Milestones

I’ve hit a few milestones over the last few days, which make progress seem a little more real than just a continuous stream of ’95km, 350 metres of climbing’.  Some of these were intentional, some not, but as I roast in the midday sun in Pamplona, they do give me a little confidence that this trip might be doable.

Let’s see…  I’ve hit country number three (including the UK), entering Spain yesterday.  I’ve hit the 1000km mark in terms of distance, and I’ve endured my first day with over 2000 vertical metres of climbing (crossing the Pyrenees).  And, entirely accidentally, my first 100 mile day.  Not too bad, then.

On the other hand, there are a few issues.  An annoying rattle on the bike (or in the bags) which I can’t trace, problems with routinely getting enough water (saved by roadside springs yesterday), and a nagging feeling that I’m spending too much money.  Still, must be all sortable, I guess.

I flew through the rest of France due to an improbable tailwind and some magnificent cycleways (and, let’s face it, it was flat).  An example of a magnificent cycleway can be seen below.  Something the UK and Spain could both learn from, I feel.  The UK seems to be under the impression that a decent cycleway consists of some paint on the road, while the Spanish don’t really seem to have any (though, to be fair, I’ve only seen a few km of Spain)…

IMG_0172

Though I kind of knew the Pyrenees were going to be a big test, I was able to forget about them for a few days, and put in an accidental 100 mile day while outstandingly failing to find a campsite.  I’ve no intention that 100 mile days become the norm, but it’s nice to know you can if you want to.

After eight days in France, I was feeling confident that my French had improved sufficiently to pass for a local.  An illusion shattered as I rolled into Bayonne.  I stopped in the town centre to check my map, and was immediately interrupted by an Australian voice asking if I needed any help. In English, naturally.   I looked up to see a tandem, with a fairly typical Aussie bloke (tats, shades, three-quarter-length shorts, goatee) on the front.  And an oriental (maybe Chinese?)  lady in a floral summer dress and floppy straw hat on the back.  After establishing that I was heading south, I then got verbal directions for the next 30 miles.  In 30 seconds.  None of which I managed to memorise.  Oh, well…  I have no idea whether these two just hang around the town centre waiting for cyclists to arrive, or what, but it was a nice (if slightly bizarre) welcome to a lovely looking town.  But I couldn’t dally; the mountains awaited.

Yesterday was the day.  I’d pre-planned roughly where to cross the Pyrenees, spotting a nice low(ish) pass at 600-and-odd metres.  My valiant (smashed but pluckily soldiering on) iPhone guided me there, and I ticked off my first ‘mountain’ pass!  Pamplona was only another 60km or so.  It was all too, erm, Pyreneeasy.  Sorry.

IMG_0175

Unfortunately, relying entirely on the phone meant that I missed the fact that my intended road into Pamplona became a semi-motorway from which bikes were outlawed.  Never mind, I’d take the old road; must run pretty parallel…  Some hours later, trekking up a second, 700m-plus hill, I was not a happy bunny.  Over 2000 metres climb in a day is for the racing snakes of the Tour de France, with their lightweight carbon-fibre bikes and back-up cars.  Not really for an elderly gent lugging 40kg of bike and bags.  Let’s just say it was a long, long day.

Still, I made it to Pamplona.  It’s a lovely town, and Spain seems to be half the price of France.  And I tumbled into a lovely quiet hostel for another rest day.  More clothes washed, but I don’t think you need the pictures this time.  And for the record, the red underpants in the last post were nothing to do with me…

So, nothing to worry about between here and Madrid except the heat (30c by eleven in the morning today), and finding my way over or around another set of mountains.  Bigger than the Pyrenees. Much bigger.   Ouch…

By the way, I’ve finally added a map and some stats (everyone loves stats!) to the Progress page, for your delectation and delight.

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8 comments

  1. Well done Mr Snake. All of your posts so far have reminded me ofour trips of old i.e. climbing that mountain in Andorra and taking no water with us at all. Keep up the good work. I love the map and everyone loves a good stat. Keep away from those bulls.

    1. Cheers, buddy. Missed the bull-running by a few days; having seen the streets they run down, and how little escape they offer, I won’t have anyone from Pamplona calling me nuts for riding round the world… And you’re right, I do have previous for water issues, don’t I? Need to learn some lessons…

  2. Sounds like you are enjoying your trip despite the hardships. The trip sounds tremendously exciting, I kinda envy you. In an abstract sort of way.

    Mum is visiting and I was telling her about your trip. She sends her love. Well, regards, anyway 😉

    1. Thanks – I am enjoying it in a slightly odd way; may just be the endorphins at the end of the day, as the hills definitely ain’t fun… Best to your Mum.

  3. Great stuff Tim . Love the detail . Can really picture you suffering a bit up those massive hills- poor sod .

    1. Ta, mate. The heat and the climbs are a bit tough with the bags on. And there’s a huge one coming tomorrow (top about the height of Ben Nevis). At least that’s in the morning 😉

  4. Good to hear progress so far Tim. It was great to have you in Yorkshire to kick start things that weekend of Le Tour. We’ve been hooked ever since. Been a bit bonkers with all the big guns dropping like flies – though it’s unfortunate for Nibali as he looks like he’d have been a strong favourite anyway. Class act. Interesting to hear your in the Pyrenees too having just seen the Tour riders tackle them. Kevin and Louise (our neighbours/friends you met) are currently in/around Spanish Pyrenees too. Keep an eye out!

    We’re in Spain too this week – though opposite corner (San Jose in South Easterly Nijar province). Enjoy the rest of those hills. And remember my mountain bike motto – pain is just weakness leaving your body. 🙂

    1. Cheers, Ben. Another big climb today, then hopefully settles down a bit. To be fair, I went for the opposite (low) end of the Pyrenees; big enough, though…

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