La Vuelta de Iberica!

Day 290, Pau, 17.066 km

And that’s it. With this new stopover in Pau at Marie and Florent’s, I completed my tour of the Iberian Peninsula. It was mountainous (a lot), rainy (especially towards the end), a bit long sometimes, a bit lonely too, but above all beautiful. Breathtaking landscapes, the sea, the mountains, the climbs (Jay feels he can climb the Everest now, I’m trying to convince him to start with the Pyrenees), the wind, Pasteis de Nata, tapas, restaurants, bars, encounters, and hours of pedaling and enjoying. I’m turning a page, we’ll rather go east from now on, but it’s certainly one of the beautiful pages of this trip, full of memories, images, smells, moments, nothings and everythings…

La Vuelta esta completa

At the departure of Santander, my GPS leads me on a « Carril Bici », a bicycle path, and I am so unused to find one that I follow it as long as possible, even if it means making a small detour. I have the opportunity to admire the airport of Santander from very close. Very enjoyable. Then I reach the coast, and a very nice beach in Langre. It is at this moment that the rain (which was threatening since the departure) starts to fall. A nice big rain that soaks, with just enough wind for it to get in my eyes… Perfect. I give up my beach explorations and I ride on the road while waiting for the rain to calm down. This eventually happens towards Isla Playa, where I find another nice beach…

Isla Playa

The rest of the road to Bilbao is an alternation of ascents and descents, showers and « dry » periods (but no sun either, don’t ask for too much), nice little towns, industrial areas and long stretches of road along fields.

On the road to Bilbao
Another beach

Bilbao offers itself to me under the rain, for a change… Fortunately, the hostel is very nice, and I even have the pleasure to meet another cyclist there, who rides in the other direction, and with whom we spend the evening exchanging on our respective experiences, walking in town and drinking beers until the end of the night…

The night falls on Bilbao
The Zubizuri bridge

The next day, after a champion’s breakfast, I set out towards the Basque coast. In order not to arrive too fast in San Sebastian, I cut directly to the coast, which makes me take the least flat road out of Bilbao. I get pitying looks from all the people I meet and I’m soaked after 5 minutes, but at least I don’t suffer from the cold! And the sun is there so I’m not going to complain about it. I join the coast in Lekeitio, which turns out to be an excellent idea: a nice town, a nice beach, and a great road along the sea where I meet more pedestrians than cars. And at each turn, it offers me an impressive view of the cliffs that go down to the sea. A treat

Lekeitio and its beach
The sea
The best will manage to distinguish Biarritz
The beach of Getaria

I ride along a river and end up in San Sebastian (which according to some sources would be the cleanest city in Europe… There are still empty cans lying around on the beach, like everywhere unfortunately…). For once, I don’t have to complain about the entrance into the city: bike lanes everywhere (and even a bike tunnel!) and drivers who really pay attention to bikes, it’s like being back in Germany… I have time to eat a huge pizza and to have a digestive walk at night before the curfew…

Arrival in San Sebastian
The sun sets

The next day, last day in Spain, I have the pleasure to ride about 30 kilometers on a Via Verde going to Pamplona. A lot of cyclists and walkers at the beginning (May 1st effect I guess), but soon I have the track, the forest and the river all to myself. Once again it doesn’t rain, it’s not too hot either, the conditions are ideal. I also go through many tunnels, some lit (a little) and some not. When the tunnel makes a bend, I have a little shiver when I am completely in the dark, but each time the light comes back quickly. I think I’ve seen everything about tunnels when I find myself with: 1. 650m of unlit tunnel. Even though it’s straight, I very quickly can’t see the bike anymore (and I’m sitting on it and still have my hands on the handlebars). The concept of « light at the end of the tunnel » makes sense. I’m glad that some little joker didn’t put a hole or a rock in my way and I’m happy to get out in one piece. 2. A 4.5 kilometer tunnel. In a semi-light, it seems very long and it’s not very reassuring…

The Via Verde
The light at the end of the tunnel

Just before arriving in Pamplona, I realize that my phone charger is not working anymore. I have 30% of battery left. It’s Sunday. Everything is closed. Annoying. No battery means no GPS, no camera, no way to contact people. Rather complicated. I ride around town but I’m a little too preoccupied with this phone thing so I eat a quick snack and get back on the road. I’ve looked at the route on my phone beforehand, I’ve noted the cities I’m supposed to go through and once I’m sure I’m on the right road I turn off the phone. I feel a bit naked. And I thought I had done a good job on this cell phone addiction…

Leitza, nestled in its valley

I climb in the Pyrenees, under the sun. A first pass, the Erro pass (Erro also happens to be a village, a river and a valley…), then a descent in the eponymous valley and we go up again. Second pass, second descent, towards Roncesvalles this time. There is a monument commemorating the legend of Rolland and a church but that is about all there is to see. The road continues to climb and I am not sure when I will reach the top of the pass. It’s getting late and cold. I see a kind of bunker on the side of the road, but there is water at the bottom. Too bad. 500m farther, I am at the top of the pass of Ibañeta. Easy not to have GPS in fact. And there is a small path on the side which leads to a corner of flat grass. Really too easy…

The next day, the tent is covered with frost and it’s cold. But I still have all the winter gear. Clever! The descent is pleasant, I even have the luxury to catch up with a truck (which distances me again as soon as the road is flat, but well, that was expected). Then I cross the border. Once again, no sign, no customs officer or barrier… Thanks Schengen! I realize that I am in France because the N-135 became the D933 and because cars are passing by closer and faster. Nice. I stop in the first supermarket I find to buy an IGN map of the region. In the old fashioned way, I get ready to join Pau by following the map and road signs! A little old man comes to see me coming out of the supermarket, I’m happy to be able to have a fluent conversation with a « local »: “Hello – Hello Mister – Do you have the right to circulate? – Well, I take it – Ah, that’s good.” He leaves. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. Apparently the only thing that counts when you meet a traveler is to know if he has the right to travel… The rest of the trip is uneventful, the descent of the Osquish pass offers me a superb view of the snowy summits of the Pyrenees. All this under a radiant sun. A small sandwich bought in the first bakery I encounter makes a quite acceptable lunch break. I also pass by the town of Navarrenx. Very nice from the outside but completely empty once I passed its gates… Arrived in Pau, before going to meet Marie and Florent, I find a store where I can get a new phone cable. The phone still works. Phew. It was funny with the map but I didn

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