capvern, Cantaous to Montréjeau near St Gaudens. The descents are short or we have the impression that they are much shorter than the climbs. The slopes are very long and steep and soon we feel it in our legs and in the number of kilometers we have to drive TOUR, SPORTS or TURBO. In fact I only use EC0 and TOUR. I is s hard that I even have to get off several times and just push my bike up the hills. The last few days Floris has cycled to the top of a col a few times and then stepped back a part to take over my bike from me. I am blessed such a young 17 year old super helper. We stop around noon In Mauvezin at the church and near the castle originally built in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 13th century. We drive there because there are medieval games for the tourists on this Sunday. We take a few photos from a parking lot and drive back to the church where we have lunch.

The church and the fortress of Mauvezin

At the end of our lunch, four people come and ask if we are leaving and if they can use the table. No problem of course. They are Isabelle, Ian, Nathalie and Remy from Marmande in the Landes. They are boarding from Capvern where they are staying. One of them has read on the placard on the front of my bicycle what we are cycling for and we are happy to explain a bit more. We also get to take a picture of these lovely people and continue on our way after wishing them well. We continue but the road remains difficult or is it the fatigue that sets in because we know it is our last cycling day. Because of all the many long slopes we lose a lot of time. Gradually, not only our personal physical batteries but also our electric batteries are exhausted and we have to decide to stop in Montréjeau instead of St Gaudens, some 20 kilometers away. We know that Peter has already left to pick us up and choose the easy solution to ask him to pick us up in Montréjeau, fter already more than 1800 kilometers of hard cycling over 22 days.

Floky waiting for his uncle Peter, the bastide and the church of Montréjeau

At 3 pm I inform Peter, who is already on his way to pick us up with his van, that he has to drive a little further. We couldn't possibly reach our village of Serviès-en-Val near Carcassonne by bike today because it is still 150 km away. Tim left early in the morning with the three other children Robin, Moses and Eli and they are already progressing well against all expectations, because it is a black or orange traffic day this Sunday in France. They are already in Montauban and will be in Serviès-en-val on Sunday at 7 pm. Fortunately, Peter is already nearby and reaches us at 3:30 pm near the church of Montréjeau. While we are waiting for him, we have already visited this bastide village with a church with an octagonal tower. Bastide is a French type of medieval town founded in the 13th and 14th centuries in mainly southwestern France. a typical bastide village has a rectangular street pattern that divides the city into eight blocks around a central market square. The houses on this market square always have covered corridors under part of the houses, which makes walking under them very pleasant when it is warm. From the parking lot near the St Jean Baptiste church you have a beautiful view of the Pyrenees in the distance. While we wait for Peter, Floky and I talk about our three-week journey for Rientje. We are super happy that we made it. I hope Floky also has fond memories of it. For me that is certainly the case. It is a unique experience to go out as a 77-year-old grandfather with your 17-year-old grandson. He was my travel guide with his Google maps. He was also the man of communication on Instagram with the videos he posted every day. He was also my guardian angel together with Rientje (by order of grandma who communicated with him behind my back.)

Enjoying being together after more than three weeks (but still busy on the phone)

Thanks to Peter we reach our home base around 6 pm with our heavy bikes, where grandma is waiting for us. A heartfelt reunion after missing grandma for a month because she had already left our house with Ryanair before I left by bike. We have a drink on our balcony with a view of the Massif de Lacamp and less than 45 minutes later Tim arrives with the three other children hooting loudly. Rientje flies next to the multivan because he had left us earlier in the day as guardian angel and had flown with his daddy, his sister and brothers to watch over them Another super happy reunion because Tim and his nest haven't seen Floky in more than three weeks seen. Peter and his (new) partner Kim did some shopping earlier in the day and provide a nice meal: Stuffed crab as a starter and then as a main course pasta with a salmon of almost 3 kg that we eat completely. There is a lot of talk about our travels. Until late in the evening, some sit outside on the high wooden terrace to tell stories and perhaps also to see shooting stars. It is the days of the Perseids in early August. Tim is lucky because he sees a shooting star . I'm already exhausted in my bed.

Grandpa, with in the background the plateau de Lacamp , together under the big plane, the favourite spot of Rientje, the boys came by bike

As soon as possible we will visit Rientje at his tree next to the local river tomorrow. He went there almost every day with Grandma when he was here on vacation. He often sat on top of the picnic table under his tree. We were allowed to hang a memorial plaque there with the permission of the municipality. Peter regularly provides flowers. So much reminds us of him in Serviès that a visit to his town is a painful must. We can't forget him NEVER; Floky and I are super proud that we were able to cycle for him and the Rinus Pini Fund. On the road in Sallent de Gallego, young people who came there from the late (early) concert) were impressed when Floky told them why they had undertaken this journey and especially that someone his age was giving up a large part of his holiday to charity. Gtandma and I are very proud of him and so are Yasmine and Tim and the other children.

Grandma and Rientje , together at his favourite spot under the big plane (Aug. 2020)

This is the last post of our route on the Via Turonensis. You can follow us again within a week. After ten days of rest, we will cycle on August 16 on the Via Podensis from the vicinity of Saint Jean-de-Pied-de-Port via Moissac, Conques etc. to Le Puy-en-Velay together with Bruno, our 25-year-old grandson who is doing his Ph.D. in Oxford. I look forward to travelling part of the way back with him. On July 26, however, he has to go back to Oxford and then I cycle on alone to Leuven. Alone, no, because Rientje will certainly accompany me as a guardian angel. Now he is on holiday with his dad Tim and his siblings Robin, Floky, Motje and Eli. He is always with us. We can and will NEVER forget him.

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