A Travellerspoint blog

relaxing in Pech


Rain always seems to always come when I am in Pech and am begining to think I bring it with me. Having been cooped up in a van for a week or so, I am pretty keen to get out on the bike, loosen the legs up and get some fresh air. I have managed a couple of rides out so far..one up to Ax 3 domain and up along the Route de Corniche, second back up to the Route de Corniche for lunch with a friend of mine. Gradients on the climbs swinging between 8 and 13% which seem less of a challenge after the Angliru's monsters. Hopefully the sun will come out more later in the week for some longer rides out. But for now I am happy to make the most of the rain and spend my time sleeping and recouping after a non stop 3 weeks (plus of course the touring weeks before). It's sooo nice to be in one place and to be able to control what I eat and do. The place feels so like home that I caught myself looking forward to see my cat there when walking back from the village! The home feeling in general is something I am definitely appreciating ..such a difference to hotel living. Little things like having orange marmelade (not really a Spanish nor French thing), and even being able to potter around the gite doing domestic things like cleaning and such. I am not domestic at home but after 11 weeks it is nice to do something so normal. I get this on the road a little too..flaffing around cleaning and rearranging the back of the van is great therapy and becoming a relaxation technique for me plus it's a way to get some time to myself.

Aside from that I have time to check over the route for when the touring starts again..it is over a month away but I have only one or two free days in that time. My friend up the hill here has a place in Tortosa, so she has been giving me some great advice where and where not to go in Catalunya/Catalonia.

There is also time to look back at the last couple of weeks which were all a bit of a blur going through. The last week especially was eventful..to put it in perspective here are the weeks events for each:
My Raid: rain and more rain, and the Aubisque being closed.
Pico's: I broke the guy in charge's bike (luckily easily fixable). On the transfer morning @5am not being able to find the key for the lock for the trailer and the guys spending half hour sawing through the chain to free it, only to realise 5min later that the keys were in fact attached to one of their bags....doh!
Second Raid events...continual garmin nightmares, 4 punctures, 2 broken spokes (3 if you count the spare), one kinky chain, one bleeding man, two mountain driving detours, one smashed bike, two van break downs, one dog bite, one stalker.

Apparently its the most eventful trip they've had for a while by any standards...a great training week! ;) But all in all it's been great fun and has taken me to the most amazing places and scenery.

Right time to get back to slouching on the couch and watching the Michael Jackson celebration on the French music channel...bliss.....

Posted by louisebenn 02:38 Archived in France Comments (0)


Random drabbles


lessons learnt and random thoughts from the last few weeks:
- being nice to people all day every day is tiring
- as is driving hundreds of kilometres day after day,
- parking badly is the way to go
- mountain animals are far too friendly for their own good.
- too much driving on mountains leads to lying in bed at night still swaying side to side with the echos of all the bends
- never trust shortcuts around mountain passes. Something will always occur.. be it insane roads and tight squeezes or bike accidents.
- in a battle of bike vs bollard - bollard wins.
- carbon fibre really is worryingly thin and brittle. See previous.
- new garmin models are rubbish, spent far too much time trying to get them to work last week than anyone should have to
- I can't wait to go back to Spain again..it's only been a week but I miss it. France just isn't the same.
- I miss the Spanish tour generally, though am enjoying the hiatus.
- after 11 weeks on the road, being in never ending hostals has finally led to waking up in the middle of the night and having absolutely no idea where I am anymore. It's very disconcerting.
- The littlest things can make the world of difference to people
- I had the strange experience of being stalked last week. Very odd and a little worrying, but very sweet to see the guys I was with become so protective.
- there is always a way
- being tired to the bone is a great way to overcome normal worries like talking in front of a groups, heights, and generally anything other than getting done whatever it is that has to be done. Wine and beer also helps.
- an 'eventful' week/trip leads to great stories.
- on meeting a fellow from the south west with a west country accent, I felt quite strangely nostalgic for home and wanted him to keep talking.
- the Angliru is a complete bastard monster of a climb but I am strangely now thinking of ways to go back and try to beat it. Sucker for punishment me.

Posted by louisebenn 11:02 Archived in France Comments (0)

Raid Pyrenean day 2 -5

all seasons in one day

Oh blimey..it's non stop.,no time for sitting about writing anymore it seems.

Let me do a recap of the raid before it gets too far away..already its blurry..due to either tiredness or just feeling the need to blank it from my memory. Garmin lost my data too so only vague figures here. Ok so where did I get to? Day 2..

Day 2:
So new official route sans the Aubisque was to do the Marie blanc instead. So we would head back up the valley, do the Marie Blanc, Soulour and then the Tourmalet. I have to say I have a complete blank for the Marie blanc..there is nothing in my head for it at all. I imagine Rod made me up my pace the whole mountain though. Soulour was different though..up through the valleys, the round a corner and there was the most amazing sight of the Aubisque in front of us. The first snowy mountain visable. It was awesome, and there was a huge ass grin on my face as we headed toward it. Soulour is a toughie but the vista makes it worthwhile. So does the entertainment at the top...uber friendly goats and donkeys who tried to eat everything. They did draw the line at our toy marmot as they didn't seem to sure about that. Graham (leader) had a fan and was followed continually by a lady goat..
Then up to Tourmalet. By this stage it was hot. Rod left me to go his own proper pace (I knew I was slowing him down) so I was left along to bouce over the rubble and ruck that is the west road avoiding the tractors and heavy machinery. The whole thing is roadworks..it's horrendous. Apparently it's been like that since last year when heavy rain plus snow melt just took the road away. They are fixing it but there is a lot to do. Passed a friendly fully packed tourer on the way..very cheery fellow. Turned out that he was doing across the Pyrenees then the Alps in 100 days!! What a loon! In the end the Tourmalet wasn't shut and our van was able to get to the top. Unfortunately this meant he wasn't where I thought he was going to be to top up my water so it got scarce. It also got hotter. The roads got worse. By the time I got to the top Graham and Rod thought I was uber excited and hyper at being there..when in fact it was more like uber dehydration and lack of sugar. They gave me five mins to 'rest' to go back down the other side.
In that time though we watched three French guys in Lycra fanny about with their car..one came over and congratulated me on the climb, and then went back to his friends to pose in front of the col sign. Something was a little odd to me but I couldn't work it out so I asked the others. It seems that these guys had DRIVEN up the Tourmalet, did the photo by the sign then jumped on the bike to ride the descent!?? So not allowed! There must be a rule somewhere against that sort of thing...

Anyway when it came to Rod and I descending it all went a bit pear shaped..I had a panic attack on the first corner after looking at the bends and the thick fog, and started to hyperventilate. Not what you need when you have 25km down to go. Eventually I got myself under control and slowly headed down, taking lots of breaks on the way. About Two thirds of the way down, I was watching Rod cornering and realised his technique was different, so I asked him about it..and so came about my descending revelation. After that point descending was AWESOME!!! Why does no one tell you things like this before! Totally like my eyes have been opened to a whole new world.

That day ended up being over 100 miles and 4100m. So there is a new ascent rule that over 4000 is freaking insane!

Day 3
Meant to be a slightly easier day after day 2, but of course it never works that way. There were several small cols..a couple with a bit or two in them, a gentle down then in theory a gentle up for 28k. These were lovely climbs. But i woke up feeling horrible, but kept going until my spanish industrial ibroprufen, at maxed out levels, kicked in. All fine until about 50k to the end, when I felt awful. Well and truely awful. My legs worked but my head felt like cottonwool. That last 28k felt worse than any col we had done..it was hideous. We were all zombies at dinner.
3110m ascent

Day 4
Felt even worse as no sleep. Cold had gone to my chest so I sounded like Darth Vader when I breathed, and even worse when I spoke. Today was getting back to more familiar territory..I was heading to Ax. Couple of cols first, a long lunch at Ax then up the col Pailheres..another long and hard climb (many say harder than the Tourmalet). It was a nice climb but god I felt awful and have to say I was swearing something bad by the time I got to the top..especially when Graham was taking photos..not what you need when you feel like death warmed up!! It was a beautiful day so there was awesome views across the snowy mountains. And also down the fantastic set of hairpins down the other side.

As the bulk of the hard work was done Rod and I decided to be sociable and to potter along the remailing three cols and hangout with the others who were just behind us. The descent off the last col was the most amazing yet..a beautiful valley with picturesque villages and gorges, and long sweeping roads. I have to say that this was the first time I truely enjoyed myself on the trip.
3400m ascent

Day 5
Aim of the day to get to Cabere by 1pm for the 100hour cut off. It started with a gentle descent..we spotted lost of cyclist, camels, and tigers on the way. We finally reached the coast and the fantastic sea which we followed south. Drinks and champas at the end. The rest of the day perhaps unsurprisingly was a blur..we got certificates and badges, there was food and more booze...and much much needed sleeping.

Lay in..ish ..ok til 8. Breakie then loitering in the cafe to say goodbye to the my group who were an awesome lot. Then more loitering til the raid a day behind came in, watched their celebrations. Then helped pack up the van for our drive back up north to Toulouse. With last min plan change we were also taking 6 clients from the just arrived group back too. Along with their beery breathe and several cases more of beer. It made for 'entertaining' trip. After 4 hours driving to Toulouse it was time to change vans and company and drive another 3/4 hours back to Hendaye to crashed the night.

Next morning was 2 hour drive to Bilbao, to pick up clients then another 3 hours to Potes and the Pico's de Europa. Needless to say a little bit exhausted by this stage, lergy still hanging about too. But hey ho...all character building no?
On the plus side I was back in Spain, and really glad to be too. I may not be cycling but its good to be here..and this time the weather seems to be letting me actually enjoy the view. And what a view.

So that brings us up to date to yesterday...this trip seems much more relaxed than the raid, a lot more booze flowing too...an actual holiday holiday for these people!

Posted by louisebenn 09:52 Archived in France Comments (0)

Raid Pyrenean mini update



So I was going to update daily on the RP trip but lack of WiFi foiled that plan and I am now on the eve of my last day of the trip so that kinda went to pot. There is still a matter of getting to the coast and along tomorrow but the majority of the work has been done...and boy do I feel it. I will write properly in the next say or so with the stats and that..they are quite impressive or insane, most likely the latter. Basically so far has been four days of over 100miles and over 3000m ascent each day. One day..the one where the route had to be changed we even went over 4100m ascent. There has been wind, cold, rain and baking hot sun. Ther's been blood, sweat and tears. Am I enjoying it? That's a tricky one..enjoyment is not really the right word for what you get from this trip..it pushes you to the edge physically and mentally and what you get back is not enjoyment per se but more a sense of accomplishment...and if weather allows, fantastic views. Plus points also that after falling back to descend-a-phobia on the second day, I have learnt how to properly descend (finally!!!) and am now absolutely loving going down these fab mointains.

I think though that after this is finished I will be very glad to put the bike away for a couple of weeks and recover and I will probably need to.

Posted by louisebenn 13:43 Archived in France Comments (0)

France and the Raid Pyrenean (day 1)

all seasons in one day

distance: 160km
Total ascent: 2200m
Hours in the saddle: 6hrs
Terrain: undulating

You will have to forgive any nonsensicalness that may be written below..it's been a heck of a day and am shattered!

But I don't want to get ahead of myself..what's been happening since I posted last..lots! My poor brain and body went from having seven weeks of planning and cycling and fairly limited socialness..to pretty much class rooms, lots of learning and being with people all the hours of being awake. Quite a change to the old routine. But it's been fun and the guys are lovely. Highlight being the outdoor first aid training where one afternoon was spent 'killing' your first aider, screaming and generally hurling oneself on the ground playing dead. Brilliant stuff. Another highlight was nice normal food..oh have missed it..and cereal!! I must have eaten my weight in cereal the last few days. Hmmmmmmmmm yum. I also have now an increased wardrobe including a fleece..soo nice to be warm.

Then yesterday myself and the leaders for my Raid Pyrenean left Pech for Toulouse and then on to Hendaye for the start of the trip. Not really sure about Hendaye..,it was Sunday so it was all shut up, which was frustrating. Until I realised that in Spain things are open Sunday..so I walked 100m across a bridge and bobs your uncle..Spain and an open grocers shop! God I love Spain! I miss it, I haven't learnt the French ways so they seem funny and am failing in my switch in language (it's lucky that many French in the Pyrenees speak Spanish!).

When I got back we had a quick trip briefing, and met the others cycling. I am the only girl which is awesome..I get my own room..yay! I should probably quickly explain the Raid Pyrenean and why I am doing it...the Raid is a hundred hour challenge to cross the Pyrenees west to east coast as close to the Spanish border as possible. It has a set route across the famous cols and the distance and total ascent is fixed in order to complete it..though more on that in a bit. I am doing it, not so much for the challenge but for a way of crossing the mountains with support and without my panniers.

Today therefore started on the west coast and headed across the French Basque country. There were no huge cols but rather a few smaller ones and a gradual rise in elevation in between..hence the 'easy day'. It was not..as we left Hendaye the heavens opened and we cycled in torrential rain for pretty much most of the morning. Descending was not fun and two of the guys slipped off and got themselves some road rash as a consequence. It did stop eventually but no sun so we were riding in soaking wet clothing. God it was cold. It only warmed up on the biggest col of the day which not only was a half mountain but also the sun came out to make us sweat through our waterproofs. It stayed dry the rest of the day thankfully. Undulating though the valleys all the way home after that.

I have a cycling buddy already called Rod..we trash the other guys up the climbs. I get the feeling he could trash me too but likes the company..or the fact I have a garmin with the map of the route on it. It's most likely the latter.

We left Hendaye at 9am and got to wherever it is we are now at about 6pm. A whole day in the office plus some. We're all pretty tired and have just demolished a 4 course meal.

Tomorrow is a tough day..tackling the Aubisque, Soulour and Tourmalet. However, we were just told that there have been avalanches/road slips on the two biggies..Aubisque and Tourmalet. The former is now closed to road traffic and bikes as they have not been able to cear the roads. The latter is open just to cyclists. So we will have to have a new plan..the Raid officiating body has put forward an alternate route (so distance and ascent is matched) avoiding Aubisque. At the moment it sounds like we will be doing more miles and ascent because of it. A tough day just got that little bit tougher.

Posted by louisebenn 12:53 Archived in France Comments (0)

(Entries 56 - 60 of 118) « Page .. 7 8 9 10 11 [12] 13 14 15 16 17 .. »