The mission for the day was to temporarily relocate to a house further up the valley, as the chalet I was staying in was booked out for a couple of nights. My new residence happened to be the home of the chalet owner, who was away, so apart from watering a few plants, my time was my own.
The ride. I stuffed my pannier with enough food and clothes for a couple of nights, and ended up filling a Sainsburys shopping bag with luggage ‘over-spill’ and strapping it to the top of my rack with a bungee cord. I don’t think this would be acceptable in the relatively new world of ‘bike packing’, but being acceptable is over-rated (like I would know!). The additional weight made the bike super stable and reminded me of my cycle-touring yoof. I stopped in Macot for some bread, which added to the bag-lady tourer look, and set off up the hill.
My new abode was 500 m higher than Landry and the going was even more sedate than usual, owing to the extra weight and the fact that I was wearing my big woolly jacket, due to lack of packing space. In the end I had to take it off and add it to the burgeoning rack. It is amazing what you can fit under a bungee.
I arrived at the small hamlet of Montvilliers, found the house and let myself in. Although I had been there once before, I hadn’t had the chance to look around and had no idea where the bedrooms were or which one was intended for my use. I found the nicest, which had a freshly made up bed, but was drawn to the sound of running water coming from the en-suite. There was a fine jet of water coming out of the hot water inlet to the shower, but as far as I could tell, all of the water was going down the plug-hole. Not ideal, and I found myself wondering whether I could sleep with the noise. As I continued around the house I realized there was one room that I had missed on the ground floor. I opened the door with some effort and was confronted with a room full of sodden plaster-board. I realised to my horror, that the ceiling was now on the floor. So the jet of water in the en-suite wasn’t all going down the plug-hole, as I had originally thought!!
Would it be quicker to locate the stop-cock by opening all the cupboards and getting lucky, or should I just ring the owners right away? I did a mad dash around the utility room and kitchen to no avail and decided ringing was the only option, if only I could locate my phone! When I found it I realised that the owners number was in an email, so I had to find the wi-fi box and input the worlds longest password which was printed so small that I needed my reading glasses. It took a while.
The owner gave me a crash course on the plumbing of the house and I managed to locate and turn off the water at the ‘mains’, the only problem being that if I was to stay there for a couple of nights I needed to isolate the correct water circuit so that the other parts of the house where still functional. So I wasn’t out of the woods, but the house was. ‘Water circuit central’ happened to be under the stairs in an unlit space which, if I had not taken up alpine riding, I would simply have not been able to access. It consisted of 8 valves, some with levers attached, some without. As an easy first pass, I decided to turn all the levers to the off position in the hope that the ‘dodgy circuit’ was one with a lever attached. I gingerly turned the mains lever back on and rushed upstairs to see if the shower jet re-started. Much to my dismay, it had, so I raced back down to the cellar and turned the mains off again.
Within the next couple of hours, I had learned how to attach a lever to a stop-cock valve as well as locate and use my phone torch. I had also go to know the neighbours, removed the majority of the ceiling to the side-passage and possibly most importantly I felt at one with the internal workings of the house. And there was me thinking it was going to be an easy day.
The Verdict. Could have been worse on many levels. As a reward for my efforts I got to stay in a house with a room that has to be in my top 5 of favourite rooms. Small, book-lined, with a couple of comfy chairs and a window-seat that looked right down the valley.
(two views from my favourite window seat, a temple to the sun and mountains)