You saw the sun rise in England and the sunset in France.
On the ferry, you stay at the rails longer than anyone. You watch the holiday makers minimising the detail of the Seven Sisters to a photographic slither between sheets of blue sky and sea. The wind soon becomes too fresh for them; their snapshots taken, they head into the warmth of the duty-free shop, or the bar. A few remain, and for a time you are caught up in the exclamations and laughter of departure. The excitement overcomes the heavy feeling in your gut and the lightness in your head, which is floating in unfamiliar territory. Your right index finger itches, and your eyes ceaselessly cut the cliffs into rectangles. The wind will soon be too much for you too, but it is a point of honour, or pride, to watch the old life slip away, until the seagull-spattered landscape which had so far shaped you can no longer be seen.
Finding leeward shelter, you turn your attention to the view from the prow, and search the deepening blue of the sea as if you will find there the point that will justify your leave-taking. A child nearby says, I love the sea… I’d dive in if I was allowed. The crossing will become her earliest recollection, and the sea colour inform her later dreams.
The ferry docks, as ferries do, and you wait by your cycle for your turn to emerge from the hull. This is Boulogne, and that is a roundabout, around which you will have to pass the wrong way. It is seeming too difficult, to reverse the trajectories and habits of a lifetime. While affecting to sort out your backpack and tie your boot laces, you study the traffic flow for quarter of an hour, lost in needing not to be anywhere at any time. The cars pinball round the roundabout, leaving the strange configuration of their number plates chasing trails in your mind. You haven’t cycled for six years, let alone on inverse highways, weighed down by stuffed panniers, a bed roll, an army sleeping bag, your life on your back. For a moment you wish you’d chosen a port closer to your final destination. But how should an adventure begin, if not with a little testing adventure?
You take the plunge, a wrong turning, and finally the right road along similar coastal rolls to those you had followed that morning in the opposite direction on the other side of the sea. The sun had shone horizontally into the car, dawn-yellow and dazzling. Now it is adding harshly to your trial, shining perpendicular to your back, and prompting you to stop and make your first purchase inside the cool shade of a village store, a litre and a half of water.
The sun may burn you, but you have already discovered the pleasure to be had in not knowing what’s around the next bend, and in not giving up, when ascending the crests of the waves of land, until your legs jelly completely. And then there is the speed with which your heavy bike makes its descents. Pausing before such a descent to survey a village whose centre is the conjunction of an old stone bridge and a church, your hand automatically dabs at the pocket where you normally keep your Leica. But you have left it behind.