|1980: Camping sauvage in France...|
here's something quite appealing to me about the French phrase for "wild" camping (that is, camping outside officially designated sites). Le camping sauvage immediately conjured up for me an image of someone faintly feral, with a wild-eyed look about them, hovering just at the edge of the collective field of vision.
While "wild camping" is officially discouraged in France, I've never let petty bureaucracy stand between me and a campsite like the one you see above. Which would you choose, I wonder: those peaceful, tree-shaded green surroundings, or an official campground, with sites crammed in, cheek-to-jowl, surrounded by a chain-link fence? I tried one once, but once only.
Usually the evening "wild camping" routine went something like this: mid-afternoon I'd stop somewhere beside the road and pull out my Michelin map. My day's route was never fixed, but was instead determined by a general direction only: Paris, which had been a beacon to me along all my roads since Greece. The Michelin maps were (and still are) the perfect map for back-roads bike-touring. Distances between towns were clearly indicated, relative traffic volumes could be determined too (I favored the lightly-travelled white roads); altitude and topography were shown with shading; and steep stretches were indicated by single, or double "flêches", with the dreaded "triple flêche" indicating a near-unrideable grade of 15% or more.
Mid-afternoon on a camping day, I'd be scanning my map for signs of a forest - a patch of darker-shaded green - somewhere along the route ahead. I could make do with something smaller, of course: an untended field, an abandoned shed well off the road, a small copse of trees a short distance down a path. I was seeking solitude, a quiet place where I could set up my rainfly unobserved, and assemble an evening meal from fresh bread, sun-warmed cheese, paté and fruit that I'd stashed away inside one of my panniers. And then read while the evening light faded around me, one of my carefully hoarded English-language books...