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Day 24: from AUCH to AIRE-sur-l'ADOUR, 95 km

Yesterday we decided to leave at the crack of dawn to beat the heat. Up at 6 AM for washing, breakfast, and preparing the bikes. By 7 AM, we were at the top of the hill by the Sainte Marie Cathedral in Auch. A stately cathedral atop a hill that you can see from afar. It's not open yet as we're too early. However, the advantage of the early hour is that the city is still quiet with little movement. The cathedral stands there all alone for us to admire. We walk around it and thoroughly examine the exterior. At the back of the choir, there's a monumental staircase that descends to a lower part of the city.

Bruno early in the morning in front of Auch cathedral and the monumental staircase

Bruno stayed with the bikes, and when I return from my photoshoot of the cathedral, he's talking to a man named Didier, also on a gravel bike with a helmet on. This Didier commutes to work on his bike every day. He's a dowser, someone who finds sources of water springs, and more and more people are asking for springs and water. So, it's definitely a high-demand job because he can't meet the requests. He explains to Bruno the best route to ride to Aire-sur-l'Adour, and with his detailed expert information, we set off on our bikes. Soon, we're riding through the beautiful landscapes of Gers again. Bruno notices that we're cycling through landscapes that look like beautiful landscape paintings with warm colors, even though it's still gray on this early morning.

Cycling along the colourful landscapes of the Gers

After cycling 25 km, I try to change gears and realize that the gear shifter is no longer working and is stuck. The coiled wire is protruding from the side. Not a good sign. I inform Magda that we have a technical issue and decide to ride to the next village. Near the right side of the road, there's a sign for a motorcycle garage, CEUILLENS, with a phone number. At first, I think that such a garage couldn't possibly be here because we're in the middle of the fields, in the middle of nowhere. Nonetheless, I call that number, and the garage owner answers. After a brief explanation, he (Christoffe) tells us to take a small side road and follow it for 3 km to find his garage. He'll try to help. After about ten minutes, we're at the garage, which is truly the only building in sight. He's incredibly friendly and immediately gets to work, determining that the gear cable is broken and needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the correct cable length, but Bruno can go get one about 10 kilometers away, which he does right away. It's now noon, and we still have to cycle at least 70 km... the sun is shining intensely. Thanks to Christoffe and Bruno, the problem is resolved by 1:30 PM, and we set off again at 2 PM.

Christophe repairing Yves' bike with Bruno's help

Even though it's very hot, we must keep pedaling through Lupiac to Aignan, Thermes d'Armagnac, and finally to reach Aire-sur-l'Adour. We have some extra kilometers to cover because we detoured to visit the kind garage owner – luckily so. The landscape remains equally beautiful: in Lupiac, we take some time to visit the church and take a look at the statue of the musketeer d'Artagnan nearby. He was born in this village and is presented to tourists in all sorts of ways. We continue to Saint Aignan with its impressive church.

Lupiac: statue of d'Armagnac and the church

The tower, which used to serve a defensive function, particularly catches our attention. We pop into a Carrefour Express to buy extra drinks and some food because Bruno, like Floky, gets hungry regularly. Then we cycle on towards Thermes d'Armagnac, where we briefly stop at the old Donjon, its impressive castle tower, and right next to it, the picturesque church of St. Barthelemy. We're now in the Armagnac region, a kind of brandy, and from here on, there are many vineyards.

Saint Aignan

The last 25 kilometers fortunately turn out to be an easy ride, as we're cycling on the side of the Adour valley, almost flat with no major slopes. To our left lies the rich valley of the Adour River, which will flow through Aire-sur-l'Adour and originates from the Pyrenees. There are many vineyards and also a lot of corn being abundantly irrigated with large spraying installations. These also spray our small communal road, which we've taken. We purposely stop to get a good shower, which feels refreshing. A little before 7 PM, we reach Aire-sur-l'Adour, passing by a nice Carrefour Market. We quickly decide to do our shopping here: two dishes of cannelloni, one with spinach and ricotta, and one with beef in the cannelloni. In addition, a few pints of beer and bread, as well as chocolate croissants for tomorrow's breakfast. By 7:30 PM, we're in our little cottage, both exhausted but happy that we made it despite the technical issues.

Thermes-d'Armagnac: Donjon and church

We quickly heat up our meal, and it tastes especially good. We reflect on the day for a while. We're grateful for the great help we received from Christoffe Ceuillens. Tomorrow, we'll set off early again because it's going to be hot once more. We quickly go to sleep as we're both quite worn out. By the way, Bruno rides a regular bike, not an e-bike, and he's doing exceptionally well. He's a bit sunburned, so I apply some after-sun lotion on him. I'm extremely glad that we're cycling together. That was also the case with Floky. We share a lot and get to know each other even better.

Tomorrow, we'll begin our first ride on the Via Podiensis, against the flow of pilgrims, which also means we'll mostly be cycling uphill. Pilgrims to Santiago mostly descend from Le Puy-en-Vélay to reach Saint-Jean-de-Pied-de-Port and cross the Pyrenees towards the Camino Francès to Santiago de Compostela. Now I'm going to sleep because I really need it. I'll quickly call Magda and ask if everything is okay with the kids and grandkids. Fre and Ann are already back from their vacation, but Tim is still in Brittany with his nest, and Hannes and Julia's family, another family that has supported them immensely in recent years, are still there. I fall asleep with the thought that there are indeed many incredibly kind people who are always ready to help others.

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