A Travellerspoint blog

4 months in...


Not very active last two months plus my garmin dropped 3 days of the raid and a week cycling around Pech..but here's the 4 month data...

Distance: 3,551miles / 5715km
Time in the saddle: 256hrs
Total ascent: 216,932ft/66,121m

Posted by louisebenn 12:33 Archived in Spain Comments (0)



Distance: 48km
Total ascent: 412m
Hours in the saddle: 1hr 15

Well that was a bit of a pathetic day. I didn't realise how pathetic til I looked up and wrote down those stats. In my defence I felt pretty crappy. A flicky light kept me awake most of the night..it was off but it still flicked like lightning every so often. And because of that and probably everything else the last few months I felt absolutely drained. Even the climb which was not much was a struggle. Nothing in my legs to give and nothing to focus my head. It wasn't helped by the fact me knee was hurting..probably a consequence of trying to find and fix the creak on my bike and so putting my saddle slightly out of place...and then of course the creak itself which will I am sure slowly drive me insane before to long if not already.

So anyway the majority of the day was spent checking out Olot. A spralling kinda place, with a huge market going on, windy central streets, and long tree lined avenues out side these.

When tired I don't always make the most logical decisions... well no...there is logic behind the decisions but maybe not enough to justify what's actually required to carry it out. Today's was that I got it in my head that I had to find and go to Carrefour. I had to get a few bits..damn shampoo for one..but for some reason any old supermarket wouldn't do, only Carrefour which was a good 2km or so out of town. So off I wandered...in the mid day sun..passing numerous alternatives..realising half way that I would be limited to how much stuff I could buy (what was I after anyway??) as my dodgy shoulders and back could only carry so much and not a lot at that. But I kept going..on principle now. actually it wasn't so bad. I got my bits and headed back into town and my back and shoulders held up pretty well..except a couple of moments with the more recent left shoulder injury. But that's something..vast improvement to a week ago where even a small shopping bag caused problems with both shoulders and my back. So I'll take that!

Back to my hostal for lunch and a siesta..god I love siestas! They really should have them everywhere! Oh and a much needed proper shower. Little bit less stinky and sticky now. Time was also to rearrange the routes of the next week somewhat. There are so many places I want to cycle (by reputation) around here that its difficult to fit it all in. So from tomorrow I am going to get my ass in gear and start cycling properly..no excuses. By changing the routes..I also have to.

Anyway back to Olot...I'm sitting in the main square now having a beer..( I realised little things like having a time out beer or actually having proper food are actually things I have not got back into the routine of doing. Probs not helping!) Anyway so Olot and Catalonia have quite a different feel to the other parts of Spain (or to Spain..if one is being PC)..its similar but different. I can't quite put my finger on what it is yet..it seems more multicultural, tho the obsession with hams and cheeses is still here. They are immensely patriotic..flags flying everywhere, all URLs end in .cat, Cat generally is in most names. Even the churches differ..the style seems to be to have an octagonal sided tower on them, and while they are the centre of the towns they are not nearly as much the focus. There are no castles as yet either. Both are possibly due to being in the foothills still and it may change as I move out. Here too has the gigantes. I read up about this last night..apparently all towns have their own giants with their own names. The catholic church..wanting to increase their foothold here took over several idioms from the old faiths..giants and dragons being two. and the giants are celebrated in every town across the province. I don't quite get the year thing though..Ribes was 30years, here 125..perhaps Ribes was a bit slow on the uptake?!

But similarities include the love of frozen yogurt. Much to my annoyance as I am sitting here watching the yogurt shop and there is a queue right out the door and almost round the street. They do hot chocolate properly...you have to 'drink' it with a spoon. The love of good pastries, cakes and wee sweetie morsels. Oh I could go on..except I won't, I'm hungry and need to go find a place that serves food early as am not quite on Spanish eating time yet. Tomorrow I will try and find a volcanic cuisine restaurant which is very much something from here. .not that I have seen the volcanoes themselves yet...

Posted by louisebenn 09:51 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Ribes de Freser


Distance: 52km
Total ascent: 657m
Hours in the saddle: 2hr 15
Terrain: up! And of course down!

A consequence of leaving France early is that my first cycle days are shorter and today was the shortest. I did think perhaps to detour back off the route up the Puymorens but it feels odd to go the 'wrong' direction is back to France, plus it would mean going without coffee. What was the final nail in that thought trail was that I realised I was still getting up before 7 every day...why???! No matter the weather it really did seem daft still doing that and I remembered that on the first part of the tour I had learnt to kick that habit after it started taking its toll. Time to nip it in the bud...coffee and breakfast being priorities from now on regardless.

So an easy day...on the N260 again along the valley a little and then up the Collada de Tosada. A fantastic little climb the gradually ascends up along a range of foothills. Its a long old hoik..25km-ish but it evens out at a very civilised gradient and beautiful pristine views to take your mind off what there was. There was not one bit of straight though..25km of wiggles! (And that's a technical term). Very much a cyclist rather than a drivers road..something that seemed to be known as I saw a valley road running parallel which was where all the cars seemed to be. Then there was a fantastic 25km of descent. Its weird I hardly recognise myself now that I love descending..its such a new experience. Granted there are still a few corners which are hair raising but that's usually when my mind has wondered off the road. Or when the corner is hidden in shade..not only is it difficult to see how sharp the corner is but you also fight against the cold..it seriously was dropping a good 15degrees which made for some shivering and some funny noises too! Brrrr

I had also thought that once at my destination of Ribes de Freser I would head on up the mountain from there..either cycling the 8km as far as I could or train to Nuria. However..it being Spain (or Catalan) there was of course a fiesta going on that drew me in! Not really sure what it was all about..there was lots of flags celebrating 30 years of the giants of Ribes..Nuria and Malenic (though some people had obviously been left out the loop and had flags for 28 years of the giants instead). What I do know was that there was a big bandstand with orchestra playing and hundreds of old dears dancing along. Now this is where it was fascinating..the dancing was in circles with hands clasped with your neighbours. If I hadn't known I was in Spain I would have thought I had been transported across the Med to Greece! Greek dancing is slightly more energetic but that might have been more to do with the age of this dancing crowd rather than dance style. Really random music too..almost brass bandy so it didn't really fit. But they all seemed to be enjoying themselves and the younger generations who were not allowed into the dance square were happy enough to sit eat and drink watching all the goings on. I know I could have sat for hours watching it.

My hostal is a fantastically quirky place. My room is about 6 floors up and there is a huge sun terrace just along the corridor with views across the town. Its basic but very friendly..at 19€a pop, I can't complain. (Except that I will have to spend that saved money as I left my shampoo at the last place again ggrrr!)

On a side note..watched the first in the series of Fargo..oh my god! What an awesome series! No idea where it's going to go but it's brilliant! Will have to pace myself with the remaining episodes...

Other random thoughts..
-when is a wood a wood and a forest a forest? What's the difference?
-what actually counts as a flight of stairs? Is it a continuos set of steps or can you have a bend in it ie a flight is between two landings regardless? And why a 'flight'?
Time for Mr Google I think..

Tomorrow I am heading for Olot pretty excited about that..volcanoes!!!

Posted by louisebenn 09:45 Archived in Spain Comments (0)


all seasons in one day

Distance: 87km
Total ascent: 638m
Hours in the saddle: 3hrs 23
Terrain: undulating

Being August I had been expecting to have to get up early and race against the sun and the heat. It seems however that for the moment my enemy is not the sun but the storms and rain.

I changed the plan for today..opting for a slightly longer more undulating route to stretch the legs and to have more of a ride than the original plan which would have been mainly descending.

It started off sunny and blue sky, but at 8am 3/4 of a way up the mountain it's pretty nippy. So the descent of Envalira was a careful one..the cold and wet putting paid to any zooming thoughts. Add to that traffic once you pass Encamp. It wasn't as bad as I remember but then again I was moving a fair bit faster than when I was going up this side. It still wasn't a particularly pleasant experience and I breathed a sigh of relief and was happy when I saw the Spanish border. The change is incredible..somehow the traffic disappears, the road surface is better, there is a larger hard shoulder and the mountains on the sides are pretty pristine with very little if any signs of civilisation.

On to La Seu d'Urgell and then back on the N260 up the valley to Puigcerda. Even the N260..the 'main' road across the Spanish Pyrenees (they call it the Pyrenees axis) was quiet. Some cars going the other way but few on my side. There was hundreds of cyclists going the other way too..ok maybe not hundreds but getting on to one hundred. Strangely mostly in yellow jerseys with a good few loyal Garmin-Sharp fanboys (appropriate for the area as most live down the road). I felt quite in place as I had my yellow wheelers jersey on today.

I will keep the gushing to a minimum but it was a great road..up along a river gorge, with more pristine mountains and foothills and a scattering of untouched villages perched on rock ledges. Going the other way would be awesome as you would freewheel the whole 50km!

Puigcerda was perched on a hill..as seems to be always the case in Spain. a maze of roads and shops and people bustling about. There was a market too for local arts and crafts. As my hostal wasn't opening til a bit later I found a nice cafe on the main square and got some food in..a vegiburger! Oh it was good. I had a potter about and found another little square with a glass elevator to the bottom of the town and a fantastic view right across the valley. Slight blip on that view was the massive dark clouds slowly making their way towards us.

Taking the hint I wandered past my hotel to see if they were open on the off chance..they were. The woman who owns it had seen that the weather was coming in and had opened early for me as she knew I was coming by bike. Bless her. And good timing too..a few mins later the thunder came soon followed by the rain and lightning..and it hasn't stopped since.

I did manage one important thing though before the heavens opened..topping up my mobile phone. It has not been working in France at all..apparently though there is the same company in France as I use in Spain..they don't cross over, so I have had no reception nor mobile data for months. Life feels all complete again now..it was odd having a phone that didn't work. Not that I use it for calls etc as I can use my tablet for that but having Google maps and GPS available is uber handy for city navigating/not getting lost. Normal service is resumed.

Weirdly the storm stopped dead just at the end of siesta time when people were starting to come out on the street again (it clears completely during lunch). How's that for timing!

Posted by louisebenn 08:28 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Port d'Envalira and Soldeu

Distance: 53km
Total ascent: 1809m
Hours in the saddle: 3hrs 50
Terrain: mountain!

Oooof wow what a day!!! Only a short day up the Enivaira and into Andorra but boy do you work for those few km's! I have to say that to start with I was grumbling along..wondering what on earth I was doing cycling and why didn't I just take it easy and do this touring malarky the civilised way??! But as soon as I got past Ax and into the mountains all those thoughts,just faded away and I got lost in the ride. I am not sure why I enjoyed it so much..it's along a buzyish road (Andorra is tax free so a lot of traffic to make the most of the cheaper petrol and shopping)), its not uber tough or uber easy, the sun wasn't out, it wasn't particularly stunning until the last 7km. But it was brilliant and I loved it.

Being a balmy 13degrees for most of it helped, when the sun came out in the last 5 km the temperature rocketed to over 27. I got a lot of encouragement from the cars and motorcyclists going past..lots of thumbs up and 'allez allez allez' being shouted. I only saw two other cyclists strangely..both near the top coming down the otherway both shouted encouragement too. Not that I needed it but it makes me smile and I love the comraderie.

Once past the bend that brings you into sight of El Pas de La Casa and the col itself I have to say I had a huge ass grin on my face. Pas de La Casa is not particularly pretty ..very few ski resorts are..but the whole scene was just incredible. And without the snow it was like a whole new place. How different from the last time where I had to keep stopping to try and warm up and the rocks and greenery were lost to the snow.

Anyway before I lose myself to gushing more about the scenery I will move on..and down to the town of Soldeu where I was staying the night. It is about 8km from the top and unlike many places in Andorra it hasn't completely lost itself to commercialism and still retains some of its own character and charm. I have to say I had little expectations of here..I chose it because its near the col and Andorra is half the price of France. But I like it.

First things first ..food! And making the most of being back nearer Spain a tortilla baguette seemed appropriate. Ah how I have missed that food of hero's! You can't beat it as a refuel and recovery snack. Worked a little too well and after half I had to go back to my room and have a kip!

Before I went I noticed a working cable car up the peak in front of the hotel. So after the kip I headed out to see what was going on there.. Now I learnt several things this afternoon..
- don't wait until the doors are locked before remembering that actually you are not very good at heights and don't have the best track history with cable cars
- if the attendant at the top goes 'ooh well I would be careful now as a storm is coming' you listen and keep the sightseeing to a minimum
- rain, wind and lightning does not make for a happy me in a cable car
All of which resulted in me having a death grip on the safety bars the whole way.

The top was pretty cool though..there was a mountain bike track (they had even customised the cable cars to have bike racks on them), a golf course and a driving range with the best view ever. From what I could see you just whack the ball off the mountain and well that was that! I would loved to have stayed and explored for longer but there is just something about being on top of a mountain in a storm...

So that storm actually went by quite quickly but I am in my room now and it has returned with avengance. Causing me to continually check the forecast for tomorrow when I move on. Its not far..back up the Envalira and then turn off over the Col De Puymorens to Puigcerda but it won't be fun if this torrential rain continues! But most importantly..I will be back in Spain :):)

Posted by louisebenn 08:25 Archived in Andorra Comments (0)

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