Sign up your free travel blog today!
Email: Password:
Our Blog Our Photos Our Diary Our Movies Our Map Message Board
Buy DVD

Buy Gift Voucher

Skiing in retirement
19th Apr 2016 - 27th Apr 2016 - Iberia & France by bike 2016
Up and over the Pyrenees

Our access to the Pyrenees is via the town of Barbastro where we arrived in time for a late lunch. After a quiet evening and night we set out into the foothills, making it to the insignificant village of Santaliestra y S Quilez after a bit of a hairy ride on busy roads with no hard shoulder. Our delightful host Carlos was keen to practice his English, as well as show us a riverside walk to enjoy before supper.

Although the forecast for the next few days was a bit dodgy we were by now pretty much committed to a plan to ride the N260 road through the mountains to the border with France at Puigcerda. This would involve, as Carlos confirmed, going up 3 reasonably long, high and steep sections before we would be able to say we were across the Pyrenees.

But not yet. Leaving Santaliestra under gathering clouds we first had to pass through the gorge - "congosto" - de Ventamillo to arrive at the town of Castejon de Sos, some 550m below the Coll de Fadas, the first of our 3 passes. It had been the intention to overnight here and we found the Hotel Pinieros a most acceptable lodging. So, when the following day dawned grey and cloudy, it was an easy decision to suspend cycling for the day and watch the rain from indoors rather than from a cycle saddle. The hotel also did a very decent menu del dia.

Our delay proved well-judged as for the next 4 days we were able to enjoy mountain vistas on our up-and-down journey. Next stop was at Pont de Suert after a short 35km jaunt. Here we crossed into Catalonia and noticed a perceptible difference from Aragorn - not just because the signs had a lot of "x"s in them. We arrived in Catalonia on the eve of St Jordi, the patron saint of the region. For reasons unexplained the day is marked by an exchange of gifts. Men give flowers, women a book. Which went some way to explaining why streets in the town were festooned with poems strung between lamp posts. Only later did we learn that St Jordi is St George and both are renowned for slaying dragons.

No slaying for us though and by the end of St George's day we had covered 60km and ridden another 500m climb to arrive at Baro. But not before the heavens opened in a thunderous downpour. But at least we didn't miss lunch.

Apres le deluge we had another spell of great weather. The third of the ascents was over 1000m and we has at one stage considered doing a 50km day to achieve it. But having discovered there was a self-catering accommodation half way up we opted for the 2 day leisurely excursion, which gave us all the time in the world to make the most of it. Our stay at the Refugio at Lagunes was in a dorm, but as the only guests this was no inconvenience. We took advice from the host on an off-road variant the following day which saw us easily over the 1750m pass and whooshing down the other side to reach Bellestar to stay with Warmshowers hosts Alexandre and Jordi (or George, I suppose).

She, French, and he, Catalan had met through Warmshowers and now shared the home that Jordi had built by converting a derelict barn. Both keen cyclists, motorbikers and kayakers they were very hospitable, but our time with them was somewhat limited due to their work and other commitments. But this did not stop Jordi offering to drive us in his van through the worst bits of Andorra (which he thought was shit) if that was the way we wanted to go.

But Andorra would involve a long climb to 1950m and the weather forecast was for snow. Not fancying that much we decided to stick with Plan A and head for the border into France. So our last night in Spain was with another delightful Warmshowers couple Narcis and Diana. In the winter they run a ski-hire business and in summer Narcis tends to the gardens of the second homes in the area. But mainly they like to go climbing and we were treated to their tales and photos of their unsupported high altitude treks and climbs in the Himalayas and South America. All very unpretentious. Lovely people, leading busy lives.

And so to France. We had arrived on Puigcerda intending to travel on only 25km or so to Font Romeu where we would stay a couple of days waiting for the inclement weather to pass. But our AirBnB booking request did not come through and when Narcis phoned in that the forecast was for 25cms of snow, we decided to make the most of the sun and tailwind and head on down the far side. But not before one more modest ascent and then a bit of a hair-raising freewheel to Prades where we arrived as the temperature and cloud-line descended, but before the rain, to book ourselves into the first hotel we came to. Luckily we had remembered to have lunch before coming down. Which meant our first night in France could be spent in the warmth of our 2 star hotel watching a movie, drinking a bottle of red and eating chocolate, having passed the 3,400km mark.

Next: In the South
Previous: Speedy Gonzalos


Diary Photos
19th Apr 2016  Heading into the Pyrenees
No Description

19th Apr 2016  Wild horses, and a man on a bicycle
No Description

19th Apr 2016  Embalsa de Barasoga near Graus
Embalsa de Barasoga, near Graus

20th Apr 2016  A view of Castejon de Sos
No Description

22nd Apr 2016  A menu del dia, hotel Piniero
No Description

23rd Apr 2016  St Jordi day in Pont de Suert
No Description

23rd Apr 2016  The start of the road to the Col de Creu de Perves
No Description

23rd Apr 2016  Nice riding on the N260
No Description

23rd Apr 2016  Coming g down from the Col de Creu de Peeves, heading for La Pobla de Segur
No Description

23rd Apr 2016  Iris
No Description

23rd Apr 2016  Before the thunder, and just after the second sighting of Lammergeir
No Description

23rd Apr 2016  Curiouser and Curiouser. In the congosto de collegats
No Description

24th Apr 2016  Looking back on route to refuge at Lagunes
No Description

24th Apr 2016  The mid section of the road to Lagunes
No Description

24th Apr 2016  Waiting for opening time at the refuge in Lagunes
No Description

24th Apr 2016  View from Lagunes
No Description

25th Apr 2016  Top of the pass
No Description

25th Apr 2016  Departing Lagunes, off-road
No Description

25th Apr 2016  Curious icicles
No Description

25th Apr 2016  Just the 2 of us
No Description

25th Apr 2016  The downside: a bit reminiscent of Reunion, we thought
No Description

26th Apr 2016  The final stretch to Puigcerda
No Description

26th Apr 2016  Puigcerda night clouds
No Description

26th Apr 2016  With Narcis & Diana
No Description

27th Apr 2016  Before leaving the mountains, just in France
No Description

964 Words | This page has been read 12 timesView Printable Version