A lightweight fixed-gear bike tour of France and Spain

Spain

We haven´t written anything since Toulouse  because the nature of our journey has changed somewhat. During the first part of the trip we were planning only a couple days ahead and traveling through areas that, although touristy, were still in the off-season and a little out of the way. But now we are on the Camino and we are2 of several hundred thousand people who will complete the pilgrimage this year. This means that finding people to stay with is much more difficult along the route of the Camino. Without people to stay with, it is hard to find internet, and without internet, it is hard to keep the blog up to date, and also hard to find more people to stay with.

We are now on our second day in Spain. From toulouse, we headed West and a little bit South, passing through big pilgrimage towns such as Auch and Pau. Without exception, the roads were hilly, the countryside was beautiful, and every town had a disproportionately high number of churches! When we reached St. Jean Pied de Port, at the edge of the Pyrenees, we really discovered just how busy the Camino would become. The town is the last stop before Spain, but also happens to be one of the major starting points for most pilgrims. We spent one night in town, staying at the publicly funded pilgrim´s refuge. we didnt sleep much because of what we later termed “the snore chorus.” Of the other 8 people we were sharing the dorm room with, 5 of them snored! the next morning, we set off on foot, leaving our bikes and several kilo´s of extra gear behind at the refuge. That morning, we followed the steady stream of pilgrims through the rain and mist, along the camino. There were hundreds and hundreds of walkers. once we had gotten a taste for that, and realized it was not a flavor we enjoyed, we left the camino in search of emptier trails. After getting a little bit lost, we connected a series of pyrenean walking trails over the course of the next two days. We wild-camped both nights. The first night we spent in a field with the most beautiful view. It was surrounded on 360 degrees by steep valleys which rose up in the distance into great mountains, sheep fields giving way to rocks and open grazing lands. Early on the third day, we picked up our bikes, re-packed our gear, and headed over the pyranees. The climb was long, nearly 20km, but not very steep. Compared to the climb we did a few weeks ago out of Clermont-Ferrand in the Massif Central, this was easy. We entered Spain that morning, not that we noticed! There was no big sign saying “Welcome to Spain.” What triggered the realization eventually was that the mailboxes no longer said La Post but El Correo!

We are currently in Pamplona, using the free internet at the public library. Our plan for the next two weeks is to follow the Camino to Santiago de Compostella, then continue on to the coast, to the Cape of Finnesterre.

Hopefully we will be able to post more consistently over that period, as we figure out ways to find internet.

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