Perigeaux. I will always carry a piece of you in my heart: I mumbled to myself as we snaked our way along the beautiful country roads. The Dordogne river flowed along, gurgling over little French villages as our Ducati Scrambler loaded with our earthly belongings of the 100 day ride carried and Anu and me through the thick pine forests and green fields. Little houses, steep roofs, beautiful flowers and tiny cascades passed us by. The sky was swollen, the clouds hung low and at 14 degrees it was cold enough to keep away most motorists from the country roads. My helmet visor misted up as the drops rained thick and heavy all around me. My toes grew numb as the rain water found their way through the gloves and my boots- it is going to be a long cold ride I reflected as I pushed the throttle a notch further hoping to pick up pace. I had 500 kilometers more to weather before Lyon and it was going to be yet another wet and cold ride. The cold water found its way into the skin of my back. I followed its trickle all the way down my spine. My riding pants were not adequate- and soon I felt the squishy feeling on the set of my pants. I was wet- inside and out: and the road stretched ahead… unending, merciless. I missed the Indian monsoon, its warm sultry feel, the roadside chai stalls and the familiar puddles that pitted the road surface. Today was yet another day of riding in the rains- and I was tired. No one said it was going to be easy- to do this ride was totally my call: I reminded myself as I hunched against the crashing downpour, poor visibility and hurtled through the tarmac; we were now on the main 130 kmph highway with little scope to pull over or find shelter.
But around me the landscape was gradually changing. The thick forests and pine jungles gradually thinned out. We followed the A89 route through the Bourg-Lastic until we reached the little hamlet of Combronde. Soon after, we passed Riom- characterized by its beautiful vineyards glowing along the terraces cut into the mountains… this was the start of the mighty Alps mountains- it would keep us company for a large part of our journey, I mused. Every once in an while, a volcanic cone would peep out from above the clouds as we whizzed past this rugged countryside. Striking volcanoes, calm valleys, crater lakes, lush forests, pristine rivers, and thermal springs- the Auvergne region has it all.
By now, we were deep into the Jura mountains in the sub alpine Alps. The rain had stopped and most of our gear had been wind-dried. Except my shoes and gloved that is. We spied on hot expresso, while admiring the jagged cliffs and brown slopes as the last rays of the dying sun poured its orange, red and violets upon the sprawling countryside. We still had 100 odd kilometres of darkness before the lights of Lyon welcomed us.