A lightweight fixed-gear bike tour of France and Spain

Pamplona and Rain

In the night and day since we left Pamplona we have met with some big differences from our time in France. The first has been the roads, because of the nature of our touring and the style of the French road system, we were often on county single lanes or very quiet district roads. However, in Spain we are following a major route, for walkers, but also for cars, trucks and buses: it’s a connect-the-dots journey from major location to major location across northern Spain and has been for 1000 years. Yet only in the last several years (certainly since after 2004, for our Cicerone guide is bit out of date) have many of the roads become a struggle for cyclists or entirely impossible. This we discovered when trying to leave Pamplona. The road our book had reccomended to take had been converted into an autovia, the largest kind of highway in Spain. The trouble is, all traffic leaving town is funnelled onto that road. We found ourselves on the begginning of the road, and not only did it feel very unsafe (there were already highway stile exit and entrance ramps), it is also illegal for cyclists to ride on autovias. So we got off at the next exit and found a triangular route, which was considerably longer, and also went over the mountain that the autovia takes a tunnel through. The wind was incredibly strong, we had trouble making any headway at all. Partly because of the wind, we started looking around for a place to stay. Several places were full, so we started looking got a place to camp. We took a dirt road to a chapel slightly off the route, bit the area was too flat to offer shelter from the wind or eyes peering from nearby houses. We went into the 12th century church, it was a small irregular octagon with a matchingly irregular domed roof. All the windows were alabaster, not glass, and were glowing in the setting sun. Our book didn’t mention that there was anywhere to stay bit we had seen signs for a bathroom. Sure enough there was a tiny pilgrims’ refugio, and the German couple who ran it said there were two beds left and if we hurried we would have time for showers beofre dinner. Dinner was delicious, and the couple were very generous.
The next day we started off on a gloomy looking morning, and we waited in the nearby village for a rainshower to pass. It I’d, but returned shortly, even stronger. In four hours we biked for just an hour and a half, and spent the rest of the time hiding out under bridges and bus stops. We are really spoilt, This is our first day bikig in the rain. In the end, we did 30km of the 80 we had planned. In the first big town we stopped to buy a bunch of things we needed, but it was pouring the whole time. We checked into a youth hostel and waited for the rain. It stopped at about 6 and we explored town. We are now a day “behind” but since we have no schedule it makes little difference.


One response

  1. Susie

    What towns and churches on the Camino have you passed through and visited? Would love to follow your route!

    May 8, 2011 at 11:06 am

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