It was always going to be a late start leaving Montpelier as we couldn’t pick the bikes up until 11am, nice to have a lazy morning for once anyway. We do still need to get to Lisbon for around July 3rd to sort out boxing the bikes for the flight to Boston on the 5th. It was a case of see how far we can ride before it gets too dark to find a campsite or we get too tired.
Eal’s bike was still skipping one gear and his left pedal had developed a squeak whilst the shop who had replaced my rear tyre forgot to replace the cap on the valve. Not big issues but pretty sloppy job from the friendly guys at the shop which had seemed really good. After about 70 miles we had gotten to Serignan not quite as far as we had hoped but there was camping by the beach and we resolved an early start tomorrow to make up a couple more miles. The camping direction signs kept highlighting the fact it was “Camping Naturiste”.
When we got to the front reception I saw a few old guys strolling around in speedos. Now everybody already knows that mainland Europe is yet to discover the “swimshort” but for some reason I had visions of us entering a nudist campground. This wasn’t helped when we navigated towards our plot for the evening and saw those same guys sun bathing in deck chairs. From a sitting point they looked naked, when one guy went to stand up I almost fell of my bike. It turned out to be a nice place, sort of like a Butlins in the sun, the evening was spent on the beach staring out at the Mediterranean.
An uninspiring but direct day followed, we hopped on the N9 almost all day a primary road made suitable for riding by its proximity to a major highway which runs alongside it the whole way past Perpignan. Not pretty but direct, good to bag some miles quickly for a change.
We had seen the Pyrenees on the horizon for several days. Last time I had seen them was skiing in Andorra 2 years ago, slight difference in temperature this time. The border to Spain is at the top of Col d’Ares at around 5000 feet, I’ve cycled higher before, Hoosier Pass was 11,500 feet. Today however we would be starting almost from sea level, a mammoth task on a loaded bike.
It was sweltering hot. The sweat pouring from face into my eyes and dripping from my nose was causing me more problems than the actual climb. My chocolate bars had melted so I resorted to spooning them over my last bread for sandwiches. Midway up things started getting steep to the point at which your going so slowly clutching onto the handlebars that your defenselless against flies who have free range to buzz around your head and land where they please. Pulling round one bend there was a Col sign which seemed a little too soon to be the top, it was and we were actually only about 2/3rds up.
The final climb and the following descent into Spain left a smile across my face that just wouldn’t budge. Even on a long tour you only have a couple of days like this when there is a massive obstacle in the shape of a day long climb to overcome. When you reach the top still smiling, sun on your back with epic landscapes all around, they tend to go hand in hand with a mountain pass, that’s when you achieve the importance of feeling strong which I talked about. Buzzing.
I don’t really know what to expect from Spain, I’ve been to Portugal/Spain/Spanish Islands over a dozen times but always to the British tourist areas so inland Spain is a bit of a mystery to me, great start though.