The PyreneesMay 21 in Spain
We could have used a geography lesson from Simon before we left, to fully understand the elevation involved in crossing the Pyrenees. Somehow I missed the fact that they were bonfide mountains akin to the Alps and the Rockies (taller than, says Marty). Ski resorts are built right in the mountain passes, and the highways come up from both France and Spain to cross the mountains. We started up from Sabinanigo after staying in a bungalow at a campround and kept going up for the next two days. The route was a mix of low grade highway, except when it wasn't, and rural roads through farms. We love Google Maps, where we select your start and finish and then choose "bike" and it plots a route for you using side roads, single track, and the necessary car roads. It will even do an elevation profile for you!
We had a goal in mind, to get to the campsite in Escarrilla and we knew there were sites available, but when we arrived they wouldn't rent a bungalow to us for just one night, no matter what we said. Grrr... it took some time, and a bit of frustration, but we did find a great apartment (in an old building up in an attic, where we had a great view of the mountains for half the price!) just that it was 4 km back down the road in Tramacastilla de Tena. It was actually uuuupppp a steep hill first, and then level. Sigh. The whole area up to the pass is villages that are built up with fancy stone apartments and duplexes for the winter season.
We had a day off of touring, and we took advantage of Grandpa wanting a non biking day to leave Jorja with Gramps, and the rest of us headed off on a little jaunt up into the mountains. It was a route that Marty selected, and we did a 25km loop that went up to 1750 meters on a graveled road. As per usual when travelling with Marty it is good to go prepared. Food, check. Lighter, check. Footware suitable for snow, hmmm, nope, sandals. And so, freezing feet as we pushed our bikes through the snow in the rain that happened to fall at the same time. Thank goodness for the alpine emergency shelter and the dry wood that was just after the snow.
So after our "day off" we headed up up up for our second day of heading towards the pass. We followed the old A-136 route that had only one short tunnel, and it was a quieter road with a consistent grind for twenty kilometers, alongside the river and two resevoirs, mooing at the cows, checking out the ski resorts in the alpine and waiting out a rainstorm under the eves. We kept looking for more gears on our bikes, but finally made it to the "Col du Pourtalet" at 1794m where we passed from the Vallee de Tena in Spain to the Vallee d'Ossau in France. A magnificent pass, and we were sad that we were so tired, and couldn't dream of hiking, and that there were rain clouds threatening and we felt that we should get down to Laruns. In retrospect, after all that work, I would recommend staying at the pass and truly enjoying its magnificance. The 30km decent to Laruns was nuts. Laruns is at around 500m and Sabinanigo was at 780, but it is half the distance from the pass to Laruns. Fast, wet, and it looked like we were decending into west coast forest as we dropped out of the pass. Aparently crazy cyclists do bike UP from Laruns to the pass. The tour de france is ending a stage in Laruns this summer. Some people!! We arrived in Laruns, and suddenly everyone was speaking French. Just like that. And after six weeks of getting by in Spanish and Portugese, Marty and Caleb think French might just be OK. Read more