A Pyrrhic victory

Day 240, Barcelona, 11.833 km

Alas, the hardest part was done, the Pyrenees were cleared, the border was passed, morale was high and a good night’s rest was in sight. But a moment of inattention, a tight turn in the road unfortunately undid all these beautiful plans and put an end to the glorious journey of Marion and Athénée. Ugly

But before all that, we left Saint Thibéry under the sun, still unaware of the terrible destiny that awaited one of us. A bit of wind, headwind of course, and paths sometimes at the limit of practicability, but the sea which awaits us at the end of the road is a sufficient motivation to not give up. And we take advantage of the long straight lines empty of cars to develop a rather powerful technique of towing: backpack on my back, Marion clings to a strap and the convoy thus formed can face any rise or gust. It is rather the latter, which gives us a hard time, but at least we take advantage of the sight: the Aude, the sea, the pond of Gruissan, a small strip of land surrounded by sea to arrive at Port La Nouvelle, we enjoy ourselves! And we even find a small corner in the shelter of a rock to pitch the tent in the evening, like a dream!

The pond of Gruissan
The arrival to Port La Nouvelle

The next day, the last one spent in France, begins rather well: the wind disappeared! On the other hand we find ourselves rather quickly on a rocky path, and then in the mud, curious ways that the GPS sometimes takes us through… In any case, we have the road only for us! And the snow-covered summits of the Pyrenees appear in the distance, like out of nowhere, it is very impressive! The road makes us go along the sea, then pass in woods, then near the sea again, very pleasant! On the other hand, regarding towns and villages, we find rather the completely empty seaside resort rather than the small and bucolic village of fishermen… Maybe another day…

The Pyrenees are looking at us
Lunch break on the beach

The next day, it’s the big day ! Crossing the Pyrenees and the border ! Ideal conditions, no wind, a great sun (I am in shorts after 20 minutes) and not too many people on the road. We start climbing rather quickly, and even the technique of the towing is not enough to make us pass the biggest percentages. We then push the bike. We pedal a little. And we push the bike again. To add a little bit of difficulty (and more meters gained at the end of the day for the stats), I make a mistake of direction, we take a beautiful descent during almost 1 kilometer before realizing that it is not the right way… we’re left to go up what we have just gone down: we pedal, we push… we push, we push… we push again and we pedal a little. Finally on the right path, it suddenly turns into a dirt road, then a very rocky one. And the GPS leads us to a private way road. Super. We make a detour, still through lots of rocks and the whole with a quite steep climb. We push the bike again, but fortunately the weather is good and the view is worth the detour.

This time we are inside of it!

At the next bend, we find ourselves in front of a new dilemma: private road (again) or the climb. We quickly agree and we pass by the private way (all our excuses to the owners, but it is for the good cause, and we took care to close the barriers behind us!). We finally end up going down, at first still on a rocky dirt path, and then finally on a road worthy of this name! That was complicated but we are on the other side of Pyrenees! A small pause in Perthus to fill the water bottles and we are on to the next test: crossing of the border. For once, the GPS is on our side and makes us arrive at the customs by a small road on the side. We see from far away cops controlling the border. But in front of us, a little hidden by the building of the customs, only a barrier with chains to block the passage. We pass underneath, praying very hard so that nobody sees us, we take hardly the time to make a photo and we ride as fast as possible on the road. I turn over during a few kilometers, fearing to see a police car at our heels, but no. We passed well without any control!

The Passage

We go through La Jonquera, bars and restaurants are open, which changes us of the last months in France: even the most dingy terrace is appealing! But we still have some kilometers to go before arriving at Figueres where a good bed awaits us and the enchanting prospect (I weigh my words) to go to a small restaurant calls us! The morale is high, and after a small ascent the road only goes down. Confidence goes up. We congratulate ourselves. We say again how cool it is to have a nice descent after the climb we just made. We are towing at full speed. Everything is going well. And there, drama: tight turn on the left, we arrive a little fast, none of us either brake or release the towing, we go straight in the slope. Result: head over heels, some bruises and scratches, a slightly warped wheel for Jay and especially a twisted front fork for Athénée. We struggle a bit to find a cab that can bring Marion to Figueres but thanks to Google Trad we finally manage it and I finish the last 15 kilometers by bike to meet her at the guest house…

I found my first castle in Spain anyway…

The next day, the verdict of the repairers we go to see is without appeal: they don’t have the material and don’t want to take the responsibility of repairing the fork… Unfortunately, the trip stops there for Athénée and Marion, whereas we had done the hardest… Ugly. Athénée ends up in the trash and Marion in the train… As if to mark the occasion, it’s raining… So I go back on the road to Barcelona, all alone…

Farewell to the brave!

Slight rain, and wide road. The beginning of the stage is not very interesting but at least the road shoulder is wide enough so that trucks don’t go too close to me. I also cross some nice little villages with stone houses and then I start the ascent of the Calonga pass: a nice road, no cars, two hikers, nice ascent! And very nice descent to the sea.

Crossing of Verges
The beach in Sant Feliu de Guíxols

Then I start to ride through the Costa Brava. Big climb to start with, then superb road in laces in the mountain, for me alone, pretty small creeks and the sea on my left. If we forget the occasional hotel complex or the big villa after a turn, we are on a rather nice road. After a night in the shelter of a pine tree in the mountain, I continue my way on the coast. I come across more and more cyclists (that must be the nearness with Barcelona, or the fact that we are Saturday) and I enter the so-so part of the route: hotels, camp-sites, big shopping malls, more hotels… Nowhere to stop to make a nice picture. Moreover, the wind has risen, headwind for a change, and I’m following the N-II between Callela and Barcelona, so mostly in the exhaust pipes. Not great. But I finally arrive in Barcelona, under a great sun, where I find Thibault and Liz for a good lunch with a nice view on the city! All good!

Nice mountain road
The Costa Brava

A week of rest and tourism planned, with the objective to discover a little the surroundings of Barcelona to ride the 167 km which I need to arrive at 12.000 before leaving along the coast in direction of Valencia… See you next time!

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