Day 10 Estella to Pampolma
Gary – Last night with internet access we checked to see how behind schedule we were running (we have a date in Rhodes we need to make). To continue we need to average 59 miles every day, checking the terrain maps and it was clear that the north of Spain was going to be lumpy all the way. We decided to take the train from Pamplona to Perpignan. It was a shame to miss the rest of Spain but logic told us we can come back to Spain easier than we could get to Greece so better to miss some of this early stage
Ginette – I slept like a baby but Gary really struggled the camp site was lit up all night and we had camped directly under a lamp. We had a leisurely start to the day and didn’t hit the road until 9.30am.
We stopped in Estella Town to try and find some more gas but failed…
I really enjoyed most of today’s ride the scenery changed constantly, it was sunny and it felt good to be alive and on a bike. At one point two finches danced in front of Gary it was magical to watch. It is almost like cycling in England on a hot summers day, the fields are very green and full of crops.
Whilst we ate dinner we watched one farmer hand sow his field. When you’re cycling in the countryside it is like going back in time. It is a completely different way of life, so much more relaxed and less complicated. Villages are set in the hillside and are unique and pretty, but void of shops (to buy drinks and snacks).
I have started to listen to my Ipod whilst cycling along and this is really helping me to relax and enjoy the adventure. Apparently I sing out loud but not all the song, Gary is constantly playing guess that tune. I was listening to James Blunt this afternoon and as we cycled through one village I was aware I was singing ‘You’re Beautiful’ out loud because the locals turned to see what was making the noise (I’m tone deaf and have often been told I can’t sing)
We have made a slight diversion to Pamploma, first so we can see the town where the bull run takes place and second so that we can catch a train to Perpignan.
Gary – We still managed to find a climb of 840m to slow us down, the temperature today was 89F so a warm climb but not unpleasant.
Ginette – I was a little disgruntled (Sulky child like says gary) when Gary suggested cycling from the campsite (9.5km) to Pamplona, fortunately it was a pleasant ride (with no panniers) mostly off road and along the side of a river and through parks, which were well used by the locals.
Pampolona is a very interesting city full of character, old buildings and charm, we fully recommend it for a long weekend, there’s lots to see and do.
Ginette – Woke early packed up camp and cycled to Pamplona for the train (no breakfast, not even a coffee) we needn’t have bothered apparently trains in Spain do not allow bikes!! We need a plan B because it had become apparent that we had underestimated the mileage and we would not make Rhodes unless we increased the daily mileage and had no rest days (this was not part of the plan).
Plan B hire a van and drive to Girona (you can only drive within one country and this was the nearest place to where we needed to be). Gary wanted to follow the route we would have cycled, so off we went… The route was spectacular but very long and lumpy (mountain lumpy), we set off driving at 10.30am and we did not arrive in Girona until 9.00pm!!! We estimate it would have taken at least 9 days to cycle.
As you can imagine we were very tired from all the driving, this became really evident when after driving all day on the right side of the road I managed to drive the wrong way up the road our hotel was on (with vehicles coming towards us!) panic over, I then parked the car on the pavement (I was really tired and just wanted to get out of the vehicle, but it really wasn’t the best place to park!) and promptly forgot to put the handbrake on, oops! Fortunately Gary realised when he was emptying the van, he was taking panniers out of the bag of the van when the van started to move, he had to run to the front of the van and put the handbrake on otherwise the van may have caused a major accident. His face was a picture.
Gary went to return the van, the hotel receptionist gave him a map it was only 2 minutes away, but it took him nearly an hour, he kept getting stuck in one way traffic!! Nightmare but fortunately we could see the funny side.
Well we could see the funny side until we recalculated the route and realised we would still have to cycle approx 56 miles a day, every day until we get to Rhodes!!! Not quite the gentle 50 miles a day, 6 days a week ride I was expecting. On the up side Gary tells me there will be some beautiful scenery and I will be pleasantly surprised. Lets hope so…..
Day 12, 15th Weds 15th April.
Girona to Colera (56 miles)
Gary – A good nights sleep in the hotel, but late to bed by the time we had finally settled, at least all our gadgets are on charge.
Ginette – I didn’t sleep so well, Garmin and email bleeped in the night, the room was really hot and we didn’t get to bed until gone 12.30pm and up at 6.30pm – late night, no sleep makes for a grumpy Netty
Gary – Ginette is not a happy a bear this morning, she is back in bed fully clothed and her eyes are leaking, Its takien all my charms to get her to even come to breakfast, this is a romantic notion of a trip but it’s not all fun, fun, fun.
Ginette – I had a little wobble, when you think of the big picture, cycling for a year is very scary…
Gary – Having had the chance to look at a map with the terrain on it last night i have ignored my garmins constant re-calculating and opted to go slightly north out of the city then head toward the coast to miss the lumpy bits, after all i have a fragile Ginette in tow so need to make the route as flat as possible.
GInette – depressingly we saw several young girls in lay by waiting to be picked up by passing lorries
Gary – The day was pretty flat, we cycled near figurines and close to Empuria brava (there is a drop zone here where we spent 3 very hot nights in a bunk house, one room with me, Net, Hayley and Shaun. I spent the three days skydiving and eventually managed to get the two kids tandem skydives, they were only 12 and 13 at the time).
We spent the day cycling on either main roads on small lanes, we even managed an off road section that Stuart would have approved off.
We did have some sections of head wing that our slick air streamed bikes cut through like setting tar.
The last 10 miles were a bit hairy, the main road (the N260 again) was quite busy but was a major short cut, we only had a small cycle lane to ride in and the side winds made it tricky to stay in lane.
It got much easier as we reached the Mediterain coast.
After the shouts of I can see the sea (as you do) the traffic slowed down and the road and the views became far more pleasant to ride on.
Ginette – Despite my reservations at the beginning of the day, it was a very enjoyable bike ride.
Gary – I managed a swim in the sea, it was freezing.
Ginette – Very funny to watch a grown man scream like a girly – it was very cold
We have visited a number of holiday resorts during this trip, it is very strange to see them out of season, they lack sole and are very quiet.
Gary – We purchased chicken and vegetables for dinner only to discover that the gas I had bought would not fit our stove, so I had to opt for using the paraffin fuel, it took a while to work out how to use this, but in the end a good meal was had.
Tomorrow we will cross into France, Bon nuit.
Day 13 – 16th April
Colera (Spain to Saint Mane-Plage (Nr Perpignan) (56 miles)
Ginette – I slept well again last night despite the fact that we had pitched our tent next to a couple of families that sat outside talking most of the evening (way past our bedtime) a train line (with trains running through our tent on an hourly basis) and a church bell that chimed every hour, quarter of hour and half hour. Gary on the other hand had another restless night. He is not very good at this camping lark!
Today we had a lazy start (I didn’t want to wake Gary) so left him to sleep. Breakfast was more gruel, served with hard bread and jam (how we are living the high life!)
The pyrenees called so we set off prepared for a hard days climbing, but we were pleasantly surprised although it was very lumpy the sea views more than compensated for it. We were also motivated by the impressed and supportive calls from passing car drivers and other road cyclists.
Gary. there were lots of groups of cycles out today, some on tours with the tours cars following them to protect them from the traffic.
I found this morning easy compared to the afternoon which was long, flat and fast, whereas Gary found the morning hard and the afternoon easier. I think this may be down to the weight he has on his bike compared to mine.
Gary; We crossed the border into France a took a few photos, this was obviously on top of a hill!
Each of he towns we pass through are becoming more seaside holiday type, there are a few tourists around but not many I can imagine this place is buzzing in the summer.
This morning I was bonking, (Ginette even asked if I could go faster!) so we stopped for lunch at a junction of the main road, we didn’t go down to the port as we would have had to come back up to the main road. as it happens after a short downhill the main road became even bigger and we were unable to cycle it so had to double back up the hill and cycle into the port area where we would have had a much nicer place to eat, oh well.
Ginette – We made a detour to Perpignon to try and fix the apple mac but without success the man in the shop said it would need to be stripped down and remade, he advised us this would take 3 days, so we are exploring other options.
Sitting in our tent as I write this with a thunder storm passing by, everything sounds so much more dramatic in the tent, it is a little exciting.
The camp site is pants, the shop sold no fruit, veg or bread and the bar (which we hoped to use to charge our devices is closed and it is only 8.00pm. Just as well we have the storm to entertain us.
Day 14 – 17th April
Nr Perpignan to Nr Narbonne Plage
Gary – Despite the poor weather in the night and the poor camp site I slept really well, I used one of the panniers as a pillow which I think helped. For breakfast we had cake and lemonade. Once packed we went for coffee and tea in the cafe so we could charge our kit and I could ring my mum to wish her a Happy Birthday.
Very flat cycling day today kept to the coast as much as possible but had a head wind against us.
Crossed two large estuaries on the sea side of the estuary along good cycle paths that closed when the weather turned bad.
Ginette – Gary may have deemed these good cycling roads but they were off road, lumpy and very gravelly, the bike deals with it brilliantly but if I wasn’t wearing a sports bra I would be sporting two black eyes. on a positive note I am gaining confidence by the day and learning to enjoy off road riding.
Gary – The coast does had some estuaries we have to go around so although we did our 55 miles it was no way a straight line.
Camped on a dedicated site with unisex loos and showers, so I had to slum it with the women…
Mosquitoes (Mozzies) love me god knows how I will cope when I get to Vietnam etc.
Day 15 – 18th April
Narbonne Plage – Frontegnan
Gary – Coffee, cake, plums and bananas for breakfast. Net tried to do the blog from the campsite reception but couldn’t get on but managed to update facebook.
Nice today flat cycling and routes like yesterday weaving back and forth along the coast like yesterday, some great cycle paths and some rubbish big roads and again some off road tracks.
Ginette – Saw some fishermen this morning it was good to see a lot of young friendly men enjoying the sport, you don’t see many of them on the Avon, we are more likely to come across the grumpy older type.
Gary – Stopped for lunch at a cycle track and stopped to talk to an older lady from the UK, she had taken her kids in an open top roadster and trailer across the states when they were much younger.
We followed the cycle track for a while and continued to weave across the coast, it looks cheap and tacky in place, especially as the amusement parks are still closed as we are cycling out of season.
Found a camp site very basic, had to cover myself from head to toe including full head net to protect myself from the mozzies, they were storming all around me. Net had some but not like me I was like a character out of peanuts.