A Travellerspoint blog

May 2014

end of part 1 of the tour data


So stats for the last 7 weeks..to mark the end of part 1 of the tour ..
Distance: 3701km / 2200miles
Total ascent : 46,541m / 152 693 ft
Hours in the saddle: 170hrs

Dodgy WiFi today so that's all. will update more soon

Posted by louisebenn 10:30 Archived in France Comments (0)

day 52 Pech



distance: 98km
Total ascent: 1888m
Hours in the saddle: 5hrs
Terrain: one huge are mountain

Well it is not often one can say they rode through three countries in one day. But today was the day of Spain, Andorra and France..with one huge mountain between me and the end point.

It all started off perfectly..out of La Seu heading towards the border it was perfect riding and very beautiful and quiet foothills to meander through. If the day carried on like this or would be perfect. So of course it didn't..to my surprise as soon as I crossed into Andorra, the road became hugely busy and it seemed to be never ending industrial estates and shopping malls. It did amuse me that they kept showing road map signs for the country that consisted of four roads, but that didn't overcome my dislike of the continuous traffic. One plus point was that it distracted me from the several 12% sections of the road around Andorra La Vella, but other than that it was a case of gritting my teeth and trying to ignore it. Thankfully it eased off further up the climb after Encamp, and I could relax and enjoy the ride and the amazing scenery as it went by. By this stage I was already over 1000m up and the snowy mountains on the side seemed awful close. They were stunning. And it didn't take me long to work out that where I was headed was bound to be in the snow too.

By this stage too cyclist signs had started to guide you up the mountain with gradients, altitude and kms remaining. Though a little pale and small I liked these signs as they were not every km, which meant you had the 'surprise' of getting through the k's quicker than you thought.

And sure enough soon started the hairpins up the final climb averaging about 7%. Quite surreal cycling those bends surrounded by snow. Felt like I should be cold but the climbing and the sun was keeping me warm. I cannot say the same for at the top or for the descent. At the top I stopped for compulsory photos, and to pile on the layers and to grab a some food. But god it was cold. I had to keep stopping on the way down to get blood into my hands again. Luckily the road dropped quite quickly and soon the sun was able to warm me up some. But it was not til Ax ..some 25 km later..that in was able to shed some layers. It was a beautiful descent though through the valleys and a few gorges. It just kept going down and down!

I should mention the borders..which while there were stations and policemen, there was no real controls. I passed into Andorra and into France with no real marker. I had hoped for a flag or something but no. The only difference I could see were that the road was not as good the French side and that the road signs changed. Time to learn a whole new set of warnings.

I did think to stop in Ax for food or a look around but my legs were just warming and to be honest I was not sure how my brain would cope with the switch to French so soon. It would come out as some sort of Fraspanglish and confuse everyone including myself.

So onwards to Pech. Not having any stop at all after such a ride was a bit daft but I was just wanting to get there. The legs would cope..they would moan but they would cope. So here I am..my base now for the next few months. It was really good to have some proper english conversation (and being able to!), the brain and memory is a little fuzzy but its not as bad as I thought. Which is a good job as training starts tomorrow!

Posted by louisebenn 10:21 Archived in Andorra Comments (0)

day 51 stormy rest day


Such a lazy day that I almost forgot that I had to write this..though I have to say there is not so much to write. It was a day of sleep and storms..when it wasn't one it was the other..

I won't bore you by talking about sleeping..although my dreams were quite bizarre..a mix of beaches, snow, demons and ghosts..oh and synchronised swimmers too. The storms were quite something though. There was two rounds, the early morning one which was mostly just heavy rain with a few grumbles..and then there was the spectacular afternoon show. Wow. I went out on the balcony to watch the sky. At the start there wasn't much lightning but it was amazing watching the dark clouds roll in and the thunder grumble and roll. After a while I realised I was crouched on the floor and thought this is wrong..and went got my blanket and resumed my position to watch. The temperature had dropped about 10degrees...and then it all started..bright flashes across the sky followed by what sounded like a massive stomach grumble from the gods above..even including that reverberating feeling. So glad I wasn't riding!

Of course the other activity I haven't mentioned is planning tomorrow..it should be an awesome day..one huge ass massive climb -Port d'Envalira..28km long, peak at 2047m...that should keep me buzy for a little while! Then to France.

Posted by louisebenn 10:09 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

day 50 La Seu d'Urgell


distance: 85km
Total ascent: 1340m
Hours in the saddle: 3hrs 50
Terrain: mountain, then rolling

Today started with something I hadn't seen for a while..the sun!!! I couldn't believe it..it must be about a week since I saw it last. Perhaps today I could get away with a few less layers and be less Michelin manny?! Well let's not get carried away..this is the mountains after all, just ditch the leg warmers (or sausage makers as I like to call them), the water proof, winter gloves and the booties. Leaving 'just' base layer, jersey, wind gilet, track mitts and shorts.

By half 9 it was 20 degrees.

The start of the ride was in theory the easy bit..a potter along the valley to Isona, before heading up the mountain. But boy I was in a grump, and it was hard work getting anywhere. Ridiculously so, so I stopped and checked..and I must have hit the bike at some point in the last day or so as the front brake was rubbing on the wheel. Doh! Fixed it and retightened the bolt to make sure it didn't happen again..but became uber paranoid and was checking it all the time after. Sigh...

Anyway it wasn't til the climb that I settled into the ride and lost the grump..a good mountain climb cures most evils I did notice though that that valley to Isona was amazingly beautiful. The mountain climb too. Almost breathtakingly so. And no that was not just the effect of the sun as by the time I hit a quarter of the way up it disappeared. The lack of the low lying clouds maybe... They were all back up on high where they should be. Actually the whole route today was very beautiful, and even previous days (though I have failed to really spout on about it due to lack of umph). The Spanish Pyrenees may be less well known that their French counterpart but am not entirely sure why. The foothills and their valleys are certainly incredibly beautiful, the snow mountains too. I guess I will see when I do the 'other side' next week.

So back to the climb..ah it was a goodie..it was actually two colls ..the first was a lovely 5-8% with views down and across the valley the whole way. Near the top it levelled off to 3-4%, very nice of it to let me enjoy the view more! There was about 20 or so eagles circling near the road there which was quite daunting..was it me or was there a dead body there or something?? Oh got to love an overactive imagination. After the first col it was down a little and along, before heading back up again to the Coll de Boixols..there was even cyclist signs giving you nice warning of the distance and gradient,7-8% basically. Then the coll sign with a fantastic view over the next valley.

At the mirador, I stopped to take a few snaps and put on my layers again. There was one other cyclist that I had seen ahead going up my way, and two who had come up the way I was going. It was these two that I would play leap frog with the whole way down to Coll De Nargo..much to our amusement and entertainment. It was a fantastic long and smooth descent. Back on the main road north to La Seu d'Urgell...along a lake and then following the river up and through a gorge and valley. After the climb I was happy just to potter along and enjoy the views and the sun which had decided to reappear.

One thing about the descent though..being Sunday the weekend motorbikers were out in force as per usual. What was not the usual was that one guy had come off on a corner just before me and my new friends got there. He had his group with him and they were looking after him, and soon three police cars and an ambulance sped up the mountain. The ambulance siren sounds like a duck and gave me quite a fright when it came round the corner. He was sped off to hospital shortly after. Actually I have seen more accidents or after accidents in the last few weeks than..well ever at home. In Toledo I saw a boy hit by a car after he ran out into the road (he was fine), and in Leon walking into the Plaza Mayor I came across an ambulance and the largest pool of blood on the floor just there. I shared a look with the ambulance guy, while he waited for the street cleaner to come by and hose it away. Not sure I like this new trend.

On a lighter note, my hostal has a fab view over the mountains and I have a nice balcony to sit on and appreciate it. I think I will be pretty much settled in here for today and tomorrow..being Sunday La Seu is pretty much closed down today, and tomorrow is storm day. It's not a bad place to be stuck in though..there is food and beer. They even have a movie channel in the common area and I just caught the end of Dead Poets Society...I have not seen that film in years, but even in Spanish it made me cry.

Oh and today was also my last full day touring in Spain until August, when second half back starts, which is a really strange feeling. It's gone so quick but looking at a map, it's quite a distance covered in that time. I feel like a bit of weight has gone from my shoulders, it has been an awesome couple of months but I am looking forward to a change and not to have my panniers nor any planning for a bit! Though to be fair I still have two days left until I completely stop this part of the trip..tomorrows day off and Tuesdays ride into Andorra and on into France..but I am going to enjoy it today anyway :)

Posted by louisebenn 09:22 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

day 49 Tremp


distance: 82km
Total ascent: 1372m
Hours in the saddle: 3hrs 50
Terrain: 2 half mountains, then along a lake.

Two beers down and I am still struggling to write today's post...I can't really remember today very much at all. Not really sure why, it wasn't a bad day or anything, there is just nothing much in my head. Even writing the terrain part required intense concentration to remember and even now I am not sure that's actually right....

I remember leaving Castejon, straight onto the climb. I remember getting overtaken by a guy who was dancing so light on his peddles I think he was doing this and probably 5 other climbs before breakfast without even breaking a sweat. I noticed I had more layers on than him which made me happy then made me wonder why and question the correctness of my choice of apparel.

I remember, aside from the climbs, always being near water..either a mountain stream or lake, which I like. Rain too. I didn't out run it today.

I remember the 'sprinting' for the Puerto, or rather now the Col, signs thing is still going strong.

And that's about it. Quite odd feeling having very little memory of what you did all day...I wouldn't mind if it had been after quite a few beers but....

Anyway ..Tremp..where I am staying.. seems nice. Small but interesting. It is confusing me with the Catalan though..after getting to grips with the Spanish thing, kinda, its all up in the air with a new language and one that has more in common with French. Time to try switch languages in the brain me thinks.

Weather is set for a down turn again, tomorrow is same as the last few days but Monday is storms. So tweaking the plan slightly so that I don't have to ride that day. It will also give me a chance to make myself more ....presentable aka less smelly and tired (mwhahahahahaha fat chance) for the trip across the border and the start of the mid phase of this trip.

Side note on amusing place names:
- down the road is a place called Gurp
-yesterday there was a village called Gavin, with a campsite..Camp Gavin, and a hotel/restaurant..Hotel Gavin, House of Ham
- near the Pico's de Europa, there were several Poo towns

See.. this is what hours and hours of being on you bike does to your mentality! These amuse me no end, for hours. And to note this is the 'higher' level of the entertainment, there are, I regret to say, far worse...

Posted by louisebenn 10:27 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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