We were sat down at the breakfast table by 6 am, where an old charming French lady had prepared a simple but plentiful breakfast for everybody. This was included in the 8 euros that we paid for the the night in the albergue municipal. The weather did not look great out of the window, with a very thick fog which had settled in the valley, but we (well, I) were so excited about crossing the Pyrinees that we did not mind it that much. Some 1300 m (~4000 feet) of climb awaited us, all in one go, just short of 23 km.
The advice from other cyclists the day before was NOT to take the walkers route (the Napoleon's route) and use the road instead (the N135). The claimed it was very steep and rough in places. We then asked the hostelero and he said it was absolutely fine, except the last bit, where we would need to walk a bit. The weather forecast was not too bad, except for the morning fog. I had read that the walkers route was much more scenic and so I sort of persuaded Lucy into taking that...While having breakfast, other peregrinos confirmed that the N135 was not the nicest road, with plenty of fast flowing traffic rushing to St Jean, so there was no doubt we would tackle the walkers path. That's why we brought the mountain bikes also, isn't it?
|Lucy getting her stuff ready in the albergue's backyard|
|Crossing the river Nive, still smiling|
|First hill of many|
|Getting over the fog, Lucy takes a rest|
|Coming out of the fog|
At one point the Camino seemed to take on a trail (full of walkers) and so I decided to stick to the road. Because of the fog, Lucy had not seen me and started going up the trail. When I shouted at her she fell. This was one clipless moment to add to her collection! Luckily she was going at nearly no speed, so no harm done, and all the walkers immediately went to help her. The road it was then. She was now full of mud, as the rain had left plenty of puddles from a few days earlier.
|Enjoying the hills|
|Despite the fog it was getting warm|
Eventually we reached what looked like the summit. But of course, it wasn't. Yet we had another break and some food to take in the views.
|Nearing the summit, shame it was overcast below us|
|Some more pushing required for the last few meters|
|A fountain on the downhill, peak time for walkers|
|The machacas at the summit|
|One last, clear view, of the Spanish side before hitting the trail down to Roncesvalles|
|Happy faces after having just crossed the Pyrinees|
The trail was really nice although very narrow. What we hoped it was going to be flat or downhill, turned out to be a "leg killer" or a continuous sharp up and downs that really tested our tired legs. Not only that, but also it got even more technical than ever before, with massive rocks, roots and singletrack. It was really taken its toll on Lucy, which meant more walking. I took the opportunity to chat to a walker, who turned out to be from Pamplona. He had just been made redundant in his job in finance, so had taken the opportunity to walk the Camino at slow pace to think about his next move. A nice chap, but we had to push on. He seemed very keen to learn English so it was nice to be able to give him some advice, and he even mentioned his plans to come over to the UK for a while. Lucy rode on some of the sections though, and seemed to be gaining confidence pretty quickly. "I seemed to be enjoying it" she wrote on the diary. Because of all the sudden confidence, she had a few close calls, and finally another fall, luckily at low speed. This time I even was behind her, so all good, only a cut on her knee with some blood dripping down her leg. She now looked like a proper mountain biker, full of mud, blood and a tired face!
|The path from Roncesvalles|
It was 4 pm and quite sunny. Our clothes were still wet from France, so it was an ideal time to dry them out, have a quick shower and enjoy the first day of proper good weather. The bikes too needed a good clean, as they had picked up so much mud on the downhill.
While going around the village, we saw plenty of machacas on the roads. We later learnt that the road that passes through Zubiri is on a very common loop that people from Pamplona do as an after-work training ride. Wish I lived in such a beautiful and convenient place...
|Garden of the albergue|
After a visit to the local groceries, we loaded up on local red wine and jamón, made our bocadillos and enjoy a quiet night chatting to other peregrinos. One of them was an American guy who seemed to have travelled the world. He was an interior designer who had worked teaching art in locations such as Kuwait. He described Kuwait as "soul-destroying", and was now living in Sri Lanka with his wife. He had also spent quite some time in México, yet his Spanish was not too good, as he spent most of his time with expats. We shared the local wines we had got from the local groceries, chatted over the horrendous weather he had on the Pyrinees and went to bed on the late side.
All in all it had been a fantastic day on the bike. For most this is the best stage of the Camino, so in a way I was feeling sad the high mountains were over.
The stats for the day:
- Overall distance: 49.60 km
- Moving average: 8.6 km/h
- Overall average: 5.7 km/h
- Moving time: 5h 47 min
- Stopped time: 2h 54 min
- Max speed: 41.6 km/h