My watch reads 06:45. I think that this is a socially acceptable time to wake up. I sit upright and check through the open door of the tent that the canoe and bags are still there. Satisfied, I open the zip of the tent and crawl out, sleeping bag around my legs. I climb out of the bag and urinate in a nearby bush. I go back to the tent and quietly empty a pair of shorts and yesterday's t-shirt from my sleeping bag holder - cum pillow. I put on my kit and jog away from the river bank and towards the nearby footpath.
I'm moving slow, my back is very stiff and I need to defecate. Once relieved, and a couple of minutes later, I fall into an easier stride. I run a bit further, do some stretching and start thinking about the last couple of days.
We left you at the foot of some very friendly houses. I went for a run on that day as well. From there we were no more than an hour from our first town of Jargeau and its two bridges. The mood in the canoe was pretty quiet as we went past the campsite we hasn't made the night before. From there we had a productive morning, paddling quietly to the next town of Chateauneuf. Having negotiated another bridge we carried everything out of the canoe except our food supplies. After half an hour's trekking around we returned - supplies sorted - to have a fairly massive couple of baguettes by the canoe.
The afternoon was hot but we had decided that we would be stopping at the next town early unless it was certain we would make the subsequent campsite. Arriving after our deadline I sat with the canoe while Jzimmie ran away from some dogs and towards the town to find a place for the night to recharge phones. He returned a lot quicker than expected with news that there was actually a campsite. Good news for our wallets which are yet to pay for a hotel. From there a long hot day kept getting cooler. Two or three people came up to us and chatted in first English and then French about what we were doing. The English couple were so impressed they gave us a couple of beers to 'keep us going'. After a dinner of cous cous, carrots, sweetcorn and sausison we walked the 1k into town - content in the knowledge that all the kit was secure. Having meandered around the town of Benoit Sur Loire, we had a couple of ice-cold milky coffees and a perusal of the French dictionary for chat up lines.
The next day was an early start. No run for me and we both agreed it was the best night we had slept in a while. We were efficiently packed and had the canoe back on the river and loaded before 9am. Watched from the river bank by the friends we made the night before, we set of with the target of the next town before lunch. At 9:30 we stopped for a drinks break, the thermometer read 26* and it felt like we had been paddling for hours. Still, in hindsight we made good progress to get to the next town and through its two sandy bridges by 11:30. At the time it just felt like we were dragging the canoe through the Sahara. After Jzimmie had finished his orgasm over the chateau in Sully, we got some cold drinks and set off for another solid hours canoeing before lunch.
Stopping for lunch we both felt pretty bad on what was now by far the hottest day. 2 mugs of cereal later (breakfast had been postponed for dinner leftovers), Jzimmie tried and failed to ring the missus while I had a nap.
The afternoon's target was a power station marked on the map. We'd been able to see it the day before and it looked within range. However, the sun was still blazing and we therefore felt pretty jubilant at reaching it within a few hours. But this was just the beginning. We then proceeded to spend the next two hours paddling and towing on sand banks as we frustratingly arched around the power station. Finally, at 6pm, we carried the canoe over a barrage. For me that meant the end of the power station and the day was now into bonus territory. Another hour later, and after several rejected places for camping, we stopped at the peaceful and uncomfortable place from which I awoke. After a surprisingly imaginative dinner involving apple and corned beef, we were asleep before 10pm but still pretty hot.
So, after doing my stretches I reluctantly started a fartlek session. My body felt like crap. But, I did what I wanted to do, stretched my legs on the French countryside and was back to camp before 7:30.
Getting back to the tent, I whistled out of tune until Jzimmee was awake and then offered a customary bonjour to test the water. Jimmy's downbeat response let me know he felt equally rough. His subsequent admission that there would be no photos of our last day on the Loire because the phone had been drained while he called his girlfriend didn't make either of us feel much better. I picked up a towel, some dry shorts and my shower gel for one final swim/shower; leaving jimmy to mooch out of the tent for breakfast. After another couple of mugs of cereal and a halved litre of milk to clear the air, we set off for hopefully the last upstream day for a while.
I started in the bag and pondered in the silence whether to be annoyed about the now dead phone. But to be honest, continuing the moans from the run, I felt a lot too hot and tired to think about anything except my aching body.
Luckily it was dead water and we were soon in Gien. After a quick trek around town loaded with our belongings, an almost smooth conversation at the tourist information and a cold drink at a cafe; we were back on the Loire knowing that for us its end and the end of the week were in sight.
We stopped for lunch a couple of hours later at the standard time and made the standard cheese, ham and tomato sandwiches. The mood was pretty low as we faced another sickeningly hot afternoon with dwindling snacks. But, after the first corner the town of Briere and its beacon like canal were in sight.
Then it was straight to the camp sight. We cleaned out clothes. We cleaned the food barrels. We made a shopping list for tomorrow. We've finished the Loire and I'm about to make dinner.