Mark’s Pyrenees Trip: Days 5 to 8

It’s now getting very very warm in the Pyrenees, but our intrepid bikers are soldiering on, fuelled by pizza, Thai food, and ice cream (and beer, needless to say)….

Update: Brian and Jamie have kindly added some photos to the original post, to compensate for Mark’s somewhat sparse photographic collection….. their additions have been labelled accordingly….

Day 5 (Wednesday 26 June)

The next morning arrived, bright and sunny, just as promised. A short walk down the street found our new breakfast place, actually right next door to yesterday’s place, which was closed. The proprietor spoke a little english and between us we managed to procure pots of boiling water, cue the Yorkshire tea bags we brought along for just such an occasion!

Toast was ordered to go with the tea and fairly soon we were ready to set out towards our destination for the next two nights, Miranda de Ebro, a town towards the east and halfway to the Pyrenees.

We set off through the mountains and fairly soon came across a rockfall which had closed the road; a diversion had been set up which took us on a 45 minute detour up some of the steepest, narrowest roads we had yet encountered. We eventually rejoined the original road about half a mile from where we were forced to turn around! It was by now getting really warm and by the lunch stop the temps were around 36 C.

Jamie’s photo: trying to keep cool

Jamie’s photo: on the road to Miranda

After a hot afternoon’s ride, punctuated by the obligatory ice cream pit stop, we arrived in Miranda de Ebro around 4pm. This gave us chance to shower and change, then go to a LeClerc hypermarket (french supermarket chain, enjoyed by Jo and I) to buy cold beer to put in the hotel room fridge. Jamie and I went on the mission whilst Brian relaxed in the air-conditioned cool of the hotel room.

Jamie’s photo: the Spoils from Leclerc

After testing out a few of our purchases, it was decided to head into town for food. Strangely, the town had a good few bars, but not many were serving food. In desparation we settled on a pizza place. We were the only 3 in the place. We ordered our food and the girl gave us a bit of paper and said ours was order 11; when the food was ready it was placed on the counter and she called out “number 11”, bizarrre really as we were still the only 3 in the whole place! We ate number 11 and then walked around the town centre, stopping in a couple of bars on the way back to the digs. Time for a sleep. I was sharing with Brian for the next 2 nights , so earplugs were needed!!

Having forgotten to take photos today, the pics are from yesterday’s Flintstones fun:

Day 6 (Thursday 27 June)

Thursday morning was hot as soon as we arose, last night the temp was still around 32C at 10.30 at night. Today’s objective was a circular route through some mountains to the south of us. Breakfast was in the hotel cafeteria: there was a deal on whereby a coffee, orange juice and a pastry or sandwich could be had for 3.95 Euro. Soon after breakfast we got on the bikes and set off, after a bit of a faff following the sat nav, we eventually found our way out of town onto our route.

The first few miles were all main roads until the smaller, twistier roads began. The route took us on some great roads past a large reservoir, we then carried on towards another reservoir, which inundated a small town when constructed.

The road surface deteriorated until it was hard to tell which was the original surface as opposed to the repairs! This carried on for about 25 miles (felt like 50 , the amount of shaking and jarring we got), until we rejoined a main road with a surface like a formula 1 track, bliss, the curves were a biker’s dream and we really enjoyed leaning the bikes down around the bends.

Lunch was in a town on our route and consisted of a picnic of bread, cheese and cold meat bought in a local shop . Then off again on the way back to the hotel. Evening meal was found in the town, in a restaurant which was just opening when we arrived at 8.30. It offered a set 3 course menu for the reasonable sum of 12.50 euro, plus a bottle of local Rioja wine.

We found it difficult to believe how the place made any money with the staff cost etc whilst charging those prices. We were the only 3 folk in a great big restaurant! We eventually returned to the digs for a well earned sleep.

Jamie’s photo: Brian and I relaxing (watching ACDC on Youtube)


Day 7 (Friday 28 June)

Today’s objective was to reach Jaca, a town in the Spanish Pyrenees. Jamie and I had visited on a previous bike tour in 2011, but it was all new ground for Brian. Breakfast was taken in the hotel cafeteria, and pretty soon we were on our way. Our route took us to the south of Pamplona, along some fantastic roads. We found our lunch in a supermarket, sitting outside in the shade with our picnic.

By now it was really getting hot, over 40C in the afternoon. It was the first time ever on a bike that it seemed cooler to ride along with my visor closed rather than leaving it open. It was like having a hair dryer pointed at your face. Needless to say, ice cream pit stops were needed!

We had talked about doing a couple of scenic loops away from our intended route, but by now it was so hot that this idea was abandoned in favour of an air conditioned room and a shower. We found our hotel without much of a problem, it was a nice place in the centre of town with secure bike parking and a swimming pool!

The town was busy at night, there was some sort of festival taking place, so the streets in the Old Town were full of people. It was still really warm at night, even by 11.30 the temp was still 36C. We found a really nice street cafe / bar , which just happened to serve ice cold Mahou beer plus it had a small selection of thai dishes on the menu —- very nice too! Returning to the hotel later on we were glad of the air conditioning after the heat of the town . Earplugs again for me , I was now sharing with Chainsaw Jamie !!!

Another day where I forgot about photography! I know – let’s rewind 8 years: here’s a youthful Jamie with Pete Wallace on the road to Jaca…

Day 8 (Saturday 29 June)

With the weather still fantastic, we arose for another day of discovery. We had planned a loop over the border into France, taking in a couple of Cols that have regularly featured on the Tour de France route. Breakfast was purchased in a cafe bar less than 100 yards from the digs, coffee and sandwiches.

We then headed out on the ride. With temperatures climbing , we were glad to gain a bit of altitude in the mountains, the scenery was amazing and we passed several ski resorts on our way up. The border into France was marked only by a change in tarmac and a road sign. We stopped in the car park at the top to take in the views and snap a few pictures:

With it being a Saturday, the road was fairly busy and the descent down the French side was fairly slow, with farm vehicles, motorhomes and general sightseers, plus the obligatory cyclists filling the roads.

The plan was to ascend the Col D’Aubisque, turn around at the summit, then down to lunch in Laruns ( a place Jamie and I had good memories of from 8 yrs ago ). Arriving at the busy summit car park, we spent a few minutes admiring the views before descending for our lunch stop.

Jamie’s photo: at the col

Brian’s photos: at the col

Even now at over 5000 ft it was really hot and once we reached Laruns for lunch it was roasting. Luckily, a cool fountain in the town square helped cool us down – we didn’t jump in , but were sorely tempted!

Another rewind to 2011: Jamie in the centre of Laruns, by the fountain:

The loop was completed by a passage over the Col de Marie Blanc then an ascent of the Col de Somport, taking the road over the top instead of the tunnel, with the obligatory ice cream pit stop at the summit / border cafe. We crossed back into Spain and descended back down to the digs.

Myself and Jamie made use of the pool to cool off whilst Brian tried unsuccessfully to purchase some swimming trunks so he could join us. Later on we walked into town, ate more thai grub at the same place as yesterday, then ended the evening watching a fantastic firework display over the towns’ castle . It was soon around midnight , so we retired back to the digs for a kip.

To be Continued…..

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