Day 5

I woke up from my night on the mountains and had no idea what time it was as ive some how managed to loose my beloved £6.50 casio watch and now feel almost completely lost. It must have been reasonably early though. I wriggled out of my sleeping bag, still wearing all my clothes, put my jacket on and tried to warm up. Packing up camp took all of 5minutes. It took about 4x that amount to get back up to the road.

Id ridden down and was facing the wrong way on a slope, with no way to go forward and getting on and turning a heavy motorcycle thats too tall so my feet barely touch the ground when its on the flat was going to be hard work. Plus there were big old rocks all over the ground. It was about a 10 point turn when i did get it round and was sweating and panting away from having to push it. Its also very awkward to push if you were wondering.

But eventually i was back on the road and continued to the top. As like the day before the views and the riding were amazing. There were alot of cyclists going for the top and i couldnt help but grin as i whizzed by, the throttle wide open in 3rd gear. I got to the top (guarded by a heard of llamas who obviously prefered the altitude to the sheep which were all over the road half way up and the cows which were also all over the road but nearer the bottom) and just sat and looked.

I could see for miles ahead of me, out over the valley i would be descending down into. There were peaks all around me, snow on most of them. I was really in the middle of it all and it was a great feeling. I let the bike rest and took some photos. A quick word on the photos, yes ive got aload but i cant upload them till i can use a computer. Till then you’ll have to rely on my insane descriptive powers and stupendous vocabulary. And my not partikularly good spelling.

The drop back down the other side was also amazing and i was getting into a good rythm for the hairpin bends, kissing pecs all over the place. I was down into 2nd and even 1st sometimes for the braking needed. I overtook about 8 tight lycra clad bottoms, they were going bloody fast considering they werent wearing much, had wheels as thin as a pencil and were using wire tension to force rubber against metal as their only means of slowing down.

Where i had come from

I reached the bottom and cruised into a small village. I stopped for bread, which is now my staple as its so very cheap but its definitely making me fat, combined with almost a whole jar of nutella in a week….. so much for a 3month diet and a sexy beach body to impress the swedish twins of my dreams. There was a lady sitting there nitting as i was munching away on my baguette. I got my map out and turned to ask her a question.

“Madame?”
“Its alright, i speak English”

Thank god, my French is literally merd (or something like that, i think it means shit). She turned out to be from Colorado, America. She was travelling around, also on her own, but using public transport. Quite a nice way of doing it really, no need to worry about petrol or breaking down, needed no effort to acttually drive. Probably a bit more confortable and far less wet than a bike too. I might have to give it a go sometime. Anway we chatted for a bit, it was lovely to talk english again and have a proper conversation and be able to laugh. It was also very comforting to find someone else braving it on their own and i suddenly felt much less alone.

I left her to wait for her bus and continued upwards. The question i wanted to ask her was, if i keep going this way can i get to Spain? She thought maybe. On the map there was no obvious “road” across the boarder but a road that went up to it on either side. I thought if i get to the end there must be a way to the start of the spainish bit, even if its a track or something. Plus the road had a green highlight which on a michellin map means mostly “super bloody awesome riding and crazy amazing views”. So up to the top i went.

Again passing the crazy cyclists, do they not work? No proper 9-5, monday-friday jobs? Even in england during the day at work i could see them going by on the road, they must all work from home or something. This road was even more spectacular than the last, really big open views, steep mountains in the distance, small streams everywhere. No trees on this one which made it rather nice, just grass and rocks and moss. And sheep. Flocks of them, all over. Well actually mostly on the roads and so i had to drive through them, scaring the silly animals into a semi stampede half the time. Expecting one to dart across infront of me at any moment.

I asked a lady on the way up, “Spain?” She said no and then said something about rocks or boulders or big cardboard boxes i couldnt quite deciphyer the hand mime. Oh hell i thought, if its a dirt track i could manage that, this bike was built for it. I continued and rounded a bend to find a car park with a few cars and caravans. The proper road ended here and all that continued was a small snake of tarmac, clearly blocked off with rocks and boulders (purposefully at the start and what looked like natural land slides for the rest), with a sheer drop on the left.

I carefully wormed me and my bike around the ones at the start and worked my way up the road. Each pile of rocks was another obsticle to get round but most had little routes to wriggle through and i didnt have to get off. A couple i had to go right to the edge, round the outside, inches from certain death. It was pretty cool. A couple walking gave me a funny look but i kept on.

The “road” to “Spain”

I came upon the point where the road actually ended, there on was just nature. Im sure i thought of something clever and funny and philisophical to say, something like this is where mans power ends (or begins if you stand a bit futher on and looked back) but much more intelligent and hillarious than that but ive forgotten now.
I kept going for another 10m before reaching a plateau. From here there were no real ridable tracks. No cool secret path sneaking into Spain, just hikers and footpaths. Another time id love to have my rucksack with me and just head off into the wilds. But i didnt so turned around, snaked through the rocks again and headed back into the village at the bottom. A bit of a bummer as i didnt want to retrace my tracks at any point on this trip but it was an amazing ride and definitely woth wasting a few hours in.

My treat to my self for reaching the end
The road id ridden on on the left, overlooking an incredible valley

Walkers only from here on

Back at the bottom i checked the map, found a proper proper road into Spain and went for it. This pass was covered in clouds, literally couldnt see more than 2m ahead of me, cows and cliffs kept popping up without warning. At one point i looked over the little stone wall between the road and a huge drop but could see nothing but cloud, at least if you had gone over you wouldnt have seen the ground approaching you at a dangerous pace before being splatted all over. Oh and it was very wet. And there was gravel everywhere. Interesing though.

The crossing its self was a dissapoinment, no armed guards, shady people, elephant smugglers nothing. An empty both covered in graffiti and that was it, into Spain. It was supprisingly busy on the other side, restaurants and bars and people. On the French side there had been nothing till the village at the bottom.
I wound down the Spainish side, filled up with CHEAP (yesss!!) petrol (1.26/L, cheaper than england without even converting € to £). The roads were a bit more proper than the unmarked (except for Tour de France goodluck messages sprawled everywhere) and got a shift on. I was wet and cold and wanted some spanish sunshine.

Id stopped heading south now and started heading west. The road was following the Camino do Santiago, a very long walking/pilgrimage route that id also like to do at some point. Just when it wasnt raining. God i was bored of the rain. Soaked, absolutely soaked. With a stupid tarpaulin to look forward to as my shelter. So one again i was in a bad mood. I resolved to get a tent (the nearest decathlon was pamplona, too far to make that day) and eventually, after hours and hours of heavy downpour i gave up.

I pulled over by a building with a hostal sign outside. An english speaking biker told me it was full but that there was maybe another one just down the road. I latched onto this random stranger and followed him to the next place.

This was run by a crazy old spanish lady who i could definitely not understand but it was eventually sorted, a dry room and a bed for 20€. Way too expensive for my budget but what the hell, i needed this.

Not a nice sight when its you vs. the elements, and your rain gear is  not up to the task
So i had a shower, dried off, got dressed into clean dry clothes (yay) and knocked next door. The guy turned out to be a very nice German biker named Lutz. We went for a drink and tapas and had a chat. He was inspiring, hed travelled all over South America by bike, 20,000km in 6months. He also done India for a year, alot of Europe, etc. Had some good stories too. Again it was nice to meet someone who i had stuff in common with, he rode a bike and spoke english. I think the hard bit of this trip is feeling so out of my comfort zone, foreign lands, foreign people, foreign language that meeting someone not so foreign is great.
We finished our meal, went back to the hotel thing and i collapsed into bed.
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