Saturday 9th July
León to Itero de la Vega via Carrión de los Condes and Terradillos de los Templarios, Bercianos, Mansilla de las Mulas and Frómista. (Days 20,19,18,17, 16 and 15)
Distance 138.59 km
Max Speed 55.6 kmph
Average Speed 19.4 kmph
Total Distance 5142.23 km
After 3 nights in the Parador it’s time to move on. “I will miss you Parador and the pampering that came too!” Wild camping is going to be even tougher now! We have a plan, I made it ( and trust me I’ve had some serious practice) but strangely they rarely survive contact with me the next day. But actually we want to make Pamplona in 5 days, approx 380 km) to arrive in time for the last day of the running of the bulls. It’s certainly possible because initially the terrain looks fairly benign. It’s the latter days that might be tough. So we’re going to push hard for the first couple of days. TBH the plan is already unwinding since we should have been on the road by 9am. It’s already 9am and we’re only just finishing breakfast.
We finally got going at 0930hrs and by 1430hrs we’ve done about 75km and stop in Ledigos for lunch. It’s fairly flat hence the good mileage but very dull; arable fields follow one after the other relentlessly. We’ve seen alot of walkers and wonder how they stay motivated walking in this heat, with their bergans when the scenery is so dull! After Ledigos we stop in Carrión de los Condes and then Frómista for a drink. Before Frómista we’ve stopped to photograph the endless wheat fields and we see a cyclist coming towards us. He stops to chat. He’s Henry from Belgium (poss 10 years our senior). This guy has cycled everywhere. Not on this trip because he’s only doing Spain and Portugal in his 3 month sabbatical but in the past he has cycled S. America, Shang-hai to Delhi via Tibet, Mongolia, eastern Europe, Western Europe. It’s incredible – in Tibet he was almost crushed in a landslide, survived but his bike and luggage didn’t so he bought another bike for $50 to finish the trip. He takes our photo, we take his and we say our farewells. At no point during this whole interlude did he use his left hand; not when he was cycling up the hill towards us, nor to park his bike, or to get his camera out nor when he finally prepares to leave; it remains firmly tucked into his trouser pocket. This guy has only one hand; how he manages braking and gear changing I don’t know! Incredible.
Our one sightseeing moment today is to stop and admire the Canal de Castilla. An 18th Century canal that provided transportation of crops as well as power to turn the corn mills. It has over 50 locks. From here our last push to the River Pisuerga and an 11 arched bridge, the Puente de Itero, and here’s an Albergue, a 13th Century chapel restored by Italians and they have room for us to camp and a shower to use. We’ve been on the bike for 11 hours with relatively short breaks and we’re pooped. Definitely time for bed said Zebedee! Oh PS, another record broken today… most distance in one day!!!
Sunday 10th July
Itero de la Vega to Villafranca Montes de Oca via Burgos (Days 15,14, 13, 12 and 11)
Distance 93.45 km
Max Speed 67.5 kmph
Average Speed 14.6 kmph
Total Distance 5235.68 km
We are up and start packing up by 0730 this morning, then we have a quick but basic breakfast in the converted chapel. The volunteers that run the chapel all come for a week at a time from a religious order in Italy. First we cycle for 12km and stop in Castrojeriz, a small village, for our 2nd breakfast!! En route we met a Dutch couple on a Hase Pino, Peggy and Ron. Peggy is recumbent on the front, and Ron is upright behind her, Captaining. These guys drove to Spain, dropped off their car and plan to cycle to Santiago then get back to the car and go home yet they’ve got so much luggage on the bike and in a trailer! 7km later we reach Honanas another village where we need to make the decision to stay with the Camino and use a cross country track or take a large detour to get to Burgos. We speak to a couple of people who say it is rocky, not good for us. But when we pop in a shop for a litre of milk to refresh ourselves Daz speaks to the shopkeeper and gets his mind changed again!! So we push up the hill out of the village and soon the road runs out and we are pushing up a crappy gravelly track. Daz rushes ahead and say it turns into a better track at the top, so foolishly we push on. We then spend the next 20 km dodging potholes, soft gravel, walkers and pushing up 2 big hills under the baking sun. Thanks Daz. We finally reach the road again and after another 15 km we reach Burgos. Tired, overheated and grouchy.
We have a look round Burgos but it’s so hot and we’re so tired it’s tough to summon any enthusiasm for the task in hand.
Burgos, a city in Castilla-Leon situated in the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela, still preserves important vestiges of its medieval splendour. The city, which was the capital of the unified kingdom of Castilla-Leon for five centuries, boasts a masterpiece of Spanish Gothic architecture: the cathedral of Burgos, declared World Heritage. Aside from a visit to the historic quarter, you can take a quite interesting walk along the banks of the Duero and Arlanza rivers.
The city of Burgos, crossed by the Arlanzón River, is a few kilometres away from the prehistoric site of Atapuerca, which was declared World Heritage. A military hamlet in its origins, the city slowly became a powerful commercial city in the Middle Ages. A critical factor in this development was that Burgos was the capital of the unified kingdom of Castilla-Leon between the 10th and 15th centuries, its privileged location on the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela and the monopoly it held over the trade of merino wool, also contributed. All that splendour left a profound mark on present-day Burgos.On the foothill of the fortified Castle Hill, which has the best views of the city, the medieval quarter unfolds. Some of the remarkable buildings of this place include the Mudejar Arch of San Esteban and the Gothic church by the same name, which houses the Reredos Museum. Another important temple is the one devoted to San Nicolás, where you can see a magnificent polychromatic alabaster reredos.
But beyond all doubt, the architectural masterpiece of Burgos is the cathedral, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Erected on top a Romanesque temple, the cathedral was built following a Norman French Gothic model. The filigree work in the spires of the towers and in the exterior of the High Constable Chapel, are some of the masterpieces found in this cathedral.
After food and a few hours rest we feel ready to push on and initially cycling along the river Arlanzón is pleasant but then it’s on to the N120 and it’s grim. It’s a Sunday yet the traffic is heavy including artics. The miles stretch on and then the terrain becomes increasingly hilly. We’re struggling to achieve the speed we need on the downhills to give us a fighting chance on the subsequent ups. As we crest each hill we hope it’s our last but each time we see another hill. Finally a gradient warning 3km at 6%… Downhill!! At last. And we’re in Villafranca – the plan was to wild camp on the river Oca but Daz sees an Albergue and wants in. I have a huge problems with Albergues – I don’t want to sleep in a dorm room with 23 strangers. I’m a shit sleeper at the best of times but Daz is used to this and my sleeplessness, but other people; I’ll either disturb them or they’ll disturb me! So I refuse communal sleeping. Daz reports a dorm room is available but under continued requests they allow us to pitch our tent in their backyard, no grass just concrete. But we manage to tie the tent to the fence and I’m happy. Our tent isn’t perfect but it’s our private space and our sleeping mats are so comfy. After a shower we head off for a snack and the Euro final France V Portugal. Congratulations Portugal!!
Monday 11th July
Villafranca Montes de Oca to Najera via Santa Domingo (Days 09, 10 and 11)
Distance 57.67 km
Max Speed 61.0 kmph
Average Speed 20.9 kmph
Total Distance 5293.35 km
This morning we emerge from our cocoon into the concrete jungle of the Albergue’s back yard. Packing up in so much easier when tenting on concrete. BTW we’ve cured our condensation problem in our tent – pitch on concrete! No, just kidding. For the last 2 nights we’ve kept the main doors open. Result: temperature in tent = temperature outside tent = dry tent. Even better, Daz actually feels the chill during the night and then uses his sleeping bag whereas before he was one big sweat monster. Apologies if this solution is incredibly obvious; it wasn’t to us, we read it on Fb. But a disadvantage ( well only in D’s mind), tent is insecure and it’s easy for someone to steal our bags!!! Of course if the doors are zipped closed our tent is as secure as a safe. Not!
After breakfast we cycle to Santa Domingo de la Calzada. A very beautiful pilgrim stop and for us a nice detour off the N-120.
One of the Rioja town’s most deeply marked by the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela is Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Its network of medieval streets, declared a National Historic Interest Site, store a valuable heritage, particularly its walls, the Cathedral and the old Pilgrims’ Hospital. La Rioja’s gastronomy, and above all the famous wines of the region, are some of the attractions the area offers, where it is also possible to visit the cradle of the Spanish language and the monasteries of Suso and Yuso, in San Millán de la Cogolla. At the foot of the Sierra de la Demanda hills and the mountain of Yuso, Santo Domingo founded this town in 1044 to help the pilgrims who travelled to Santiago de Compostela in the Lower Middle Ages. The Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela, which has UNESCO World Heritage status, breathed life into the economy and culture of the lands it passed through and was closely linked to the spreading of artistic and cultural trends. The pilgrims who crossed the lands of La Rioja used to rest on the banks of the river Oja, in the forest of La Hojuela. It was here where Santo Domingo raised a bridge and built a shelter, a hospital and a hermitage, the origin of the town and city (a title awarded by Alfonso XI in 1334). Pedro I “The Cruel” is to thank for the walls which fortify its medieval layout, which has been declared a National Historic Interest Site.
Today we’re determined to relax more. We planned to hit the first few days hard to Pamplona but we’ve exceeded a sensible push and the final 2 hours last night were horrendous.
After leaving Santo Domingo we only have 20km of predominantly downhill cycling to our stop for the day, Najera. We cycle over the river and turn down a nice treelined avenue to a campsite in the former Bullring. Once set up we head into town via the river. We see a huge cliff face on the other side with caves in and a castle on top. Pretty impressive.
The town is divided by the river Najerilla and an exceptionally important monument stands on its banks: the monastery of Santa María La Real. Built in 1032, it underwent a number of modifications in the 15th century. Its fortress-like external appearance constrasts with the ornamental beauty of the cloister of the Caballeros (knights), so-called because of the great many nobles buried here. The church houses a magnificent piece of carving in the choir, a brilliant high reredos with a Romanesque image of Santa María La Real, the Royal Pantheon, bearing the tombs of some thirty monarchs; the mausoleum of the Dukes of Nájera and, in the crypt, the cave where according to legend the Virigin appeared before King Don García, who ordered the construction of the site. Facing the monastery is the Nájera History and Archaeological Museum, with sections on prehistory, the Romans, the medieval period, ethnography and painting, as well as material from the Nájera region. Also of interest is the Santa Cruz parish church and its lantern resting on pendentives, situated in Plaza de San Miguel.
We spend the rest of the evening feeding ourselves, having a few glasses of Tinto Verano and trying to upload the blog. Unfortunately everywhere we go has poor WiFi so we don’t make any progress.
Tuesday 12th July
Najera to Los Arcos via Logrono (Days 08 and 07)
Distance 68.17 km
Max Speed 62.0kmph
Average Speed 14.9 kmph
Total Distance 5361.52 km
In the morning we get up late, knowing we only have 60 km to do today. I’ve had a horrendous night, I woke around 4am convinced I was being eaten alive by some sort of insect. I was itching like crazy and couldn’t stop scratching. I couldn’t see or hear any mossies. For the next few hours I’m constantly scratching. Daz enjoys his lie in but for me it’s just a catch up on last night’s lost sleep. We pack up and see a Spanish mountain dog watching us from a high wall next door. Then we cycle into town for breakfast. By the time we get going it’s gone 12!! The first leg today is to Logrono. We are following the N120 but it’s very peaceful as most of the traffic is on the motorway that follows us. But then the 2 roads merge and now it’s a cyclable autovia down the last hill into Logrono but we make good time and the traffic isn’t too bad. We park the bike near the cathedral and go in search of the tourist info. Some while later, having wandered all around we decide to stop for lunch. I’m having a tough time; the bites from last night which weren’t noticeable this morning erupt every 4 to 5 hours and i’m desperate to scratch. They are now really obvious bumps; about 10 on my face, 10 and my right arm and more on the left. I try taking antihistamines to calm the irritation but the bites still flair every 5 hours!
The river Ebro passes through Logrono and spanning it are two bridges which are used to connect Logroño with Navarre and Álava. The oldest of them is the Puente de Piedra (stone bridge), which takes the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela into the city. Originally (in the 11th century), it was fortified by four arches and three towers. Another bridge, this time made of iron and built in the 19th century, also crosses this tidal river.
By the time we are finished lunch it’s 4pm and most of the bars and cafes are shutting for siesta. We find the tourist info office on the way back to the bike and get a stamp!! Cycling out of town we are now on the N111, another quiet road that should lead us all the way to Pamplona tomorrow. But today’s planned stop is just past Los Arcos for some wild camping. We do stop in Los Arcos to see if we can camp at the Municipal Albergue but the person responsible is having their dinner and won’t be back for some time. So in the end we push on. It’s about 930pm and we have about an hour of daylight left. We end up cycling another 6 or 7 km before finding a cornfield that has been recently harvested. It’s been really windy today; it’s a headwind so we’ve had to remove our flag which is creating huge drag. We pitch our tent in a corner behind some bushes out of site of the road. As we are setting up the tent another of the pole snaps, that makes 4 since Santiago… way to go Vango!!
Wednesday 13th July
Los Arcos to Pamplona via Estella and Puente La Reina (Days 06, 05 and 04)
Distance 60.64 km
Max Speed 65.2 kmph
Average Speed 13.3 kmph
Total Distance 5422.16 km
We awake in the cornfield having had a good night’s rest. I slept better and only woke once with an itching frenzy but at least I haven’t been bitten more. It’s just such a horrid feeling that it’s driving me crazy!
We’ve got about 15km this morning before breakfast in Estella. But we end up stopping outside in Irache. Whilst finishing breakfast we chat with an English couple who have been living in Australia for some years and are on their second walk of the Camino. They mention a font at a nearby monastery that is a little special. Not only does it have a water tap, but a wine tap too!! No way!! So we are soon on our bike, backtracking about 800 metres up a gravelled road to the monastery. Yep, sure enough here’s the Fuente de Vino. It is now looked after by a Bodega, but used to be run by the monks. Each day up to 100 litres of wine are released for the parched Pilgrims! Whilst everyone is getting a sip and having their photo taken at this amazing font I prepare our water bottles for wine!! Unfortunately the dribble of wine is quite slow, so although it’s great for a quick sip it takes sometime to fill our bottle!! The wine is quite tasty too!!
We carry on our journey, and near Maneru come across a stranded cyclist with a bad puncture. He is from Portugal and only heading as far as Logrono then catching a lift. He is struggling to mend his puncture having had 3 attempts, so Daz lets him use one of our patches plus glue. Puncture fixed and good deed of the day done we carry on.
At Puente de Reina we stop at a supermarket and have lunch by the river. My bites are still really bothering me and still no sign of them going down. I’m so tired, I have a snooze on another concrete bench (becoming a habit!) and an hour later drag myself up by the bootheels and face the task ahead… another sodding great climb, 8% for 11 km to the top of the hills separating us from Pamplona. The good news is that once we reach the top (if/when!?) the last 11km is supposed to be all downhill. We manage to grind up in number 1 granny ring without stopping, so we must be stronger than we thought!! At the top the headwind that has been plaguing us all day is very strong. As we descend we’re buffeted left and right making for a very scary ride. But finally we reach Pamplona, well the outskirts anyway and we stop for WiFi and to find accommodation. We are in no fit state to cycle the 10 km to the camping grounds the other side of the city! After 2 abortive attempts we find a bar with sufficient WiFi and luckily find some apartments just around the corner. Even better they give us loads of details about the Running of the Bulls festivities (fireworks, music, parties etc etc) and how to get there. So we are all set. Up early tomorrow and maybe I can watch Darren scream as he hurtles past with a huge bull up his arse!!!
Thursday 14th July
We’ve been pushing hard for the last 5 days to see this spectacle. The alarm goes off at 0610hrs and by 0630hrs we’re getting off the bus in the city centre. Everyone is dressed in red and white; white trousers, red top and red hanky and already the centre is full of people, I suspect many haven’t been to bed. We head for the bull ring and buy our tickets. Inside the arena everyone is in the party mood. We pick our seat; opposite the entrance to the arena and then sit and watch. Various bands march into the arena and keep the crowd entertained. At 0750hrs, it’s the count down to the run. There are 2 large TV screens which shows the bulls who will be running and then the crowds lining the streets, limbering up before the run, the majority crossing themselves (asking God for protection). And then they’re off. Within seconds of the start, hordes of youths coming running into the arena to the jeering cat whistles of the audience; basically they’ve been on the route run by the bulls but right near the end so they’re nowhere near the bulls. Meanwhile on screen we can see mayhem on the screens as the streets narrow, the running lads bottleneck and the bulls charge them down. And then they all charge into the arena. 2 bulls trip and fall taking out a couple of runners but when they regain their feet there’s a lad lying beneath. Blimey, the lightest bull here is 540kg and the heaviest 670kg.
And then that’s it – the run is over. The bulls have run out the either side into the bull corrals. These bulls will now rest before the bull fights tonight.
We think that’s it but how wrong are we! Now young bulls are released into the arena; just one at a time. Lads lie across the entrance so the bull has to jump over them and the freshly released bull charges at the crowd of young lads. It’s common for a bull to ‘catch’ someone and casually toss them aside. It looks effortless (for the bull) but painful for the lad tossed aside. Sometimes a baggy sweatshirt means the individual can’t be tossed aside because they’re hooked onto the horns; this looks really unpleasant and on other occasions a ‘tossed’ individual remains curled on the floor (that’s the advice, once down, stay down) but then the bull decides this is the easiest target and has several more goes. On one occasion a ‘tossed’ individual is attacked a further 4 times. He’s not laughing when he finally staggers away needing medical attention.
They release 6 bulls and then the show is over. I’ve never seen anything like it; it holds a macabre fascination watching people put themselves in the path of danger deliberately!
Then we get a bus home; a nap is in order I think.
The Running of the bulls.
The fiestas of San Fermin are celebrated in Irunea/Pamplona, in the region of Navarra, every year from the 6th to the 14th of July. They have become internationally known because of the running of the bulls, where the bulls are lead through the streets of the old quarter as far as the bull ring by runners.
The fiestas are celebrated in honor of San Fermin, patron saint of Navarra, although the religious aspect would seem to have taken on a secondary role over the last number of years. Nowadays, the fiestas are seen as a mass gathering of people from all the corners of the world and where the partying, the fun and the joy of it all are the most outstanding ingredients.
The Encierro … The Running of the Bulls
The Encierro is the event at the heart of the Sanfermines and makes the fiesta a spectacle that would be unimaginable in any other place in the world. It was born from need: getting the bulls from outside the city into the bullring. The encierro takes place from July 7th to 14th and starts at the corral in Calle Santo Domingo when the clock on the church of San Cernin strikes eight o”clock in the morning. After the launching of two rockets, the bulls charge behind the runners for 825 metres, the distance between the corral and the bullring. The run usually lasts between three and four minutes although it has sometimes taken over ten minutes, especially if one of the bulls has been isolated from his companions.
Chants to San Fermin
The bull run has a particularly emotional prelude. It is when the runners, just a few metres up the slope from the corral where the bulls are waiting, raise their rolled newspapers and chant to an image of San Fermin placed in a small recess in the wall in the Cuesta de Santo Domingo. Against the strongest of silences, the following words can be heard: “A San Fermin pedimos, por ser nuestro patron, nos guie en el encierro dandonos su bendicion.” (We ask San Fermin, being our patron saint, to guide us in the bull run and give us his blessing). When they finish they shout “Viva San Fermin!, Gora San Fermin.” This chant is sung three times before 8am first, then when there are five minutes to go before 8am, then three minutes and one minute before the gate of the corral is opened.
Rockets in the bullring
The third rocket, fired from the bullring, signals that all the bulls have entered the bullring. A fourth and final rocket indicates that all the bulls are safely in the corral located inside the bullring, and that the bull run has ended.
For the rest of the day we catch up on sleep then go out later sightseeing. It seems the whole of Pamplona is dressed in red and white, and out to party this evening, it is a beautiful sight. We hadn’t bought tickets for the bullfight this evening, but as we walk around the Plaza del Toro we get hyped up on all the singing, brass bands and everyone being in a party mood. Some ticket touts try to sell us some overpriced tickets and in the end we go to the official box-office just on the off chance there are some tickets left. €20 each later we have our tickets in our grubby mitts and join the multitude in the arena. A quick order of 2 large gin and tonics (they come in bucket size in Spain) and we take our seats out in the sun on the upper tier. All around people in red and white are dancing to the music being pumped out by about 3 or 4 brass bands in the crowd!! Most the time they are all playing the same Navarran folk songs, but sometimes at different times or tempos… it’s a cacophony of sound. Everyone is drinking and picnicking and it seems the bullfighting is a secondary consideration. At the end of the show we wander the streets and grab some food before wandering up to the area surrounding the old citadel. At 11pm we are sat on the grass watching the last firework display of the San Fermin celebrations. What a brilliant day. This city sure knows how to party.
Friday 15th July
Pamplona to Gubitxa via Zubiri (Days 2 and 3 )
Distance 48.48 km
Max Speed 54.3 kmph
Average Speed 10.8 kmph
Total Distance 5470.64 km
We’re a bit worse for wear this morning and I’m desperately trying to make the most of the 12pm booking out time but some handiman has decided this morning is the time to demolish a wall and drill for England. Every time I’m about to drop off, the noise erupts again. Finally I can take it no more and get up. A quick breakfast and we’re off. We cycle into Pamplona city centre. It’s like a completely different place. Everyone is dressed in normal clothes and the party atmosphere has gone. We find the tourist office to get our stamp, cycle around the cathedral to a beautiful viewpoint of the old city walls and then we cycle out of the city, stopping at Puente de Magdalena and the Puente de Arre and a Basilica church. Then it’s onto the N-135 to Zubiri.
It’s a pleasant and pretty cycle to Zubiri and we stop for a menu del dia. Then we set off again, this is the part I’ve been dreading, the climb up into the Spanish Pyrenees to Roncesvalles. But actually it’s OK. It’s very beautiful and we gently climb to Alto Erro (810m), then drop and later climb again to Alto Mezquiriz (955m). And then we spot a campsite; it’s too good to miss such an opportunity and it’s already 7pm. Roncesvalles will have to wait until tomorrow!
Saturday 16th July
Gubitxa to Laas via Roncesvalles and St Jean-Pied-du-Port (Day 1)
Distance 86.24 km
Max Speed 64.7 kmph
Average Speed 15.1 kmph
Total Distance 5556.88km
We’ve both slept really well and it’s another beautiful day. I’m so pleased as cycling through the Pyrenees will be so beautiful today. One English couple had come through whilst the whole place was shrouded in fog; all that effort for no view. My bites are continuing to plague me, today is their fourth day and they still itch sporadically and have turned into really nasty hard lumps.
Cycling update: yesterday we had an offer on the tandem. It’s from a recumbent dealer in Thetford, we’ve been in discussion with him since León and yesterday he made us an offer. In order to force his hand we said we wanted it agreed and despatched whilst in the midi Pyrenees housesitting.
We have breakfast in the campsite cafe whilst the tent dries and then cycle up to Roncesvalles. It’s so beautiful. Quaint hillside villages with chalet style houses bathed in sunshine with a backdrop of mountains. In Roncesvalles we stop for a stamp and a few pictures and then head off to the Pass de Ibaneta at 1055m. We stop to admire the view from this high point.
Then it’s down the other side. Sadly on the way down the other side we miss the border from Spain to France… going too fast me thinks and then we arrive in St Jean-Pied-du-Port.
What a beautiful town. So we’ve completed the Camino Francés in 12 days of cycling, or 15 days in total. We get another stamp from the Pilgrim’s office and then have a photofest with our completed passport. Unfortunately no certificates issued for completing it in reverse. 27,000 people have passed through this town and registered for the Camino this year. It’s an incredible number and doesn’t include the thousands who join late to complete 100km walking or 200km cycling and still qualify for a certificate in Santiago.
After some lunch, yummy French food, we head off. It’s still quite hilly but we set an easy pace and just enjoy the views. It’s really so beautiful. In Sauveterre de Bierne we stop at a supermarket for our dinner, a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and some milk. We’re eating our dinner outside the supermarket door and a French lady and her daughter stop for a chat. They love our bike and are amazed by the distance we have come. They offer us a bed but unfortunately they’re in the wrong direction but instead they take all our details. It’s so lovely when people are this excited by our journey. Another 12km and we find a spot by the river to camp.
Laas to Pau
Distance 65.99 km
Max Speed 61.9 kmph
Average Speed 13.7 kmph
Total Distance 5622.87 km
Well it was certainly a 5* wild camping spot. We don’t even wake until 9am. Leftover milk and brioche from last night’s supper and off we go.
There’s a market on and it’s very busy. We head off enjoying the Pyrenees in the distance and the beautiful countryside but then it flattens out and the road becomes busier so it’s not as pleasant. Around 3pm we get a puncture and whilst Daz fixes it, I dry out the tent which was soaking this morning (yes, even with all the doors open).
Monday 18th July
Pau to Masseube
Distance 81.4 km
Max Speed 77.0 kmph
Average Speed 17.8 kmph
Total Distance 5704.27 km
After breakfast we head into Tarbes. The route is so dull and hot. In Tarbes we spot a Lidl’s and Decathlon on the same estate. First a snack sitting at the front of Lidl’s
and then Decathlon. We want a new tent. The condensation in ours is terrible, it’s really heavy and since I fell on it 2 of the 3 support arches have snapped and are covered in masking tape. We look at their tent selection and then start setting up a tent in the store.
It’s so embarrassing when an assistant explains that outside all the tents are erected and on display. Whoops!!!
After a quick cycle through Tarbes to see the sights and then cycle into the park.
Then we cheat and get the train to Lannemezan. Our last train journey with the tandem.
After stopping for a sandwich in Lannemezan we decide to contact our hosts Bernadette and Howard asking if it’s OK to turn up early. It’s 5pm and there’s still over 43km to do but it’s a doddle. It’s mostly flat and downhill, beautiful arable land to look over and then we’re in Castlenau, 25km done. Only 18k left. We stop at the supermarket for milk and some snacks and once again sit outside the shop like 2 pikies. And then we’re off again. And we arrive in Masseube at about 7.30pm. Bernadette and Howard can’t believe how quickly we’ve cycled from Lannemezan and we’re rather impressed too! We’ve also set a new record for our fastest speed, 77kmph, but this is our last ride on this tandem. So an end to an era for us. We unpack, sort out our gear and shower. Then we sit and catch up with Bernadette and Howard (B&H). It’s an odd thing but we’ve only met them twice before. First at a music night in Castlenau where they overheard us talking about workaway and wanted to know more and then before we left the midi Pyrenees we popped in to say ‘Hi’ and because I wanted to see their new home. They have an incredible Basque house right in the middle of Masseube, next to the village square. Yet despite only 2 brief visits it’s so relaxing to be here, I feel as if i’ve known them forever. Actually as I write this, I realise it’s completely inaccurate – there are people I have known for years, some I’m related to, and spending time with them is far from relaxing and of course because I haven’t known B&H for years I have no real idea of the fascinating past they’ve had. They’ve had some incredible experiences!
Tuesday 19th July – Masseube
This morning after an incredible good night’s sleep we have breakfast and then wander into the village to look at the market and then stop for coffee. We return and start preparing their upstairs bedroom, we need to paint the ceiling, it’s covered in water stains. We also do some work on the tandem, dismantling it into its component parts.
In the evening we’ve been invited to supper with some friends of B&H, Dennis and Tracey. They live just outside the village. We have a lovely meal sitting in the garden, play petanque (yup Daz wins) and have a tour of the house. It’s a very pleasant evening.
Wednesday 20th July – Masseube
I put more coats of paint on the discoloured ceiling whilst Daz packs up the bike and arranges UPS – the tandem will go Friday.
Bike being dismantled:
Then we start preparation for our next chore; there’s brown wood everywhere in the house but it’s overwhelming in the lounge because there’s dark brown wood panelling. Bernadette wants it painted white to brighten the room. It’s not the final colour scheme but an interim stage whilst the final colour scheme is decided.
Thursday 21 July – Masseube
Daz paints the lounge panelling and now that the stained bedroom ceiling ( which has probably had in excess of 10 coats applied to the stained areas) finally looks white, I can tidy up and return the furniture. I also help Howard construct the large wardrobe. I’ve also tried to put together a bed in the other room but the parts don’t fit together. In the evening we head to Tarbes (B&H lent us their car but didn’t want to join us) for a horse spectacular. OMG these guys on horses are so incredible!
Friday 22nd July
Daz finishes the lounge panelling.
Bernadette and I work in the cellar, photographing furniture that she wants to sell and moving stuff around to make more space. Then we prepare another bedroom for painting. Today UPS pick up our boxed tandem. It’s a relief but we’ll be even happier when it’s received in the UK and paid for.
In the evening we’re visiting Kerpal and Andy, friends of B&H. They have a beautiful house and Kerpal has cooked an amazing Indian meal. Very tasty! Another lovely evening.
It would be fair to say B&H have totally embraced our presence in their home. Each day we all sit down together for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
They are really interesting and desperately want to look after us; so much so that they would’ve cancelled their supper dates but fortunately on both occasions their friends were happy for us to come along. We have been so busy and whilst we’ve been working Dan (a local builder who’s highly regarded) has also been here plastering and doing other jobs for B&H, so it’s been pretty chaotic and exhausting but not once have their spirits flagged! It’s also been very educational (I won’t elaborate, but B&H I’m sure you understand) and the way they cope with everything is truly inspirational and personally I feel truly honoured to have had this time with them!
Saturday 23rd July
Today we paint the bedroom we’ve prepped. TBH this sucks because the upper border is bright blue as is the weird blue chimney panel and there are stains on the ceiling. I’m really doubting whether we’ll get enough paint coverage but as awful as it looks initially, by the time we’ve done 3 coats on the blue, it’s really starting to look so much better! B&H are off to a wedding so we have the house to ourselves.
BTW did I mention this is our dream home. A beautiful, characterful house; it’s Basque don’t you know, on a significant plot of land right in the middle of Masseube. So it would be like having a lovely private country home but slap in the middle of Masseube.
Sunday 24th July
Today is our last day with B&H. Daz does a few more coats of paint in the blue room and then we put all the furniture back.
Then I do the internet adverts; selling the furniture and ornaments I photographed. So everything is done. Daz and I go off to the bar and then have a stroll round the village. There’s a pool, river, sports grounds, so much to do! We’re really impressed by Masseube. Definitely a place that ticks a lot of our boxes for when we come to settling down.
So after 7 months we’re back where we started but at least now we’ve got 5700km under our belt. However we now have no bike. We are undecided about how we should continue our travels. We feel that the adventure will continue, but the tandem definitely had to go. But now our thoughts are on the way forward; 2 trikes and continue cycling, 2 normal bikes and continue cycling, backpacking in India or S America, workaway or house sitting in other continents, crew on a boat?? Or any other alternative!! Dilemma!! At least “AnyWhichWayYouCan” is living up to its name!!
But for the next 10 days it’s time to relax by the pool and enjoy some downtime. And our great friend Jac Webb is coming to visit too, how fab!