Days 17 to 20: Over the Pyrenees!

11 June 2016

One of the great things about travelling is the random decisions you make that have wonderful outcomes. At the last minute I changed the destination for my latest rest day to Bagneres instead of Lourdes, as it gave me a better base from which to both tackle Tourmalet (more on that later) and a good trajectory for my journey into Languedoc next week. As a consequence, I happened upon Au Chat Ronfleur. Thankfully, in my haste to book I didn’t quite notice the name as I’d have had second thoughts given my views on (allergies to) cats.

On arrival I met the lovely owner, who immediately made me feel at home and surprised me by offering to wash my clothes. After three weeks of hand washing clothes badly, you have no idea how great some freshly washed clothes feel to wear. She also gave me a quick run-through of what’s good to visit in the town and, given the 1400 km I’d cycled, the hot baths sounded like a perfect way to spend the afternoon. Except I didn’t have any swimming shorts. “No problem, my son’s about your size, you can borrow some of his”. Great! Except they were very, er, “French” swimming shorts. Let’s just say I’m glad I won’t be meeting any of the people from the hot baths again. They may see me for years to come in their nightmares, mind. The outdoor jacuzzi in the rain was worth it though.

The last few days from Pamplona over the Pyrenees into France saw a rather warm 136 km ride out of Pamplona on Wednesday, where it hit 39 degrees in the mid-afternoon heat. I learnt my lesson on Thursday and got out at sunrise to be settled in a cafe at my destination, Laruns, by the time it got toasty. There’s been so much stunning scenery over the last few days, it’s surprising I’ve got any cycling done with all the photo stops.

Today is supposed to be a rest day but when there are iconic Tour de France climbs to be done, who needs to rest? Instead of trying to tackle Tourmalet yesterday with all my luggage I decided today would be the day. And I’m thankful for that decision. It was tough enough without luggage, I can only image what another 12 kgs would’ve felt like. Great fun though, especially trying to pass a herd of cattle when coming off the mountain.

So here I am in Bagneres, half way into my 6-week ride. Let’s look at some numbers.

  • Country number 3
  • 1,510 km cycled
  • 22,000 metres climbing
  • Routing has attempted to take me on 2 motorways
  • It’s attempted to take me down dirt tracks 5 times, and succeeded in doing so twice when I had no choice but to follow it
  • 0 punctures
  • 1 mechanical (if you can call a chain coming off a mechanical)

Now it’s on to Languedoc then up to the Alps. I’m already noticing my budget going a lot less far these days; I can only imagine what’s going to happen when I get to Switzerland.

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