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Balkans Trip - Day 2 - France

Blogging at 22:30 on Wednesday 24th July from N 49.65738°, E 05.11573° / http://maps.google.com/maps?q=loc:49.65738%2C05.11573

Day two, disaster two.

With the ambient temperature at a searing 38°C (in shade) and with everything bodily stuck to everything else (bodily and otherwise), we suffered a rear wheel puncture.

We were just entering the town of Charleville-Mézières and had already made up our minds to call it a day - as soon as we'd cleared town - when the tyre just gave out.

All I could do was limp it a few metres to a residential street and the shade of some pine trees, and crack on with changing a 14R20 in conditions more suited to flaking out in a fully air-conditioned room.

It was brutal, dirty, sticky, work; but made less arduous by Emma marshalling nuts, jacking, and helping take the weight of physically humping the wheels around. She also started making enquiries of the locals as to the whereabouts of a commercial tyre supplier; heading for the hinterlands of the Balkan states with no spare was not an appealing thought.

It took about an hour to change the wheel and a further five minutes to find our way to Point S, a 'Kwik-Fit' kind of operation, but one which could actually do stuff that requires a bit of independent thinking rather than a straight and blank-faced "there's no information in our database about that wheel and tyre combination".

Luckily, the extremely helpful fitter had both a smattering of English and one 20 inch tube in stock; plus he'd worked on split rims before.

Between us (I could usefully mime how best to tackle some of the trickier bits encountered with this particular rim) a further hour and a half and €90 euros lighter we were back on the road. Or stuck to the road, more appropriately.

From there, we cleared town as per the original plan and then dived into the first bit of shade in pleasant surroundings that we could find (coordinates).

Utterly monged, we've spent the entire evening here eeking out the coolest spot possible - which turned out to be the roof of the truck - so we set chairs up topsides and with damp flanels on heads practiced the science of evaporative cooling whilst lazily and swelteringly watched the hazy world go by. Best sightings were red-backed shrike, yellow wagtail and a curious (with us, not to us) red fox.

Tomorrow's supposed to be in the 40°C + range so we've hatched a plan to get up early and do as much of the drive as we can before the roads melt.

The puncture, incidentally, was a friction puncture; undoubtedly a result of ageing tubes and the immense heat.

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