Since I last posted I’ve come a fair way. La Velodysee is over, I reached the Spanish border a few days ago taking in a rest and a few beers as a celebration.
I’ve now ended the mountains of the Pyrenees and as expected the weather is on the change continuously. Yesterday it was in the mid-thirties centigrade and today it’s in the teens with rain.
From Royan to the border I rode through the pine forests of the Gironde into Aquitaine. The narrow ribbon of Tarmac was all there was to follow. It gave a sense of having no idea where you were in relation to anything else and in many ways was a dream to cycle.
The Tarmac continued all the way to Hendaye, quite an achievement in itself. The parched forest heat gave way to the wettest day I have ever had on a cycle. Over fifteen centimetres of rain fell in 24 hours and everywhere flooded.
At one point the trail was completely closed with deep water and the road I to to to escape were also flooded. Fly, Trevor, and I sailed (literally?) through water up to my knees and the French mountain bikers turned around. Back of the net 🙂
A Trevor spilled the water he had taken in I remembered that I didn’t silicone seal around the holes where his attaching bolts pass through the box. I laughed as no harm was done. A little further on we were back on the trail, this time having to wade through water half way up my thighs. At least it was warm.
The following two days saw vast improvements as the weather settled a little and I took a rest day in Hendaye.
Returning to the mountains is always special for me. I climbed for many years and feel drawn to them despite the effort I know it takes to explore their flanks.
The highlight of this trip was to be a traverse of the Pyrenees from west to east but the unseasonal snow is putting paid to that idea. With the mountains you take what you’re given and should be thankful. There is no guarantee.
Yesterday I rode to Hasparren to find the tourist office closed and the campsite shut down. I chose to follow another sign up into the hills it was baking hot and the one thousand foot climb seemed interminable. On arrival I also found this campsite shut so we turned around and enjoyed the twisting descent that led back to the town.
I sat in the shade waiting for the tourist office to open. When it did I learned that there were no more campsites here and that the nearest was in Cambo Les Bains, back in the direction I had come from.
I had to do it and despite the the intense heat I got on one more time to ride. It was a rough few kilometres with me close to exhaustion. On arrival I just got the groundsheet out and collapsed.
Water and food soon made things better and I swear the shower was the best in the world.
It was here that I learned that the high passes are still closed. From the hill-top non-camping site I could the high ranges and they were plastered in snow so this came as no surprise.
So I’ve taken a rest day to ponder my route and enjoy the coolness of the wet.
The passes may open shortly. I’ve seen pictures from the summit that are truly inspiring. Sadly you can only get to both the major cols in one direction so a traverse is not yet possible.
For the rest of the day I’m chilling out, letting mind and body relax and recover. The incident with the truck shocked me yesterday as memories of a motorcycle collision that was almost identical came back to mind. Yesterday I was on full alert managing to ride off the road as the truck swang back in to avoid oncoming traffic.
The fierce heat will be something to contend with when it returns. I will try to get away earlier and finish riding earlier. That was yesterday’s plan and it worked but for the non-campsite situation. For the record I drank 4.5 litres of water whilst riding. Most towns have a spring so this is good to know. If not, almost anybody will fill your bottles. It’s the spirit of Le Tour.
Compared to other cyclist I’m a heavy goods vehicle. They pass and look aghast at the trailer. Many give encouragement and many look like racing snakes that have been on a diet. Happy days.
You can donate to my charity Sustrans at the following address: www.justgiving.com/Graeme-Willgress1