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Berger 85 – getting there

7.25pm, Friday 26th July, Frome - gentle rain is steadily falling whilst driving between Stoke st Michael and Frome.  At Frome it turns into torrential downpour, drain covers hover 6 inches above the road as drains flood.  Cars grind to a halt because drivers can’t believe what they see and ten minutes from home driving frustration sets in.  Crawl across Frome to come to an abrupt stop at end of queue of traffic by the station.  The river is flooded and everything has stopped.  Traffic crawls slowly towards us but our lot steadfastly refuse to move. Eventually, nearly half an hour later (or that is what it seems like) pull over and drive recklessly down centre of road and through flood.  At Warminster, no sign of rain at all.

In the suburbs of South East London we stop for one of the greatest portions of fish & chips ever received; arrive at Dover well ahead of schedule and search out a pub.  Easier said than done; you'd have thought with all those sailors, stranded lorry drivers and associated "you know what’s" pubs would abound.  We eventually find one stuck behind a supermarket.  The pub itself is heavily disguised as a video cinema; heaven knows what the beer is like.

After that it is pretty uneventful.  My companions insist on sitting on the most uncomfortable bench on the ferry just outside the lady's john with a view to observing the talent.  Can’t understand it myself watching a load of tired, harassed, scruffy birds in a state of discomfort going in through a door and then emerging a few moments later no longer uncomfortable but still looking tired and harassed - seems rather pointless!

Many hours of darkness driving across Northern France on by- roads because too mean to use motorways, sees us just north of Dijon for breakfast.  Before we stop, when dawn eventually breaks Jarratt and I wonder where the third member of the party has got to.  Cork turns out to be buried under a pile of tackle on the back seat.  He swears that he has slept comfortably under it; perhaps the beer was better than I thought.

Breakfast now that is the highlight of the trip!  We sit the terrace of a cafe beside the Seine with trout making their telltale rings on the surface in the hot morning sun.  We eat large chunks of baguette with creamy butter and pre-packed jam (what a let down) and drink wonderful French coffee. Serious doubts emerge about going further, long debate, serious lack of will and then - what the hell, we may as well keep going on.

About stop for a only other bike!!

About 150km further on and we are on the motorway, a short stop for a sandwich for lunch and we are at the camp site. The only other souls there are two who have arrived by coach and bike.

Back down to the village to victual and then return to set camp and off to the pub of the Deux Vallee for a scrumptious feast eaten outdoors - quite something after the journey - so good in fact that I am seen eating French fries with my fingers, drinking more than is good for me and smoking a cigarette.  The problem, of course, is that whilst we three in my tank have arrived at a reasonable hour, the other two, MacManus and Bradshaw, have had a slightly longer journey and only get to the restaurant when we have nearly finished.  So we have to keep drinking whilst they eat.

What a frightful night - I have not slept in a tent for 30 years and it is infinitely worse than the NCC hut, which is bad enough.  But here we are on the morning of Sunday the 8th in brilliant sunshine on the Sornin plateau ready to go and there I nearly stay for the whole week.

Twenty eight b •••• rs get to the bottom, so one of them can write about the cave.

Jeremy Henley