I’d just finished cycling across Lake Baikal with Steven Le Hyaric when lockdown hit. I urgently flew back from Siberia to Qatar (I live and work in Doha) but unfortunately I was too late – I landed only to find they’d closed the border 2 hours before and I couldn’t get in. I didn’t know what to do. In the end, I had to fly back to France carting all my expedition gear and spend lockdown in my home country.
From 16 March, when lockdown began, I worked from home and stayed in, as we all did. All my adventures and races were cancelled, just like everyone’s, but I consoled myself with the fact that me and my family were healthy. On 11 May, lockdown was partially lifted here in France, so I decided to do a local adventure 100kms from home.
I took my mountain bike and decided to ride two of France’s most famous hiking trails – the Chemin de Saint Guilherm and the Chemin Urbain V – 500km across the Cévennes , Tarn, Aubrac and Lozère areas in the south of France. It was tough. The trails were quite technical and I had to carry my bike on my back for most of the time.
However, it was an awesome little adventure. I was out in nature, just me and my bike, and because of lockdown everything was quiet. I felt so free – finally!
One of the best things about bikepacking in France is usually the food. This was quite a weird adventure because most of the restaurants in the villages that I passed through were still closed. I was able to get everything I needed though, and enjoyed the slower pace of life – it was the first trip I’ve done where I wasn’t worrying about speed, pace or time. I was simply out, discovering the local trails I’d enjoyed as a kid and exploring new places. I was amazed by the beauty of my country in springtime and everything felt right and made sense.
Since then, I’ve decided to keep exploring France. This makes quite a change from my usual trips which are normally all over the world - I’ve been to over 100 countries, and around 18 of them in the past year. But this summer I’ve been enjoying the beautiful scenery that my own country has to offer. I’ve visited Cantal, Auvergne, Corsica, the Gorges du Verdon, the Alpes of Hautes Provence and many more. I’ve enjoyed being a tourist in my own country, without being in a hurry. For once.
- Perrine Fages
Perrine is a world record holder for 'Arch to Arc' ultra-triathlon, and 2018 champion of Bikingman Ultra Endurance Championships. She has a background in mountaineeing, ultra distance running and cycling.