Jerry’s Tour le Pyrenées 2001 – Day Nine

Pamplona — Burguete — St. Jean-Pied-de-Port — Oloron Ste. Marie — Pau (180 km, 2141 m up, 11% max up)

I was very tired in the morning and felt like I was on the end of the trip, which was not exactly true. I got down late for breakfast and it was terribly bad (one could not possibly get such bad breakfast at a one star place). I wished I had stopped at a hotel a bit out of the centre of the town, but maybe that would not had been so much better. I got a bit angry that they had moved my bicycle around in the kitchen and thought it looked like they had made some marks on it, but later noticed it was just some grease … . I had little problem finding my way out of town, but eventually I got out and now the clock was already around 12, so I had better to hurry on. Another sunny day. There were a lot of local cyclists out on the road up in the direction of Burguete/Roncesvalles.

After getting up to Pto. (col) Erro (801 m) the landscape turned more nice and green again. Maybe it was not such a good idea to go down to Pamplona, but at least I got to see some other sides of Spain. Maybe I would never have found a good place to stay at in Burguete – the village looked rather silent and closed to tourists (which I did not expect, maybe I was there at the wrong time on the day). It was a very nicely looking village and I thought I ought to get something to eat. There were a few restaurants, that looked like you had to get an invitation in advance to be allowed to visit. I did not care and walked into one with a baskian language sign on (did not know that it was a baskian sign then). Only one person there understood any english word, but could not explain anything to me, so I simply pointed to something in the menu without knowing anything else than it was mid-priced and that it was some kind of fish. It was some kind of fish – still have no idea of what it was and it looked a bit like a starter only, but at least I got something to eat and a little rest and it tasted good.

When I reached the castle at Roncesvalles the ”french” thick fog embraced me and everything again and did a good job at not letting me see anything of the landscape again. It was an easy ride up to Pto. Ibañeta (1057 m). The road down from here to Arnéguy at the french border was again a dream for any cyclist. Perhaps this road was the most perfect road for cyclists I have ever seen. It had many curves, but one could go at high speed and nearly never had to use the brakes and it was very well surfaced and with lovely surroundings. Quite fun! I stopped in Arnéguy and went into a tourist shop where one could buy some fruit and sodas, so I got rid of the spanish coins I had. I later noticed that my maximum uphill elevation was 30% and wondered if the computer had gone crazy, but then I remembered the little road up to the shop where I had to lead the bicycle (the stupid Ciclosport bicycle computer does not however always show the same maximum later when you transfer the data to a computer as it then only shows what was recorded to the memory in each 20 seconds interval, while on a day trip it shows the true maximum).

I was happy to be over on the french side again simply because I felt I could make myself somewhat well understood here and that there were more places where one could stop and buy food and such (and a less drastic climate). St. Jean-Pied-de-Port seemed like a very touristic village, but I had no need to stop now and thus just went through the city. At St. Jean-Pied-de-Port I was probably as close to the Atlantic as I ever got on this trip. It was only something like 50 kilometers away from Biarritz. Many of the steepest roads in the Pyrenées could actually be found here around, even though the mountains are lower here.

Well, now the mountainclimbing was over for me for this trip. Now it was mostly a matter of getting back to Montpellier in time. I took a smaller road over to Oloron Ste Marie and that might not have been the fastest way there as I had to pass by two smaller cols that turned out to be a bit more demanding than they looked on the map (I had hardly noticed them). Col d’Osquich (392 m and later up to 500 m) was first and then it was down several hundreds meters in height, only to get up these hundreds meters yet again near a small place called Barcus. It was somewhere here that I found out that the strange spelling on signs all around was baskian as I saw a notice put up on a shop in the countryside lamenting the decline of the baskian language among the youth (which is apparently something like 10% of them speak around there).

Well in Oloron Ste. Marie I took the big road down to Pau even though it was not the most straight one, but clearly it must have been the fastest one. I was in Pau a little before it got dark and found a good place to stay at (well located but not so expensive near the station).

It was a good decision to go to Pau as it was a very nice city. I had dinner at an indian restaurant that turned out to be very good. I talked a little with a french couple at the table next to me who were from the city. The man worked for the norwegian Norsk Hydro, that I guessed when he said he worked for a norwegian company (to his surprise). Maybe he will find these pages eventually as I gave him the web address. There was a beautiful castle in the city that I would have taken a photo of if I had been there during daytime. A nice city to visit.

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