Jerry’s Tour of the Pyrenées, Cantabria and Asturias – Tuesday July 26th

Munitibar — Markin-Xemein — Elgoibar — Endoia — Zarautz — Collado de Arichulegui — Collado Esquisaroy — Puerto de Otxondo — Dancharia (170 km, 3422m, 22-36°C)

Puerto de Gontzagarigana

I had a wonderful breakfast after a little wait (breakfast is not served before 9.30 at least in Spain apparently, but I could wait in the nice hammocks on the veranda). The lady of the house teached me the only word I learned of the basque language (or what it is called) – ’Agur’ – which means ’goodbye’! That explained why they had written with big letters on a wall nearby the road the day before ’Agur ETA’.

It turned out the first pass and the way over to the nearby monastery of Ziortza would not have been as much of a problem as I feared the day before, but the comfort of the lodging would surely not have been quite as nice I think. The Puerto de Gontzagarigana/Gontzegaraigane (365) was not of any special interest. I went down to Markin-Xemein, which is bigger village or even small town perhaps. As usual no intelligible signs, so understanding the map is important, but basically one takes off to the east in the centre to follow my route over the next pass – Mikel Deuna Mendatea/Puerto de San Miguel (360). Nothing to mention here either apart from a nice and steeper side down to/from Elgoibar on perhaps less than perfect surface..

Mikel Deuna Mendatea

At Elgoibar (47) I finally got my postcards off with the mail and I stopped to eat some fruits and to drink. It was terribly hot and even though it appeared to be totally clear before entering the town which way to take out of it, I managed to get it wrong first, but figured it out before going under (over?) the motorway. One should go under the motorway in the north part of the city on a minor road.

The climb to Alto de Azkarate (396) was rather steep and a bit like the La Granja climb the day before. At the pass one crosses over another road, which one could join down to Azkoitia, but I continued up to Alto de Azurki/Collado de Madariaga (675). after a little climb the road is totally flat for about 1-2 km before its tarts climbing again to the final height, where the third photo was taken (does not look as good here as it did there).

Collado de Madariaga

The road down this pass is somewhat odd. It is normal at first and soon comes to a little plateau which is a popular recreational area. But, one wonders a little about how the cars get there if they come from the north. The north continuation suddenly turns into an extremely narrow one lane road that is really steep at up to 18%. If this was not enough to deter people from going up there, right in the middle of this one lane road at the steepest place a dog lay sleeping straight across the whole width of the road. – That did not come across as very clever to me! I just managed to get by him, but I suppose he wants some cash/food from the car drivers to let them pass by!

Finally down, I kept to the west and at the sign for Endoia, turned west up that road. There is no through road on the Michelin map here, but the Michelin map leaves out a lot of roads in the area. According to there should be a steep climb up to Endoia from the east side. Endoia is a pass, but I have not found a reference for the name of the pass. I had to guess at one point which road to take (you should take to the right as you approach Endoia – I think there was a sign of walking paths that suggested this to me). After a kilometre the surface deteriorates and the steep – the really steep! – road down to Zestoa (44) takes you there in no time. Watch out for hens and other animals, but you cannot go down at high speed anyway. This must be one of the hardest climbs in the area, with a steepness around 17-18% for perhaps two kilometres. Just as you get down there are many water taps with good water (which could be a sign if planning to try and find the way going up this climb (it is down just below, behind the village of Zestoa to the south-west).


I continued down to Zarautz (13) by the atlantic ocean via the very minor Alto Meaga (142) bump. Here I had a big ice-cream and went down walking along the beach while eating up the ice-cream and took the beach photo here. Then back up on the road again. From here it is very flat (and I decided to take this flat road here as alternatives would have brought me back toward where I cycled westwards earlier.

It was very hot and heavy traffic, but I managed to keep myself not to bothered. When I finally got to Oiartzun/Oyarzun (45) I was out of the traffic, but could not find any open shop to buy anything to drink and no water on the way. A few kilometers after Oiartzun, I found a Coca-cola machine thankfully. Next pass was Collado de Arichulegui (480), which brought me close to France and the Pyrenées. This pass is a bit steep and is in a tunnel at the top. I was happy until the descent soon stopped and I had to do another big climb up an unnamed pass (kind off odd as most other passes have names in this area). This made me rather tired as it was longer than I had thought. I followed some other cyclist up there but did not have the power to seriously consider overtaking him so I was content to just keep him within view. On the way down from this pass (over 500m) to Lesaka (81) I tried to keep the distance and nearly smashed up with a car half-way down as the car was coming around a corner in the middle of the narrow road and I was going fast down in the middle of the road. I guess I got to much adrenalin to get really scared and as usual it is only trying to stay cool that can help you. I would have guess the damned car driver must have been more scared than me (I hope!). One of the closest serious accidents downhill ever for me and being very tired only helped in making me not overreact.

Collado Esquisaroy

I found no shop in Lesaka either that had suitable to eat and drink. I continued after a while to the last place before the night where I could possibly found another shop, namely Etxalar (100). At Etxalar I found a very suited shop for cyclists coming by, where I could get everything I wanted (a sandwich made to my choice, soft drinks and fruits, and more).

After this stop at Etxalar, I was about to start out rather late on a road I was not quite sure how long it would take to go and I was not even sure it was fully paved. Nor was there any place likely to stay at for the night along the road. The road is fully paved but of variable quality. Moreover it is an irregular climb with many very steep parts up to 20% or more. You will first come to something like a pass crossing a spur (at Orizki) in the mountain where it is flat and the goes down a little before the last rise to an unnamed (as far as I know) very distinct pass (not very far from Collado Also (540), but this pass is distinctly a separate pass on a path a kilometre away southwards).

From this pass I went down to a small crossroad and decided to go south and then south again at the next somewhat obvious crossroad. The Michelin map is somewhat correct here (but surely not the IGN 1:100000 map, which must be based on hearsay). The road is going up to Collado Esquisaroy (518) and even though I had to go down the same way from the last crossing (as I did not want to get further south in Spain now) it is only an easy kilometre. From this pass I think I took the last photo for the day. The time was some after 20 pm. Oddly enough a local lady who knew english better than me was just visiting the pass and we discussed possible accommodation in the area (apparently there was or had been a casa rural just down a concrete road from this pass, but she did not seem to recommend it now and anyway I wanted to get at least to nearby Puerto de Otxondo (602) before the night. I think she first thought of the camping down at Erratzu, but I was not too keen on getting down the south side of the Otxondo pass, so it seemed I had to get to Dancharia on the border and so I did with some reluctance as I had wanted to collect some more passes in this very densely pass populated area by taking a cyclable unpaved road from Otxondo toward Artzamendi on the french side, but it was simply going to get dark before I would get down into France if I took that road and had to abandon that plan unfortunately.

I went down back again (and further down to cross a river) and then (as the lady and man had warned me about) the very steep road up to the Otxondo pass (similar to the Etxalar road) with up to around 20% passages. This wider area is filled with roads with inclinations above 20%, so you better be prepared! On the way to the Otxondo pass one should also pass Collado Anzola (587) and more obviously Collado Lizermeaca (554). I went a little way on the road (this is the Pico Gorramakil road that goes over some passes to the radio tower on the top of the mountain (1090m)) toward the unpaved road over to Artzamendi, to see how it looked, but turned around when I saw where it took off. I went down the smooth and ridiculously easy road down to Dancharia, where I found a not so good Logis de France that I stayed at for the night. I could not get anything to eat at Dancharia at this hour (back in France!). I met some swedish Moroccans there who recognised me as a swede at a pub, but it was closing. I got a dry sandwich at the Logis de France that they reluctantly served me (this place is not recommended).

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